By Laura Christianson
Do you, website, take this blog to be your spouse, to have and to hold from this day forward, as long as you both shall live?
In my previous post, we explored why your website and blog should “get married” and live happily ever after on the same platform. I also promised I’d explain the difference between WordPress.com and WordPress.org — two platforms that share a name but are separate entities.
WordPress.com, owned by Automattic Inc., is a proprietary all-in-one website/blog/hosting service, similar to Blogspot. Because the platform is geared for novice and hobbyist bloggers, it offers limited features and can be challenging to customize. To access the features you’ll likely want, you need to subscribe to their Business plan (currently $299/year).
WordPress.org uses open source software, which means anyone can access, modify and share the original source code. The software is free to download and there aren’t any licensing fees or other restrictions.
You can fully customize your website and blog because you own it. You need to purchase a domain (website address) and hosting (space on a special computer called a server where your website’s content is stored). Because you must purchase website hosting, WordPress.org is referred to as “self-hosted WordPress.”
Which is better?
I have used many proprietary website-builder platforms, including WordPress.com, Blogspot, Typepad, Wix, Squarespace and Weebly. I’ve also used the most popular open source platforms, including WordPress.org, Joomla! and Drupal. In my opinion, WordPress.org is by far the most user-friendly and feature-rich platform. It’s an excellent choice for professional writers and speakers because it offers the flexibility to grow and change alongside your business.
What’s in a (domain) name?
To create a self-hosted WordPress.org website, you’ll need to register a domain or website address (www.mywebsiteaddress.com). You “own” your domain as long as you pay the annual renewal fee. If you neglect to renew your domain before it expires, it will go back on the market and somebody else can buy it. You don’t want that to happen, so keep the following info on file:
- Name of registrar (service from which you purchased the domain).
- Username, password and email address used to log in to your account.
- List of all your domains purchased from that registrar.
- Credit card on file with the registrar, including the expiration date of that card.
- Renewal dates for all domains. (Be sure to add those renewal dates to your master calendar!)
Beware of domain renewal scams
About three months before your domain expires, you’ll start receiving reminders that it’s time to renew. These notices will come from your registrar and from myriad other registrars who want your business. Many scammy registrars try to scare you into renewing right now at a sky-high fee. Check out my article on how to keep from being victimized by a domain renewal scam.
Where to buy your domain
Imagine a gigantic bucket containing all the available domains. You pull the domain you want out of the bucket and buy it from GoDaddy for $14.99/year. Or from Namecheap for $8.88/year. Or from 1&1 for $.99/year. The main difference among registrars is the price, so shop around.
Features you’ll want
Look for a registrar that offers these three features (preferably included in your yearly fee):
Multiple email accounts. Your email address should match your domain (firstname.lastname@example.org). People perceive a branded email address to be more professional than email@example.com (or firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com).
Unlimited email forwarding. If you use a free service such as Gmail, a forwarder takes messages sent to your branded domain and redirects them to your Gmail address. You can configure Gmail so that messages you send display your branded domain’s email address.
Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) certificate. In October, Google began posting a “not secure” warning in the address bar of websites without an SSL certificate. This warning notice currently displays when Chrome users visit a website that does not have an SSL certificate installed and fill out any of the following:
- Contact form
- Email signup form
- Search field
- Credit card input fields
- Login with a password
To prevent this warning from displaying when Chrome users visit your site, you need to change from HTTP to HTTPS (the “s” indicates the Secure Sockets Layer). That means installing an SSL certificate, which your domain registrar or website hosting service can help you set up.
Choosing your domain
In my next post, I’ll share my top tips for how to choose a domain that best represents your writing or speaking brand.
Laura Christianson helps entrepreneurs transform their online presence from bland to bold. She owns Blogging Bistro, a business that builds custom websites/blogs and provides blog coaching. Laura has authored several books and thousands of articles. She serves as Marketing Director for West Coast Christian Writers.