Today’s blogging solutions are robust and easy to use. That’s a major win for everyone, giving anyone the ability to create world-class content. So it shouldn’t be up to the user to try and get around roadblocks set up by hosting companies, but in some cases, it is. Bloggers need full access to analytics, revenue-generating features, and more.
Let’s explore the advantages and limitations of WordPress.com so you can make the best decision for your business.
Why is WordPress.com a Popular Option?
With WordPress, there are two options: the free software available at WordPress.org that you can install on your own hosting (typically referred to as “self-hosted WordPress”) and the hosted variety of WordPress available at WordPress.com.
WordPress.com is a popular blogging platform because you can build a website for “free.” Having said that, there are additional tiers of service available to bloggers and web publishers that unlock additional options for a fee.
For the beginning blogger, “free” seems like a sweet deal, and there are a few good reasons to choose the hosted version at WordPress.com.
- If you’re running a very simple blog, the free price tag can be appealing, and you might not care about ads or the lack of deep analytics.
- It can be a great place to learn how to use WordPress because everything is documented and all users get free support.
- You can get started without having to register a domain or purchase hosting, or do any difficult setup.
- Backups, security, spam filtering, and other technical needs are handled automatically in the background.
As you can see, there are reasons some people choose to use the WordPress.com platform, but for most businesses and people serious about their website, it might not be the best option. Let’s look at the reasons why you might want to consider a self-hosted WordPress site.
The Limitations with WordPress.com
There are several limitations to the free WordPress.com sites that might make you reconsider using it as your website platform. Below we list five constraints of using WordPress.com’s free service and helpful advice on overcoming them.
1. Limited Number of Themes
According to WordPress.com’s website, the free plan comes with “dozens of free themes.” As of the writing of this blog, “dozens” equals exactly 100 themes available without a paid upgrade. For a beginner, this may seem like a lot, but the open-source version of WordPress has 11,000+ themes that can be installed by users. By comparison, 100 theme options are incomplete.
One way to overcome this limitation is to buy one of the 184 premium themes available in the WordPress.com store. They start at around $39 and could cost as much as $79 or even more. Premium themes are included if you upgrade to the $96 per year premium plan (or higher), but that’s a far cry from free.
Another great solution is to use open-source WordPress on your own hosting instead of WordPress.com for content management. This simple choice opens you up to thousands of free and low-cost themes to install.
2. Insufficient Analytics
Arguably the most restrictive aspect of hosting on WordPress.com is the inability to connect to Google Analytics. This barrier cuts you off from crucial data that can help you build your readership. You do have access to a Stats page with about a dozen metrics, such as the number of visitors that came to your blog. However, you do not get the enterprise-level insights offered for free by Google Analytics.
Websites on WordPress.com can add Google Analytics by upgrading to the Business tier, at the cost of $300 per year. That is a hefty price to pay for something that most people get for free.
The lower-cost way to get over this hurdle is to use a different blog host. Unlike self-hosted WordPress, WordPress.com is the only one that denies users the ability to integrate Google Analytics. Switch to almost anyone else, and you can start collecting traffic and demographics details right away.
3. Lack of E-commerce Support
Many bloggers are interested in using their sites to generate some revenue. Some do this through sponsored posts, and others do this by selling real products. You cannot sell products directly through your site with any plan from WordPress.com, except for the most expensive one. The eCommerce package retails for $540 per year, taking a big cut off the bottom line, especially for new bloggers.
Some WordPress.com subscribers set up online stores elsewhere, on eBay or Amazon, and redirect readers. Out-linking is a good option, although each of these platforms charges a fee for every sale.
Here again, switching to another hosting platform is likely the best choice if you want to sell products. The self-hosted version of WordPress allows you to use many e-commerce plugins that can help you get an online store up and running right away. If you already have an account with a payment processor, there’s a good chance they have their own WordPress plugin that sets up in just a few clicks.
4. Oodles of Ads
The most noticeable hindrance of WordPress.com is ads. These are mandatory banner advertisements that appear at the top, side, and bottom of every page within your site, and in the middle over every post. Sure, these ads help keep the service free, but you also have no control over the advertisements that appear.
When you write a blog about your personal recipe for organic mouth rinse, you just might see an ad for a drugstore brand splashed all over the page.
WordPress.com’s banner ads disappear with a $36 upgrade to the Blogger plan. However, all of your pages must still carry a text ad for WordPress.com in the footer. This branding can only be nixed by moving to the more costly Business tier. To be fair, most free blogging platforms require some on-page ads.
Self-hosting with WordPress does not require any ads at all. You can get paid for showing ads though when you choose to instead!
There is another issue when it comes to ads on WordPress.com. If you would like to generate revenue for yourself using ads, you must use the company’s official platform, WordAds. This program is easy to integrate but may not give you the same level of payouts you see from programs like Google’s Display Network.
5. Tiny Storage Space
One way that WordPress.com nudges users toward paid tiers is by allowing only limited storage space for free. Currently, the free plan gives you 3GB of disk space. This is suitable if your posts are mostly text-based. However, your free storage starts to run out fast once you start uploading:
- Interactive content
The only way to overcome this barrier is to buy a more significant subscription. The Personal package is $60 per year and gives you 6GB of storage. If you run out of space, there are three higher-priced options that all increase your total number of gigabytes.
What’s the Best Alternative to WordPress.com?
When looking at options to WordPress.com, you can go with non-WordPress hosted solutions such as Wix or Weebly, but in many cases, those platforms are even more expensive and offer you very few design options. It can also be very difficult to move your content from those platforms over to WordPress later if you no longer wish to use their services.
It doesn’t matter whether you are using a self-hosted or managed blogging solution; the full power of the internet should be available to all. The capacity to share information freely in a dynamic way is one of the greatest achievements of our time. The internet is an influential part of our society, and your ability to create and publish should not be limited because of budget concerns or platform restrictions.
The best option in our opinion is to choose self-hosted WordPress, using the software available for free at WordPress.org and getting your own hosting account at a company like Web Planet USA.