WordPress is the blogging software I always recommend. It’s free, powerful, flexible and endlessly customizable.
WordPress.com is the hosted version – i.e. WordPress themselves host your blog on their servers.
- You can be up and running with a blog in about 20 minutes – simply create an account and start blogging!
- No technical knowledge required
- No need to worry about things like upgrades to the latest version of WordPress, or backing up your database
- You get access to loads of ‘themes’ (designs), and can modify them to an extent
- Access to a wide range of widgets, which add functionality to the sidebar of your blog, such as pulling in your latest Tweets
- The same intuitive back-end interface as WordPress.org for creating new posts and pages.
- You can’t upload plugins – a real downside, since these add great functionality to your blog, such as a contact form or social book marking buttons
- Fully customized themes are not possible – for example one to match the look and feel of your business website
- You don’t have access to the code, so you can’t hack into it to make changes to fit your needs
- Your blog’s web address will look something like http://mybusiness.wordpress.com, rather than http://www.mybusiness.com or http://www.mybusiness.com/blog. This means WordPress – not your business website – is benefiting from search engine traffic. It is possible, however, to pay a fee for ‘domain name mapping’, which means your web address shows instead. But it’s better to use WordPress.org to use your own domain name.
- You can’t change your permalink structure, as you can with a few clicks on WordPress.org. This means the ‘permanent link’ for a specific blog post. By default it includes your blog’s title and publication date. But you might want to include the category in which your post appears, to make a more keyword-rich search engine friendly web address for your post.
WordPress.org is the version you download (for free), and upload to your own server space.
- Fully customizable themes, so you can brand your blog to your business. There is also a wide range of commercially available themes which are superior to the free ones available for free from WordPress.
- Complete control over the code
- Access to a huge variety of plugins and widgets that add functionality to your blog. The vast majority of these are free.
- You can install the WordPress where you like – on the main or ‘root’ domain of your website, or in a subdirectory, such as /blog or /news
- You can include advertising on your blog, such as Google AdSense.
- Ability to change the permalink structure of blog posts.
- WordPress.org is free, but you do need web hosting, which isn’t.
- Some technical knowledge is required to install the software, and upload plugins – or access to someone who can do this for you
- You are responsible for controlling spam – though this is easy with the pre-installed Askimet plugin
- You are responsible for your own backups of your database
- You need to upgrade to the newest version of WordPress manually.
Which is right for you?
So, which is the right one for you? If you are at all technically minded, or are prepared to learn, or can get someone to do the technical bits for you, I think the advantages of WordPress.org are overwhelming. However, the important thing is to get blogging – don’t let your lack of technical know-how hold you back. There is nothing wrong with using WordPress.com, at least to start with, to be up and running and promoting your business in minutes.
The good news is that it is possible to switch between WordPress.com and WordPress.org. It’s a bit technical, but relatively straightforward with the WordPress Export tool. There’s a great article on Problogger that explains how to move from WordPress.com to WordPress.org.
So why not start off with WordPress.com, safe in the knowledge that you can always transfer the whole thing, including all your blog posts, to WordPress.org at a later date? You will gain valuable experience in the process, including familiarity with the text editor and back-end controls, which are the same for both versions.
Find out more about building a blog in Chapter 6 of Get Up to Speed with Online Marketing.