In my continuing indecision regarding whether to make the leap to WordPress.org or not, I’ve been doing some research. Gemma Hawdon has graciously consented to let me post our conversation. I’m sure it will be as enlightening for you as it was for me.
How long were you blogging on WordPress.com before you decided to make the move?
I was only blogging for 6 weeks before I decided to swap to self-hosted WordPress.
What kind of research did you do and what were your considerations?
I started by talking to a few friends who had already taken the plunge into self-hosted blogging. I was lucky to have one friend in particular, Caroline of http://presentimperfection.com – a marketing and communications strategist – she was extremely helpful. I think it’s important to seek the opinions of others and to have someone you can turn to for help.
I also read information provided on the WordPress site: http://en.support.wordpress.com/com-vs-org/.
Another helpful article was this one by Problogger: http://www.problogger.net/archives/2012/03/04/wordpress-com-or-wordpress-org-which-ones-right-for-you/
In terms of considerations, I wanted to find out which version was more suitable from a long-term point of view. Although a complete beginner, I didn’t like the thought of wasting time and effort building a blog that might restrict me in the future.
What made you decide to take the plunge?
In the end it was the flexibility of self-hosted WordPress (WordPress.org) in terms of wider choice of custom themes and the ability to increase functionality of the blog through plugins (i.e. to enhance SEO, email newsletters etc.) I wanted to build something that I would have full control over creatively and (if in the future I’m lucky enough!) commercially. Have I actually utilized many of these options yet? Absolutely not! I’m a little lost to be honest, finding my feet, tepidly…
Are you with a hosting “farm” where you’re largely in charge of everything, or do you subscribe to a hosting service where they have people who can help you with technical questions?
To be honest, I’m not entirely sure what a hosting farm is! But yes, I am pretty much in charge of everything (terrifying). I chose to host with hostgator.com – who were recommended to me because they have a solid reputation and competitive pricing. I have the Hatchling plan which is only $3.96 p/m unlimited disk space (you can upgrade at any stage). This plan also offers 24×7 technical support.
Mel’s note: If you have technical support, it’s not a farm 😉
From what you mentioned, there are good and bad points about the move. What are they and what would you do differently if you had the chance?
The main shock after swapping to WordPress.org was the terror of suddenly feeling completely alone! WordPress.com takes care of everything for you. You feel part of a community because they publish your posts across Reader. When I switched to self-hosted I lost a huge chunk of traffic. Previously, I was gaining 5-10 new followers each week – that has fizzled out to 1 if I’m lucky!! Plus it’s amazing how encouraging those simple ‘likes’ can be – you get none of that with WordPress.org.
To help me transfer, I used a friend of a friend because he was incredibly cheap and he did a great job, but initially I lost all of my followers. I had to contact WordPress in the end and they transferred them across for me, but it took several weeks. In the meantime, I had to post from both platforms. I think If I had to do it again I would use WordPress’ own guided transfers – they cost $129 USD.
I’m still feeling lost on the technical side of things. With WordPress.org you’re the one responsible for stopping spam, for creating and maintaining backups and for updating versions of software. I haven’t taken full advantage of the creative freedom yet because it would mean paying someone to build a logo and banner and I can’t justify that right now; however, I’m learning about new things each day and certainly making progress.
One thing that is working for me is having a Feedblitz icon on my site. Feedblitz allows subscribers to view all of their blogs on the one page (a little like WordPress Reader). Followers who subscribe through this software are generally savvy Internet users and bloggers themselves.
I have to keep reminding myself that I’ve only been blogging for 5 months and it takes time and effort to build a solid following. However, I do feel as though I’m finally making progress. I’m rising in the ranks of Google and Twitter and my traffic is increasing! More than anything, I enjoy the creativity of what I’m doing and the fact that I’m the boss of something that is completely mine.
I think it’s important to figure out what you want from your blog and you’re reasons for blogging before you decide which WordPress version to go with. For me, the benefits of starting with WordPress.com allowed me to experiment before investing any money. I gained an insight into how people responded to my voice and writing and whether there was a demand for my topic or not.
In the end, I think WordPress.org is better for the long-term if you want to build a blog that is completely yours, which you have full control over – no limitations.
I hope this is of some help – Thanks Melanie for your questions – Happy Blogging!
So what do you say, blogophiles? Will Gemma’s expereince be helpful to you? I’ll certainly benefit!
I’d love to hear what you have to say.
Gemma Hawdon lives in Melbourne, Australia with her husband, two children, one dog and a couple of rabbits. Having always worked in marketing prior to having children, she turned her attention to writing about 4 years ago and has never looked back! Gemma has published articles in parenting magazines across Australia including Melbourne & Sydney Child and Parenting Express and dabbles in writing ghost-articles for extra income, but her most passionate project is the children’s fantasy she is writing which she never seems to get the time to complete! Gemma is also responsible for running the administration and finances for their family-run business in the building industry.
Gemma’s blog, topoftheslushpile.com, documents the challenges, highs and lows of writing a book and getting it ready to tackle the competitive publishing industry.