The following post began life as a how-to email I sent to a writers’ group I belong to, the Northern Virginia Writers Club, after several non-techy members expressed frustration over trying to get onto the web. It seems a bit redundant to post this bit about WordPress on a WordPress site…but of course any number of people could stumble across this blog via a simple browser search, with no knowledge of why my site is hosted on WP.
This is a very light, quick introduction into why I chose WP for my site and blogging needs. Feel free to ask questions in the Comments section to clarify anything I glossed over.
There was a lot of interest today about WordPress as a cheap and relatively easy web solution, something we’re probably all looking for. I thought I’d give you the 30 second sound byte on my experiences with my author site http://matthew-iden.com. While WordPress is not the only ready-made blogging site/software out there, IMHO it seems to be the most professional looking and offers the most amenities. Others may have a different outlook.
Time was, your “blog” was a page on your site where you posted journal entries and was a side-show to the rest of your site. Today, however, while content is king, static content has little value. Current, updated, time-relevant content is what drives traffic and keeps readers interested. As a result, the “blog” is now your site and your “pages” are really just hangers-on for content that truly never changes (Bio, FAQ, etc.). You have to get used to this shift if you want to move to a WordPress site, as WP is overkill for your needs if you don’t plan to blog frequently and/or expand your reach of readers.
WP is confusingly divided into two nearly identical products: wordpress.com and wordpress.org. While they share many attributes, they are not interchangeable terms, especially when you go to implement your site.
Wordpress.com is a free blogging service that is hosted on WP’s servers at no cost to you. How does WP make their money?
- Small, targeted, and infrequent ads are run on .com sites to defray their cost.
- You can buy ala-carte ad-ons to your site (including having ads removed) that are yearly subscription fees. This can become very expensive if you aren’t careful, but the basic free site is extremely functional and would meet most authors’ needs.
You update pages and create blog “posts” (your journal entries) through a control panel that is username/password protected and only visible to you. You use a simple interface to upload and format your content; it’s a cross between an MS Word document and an Amazon purchase page in look and complexity. Knowing HTML would helpful, but is not required. Bear in mind that you will be saddled with a “.wordpress.com” domain if you don’t pay a fee to use your own, i.e, your URL would be http://yourname.wordpress.com.
As for looks and design, there are literally dozens of free templates and even more pay templates to customize the look and feel of your site. You can add photo galleries, construct polls and surveys, solicit comments on your pages or posts, include Facebook and Twitter widgets that lead directly to your social media identity, and so on. The key is that the blog is meant to help you interact with others. The .com avenue also links you with every other WP blog out there by way of tagging, email support, subscription services, ping-backs, and other doo-dads.
This last item shouldn’t be underrated, as their are literally thousands of blogs out there…and many blogs have subscribers that number in the thousands. If even a fraction of these people find your blog, hundreds of people might land on your site, driven by a provocative post.
Wordpress.org is not a blogging service, per se; it’s blogging software that requires a hosting service (that you pay for) to place the software on. It features the great amenities and templates of WP.com, but does not make you part of the WP.com family (no referrals from tags, “Likes”, and so forth).
Why would anyone go with .org instead of .com? Because it offers a huge number of third-party add-on features that you can use to customize your site that .com does not. For geeks, it also allows you to control the “up-time” of your site since you have the choice of hosting with a commercial hosting service that could take 1,000,000 hits when you make the best-seller lists instead of a Mom-n-Pop hosting service that will keel over if it gets 100 hits. Since most bloggers are after traffic more than anything else, that becomes a real issue when hits start going up into the millions. For us, probably not an issue.
Lastly, affiliate links are not permitted on .com sites, but are on .org sites. Affiliates links (e.g., to Amazon, Half.com, etc.) offer a cut to bloggers who send customers to the commerce site; not surprisingly, many bloggers like this feature when they review a book, product, or service, so they choose a .org site to preserve the ability to use those links.
I haven’t created a .org site, but many popular hosting services (GoDaddy, for instance) allow wp.org software and will provide you with technical support to load your site into a .org framework (it will cost you a modest fee to do so).
If you have a site now...
I would encourage you to experiment with the wordpress.com site and see if you can’t shoehorn your content and graphics into what they offer. For non-techies, the barriers to a .com site are low and the cost is minimal (the major cost you will probably encounter is retaining your own domain name, as I mentioned). But just creating a blog to experiment with is free and will take you 10 minutes to set up. If you don’t like it, just delete the blog and hold on to your current site. Also, if you don’t plan on blogging or interacting with your audience, a blog isn’t for you anyway.
If you still want to go with .org and are not technically inclined, ask your hosting provider if they support .org and, if they do, what they charge to implement an existing site to a .org model. Make sure you ask about total cost, not just hourly rate.