If you’re serious about extending your influence and increasing your impact, I recommend blogging with WordPress. Even then, there are two ways to go about this.
WordPress.com is great for beginners. It’s free, easy to use, and WordPress hosts your site.
But if you really want to maximize your message, you’ll want to upgrade to self-hosted WordPress, also known as WordPress.org.
If you already have a WordPress.com account, you can easily migrate your content over to a WordPress.org account. They make it really simple to do this.
With self-hosted WordPress, all you have to do is sign up for a managed web host (we recommend Bluehost).
You’ll get three things with Bluehost’s Pro option that every self-hosted site needs (but most hosts don’t offer):
- Built-in security to keep your content safe from hackers,
- Built-in backups to keep a copy of your content, and
- Built-in caching to keep your site running fast.
Bluehost also has a phenomenal 24/7 customer support team, and can scale with you as your platform popularity grows.
To be clear, Bluehost Pro is not the cheapest plan they have available. Their basic plan starts at $2.75/month. If you are looking for a one-stop-shop, set-it-and-forget-it approach, then the Pro option is probably best for you.
WordPress.org (self-hosted WordPress) provides seven advantages over WordPress.com (hosted WordPress):
1. You can use a custom domain name.
Nothing is worse when it comes to online branding than a long domain name that includes someone else’s brand attached to it.
MichaelHyatt.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 can do this with WordPress.com, as well, but you have to pay $48 per year (on top of your domain cost) for the privilege.
2. You have access to more themes.
Because WordPress.com runs in a closed system, they are very selective about which themes they let you install. At this writing, you have your choice of 112 free themes and 198 premium themes (starting around $25).
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 websites.
3. You can install third-party plugins.
These add additional functionality to WordPress. Unfortunately, WordPress.com only allows this feature with the business upgrade for $300 each year. And even then, only some plugins are compatible.
Just to give you an idea of what you can do with plugins, here are four of my 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 optins, announcements, or ads.
- Blubrry PowerPress—Embeds my podcast into specific blog posts (show notes). 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 I like better. It is arguably the most popular commenting plugin available.
4. You can customize and tweak the code.
This might not be important to you, but it is critically important to me. I am constantly wanting to make improvements to the site.
This could be as simple as adjusting the spacing between bulleted text (which requires modifying the site’s style.css file) to moving the post date from the top of the post to the bottom (which requires modifying the single.php file).
WordPress.com does allow you to modify the CSS, but only with a $96 per year upgrade. You can’t modify the PHP files at all.
5. 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 $48 per year, you can remove these ads entirely. However, you still can’t run your own ads.
6. You can set up a web store.
Eventually, you will want to monetize your site—especially if you are thinking of going pro. Selling ads is one way to do it. But there are other, more lucrative ways to turn your blog into a cash machine.
One way is via a web store. This gives you the opportunity to sell your digital wares or your physical ones. Unfortunately, with WordPress.com you have to rely on the restricted list of plugins they allow you to install with their business upgrade ($300 per year).
7. You own and control your home base.
In my book, Platform, I define 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 professional site on it. It simply doesn’t provide enough control.
Ready to step up to a self-hosted WordPress website?
We are an affiliate partner of Bluehost, which means we get a small commission when people sign up using our link. However, we would happily promote and recommend them even if we weren’t an affiliate. They are that good.