Today I was asked whether I would recommend a Self Hosted wordpress site or a free blog over at WordPress.com – my initital response was “Self hosted” but as I thought on it a little further, I decided that the response was not exactly true.
There are a number of considerations that I should have taken before giving my response and I’m going to discuss them here….
Firstly, let me explain why I said “Self hosted”. There are so many great benefits:
You Have Complete Control of Content
With a self hosted wordpress blog, you have complete control of what you say on it – the content you share. OK, within reason – as long as it’s legal to share!
If you want a purely marketing blog, that recommends other products and provides links to other sites – you can. You may not get many loyal visitors, but it’s up to you.
Look and Feel can be determined by you
With your own self hosted wordpress blog, you can completely customize your look and feel. There are a lot of free wordpress themes available for use that can be easily added to your site, or you can contract someone like me to create you something completely unique. The control is in your hands!
Extend the functionality using Plugins
WordPress developers abound – literally. You can grab any number of free plug-ins to extend the funcationality of wordpress – from Sidebar widgets to display content to plugins that easily allow you to monitor the usage of your site.
In a nut shell, a self hosted wordpress blog gives you freedom and control.
There are a couple of possible downsides though that should be considered:
You have to install, configure and manage the blog
Installing a wordpress blog is really quite simple, but if you are technologically challenged – you may find this a little daunting.
Installing and configuring the plugins can be a slightly time consuming process and if you aren’t sure what to do, you may find it a bit disheartening.
You will need to manage your blog on a regular basis. As new versions of WordPress are released and the plugins updated, you will need to go through and apply the updates. Again, not a difficult process (generally managed with the click of a button) but sometimes things do go wrong – and you may require additional support.
On the upside, this work can be outsourced to businesses like mine incredibly cost effectively. Alternatively, you can join ‘How To’ sites like DIY Tech Talk and learn to do it yourself easily.
So what about a Free blog from WordPress.com?
I admit it! I started out with a free blog from WordPress.com that got shut down! Apparently, I had breached their Terms Of Service – however, no further explanation was given so I’m not sure exactly what I did.
The Terms of Services states:
Termination. Automattic may terminate your access to all or any part of the Website at any time, with or without cause, with or without notice, effective immediately……
There is more to that clause relating to VIP (paid) services, and then it finishes:
All provisions of this Agreement which by their nature should survive termination shall survive termination, including, without limitation, ownership provisions, warranty disclaimers, indemnity and limitations of liability.
I want to state that I appreciate the team from Automattic (the owners of wordpress.com) provide these services for free and have to protect their investment and reputation from the predatory behavior of some netizens. Which is why I understand their approach to breaches of Terms Of Service. When my blog was ‘disabled’, I probably did something like posting links to 3rd party sites (affiliate sites) – and the practice was classed as spammy – as a newbie online marketer who had been reading various bits of literature, I was following a strategy… and boy did I learn a lesson or two.
The thing is, that I don’t want to be a the ‘mercy’ of someone else. Yes, I earn income from promoting affiliate products and my own services – my blog is the way of sharing that information – as a business – I don’t want to have my blog ‘turned off’.
From what I’ve seen on WordPress.com, the types of plugins you can install on your free blog are limited. That would be for a number of entirely practical reasons, but if you really want to try out that new funky looking plugin and WordPress.com doesn’t support – how frustrating!
Yep, using a Free blog takes the angst out of installing and configuring the plug-ins, but the price of that level of satisfaction may be too high for you.
Installing, configuring and manageing the blog
This is a biggie. You don’t have to worry about any of this. Want a new blog? Head over to WordPress.com and create a new one. They will manage the version updates on everything. All you have to do is blog.
In conlusion, whilst I’m not opposed to free blogs to develop a feel for blogging – I am cautious of their use for business and marketing reasons. Using a free blog will certainly relieve you of the techie angst – but as you become more confident and want to try out newer techniques, you may find yourself limited.
If you are an individual who really just wants to share their experiences in the world, a free blog is well suited to your needs.
If you are a completely newbie to blogging and really just want to try it out, then I encourage you to head over to WordPress.com and give it a go.
If you are a business who is serious about generating their web presence (even if you are a solopreneur or micro business), do you want to take the risk that you may have your account terminated without recourse?
Remember though, WordPress.com is about sharing information and doesn’t appreciate unwanted commercial content.
If you are a business person and really don’t get the whole ‘blogging scene’, try blogging as an individual on a free blog before embarking on a blog for your company or business – this is where the free blogs come into their own. You are able to develop a taste for blogging without all the other techie and management concerns around your blog.
I will raise the point that if you are a business – you should have your own domain name and you should be branding everything you do around that domain – using a Free blog does not provide the right impression for your visitors.
What are you experiences with using Free blogs vs a self hosted blog, why not share them here with us?