Paid WordPress versus Self Hosted: What I wish the guides told me
Welcome to my first of a four-part post series on my move from Paid WordPress to Self-Hosted! These posts will discuss my lessons learned and tips you can use (even on Free WordPress!) to improve your website.
I made the jump from Paid WordPress to Self-Hosted a couple of weeks ago, and I’ve learned a lot since that process. My lessons began about eleven months ago: I wanted to add Google Analytics to my website and found I couldn’t unless I was on the Business plan ($20/month). If I wanted to pay that much I could have gone with managed WordPress. This paid wordpress versus self-hosted guide aims to assist bloggers considering moving from free wordpress to having their own domain.
What’s the Difference Between Paid WordPress and Self-Hosted?
Did you know that there are two WordPresses? Confusing, I know. WordPress as a platform is a free and open-source content management system for publishing on the internet.
- WordPress.COM is a website based on the software, but it is hosted and maintained by Automattic. You don’t download the software or update plugins.
- WordPress.ORG is where the open-source software, themes, plugins can be found. There are tons of free options and you have a lot of freedom, but you need to download the software and host it yourself. There is no free website version.
The main difference between the two is the amount of freedom and responsibility you have. If you are new to creating a website or not interested in paying for a domain, a free wordpress.com account is the way to go.
If and when you outgrow the free account and are ready to have your own domain, you will have a choice between the easy upgrade with wordpress.com or moving to self-hosted. This guide is for people considering this step and supplements the WP Beginner WordPress.com vs. WordPress.Org – Which is Better? Pros and Cons guide with the information I learned after the fact.
My Domain Experience
I consulted the guides, talked to friends, and decided that it wasn’t worth the hassle of going self-hosted because my friends said they got everything they needed with paid wordpress. I quickly learned my prior and outside digital management background would lead me to hit that glass ceiling of capability early on.
No Plugins is Limiting
Sure those comparison charts say no plugins, but that doesn’t seem like a big deal. If you have never had access to plugins, you assume they are just extra things like adding a Playbuzz quiz into your post. But EVERYTHING YOU POSSIBLY WOULD WANT TO DO IS A FREAKING PLUGIN. Google Analytics? Plugin. Test preview links of posts before they publish? Plugin. Want to remove the dates from your post permalinks? Gotta be on Business for that.
Basically, I felt trapped in a plan that didn’t allow access to the data I wanted for eleven months. Once you figure out more about the business of blogging and want to implement SEO techniques to improve your blog’s rankings on Google, you realize just how limiting paid wordpress is. The jump from $8 to $25 a month just for plugins is obnoxious and would put me at the same price as going with a managed self-hosted plan, only I would get a lot more self-hosted.
Things I Wanted to Do but Couldn’t
There are a lot of plugins out there that do cool things like add accessibility or allow you to embed a Rafflecopter into your post, but I worked around them while on the WordPress.com platform. I assumed all plugins were nice-to-haves, but a few turned out to be a big deal for me. The problem is when you pay $100 for the year, you feel like you should be able to do some of these things.
- Google Analytics offers more detailed information about site traffic, link clicks, bounce rates, etc. than the basic suite of data provided by WordPress via Jetpack. The only way to link your account is via a plugin, which you don’t have access to unless you are on the Businss Plan. Some data is better than no data, but it killed my soul!
- DMCA Protection provides you with content protection and takedown services, registering your content under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. I registered my website a year ago after the first plagiarism situation but could not claim the website for DMCA protection without a plugin or a domain email address.
- Post Previews – when I received a sponsored post opportunity, the person I was working with asked for a preview link to double-check everything before the post went live. This requires a plugin, I used GoogleDocs instead.
- Post permalink structure – by default, all of the post permalinks have the date in the URL, but that actually hurts your SEO ranking. The only way to remove the dates was to go to Business.
- Can’t upload themes – if you want to use a theme that isn’t listed in the wordpress.com library, you have to be on the Business plan.
- Can’t fully customize – even CSS is limiting! It’s baffling that you have to be on the Premium plan to even customize your site with CSS, but you don’t have the ability to directly edit the theme.
Paid WordPress is more expensive
I wanted the capability to remove advertisements from my website, so I chose the Premium plan.
I was completely content with the amount of space that I had, the premium themes that I had access to for free, and the ability to customize my themes with CSS is just what I wanted. But I quickly figured out no plugins really limited me in ways I didn’t expect.
To use Google Analytics and register my site with DMCA, both things important to me as a content creator, I would have to pay over $20 a month. When you look at the cost of going self-hosted, even the $8/month Premium plan is more expensive and you have less freedom.
I think it is obvious that if I knew then what I know now, I would have gone straight to self-hosted WordPress. The biggest downer is that the post likes and statistics reset when I moved to self-hosted (more on that in the next post, but it would have been $120 extra to Automattic. Nope). I wish I had made the jump back when I decided to take my blog to the next level a year ago.
Going self-hosted sounds really scary, but I promise you with a good host it’s really seamless! Self-hosted plans are as low as $3-$5 a month and offer you a LOT more flexibility than the $8 per month you would pay to WordPress.com… save your coins, friends.
The next post in my Lessons Series will be the actual process of moving from Paid WordPress to Self-Hosted WordPress, including links and information about who I decided to go with for hosting. If you have any specific questions about the process you want to be sure I cover, please let me know!
Let’s go on another adventure together!