This is confusing to people just starting out with WordPress. The open source software known as WordPress is free and can be installed on most hosting accounts providing that host supports it and gives you the databases you need to run it. What is really cool about WordPress is that it is a content management system or CMS allows clients to update their own website.
Using WordPress on a website the content and “look” or (theme) is kept in a database so all your words and photos are kept in one table and your look in another, allowing you to easily change the look without redesigning the whole site. This will of course save you money on redesigning your website again. But it also allows you to hold the “Key to your car” and do updates yourself with just a little training. As a web designer managing websites for a long time I don’t really want to take time away from what I am doing to upload your new testimonial, but if you could do that yourself… again you save money not paying a web designer. History shows that because it can cost lots of money to hire out a designer for the little things they tend to go undone and your site quickly gets stale and you drop in rankings on the search engines.
In comes WordPress.com
WordPress.com allows people to get a free WordPress website with the blogging feature that makes it a perfect tool to establish yourself as an expert in your field. When you get a free website on WordPress you get a URL that would be something like “tracy.WordPress.com”.
Many people whose current websites do not have a blog sometimes start by adding a link to one of these free sites. The problem being the idea behind a blog is to generate traffic to your website, and keep the Google bots coming on a regular basics. If you add a WordPress.com blog you are not doing either of these things – you drive traffic to WordPress.com and it holds not SEO benefit for your website.
Advantage to WordPress.com
- It’s free!
- It’s a good starting point to learn WordPress
- You do not have to worry about updates – they are done for you
Disadvantage to WordPress.com
- You can’t have a custom URL like your business name – HUGE!
- Limited Theme (look) options – cannot upload a premium theme for a more professional feel
- No Plugin uploads – ugh! The best part of WordPress is the fact that there are ENDLESS plugins both free and paid that really enhance the possibilities of your website.
- No Ads – You can’t make money from your blog
- No control – you must agree to the terms of agreement and do what you are told
This is sometimes the confusing part for beginners. WordPress.org is basically the repository for the software, plugins and thousands of free themes.
So when people refer to the “other solution” to a WordPress.com site they are really talking about what is called a “self-hosted WordPress site”. Not to mean you have a server in your basement, but that your host has installed the software and you can “Run” WordPress software. There are infinite affordable hosting companies that support WordPress.
Advantages to a “Self Hosted” WordPress Website
- You can use your business URL – www.yourwebsite.com
- Total control – really need I say more
- You can use and install any custom theme = Branding
- You can install any plugins, add events, display ads, have a mailing lists signup, add maps, and SEO plugins to get found – anything you want to do there is probably a plugin for that
- You could hire a professional to create the site for you then you take over maintaining it but if you were pretty tech savvy and wanted to learn you could certainly do it yourself
Disadvantages to a “Self Hosted” WordPress Website
- You have to a pay a hosting company to host it – the average monthly cost is about $10 many are less
- You have to backup and update your WordPress install yourself
Not completely on topic but there is also a WordPress.tv – which has great how to videos and all the cutting edge news for wordpress users.