What’s the Difference Between WordPress.com and WordPress.org?

As a web developer and trainer people ask me this question all the time. Here’s a quick explanation that will hopefully save you time, money and stress as you plan and create your site.

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WordPress.com (pictured above) is a site where you can create a blog or website about whatever subject you want using an easy and intuitive interface. All you have to do is sign up for an account and follow some basic steps. It’s not designed to allow you to run a bunch of supplemental programs, advertising, or other big drains on its bandwidth. Your options in terms of themes, plugins,widgets and level of storage space that you can use are limited to the ones approved by WordPress.com. You can sign up for a free blog or pay for extra features and varying levels of support by selecting one of their other packages. If you’re using the free site, your domain name will end with .wordpress.com (e.g. myblog.wordpress.com) unless you pay extra, you won’t have any control over advertising that shows on your site, be able to use GoogleAdsense to reach potential customers, track your site’s performance with Google Analytics, or access and manage your site using FTP. WordPress.com will, however, backup your site and upgrade the WordPress version whenever a new one is available.

 

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WordPress.org is an information site about self-hosted WordPress sites. Self-hosted means that its files reside on a server that you pay for.

If you pay a fee to a company like Bluehost, HostGator, or Network Solutions for web hosting,  have registered a domain name and have a WordPress program installed on your server, you have a self- hosted WordPress site and that you have control over what themes, plugins, advertising, and other programs you use. With a self hosted site, you can change settings on your WordPress setup to improve performance, use whatever themes and plugins you want, access and manage your site using FTP, and pretty much customize it however you see fit.

The tradeoff is that you are also responsible for your own maintenance. You’ll need to backup your site periodically, upgrade the WordPress version and any plugins that you’re using in order to keep your site safe from security flaws, etc.

In conclusion, which one you go with will depend on how much control you want over your site, how much you’re willing to pay to get it, and how comfortable you are with taking care of it.

Using Permalinks

A permalink is the url of a specific post on your blog, or a specific page on a static website.  Visitors to your site might want to use a permalink to link to a part of your site that they’re referencing in their blog or in an email.

Types of Permalinks

The default permalink structure in WordPress shows the main website name plus a number, like http://www.tonibdesign.com/?p=1.  These are often referred to as “ugly” permalinks because no one has any idea of the subject of the link or what it goes to.  Numeric permalinks, one of the custom styles that you can select on the Permalink Structure page, are also “ugly” for the same reason.

Permalinks that show the website name and the title of the individual article, post, or category being referenced are called “pretty” permalinks.  They’re much more desirable from a search engine optimization (SEO) viewpoint, because they give search engines more information to work with when calculating rankings for your site. For example, the permalink for this post is http://tonibdesign.com/2013/05/using-permalinks/.  Search engines will see the keyword “permalink” in the title, and mark this article as more relevant to someone searching for information about permalinks than a default permalink of http://www.tonibdesign.com/?p=1.

To Set Up Permalinks

  1. Click on the Settings link on the bottom right side on the Dashboard.
  2. Click on the Permalinks link on the submenu.
  3. Select one of the common structure options.
  4. Click the Save Changes button.

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After changing the permalink structure, you may need to update your .htaccess file.  You can do this automatically through WordPress, if it’s configured to do this, or  update it yourself using a text editor. The code to be added will appear in a text box below the update message. You can find instructions on how to update your .htaccess file here.

Once you have established your permalink structure, you should not change it, especially if you have a significant number of posts/pages/other links on your site. Updating permalinks to a new structure may involve placing a lot of redirect commands to your old content.

For more information, see the WordPress Codex page on Permalinks

Why a Facebook Page Isn’t Enough for Your Business

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Why do you have a website? For self-expression? To make money? To share information about your organization, business, or some other subject that’s important?

I run into people all the time who tell me that they don’t  need to invest in a website, because after all, Facebook is free, and it serves the same purpose. That’s true, but there are some points to consider before making it the only means of representing your company on the internet:

You don’t own your Facebook page — You are at the mercy of Facebook’s whims when it comes to what you can and can’t do with your site. Facebook currently governs what you can say,  and what pictures and apps you can have on your site, and to some extent, where you’re allowed to put them. Facebook policies and technical specifications change frequently and staying ahead of the learning curve can cost time and money.

Facebook reaches a limited audience — You customers will only know about your page if they’re on Facebook.

It can be challenging to keep information current — If someone wants to refer to information you made a post you made last year, they may have a hard time finding it. There are many times when I’ve gotten frustrated with FB pages that make me hunt around for information that I need (when and where a musical act will be appearing, for example). More often than not, I’ve gotten tired of looking and just found something else (on a website with a calendar of events and/or searchable posts) to do with my time (and money).

SEO (Search Engine Optimization) issues — You want people to be able to find your site when they look on Google, bing,  or some other search engine. Studies show that most people will stop looking at listings before the 3rd page, so where your site comes up can be important.

You can make money on your own site — While you may make money on sales from people who see your page on Facebook and decide to do business with you, the big difference is that you can set up an e-commerce section on your website and make money from products that you sell or from ads that you run for other companies’ services. You don’t have any control over the sponsored ads that show up as visitors are viewing your Facebook page.

While the two aren’t mutually exclusive, customers still prefer websites.

How to Write a WordPress Blog Post

One of the essential skills of managing your WordPress site is knowing how to upload your content. The procedure is pretty much the same whether you’re adding a blog post or a new page.

Go to the Dashboard, locate the “Add New” button under the “Posts” controls section (outlined in red) on the upper left side and enter a title for your post. Select either the Visual or HTML tab on the grey bar just above the content box. The Visual view operates like any word processor, and you will see a row of buttons on the grey bar that control the formatting of your work. Hover your mouse over each button to get a brief description of what it does. The HTML view shows the coding that affects the look of your post. This is the view you would use if you want to embed a video on your site, change the size of text and headings, or other things not covered by the standard formatting buttons. Now go ahead and start writing your post.

Posts box on the dashboard

You may also want to categorize your post and add some tags so that your readers will be able to search your site for articles that interest them. An article about the difference between categories and tags is coming soon!

When you’re done, save a draft by clicking on the Save Draft button in the upper right corner and then take a look at your work by clicking on either of the Preview buttons outlined in red in the picture below.

Preview buttons outlined

When you’re finished, you can save the draft for later by clicking the Save Draft button, or if you’re ready to post it, click the blue Publish button. This will upload your post for all to see.