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Which WordPress is best for me?

WordPress logos

© John Fischer,WordPress Stickers Everywhere, via Flickr

This, of course, implies that there is more than one kind of WordPress.

You have the choice between whether you have a WordPress.com or a WordPress.org blog. And the one you choose will depend upon your needs, and the reasons why you have a blog.

Let's take a look at them.

WordPress.com

This is mostly described as the 'free' WordPress blog, because you don't need to pay anything to set it up.

This is the one I suggest beginner bloggers should use to learn how to blog. This is because everything is done for you, and you don't have to worry about anything techie or other horrible bits like that. You just click a button, and you have your blog in which you can start writing in straight away.

And if you want to beautify or optimise it to make it look or perform better, you don't need to worry about importing any applications to do this, they are all there ready and waiting for you to use.

The good bits

This kind of blog is known as a 'hosted' blog, because your blog is placed on the WordPress.com platform which acts as a host for your blog. They provide the little bit of Internet your blog sits in, and the web address that directs your readers to your blog.

This blog could remain free of charge for as long as you want, provided you don't desire any extra features that aren't available. For a simple and practical blogger who just wants to write, this is ideal.

You don't need to worry about any maintenance issues, as WordPress takes care of all this. This means your blog will be backed up, regularly updated and made secure against hackers without you having to do anything.

There are plenty of free themes (templates) to choose from, and many have design facilities within them to adapt to how you want your blog to look. There are modern and trendy new designs regularly available, all fully optimised for mobile and tablet use.

There are lots of widgets available to make even the simplest of blogs more interesting and user-friendly. Many of these are not available by default on a WordPress.org blog, which have to be added via the plugins. You don't need to worry about plugins in a WordPress.com blog.

Your blog will be automatically connected to a very strong community of other WordPress.com blogs. WordPress can direct relevant and suitable readers to your blog and help create traffic without too much effort from you. The more you reciprocate within this community, the better the response you will get, and you could easily build a healthy following that way.

The not so good bits

You don't have any control over your blog. Because it is hosted by WordPress.com, you will have to abide by their rules and restrictions. These blogs are regularly checked by the blog police, and if they don't approve of what you've done, they have the power to close your blog down, even without notice.

You don't own the domain name (web address) to your blog. It will always contain .wordpress.com at the end, which is essentially promoting WordPress more than your own blog. You can buy your own domain name from WordPress.com for $18 a year, or if you have bought one elsewhere, you can pay $13 a year to 'map' over the WordPress web-address. This is like laying your domain name over to hide the WordPress URL underneath.

If your blog gets too popular, WordPress.com has the power to add advertising to your blog, which might not be suitable to your niche or your readers. You can get rid of this by paying $30 a year. You are also forbidden to add your own affiliate advertising to your blog, which WordPress.com regularly searches for and either disallows it or takes over the profits.

You can't sell from your blog. Any payment buttons or e-commerce facilities will result in your blog being taken down. You also can't use any sign up forms to capture subscribers for an external newsletter, as the system fails to properly support this on its pages.

You are limited to 3GB of space. Normally this would be OK for an ordinary writing blogger, but if you want to regularly show high quality pictures, or add in large pdfs for downloading, or provide many long-running videos or podcasts to your posts, you may soon find you run out. There is the option to buy more space should you need it, at a yearly subscription.

You won't be able to customise the free themes available, but there are a selection of paid-for premium themes that offer more features and facilities. You will need to pay extra if you want someone gain access to your blog's design to change it.

You can't add in plugins and other facilities to make your blog perform extra duties, such as optimise your posts for SEO. Generally WordPress.com doesn't like its blogs being adapted into business websites.

WordPress.org

This kind of blog is a totally different kettle of fish. Even though it may appear to be similar, and the process of writing posts is the same, there are so many more opportunities available to you.

In fact, if you want to adapt your blog into a fully functioning website, using WordPress.org is perfect for this. This is because you have complete control over what you want to do, with no restrictions, no extra rules or regulations, and no blog police prowling around.

The difference is that you own your blog, lock, stock and barrel. But it comes at a cost. You will need to pay for it to be hosted, you'll need to buy your own domain name, and you'll have to add in your own special features and facilities to make your blog perform how you want it to.

The good bits

You can make your blog look like anything you want. There are literally thousands of themes to choose from, and you or your web developer have complete access to how they are made, should you want to adapt them further to suit you.

Making your blog perform how you want is done by adding third-party plugins, or special applications, to your blog. Most of these are free to upload and use, but there are special paid-for ones that perform specific functions, especially in a business sense.

You can create business transactions, add in selling and e-commerce functions such as a shop, set up a membership site or a multi-author blog, and collect data about your readers as subscribers to your newsletter or for other content marketing facilities you have in place.

You are free to place advertising and affiliates on your blog or website, in fact any kind of money-making features. And all the profits will go to you.

It's very easy to transfer over all the content from your old WordPress.com blog over to your new WordPress.org website, so you don't loose out on all the hard work you've already done. It's also easy to transfer over from other blogging platforms as well.

The not so good bits

A WordPress.org blog is a 'self-hosted', which means you have to pay a hosting company to allocate your blog with a bit of space in the Internet. The amount can vary according to where you go, what you want to do, and how much you can do yourself.

You will also have to pay for a domain name, or web-address, of your blog. Both this and the hosting account will have to be renewed annually if you want to keep your blog or website active.

WordPress is an open-sourced platform that needs to be uploaded into your hosting account. Most hosting accounts will set up WordPress for you (some more easily than others), otherwise it is a troublesome, technical experience.

You will also have to learn some web developing skills if you want to adapt your blog's theme to look like you want it to, or hire someone to do it for you. Even some of the special themes that are designed to be easy to adapt require a bit of techie knowledge or attitude.

When WordPress is first installed, it will not contain many widgets to use, and only a few plugins. If you've been spoilt by what WordPress.com provides for you, you will need to source the correct plugins to fill these gaps. Even so you may find better versions anyway.

You will be sole charge of the maintenance: upgrading, updating, backing up and security of your blog or website. If anything goes wrong, you will have to fix it yourself or pay someone to do it for you.

There isn't a blogging community to help and back you up, and provide lots of relevant and interesting readers, as supplied by WordPress.com. You are totally on your own. Any promotional tactics, search engine optimisation and sharing facilities will have to be set up and managed by you. Getting traffic and more readers will be dependent upon what you know and how much effort you put into gaining it.

And there you have it

This blog is a WordPress.org version. I like to have complete control over what I do.

However, I started my blogging career on a WordPress.com blog, because it was much easier to learn about blogging and how it worked there, as nothing could go wrong. It's reassuring to know that you cannot break or blow up a WordPress.com blog.

And as I said earlier, it's very easy to transfer your content over to either WordPress, depending upon your needs. Most beginner bloggers transfer from the nursery fields of a WordPress.com blog over to the more grown-up and fully accessible WordPress.org. But, of course, whatever you do is up to you.

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Alice Elliott writes the Beginner Bloggers blog for beginner and post-beginner bloggers to “explain things really simply” about blogging and WordPress. She specialises in simple, easy to understand, highly visual courses and tutorials using ordinary, everyday words. Why not also visit her award winning Fairy Blog Mother blog to learn some more.

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