Ask the Geek: Should I Host my site on WordPress.com?

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Dear Ask the Geek, 

I see you are moving your blogs over to wp.com: does it work like an hosting service? I mean, if I move everything there I can stop using [hosting service]? What are the pros & cons of using WordPress.com?

Sincerely,
Platform-challenged

Dear Platform-challenged,

Video response! I try to share some thoughts on hosting on WordPress.com vs. self-hosted WordPress (available at WordPress.org). tl;dr: WordPress.com may not be the perfect solution for everyone, but it’s a great solution for a lot of websites and blogs. 

Disclosure: I work for Automattic (WordPress.com) but I also host several WordPress sites on other hosting providers. This video represents my personal thoughts.

Some points I cover in the video: 

  • You can customize WordPress.com themes with custom fonts, colors, and definitely by changing the CSS using Custom Design. The new live preview for themes is pretty awesome and helps when switching between themes.
  • WordPress.com is not just trunk/core WordPress; it’s a lot more! Many features which are built in would require finding & installing a plugin on self-hosted solutions. Our features page highlights a few of the many features.
  • Try not to get swayed by “You need X plugin to have a great WordPress site” arguments. Make sure you identify the essential features or functionality your site needs, and then you can identify which solution is best for you. You should check out the first part of my presentation Tools for Entrepreneurs: Create. Collaborate. Communicate. where I delve into understanding your site’s purpose and functionality.
  • Spend some time on Theme.WordPress.com to see which themes are available – there are more than 200 themes, both free and premium, and more are being released all the time.
  • WordPress out of the box does 80-90% of the SEO you need. I haven’t seen any real proof additional SEO plugins and specifications really do anything for the majority of sites. You need good content first and foremost.
  • You can map a custom domain on top of your WordPress.com URL, so I quickly mapped http://whenihavetime.com on top of my free URL, whenihavetime.wordpress.com.
  • You can use the free version, or add upgrades like space, VideoPress, or other features from the WordPress.com Store. We have bundles which package some of these things, and WordPress.com Enterprise offers even more plugins our high-powered VIP clients use.
  • One of the best parts about WordPress.com is being able to concentrate on what you do best: write great content. Leave the security, backups, and code updates to the WordPress.com team.

Things I forgot to mention: 

  • You get some great Support documentation through WordPress.com.
  • We’re expanding our advertising options on WordPress.com. You can turn ads off completely with the No-Ads upgrade, or you can be a part of the WordAds program and get paid for advertising on your site with select partners (this site is a part of WordAds). More on advertising.
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9 replies »

  1. Do you have a recommendation besides YouTube in order to put video on your WordPress site that is free and has similar SEO compared to YouTube? The reason I ask is that YouTube has 1 email associated with my wordpress site and I cannot start another site with the same email and use YouTube. Thanks for the great information. Matt

  2. When I’m asked this question, I typically ask if they need to run any custom Javascript. If they say no or don’t know what that means, I default to WordPress.com. IMO, the most important thing for a new site to do is start building content.

    It’s easy to export your way into a self-hosted instance when / if the need arises & if all else fails, the Guided Transfer service [editorial note: to transfer away from WordPress.com to self-hosted WordPress] is a bargain: http://en.support.wordpress.com/guided-transfer/

  3. Thanks Sara! This is a great overview and reassured a lot of my doubts. There really is a lot out there that makes you feel pressured to suddenly switch to .org for all the plug-ins. My main thing was trying to figure out how to get my .com blog to connect with Google+ Author Rank. There’s a plug-in to do it but I couldn’t figure out an easy way to do it with .com. In the end, I set up an email with my domain (I have domain mapping and luckily my domain name with GoDaddy.com came with a free email account) and went through the steps listed on Google+ to set up authorship (https://plus.google.com/authorship) and then set up a default category in my .com site as my name, and then tagged all my posts with my name as well. It’s probably not the easiest way, but without being able to get into the CSS and add in the code in the head, and not wanting to pay for customizing just to do that one thing… it was a work-around. It’s weird though because now my photo shows up next to some of my posts in a search, but not all. So I’ll have to wait and see if it eventually turns up next to all of them. Copyblogger has been majorly pushing Author Rank, but maybe that’s because they’re trying to sell their own products that integrate it. Thoughts on this?

    • I actually enabled the authorship for my .com sites via Google+ instructions (listing myself as a contributor on my G+ profile), but I have it on good authority there may be further support in .com coming quite soon. :)

      • Also, you shouldn’t even need a plugin or product to do it on your self-hosted sites; it’s just one line to insert in the html head. A plugin can be helpful as it keeps things separate from your theme but if you can remember to put it in the new theme, that’s one less plugin to manage.

  4. That’s what I did, just listed on my G+ site that I’m a contributor to unamericanaaroma.com and sparrowtarot.com and I’m hoping that makes it work, but because my themes don’t automatically give me a by-line on my posts (except strangely on the permalink comments page), I decided to put in a category with my name and tag the posts with my name. That’s on my new site though. My old one with nearly 500 posts (unamericana), that would be impossible. But I might have customized CSS on that one. –^^– that’s my confused face

  5. Hi Sara,
    I am a very new to having a website, and have built a website and blog on Weebly, drop and drag paid site builder. So my question to you is this? When I move forward in my business will this platform be able to keep up with me? And secondly, when I analyze my website’s effectiveness online, it says that it is doing poorly…I don’t really know anything about how to maximize my presence through SEOs and such. I started my art biz less than three months ago. My Facebook page has almost 350 fans and I am starting to get people to my website by promoting myself endlessly. What is your suggestion as to the route I should take with my website. I do LOVE my blog posts I have done, and don’t really want to leave them behind, but I know if I mush down the road I will even be more reluctant.
    Hope this makes some sense to you! Thanks for taking the time to point me in the right direction. I do like the sound of what WordPress has to offer….thanks!

    Jeanette from jeanettemacdonaldart.com

    • Hi Jeanette – I’m not sure I’m the best person to ask about Weebly – I absolutely think WordPress is better :) The most important part is that since WordPress software is open source, you can host WordPress wherever you want without having to stop using the software, meaning you can move the site to another provider if you’re not happy with the service you’re receiving…pretty powerful stuff for the long-term.

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