I see a lot of questions on Twitter around why bloggers should use WordPress. Is it better than Blogger? Will it help my SEO? What will it cost?
There’s a general understanding that WordPress is considered the best blogging platform, but confusion in equal measures around why.
I’ve been a web developer for the past 13+ years and developing with self-hosted WordPress since it was first made publicly available 10 years ago. It’s not right for every client or situation, but it’s a brilliant blogging platform for anyone starting a blog or wanting more flexibility from their current blogging service.
In this post I explain a bit more about WordPress, it’s key features and benefits for bloggers. I’ve geared the post towards those with no prior coding knowledge, so don’t be put off if you’re not super technical.
What Is WordPress & How Does It Work?
WordPress offer two blogging solutions: WordPress.com which is a Google Blogger / Blog Spot rival and self hosted WordPress, available to download for free from WordPress.org. On this blog when I refer to WordPress I am talking about the self hosted version.
WordPress is a content management system–often abbreviated as CMS–which enables you to edit your website’s content through a user-friendly interface.
A WordPress website can be thought of in three sections:
- The theme, which controls the look and feel of your website. Things like fonts, colours and layout are all determined by your theme. Website developers like myself create themes which can be downloaded and added to your WordPress install to change the site’s look and feel.
- The content such as posts and pages, which are stored in a database (a MySQL database) on your web hosting. When you create a new post or page, WordPress saves it to your database. And when that post is shown on your website, it’s being taken from your database.
- The WordPress software itself, which is constantly updated by WordPress and open-source, meaning it’s free to use. These core files are never edited by you, they just sit on your web hosting doing their thing.
What makes WordPress different from other blogging platforms like Blogger or WordPress.com is the fact that you have access to all three of those sections: the theme, the content and the WordPress software. And whilst that might sound scary initially, it actually gives you huge flexibility and freedom.
Whilst services like social networks or blogging platforms could be taken down at any time (RIP Vine), YOU own and control a self-hosted website and the content within it.
Is WordPress Free?
In a nutshell, yes. WordPress is open source software, making it free to download, distribute and edit.
However in order to have a self hosted website, you’ll need some web hosting, a domain name and possibly a premium (paid for) theme.
WordPress Web Hosting
There’s a lot of confusion around web hosting because the cost can vary. A new WordPress website will not require anything complex, besides 1 MySQL database, which is usually the minimum package a web host will offer.
If it’s your first time setting up a website and you’re not too sure how to upload your WordPress files, you could opt for a ‘one click WordPress install’ which is essentially a web hosting package which allows you to have WordPress pre setup. Just add your theme and away you go.
I’m going to do a dedicated post about web hosting soon and will compare packages and prices to give you an idea of what to expect. However we are talking £40 – £100 per year max for this kind of hosting.
You will also need a domain name eg. amyevans.co.uk so people can get to your website. Unlike Blogger etc you don’t get a username and shared domain eg. amyevans.blogspot.com.
A .com domain name will cost around £7 per year to register. You can save money by looking for sales and renewing for longer periods. You will need some domain name knowledge (DNS) to point your domain to your web hosting. So if this is all a bit technical, I’d again recommend a web host with one click WordPress installs who give you a domain name as part of the package.
So whilst WordPress IS free, you can expect to pay around £35 for a premium WordPress theme and an ongoing annual cost of around £50.
The WordPress software comes with a basic free theme. There are also lots of free ones available, although the quality varies. A paid WordPress theme from somewhere like ThemeForest will cost you on average $40.
Why Bloggers Should Use WordPress
WordPress is almost limitless in terms of what you can do with it. And even with no coding knowledge, it is vastly more flexible than a Blogger account or similar.
The WordPress community is comprised of developers from around the world, contributing to the software and extending it with plugins and themes. In fact there are 50,000+ plugins available from the official WordPress plugins section (meaning you can download them from your WordPress dashboard).
Want to show your Instagram feed on your home page? There’s a plugin for that. SEO help for each post, an eCommerce section for your blog or buttons so people can follow you elsewhere with one click … Yep, there’s plugins for all of those too. And so much more.
You normally need zero coding knowledge to install a plugin. It’s a case of picking it, installing it and then configuring it in settings. That level of customisation for free and with no coding knowledge is one of the things which make WordPress THE platform for bloggers.
WordPress Is Great For SEO
WordPress is built with SEO in mind and so WordPress sites rank well. In addition there are great SEO plugins (like Yoast) which can help you structure your posts in the best way possible for Google.
WordPress take security seriously and release regular updates to the software to ensure it’s not vulnerable.
WordPress Is Super Easy To Use
The WordPress dashboard makes creating maintaining your blog and adding new content simple.
I’ve delivered countless WordPress training sessions to clients (of all technical abilities) and have never had one who didn’t like using it. In fact, whilst freelancing the majority of clients came to me asking for WordPress rather than me recommending it.
The Gutenberg Editor
WordPress recently had a major update, releasing their Gutenberg editor. Gutenberg turns the post editing experience into a drag and drop web page builder. This makes is easy to add affiliate links and product images, different media like videos, buttons, fancy drop caps … It’s all happening. If you can’t code but want the ability to create rich pages and blog posts, Gutenberg will make your life a lot easier. Themes are now coming loaded with features for Gutenberg, so there’s never been a better time to make the switch to self-hosted WordPress.
Have you thought about making the switch? And if you’re already blogging on self-hosted WordPress, I’d love to know how you’re finding it?