WordPress is widely recommended as the best available platform to use when starting a blog. There are alternatives to use if you wish, the most well known probably being Blogger, Drupal, Posterous, Livejournal, Squarespace and Typepad. I’ll review each of them plus some others on a later occasion.
Did you know that WordPress comes in two versions, WordPress.com and WordPress.org? WordPress.com is the hosted version available directly on the WordPress servers. It’s main advantages are that it is free to use and simple to operate. There is no need to have any knowledge of HTML and you have access to a wide choice of ready-to-use templates. If you don’t want to be bothered by installing WordPress on your own hosting account, then WordPress.com is your option. For a beginner this makes WordPress.com seem to be the ideal choice.
Be warned, however, that those advantages can turn into major disadvantages. WordPress.com’s free use comes at a price in terms of stringent conditions of use. If you are looking to monetise your WordPress.com blog, WordPress will not automatically allow it. This includes Google Adsense, usually the main source of income for monetised blogs, and affiliate links including banner advertisements. What’s more, WordPress will also place their own advertisements on your blog from which they will make income for themselves. The only way out of this is to pay them to go ad-free. This currently costs $29.97 per annum (as of March 2011). Whoever it was who said that there was no such thing as a free lunch was spot-on.
A free site can also not truly be viewed as your own. At any time that the hosting platform decides to either change its policies or its editorial team doesn’t like the content on your blog, it can shut it down overnight. This has been the fate of many successful blogs, perhaps not yet on WordPress, but certainly on others such as Blogger. If that happens to your Blog, all your time and effort invested will have been lost. You’ll have no option but to start all over again. Grounds for complaining will also be minimal. If you’ve gone for the free option you’ve surrendered overall control and responsibility for the fate of your blog.
This is why WordPress.org is widely regarded as substantially the better, long-term option. With WordPress.org you will need to arrange to have your blog hosted directly on your own hosting account. This will need to be paid for, but the costs are not great and the advantages of having your own independence is enormous.
Your hosting account will need some minimal requirements to enable WordPress.org to be downloaded such as Fantastico. Most leading hosting operators now have a WordPress icon on the list of tools available to subscribers. All it requires is a click and the downloading of WordPress.org will commence and be completed within minutes.
Once done, the full range of WordPress templates (or themes) and plug-ins will be available to you plus, provided you’ve purchased it, an appropriate domain name of your choice to use as your own online identity as opposed to a .wordpress or .blogger identity. Having your own generic URL will give an extra sense of professionalism and identity to a blog that hosted options cannot match.
There are literally thousands of WordPress themes and plug-ins for you to choose from. Plenty of them are free but some have to be paid for. It’s perfectly possible to construct an effective blog from WordPress.org solely from the free themes and plug-ins if you wish, it all boils down to what you view your blog needs and what you are willing to invest in it.
The plug-ins are where the real power of WordPress rests. Some plug-ins will be more essential than others, such as one’s which will allow visitors to make comments on your postings and also to control and prevent spam. You don’t need to choose your plug-ins straightaway, just add them as your blog evolves and becomes more comprehensive and influential. This will be important not just for developing your blog but also for tracking your traffic, which websites have referred visitors to you and which search engine keywords have brought you visitors too.
WordPress.org does require a bit more effort than WordPress.com but not to any extent that’s beyond people of average intelligence and need not be any more time consuming once downloaded. The benefits to be reaped are that instead of WordPress imposing their own advertisements on your blog, you can now opt for an adverts free blog if you wish, or to add your adverts, including Google Adsense, Amazon and affiliate links without falling foul of WordPress’s terms and conditions.
There has been some recent debate as to whether blogs are still necessary now that Social Media such as Facebook and Twitter have become more influential. I, for one, keep coming back to the importance of having your own independence and identity. By all means promote yourself on Social Media, but always remember that Facebook can shut down your account without notice if it wishes to. If you haven’t built a presence and list of contacts etc somewhere which you own and control, then what will happen to you and your business?
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