As we’ve written previously, if you’re serious about building an online platform, you need to create an independent Home Base in the form of a website or blog.
The good news is also the bad news: you have no shortage of choices. How can you be sure to select the right tool for the job?
To Self-Host or Not to Self-Host
Building your own Home Base on the internet is shockingly easy. Before we can explain our recommendation, it’s important to understand the idea of hosting. While websites seemingly exist anywhere in the world at any time, the underlying code, or the structure, of every website has to live on a physical computer server. Whoever owns this server is the host. This is important to understand because hosting costs money due to the maintenance and energy consumed in the process.
Our favorite free option for creating a website or blog is WordPress.com. 35% of the World Wide Web runs on WordPress. It’s great for beginners, and WordPress hosts your site for you at no cost. But if you really want to maximize your message, you’ll want to upgrade to self-hosted WordPress, also known as WordPress.org.
With self-hosted WordPress, you get maximum control at a minimal cost. Just download the software for free and install it on your own server or one you lease. Our favorite hosting service, Bluehost, also happens to be WordPress’ favorite. They host over a million WordPress blogs with 24-7 customer support.
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Which WordPress Is Right for You?
WordPress.org (self-hosted WordPress) provides seven advantages over WordPress.com (hosted WordPress):
- You can use a custom domain name. Nothing is worse when it comes to online branding than a domain name that is long and includes someone else’s brand attached to it. YourName.WordPress.com is an example of what not to do. With self-hosted WordPress, you can buy your own domain and then connect it to your blog for free.
- You have access to more themes. WordPress.com limit which design themes they let you install. At this writing, you have your choice of 111 free themes and 183 premium themes. While this may sound like plenty of options, compare it to the thousands of themes—both free and premium—that are available for self-hosted WordPress.
- You can install third-party plugins. These add additional functionality to WordPress. Unfortunately, WordPress.com does not allow this. Just to give you an idea of what you can do with plugins, here are five of our favorites:
- Yoast SEO—Optimizes your WordPress blog for search engines (SEO). It allows you to customize the metadata for each post.
- OptinMonster—Adds simple drop-down banners, popups, and other forms for email opt-ins, announcements, or ads.
- Blubrry PowerPress—Embed a podcast into specific blog posts. You can pick from a variety of player styles and display the one you want in your post.
- Disqus Commenting System—Replaces the native WordPress commenting system. It has a number of features that we like better. It is arguably the most popular commenting plugin available.
- VaultPress—Allows us to backup and synchronize every post, comment, media file, revision and dashboard setting on our servers.
- You can customize and tweak the code. Quickly make “improvements” to your site, from simply adjusting the spacing between bulleted text to moving the post date from the top of the post to the bottom.
- You can run your own advertising. WordPress.com runs its own ads on your site. This is one way they pay for your “free” site. For $30 per year, you can remove these ads entirely, however, you still can’t run your own ads. Curious about how to do this? Our founder, Michael Hyatt, has some advice here.
- You can set up a web store. Eventually, you will want to monetize your site and sell your digital wares or your physical ones. Unfortunately, WordPress.com doesn’t provide any mechanism for doing this, since all the WordPress e-commerce solutions require self-hosted WordPress.
- You own and control your home base. In his book, Platform, Michael Hyatt defines a “home base” as a place online you own and control. This is distinct from an “embassy,” which you don’t own or control but where you have credentials and a presence. Clearly, a self-hosted WordPress site qualifies as a home base. You own it. You control it. But a WordPress.com site? That’s a little iffy. It’s fine for hobby bloggers, but I would not run a business or pro site on it. It simply doesn’t provide enough control.
Give your online platform the best-possible advantage with a self-hosted WordPress site. All you need is 20 minutes and a credit card to get started. Are you ready?