I started my blogging career from Blogspot, then I moved to the free WordPress website on the wordpress.com, bought a domain there and stayed for a year or so. While I was hosting my blog on wordpress.com, I was learning about self-hosted WordPress.
While I was using the free WordPress website and then the paid plan, I learned a lot. Therefore, this post is for those who have a lot of questions about the pros & cons of the platform. I will address all the pros & cons I have experienced for almost 2 years and will share which platform is the best for you & your business needs.
Aspart of this guide, you’ll learn the following:
Some numbers about wordpress.com
Why you shouldn’t use a free WordPress website
Why you should use a free WordPress blog
Who should use this platform
How to create a free WordPress website
Without further ado, let’s begin with some jaw-dropping stats.
Jaw Dropping Stats About Free WordPress Website
409 million active users consume information on 20 billion webpages each month
Users publish 70 million new posts & 77 million comments each month
Big guns like TechCrunch, TED, CNN, completely depend on VIP plan on WordPress.com. But as the name suggests, the prices are VIP level and beginners cannot afford it.
71% of all the blogs hosted on wordpress.com are written in English, 4.7% in Spanish, 2.4% Indonesian and more such top internationally spoken languages. The point is, wordpress.com hosts many blogs that are non-English. This means that the platform eliminates the linguistic barrier for content creators.
WordPress is the most popular content management system defeating big guns like Blogspot, Drupal & SharePoint.
That was about the stats that are a bit convincing to use free WordPress website. But on the other side of the coin, let me share some reasons why you shouldn’t (and you should) use Free WordPress blog
Why You ‘Shouldn’t’ Use a Free WordPress Website
Sure, there are mind-blowing stats to convince you to create a free WordPress website right away.
Behold! There’s a catch you should know.
#1 Limited Options for Monetizing free WordPress blog(& customizations too)
First things first. There are 6 different plans depending on the usage apart from the free WordPress blog. You cannot ad Google Adsense code to your website since there is no way to edit your website from the backend. You get a basic theme, which has very basic customizations available. You cannot ad any ads for that matter, including CPM ads, since all these ads need you to install custom code on your free WordPress blog to serve ads on your webpages.
However, you can include affiliates links, paid reviews, sell products on your blog. But this again requires a huge amount of traffic to your blog, which I don’t think is possible with a free WordPress blog, considering the limitations of the blog. You can also use WordAds as an alternative to Google Adsense. I used it for a year but I didn’t find it useful.
First, the domain extension. If you use a free blog, you’d have a domain name that looks something like this www.example.wordpress.com.
Second, there isn’t anything you can do as part of On-Page SEO, other than the traditional ways, which again are tough for beginners. This eliminates the hope of reaching the masses. This leaves you with two options, either upgrade your plan on wordpress.com (to business plan at least, to reap some customization benefits) or move your blog to self-hosted WordPress, which is again tough for beginners.
Some of you might ask…
I think otherwise.
If your webpages aren’t optimized right, even the best keyword research won’t be fruitful.
Therefore, if you are serious for your blogging and have ideas to makes money online, I’d encourage you to either upgrade your plan at least to ‘business’ or migrate to self-hosted, which will be cheaper but requires a lot of work and you’ll need to manage everything. Including security, updates, management, administration, etc.
The cherry on the cake is that free WordPress blog allows little to no customizations. Utmost you can customize is basic look & feel of your blog, that’s it. No custom code, page structure or features that you can add. Because you cannot alter the page structure of your blog, you are forced to rely on the pre-defined themes available, which is not cool. Furthermore, just to add custom design upgrade costs around $36/year.
Another thing I find a bit too much is the Terms of Service. Here’s a gist of strict TOS from the official TOS page.
“By submitting Content to Automattic for inclusion on your Website, you grant Automattic a world-wide, royalty-free, and non-exclusive license to reproduce, modify, adapt and publish the Content solely for the purpose of displaying, distributing and promoting your blog. If you delete Content, Automattic will use reasonable efforts to remove it from the Website, but you acknowledge that caching or references to the Content may not be made immediately unavailable.”
#2 No Plugins for Free WordPress Blog
One of the best parts of using WordPress is its plugin directory. WordPress has well over 54 thousand plugins, so many that there are plugins for almost everything you need. If you don’t find the plugin that does something you want to do, you can always create a custom plugin.
I know so many people who migrate to self-hosted WordPress just to enjoy the benefits of plugins, both custom & from the directory. Plugins aren’t available on WordPress.com unless you upgrade to Business plan, which costs around $12 a month.
Same thing applies to themes too. You get to choose from a set of basic WordPress themes, which has very little customization that’s actually meaningful. Custom themes are available only for business plans. Furthermore, theme customization is very expensive. I’m not sure of the exact reason, but theme developers have paid customizable features that excruciatingly over-priced.
#3 Free WordPress Blog Can be Suspended Anytime
WordPress.com is very strict when it comes to protecting their services from abuse. The company suspends blogs that perform prohibited activities on the platform. Visitors can also report a blog for any offensive content, which means there’s always a threat of losing your work.
Someone might report your blog to harm your reputation, even when you didn’t have any offensive content. Once a blog is suspended, the owner has little to no time to take the backup of their blogs. In worse cases, the company wouldn’t even inform the owner about the ban & simply block the domain (& its content) from being accessible by anyone.
Once the domain is blocked, it is no more accessible by anyone & is blocked forever.
#4 No Development Possible
Sure, you must’ve heard me saying that WordPress is the best CMS in the world & is known for the customization it provides. But this doesn’t hold true for free WordPress blog, at least not until you upgrade to a business plan.
If you are someone with a plan of having a lot of customizations with custom plugins and tools, the free WordPress blog is not for you. You should either upgrade to choose self-hosted WordPress.
WordPress.com is for those who are either lazy to customize the blog as per their needs or for those who don’t know how to do it. Either way, it’s expensive to have a fully customizable blog on wordpress.com. I’ll discuss the reason in the subsequent section.
But for now, if you are looking for adding custom tools and develop something of your own, this platform isn’t for you. At least not until you upgrade to a paid plan, which brings customizations, custom domain, plugins, themes & more.
Enough of negative stuff, let’s talk positively about wordpress.com.
Why You ‘Should’ Use a Free WordPress Website
Here comes the sweet spot of this post. So far you’ve been wondering why would 400+ million people host their blog on WordPress in spite of these many disadvantages, here’s are some reasons for that.
#1 Automatic backups
Your content is their key to business, so they must keep it safe. Here’s how they describe the backup feature.
“ If a very large meteor were to hit all the WordPress.com servers and destroy them beyond repair, all of your data would still be safe and we could have your blog online within a couple of days (after the meteor situation died down, of course)”
Irrespective of the plan you choose, your blog content is automatically backed up. You don’t have to worry about losing it unless you delete it accidentally. Even if you delete it, you can still find it in the trash.
#2 Uptime & Availability
Servers hosting wordpress.com websites are spread across the globe and chances of all servers failing all at once is next to impossible. This is not the case with self-hosted WordPress. The hosting company you opt for may lose control over their servers and your website/blog may go down. If the servers crash, you’d need to wait for the company to bring your website back online, worse case – you losing all your content if you haven’t had backed up your data.
Which again is a hypothetical situation as companies these days invest heavily on top quality servers and their maintenance.
One of the biggest reason why people(including the big guns I mentioned in the first section) depend on wordpress.com is the security part. Unlike self-hosted WordPress, this platform isn’t open-source. Therefore, the margin of error on this platform is ultra-thin, at least in case of security, it is very very thin.
WordPress has a dedicated team to take care of the security of their servers so that you don’t lose the data due to critical hacks. That’s what you pay for, rest all features are complementary, I’d say. Furthermore, installing SSL is just one-click away.
Unlike self-hosted WordPress, you don’t have to search for best SSL certificate provider, then purchase it and install it on your WordPress website.
One-click and you’re in the green lock zone.
Who Should Use Free WordPress Website?
This is an open-ended question. Anyone can use this platform to host their website There are so many factors that govern this question. If you are someone who’s just starting out and want to explore this space, test your writing skills or simply get started with blogging.
This platform is for you.
If you are business who can afford the WordPress VIP plan ($5000/mo for hosting & $5000 for set-up fee) and want to focus only on creating content and leaving everything else (literally everything) on the WordPress team, this platform is for you.
With this plan, you have full customization features that self-hosted WordPress has, but all the heavy lifting like security, maintenance, upgrades & updates will be taken care of by the WordPress team. All you have to focus on is creating awesome content.
If you’ve made this far, and If I’ve convinced you that wordpress.com is a great place to start your career in blogging, here’s how you can get started.
How to Create Free WordPress Website?
Unlike self-hosted WordPress, you don’t have to buy domain & hosting space. If you choosing to get a paid WordPress website on WordPress, you can start with a free WordPress website, get used to the ambiance and then upgrade to a paid plan. Here are the steps involved in this process:
Step 1: Sign up on wordpress.com
Simply head over to wordpress.com & sign up using your preferred email id or you can use Google Id to create your account.
Step 2: Choose a domain name
If you are just starting out, I’d suggest opting for a free WordPress blog so you get hold of the platform. Once you’re comfortable, you can upgrade anytime. To begin with, think of a unique domain name, like in my case is www.btricks.in.
Since you’ve chosen a free WordPress blog, ‘wordpress.com’ will be the default extension. That’s okay to begin with.
Step 3: Choose a theme & customize it
Okay, I said there’s little customization available, just the look and feel. To begin with, basic customizations are fine. Change colors, background and get started with creating content.
Step 4: Create content that resonates
Once you have your blog up & running, it’s time to create awesome content for your audience. Sure, your audience won’t be huge right from day one, but you have a chance of catching the attention of people who spend hours & hours on wordpress.com.
You can follow tags to get updates on new content created related to those tags. When you include tags in your blog post, it will reach the feeds of people who also follow those tags. That way you can get the initial traction for your blog posts.
Create catchy titles & descriptions that would want the reader to consume your content, but make sure you don’t have click bait in your metas.
Note: These are some basic steps to create a free wordpres website. I’m working on a detailed guide and will be publishing shortly. Meanwhile, you can see these help videos from WordPress themselves.
Final Thoughts on Free WordPress Website
Depending on what you are comfortable with, you can choose between wordpress.org and wordpress.com. If you are okay with getting your hands dirty by managing everything on your website on your own, self-hosted WordPress is the platform for you.
Well, those two platforms are a great way to test your writing, but when it comes to managing a website these two platforms has nothing to offer.
Also, if you want to focus only on creating content for your blog and don’t mind spending $12/mo, managed WordPress is the best solution out there. You can even explore other managed WordPress platforms like Kinsta & WPEngine, which are cheaper and featured as compared to wordpress.com.