Working on custom blog designs has made me aware of the differences between a free WordPress.com site and a self-hosted WordPress.org site. And I know many clients don’t realize the possible limitations of going with the free blog. Here’s an explanation that can hopefully help you make the decision between the two. Keep in mind that I’m not an expert in programming. I’m currently learning, so this is solely from my experience.
If you hope to make your blog into a money making venture, you may be disappointed to find out that WordPress.com does not allow you to run ads on their site. In fact, they may even run their own ads on your site from time to time. The only exception to the no ads rule is if your site has moderate to high traffic or if you’re a VIP client, then you could be permitted to have ads added.
Many WordPress.com users may not even be aware of this limitation, but there are no plugins available on the free sites. Plugins are little useful software add-ons from third party developers. They can allow you to have a signature that’s automatically added to your posts or have social share buttons at the bottom of pages and posts so users can share your content on Facebook or other social networks. There are countless options.
If you look on the side of my page, you will see a text box under my blog badge that will allow you to copy and paste the code and add the badge to your own site. Here’s where my limited knowledge is apparent. I don’t know what it is about the code that is restricted, but you can’t have text boxes in your widget or pages. Maybe it was viewed as another form of advertisement but if you input the code, it will just be adjusted to remove the restricted part of the code.
Now onto the design aspects. The CSS Stylesheet where you could (if you knew how) change some parts of your chosen theme, is not readily available. There is an option to purchase access to the CSS (along with a way to pick alternate fonts) for $30/year. To be honest, my experience with this has been minimal but the results have been horrible. It did not work in the least. There are also some other add ons in the WordPress store for purchase, but I’ll explain later why I believe purchasing your domain and hosting elsewhere is a better option for spending your money.
Themes choices are extremely limited as well. It surprised me that I could not upload a third party theme I may have found, or that other favorite themes were not available. Having a self-hosted WordPress.org site opens up the options immensely. That alone is worth it.
Of course, there are some negatives for WordPress.org sites. Namely, the stats and spam filters that are built into the free WordPress.com sites are not automatically in the self-hosted ones. But it’s easy to find similar functionality within the third-party plugins even though some of the best are not always free.
Even with the above cons, I would highly recommend skipping the WordPress.com sites in favor of a self-hosted one especially if you’re hoping to reach a good number of readers or receive money or other perks (such as giveaways or sponsored posts from companies looking for advertising) from your blog. Often someone will start with the free WordPress.com blog but then get reeled in by the extras offered in the WordPress store. Things like custom domain, access to CSS and alternate fonts, or purchasing premium themes can seem like a great idea at the time, but they end up being more expensive than having a self hosted site (which is just a few bucks per month) in the long run.
If you have already signed up with WordPress.com and/or even gone as far as to purchase a domain from them, you can still switch over to self-hosting. I personally use GoDaddy for my own sites and have not had a problem ever. It’s very easy to set up and it has often taken less than 24 hours. I also use RetailMeNot for coupon codes to save some money on the domain registration and hosting plans. If you would rather not deal with the hassle, I offer a transfer service for my Tech·mom·o·gy Designs clients and will set everything up for you.
Good luck with yours sites, bloggers!0