WordPress is an extremely powerful yet very easy to manage blogging platform, or as Wikipedia describes it: “an open source blog publishing application powered by PHP and MySQL which can also be used for content management”. It is offered to the public in two forms.
First, there is the ‘free’ version (WordPress.com), where you don’t have to pay anything to set it up (very useful for blogging beginners), and there is the ‘self hosted’ version (WordPress.org), where you use your own host and domain name, with WordPress providing the software and accompanying applications (but you do need a certain amount of technical know-how to set it up).
WordPress.com (‘free’) has many benefits. It is an excellent platform to learn how to blog. It is designed for the beginner or those with restricted budgets to get into the blogging world. It can be created in a matter of minutes with very limited technicalities, and everything is updated to the latest version automatically. WordPress provide a good selection of widgets (blogging features) and themes (templates), and the methods of creating and updating your blog have been made as easy as possible.
The disadvantages are that this kind of blog cannot be monetized. With strict blog police WordPress has the power to shut down your blog at any time. You lose control over your domain name as WordPress is always part of it. There are also restrictions on what you can put in your sidebar, as only certain HTML scripts are accepted; no sign-up forms, affiliate links or similar functions are possible. Other social media providers have recognized this, such as Feedburner, and alternative arrangements are offered.
But once you’ve used the ‘free’ version for a while, and have got used to how WordPress works, then you can move on to the ‘self-hosted’ version. If you are not technically minded (understand the basics of HTML and PHP), or don’t have the patience to find out how, it would be wise to get someone to create this kind of blog for you. I spent many hours screaming at my computer while I was learning how to set up WordPress.org; it is by no means as easy as the ‘free’ alternative.
It does have many advantages. You can use your own domain name, so your blog can become a ‘blogsite’, with the pages performing as a website, but with far more search engine power. There are a variety of hosts who are compatible with WordPress, and my advice would be to use those who offer the ‘one click’ system through ‘Fantastico’. It will save you plenty of heart-ache and angst as much of the hard work is done for you automatically.
You can manage your blog through an FTP system (I use FileZilla) so you can upload themes, plug-ins and pictures. There are plenty of extra applications you could include on your blog, obtainable from WordPress for free, all designed to help with maximizing the performance of your blog and its relation to social media, plus thousands of different kinds of themes (templates) to choose from, both free and paid for.
The sidebars can accept most programming languages, so they can be easily monetized. You can put in social networking badges, picture links, sign-up forms, RSS feeds to Twitter and other blogs, affiliate links, advertisements, and much more besides. There is a huge quantity of plug-ins available to download from WordPress that will help enhance your blog. You can also change many features of your themes, to rearrange how your blog looks to match your corporate image or preferred style.
So which one is best? It depends what you want your blog for: just somewhere to post your thoughts and aspirations, or a powerful alternative to a website with an integrated content management system, search engine compatibility and many other features to blast your way through the web. Both will raise your profile, expose your expertise and, with longevity and consistent content, will gain high status in the search engines; both will look good, perform well and satisfy your blogging needs; and, depending on your blogging past history, one will be the right one for you at this time.
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