WordPress Hosted Blog vs Self-Hosted Website

WordPress hosted blog

WordPress.com blog may get a small boost of readers, but not as many as you’d hope.

There are certain feeds and “recommended/related stories” here and there, but a new blog would likely received dozens of views a month, 100–200 at most organically, excluding social promotion or ads.

Sure, this may be compared to ~10 views/month with a new self-hosted blog, but the difference is fairly minimal. Once you scale your own blog to several thousand readers a month, the margin will be negligible.

The second problem with hosted platforms is the reliance on 3rd parties who tend to change their rules regularly. A few examples.

  • Medium used to be a great place to start, with opportunities to get featured and receive some decent exposure on some stories. It’s revenue model fell short a couple years ago, so they fired a third of their staff and transitioned to a subscription-based model for many of their blogs.
  • LinkedIn relied on articles several years ago. Since this market got saturated and video became more important (YouTube being the second largest search engine), LinkedIn now bets on videos and boosts them further.
  • Facebook was the go-to place for building an audience (through pages). Fans were seeing updates in their own feed. As of late last year, page updates were exported to a separate tab (which nobody looks at really). Even with millions of fans on your page, you’re as good as someone just starting off — unless you invest in ads and boosted posts targeting your own fans.

On top of that, blogging in 2018 is light years ahead of blogging in 2008, or even 2012. Competition is fierce in most places. A decade ago, a 300-word blog post could have ranked well for some niches. Nowadays, 1,500 words and even 2,000+ become a standard for most blogs, even corporate ones.

Your best bet is building an omni-channel approach leading to your own website.

  1. Craft content on your end. Work on the user experience bit, different call to actions, subscription boxes, archives, newsletters and such.
  2. Post on social media. Repurpose stories and build audience there.
  3. Invest in ads. Start small at first and ramp up once you get some traction.
  4. Consider guest posting. It’s an effective way to build backlinks and lead traffic back to your site.
  5. Find partnership opportunities. You may organize other forms of events that, again, lead to your website.
  6. Maintain your email list – it’s a strong tool in your toolbox worth expanding.
  7. Build a personal brand. Becoming an industry expert builds credibility toward your own site. And you get to join podcasts, webinars, invitations to conferences where your target audience hangs out.

It’s a lot more work than it used to be and your content has to be spectacular. Most topics have been beaten to death in dozens, if not hundreds of blogs. Aim for quality, education, depth. Study the Skyscraper technique by Brian Dean.

Build a complete content plan for months to come. Content exposure gets amplified once you build a story, a sequence of relevant posts revolving around the same vertical.

And maintain a frequent posting schedule – at least once a week, possibly multiple times. You may start seeing some results within 6 months and some promising volume of visitors within a year.

It’s a long play, but it’s worth it. Your content is an asset – especially the evergreen ones.

Online Resources For Learning WordPress

Resources For Learning WordPress

Learning WordPress is like “studying the Internet” — there are dozens of job profiles using the platform in different capacities.

In terms of covering the basics of the WordPress dashboard or the core feature set (and then some), here are some of the reputable and popular course vendors:

  1. WP101 – WordPress Videos. I’ve got a lifetime license here and the quality is pretty great for beginners.
  2. Video User Manuals. Also a lifetime customer, we’ve deployed this to multiple clients’ dashboards and Troy Dean is a known leader in the field.
  3. WordPress – Lynda — The platform was acquired by LinkedIn and the courses are led by various trainers, some of them known WordPress consultants and professionals like Carrie Dils and Morten Rand-Hendriksen.
  4. WordPress Apprentice — Haven’t tried it but I’ve heard some positive feedback.
  5. Tree House’s What Is WordPress? — A well-known training camp with different verticals, WordPress being the usual suspect.
  6. WP Beginner Videos — Syed from WP Beginner has built the first educational site for beginners. The video section followed as a result.

Udemy has a broad section of indie WordPress courses, I’m sure some are fine but there’s nothing I can recommend.

How To Turn Website Visitors Into Subscribers

website visitors

What’s the best way to get your website visitors to subscribe?

Freebies are usually the best. An ebook, a checklist, anything that relates to the core topic (even better when tailored to the given piece).

Email series, of course, work even better. They combine recurring knowledge with a legitimate reason for readers to share their email. It doesn’t have to be too comprehensive – a listicle broken down into an email series often works.

Why Website Visitors and Readers Are Hesitant To Share Their Emails

If you write regularly, weekly recaps (or even monthly) may incentivize one to sign up. Most readers are hesitant to share their emails because:

  1. They don’t want to receive tons of spam — for every single post that goes live, along with other promotions, event notifications, webinar invitations.
  2. It isn’t really clear what goes into a subscription. Do you offer anything extra that a regular reader won’t get otherwise? Any discounts? A personalized newsletter of sort?

It also depends on the regularity of your readers. Popular or niche magazines report a high percentage of returning visitors. Those would be more likely to subscribe. Otherwise, consider why would random hits from Google sign up for your newsletter.

Brand awareness is a key signal here — which often entails a broad suite of activities performed by the business. Most online brands maintain their social profiles, collaborate with others, post interviews, create podcasts, and try to keep their audience longer on the site.

Loyal readers would be more likely to support the business – through subscriptions, sharing articles, recommending to friends, linking back (if appropriate). Most people forget that and think backwards – aiming to grow their list organically without reverse-engineering the reason that initial brand supporters have signed up.

It’s a combination of content strategy, understanding (and targeting) your rightful audience, providing real value through your newsletters. The best combo wins the high conversion rates.

Is WordPress Development a Form of Web Development?

Here comes a harsh opinion coming from a WordPress Core contributor and WordPress agency owner who’s been programming since 1999.

First off, you can’t say “building websites from scratch using WordPress”.

The fact that you can pretty much set up a website in a matter of minutes with WordPress is nowhere near starting with an empty folder, firing up the IDE and spending weeks or months creating a database schema, building an entire content management system on top of it, dealing with user management, a template hierarchy, a plugin system and what not.

With that in mind, you can call yourself a web developer while working with WordPress if you use WordPress as an application framework and focus on building extensible platforms on top of it.

According to Wikipedia, “Software Development” is:

Software development is the process of computer programming, documenting, testing, and bug fixing involved in creating and maintaining applications and frameworks involved in a software release life cycle and resulting in a software product. The term refers to a process of writing and maintaining the source code, but in a broader sense of the term it includes all that is involved between the conception of the desired software through to the final manifestation of the software, ideally in a planned and structured process.

There is no ambiguity here. At all.

Programming, writing code, building products, maintaining code and bug fixing. None of those means “installing a platform with a few clicks” or “customizing options built by other programmers“.

I’ve spent years preaching that in the WordPress ecosystem after some time building enterprise solutions with Java, Python, and PHP.

Since we’ve switched to WordPress entirely as a technical agency, we had to spend over a year full-time studying over 300,000 lines of code shipped with the core platform at the time. We had to explore and implement test applications for each and every API, transfer several high-scale projects to WordPress and build over 50 plugins interacting with the life cycle and other 3rd party applications.

We’ve had a couple of projects where our development team had spent over 5,000 hours on web development on top of WordPress for each of them. Sure, we’ve saved plenty of time by using WordPress, but a team of several engineers had been writing PHP and JavaScript full-time over the course of a year. We could have used CakePHP, Laravel, CodeIgniter (or any other PHP framework that we’ve developed in before), or even Django in Python or JSF/GWT in Java.

Some of our WordPress applications have been built for automotive and aircraft providers, a couple of banks, several magazines generating over 10M page views a month, Software as a Service businesses, educational communities and so on.

The platform itself was a strategic choice and we’re using it as a foundation to build upon. If WordPress suddenly vanishes off the face of the Earth, we’ll simply switch to another framework in order to save some time without compromising on quality.

In order to become a “real web developer”, you should learn software development and computer science first. Then, you need to build a few applications from scratch in order to understand how everything works behind the scenes. With experience, you’d be able to pick the right tool and use it as a starter framework for your web applications.

If WordPress is the only tool you can use for web development and you’d be pretty much jobless if you can’t use it for web development purposes, you’d likely need to step back and learn software development.

Since most of the web development on top of WordPress happens through plugin development and 3rd party integrations, I’ve shared our hiring process when interviewing plugin developers:

Mario Peshev’s answer to How can I test a developer who says he knows WordPress plugin development?

Is WordPress The Reason PHP Still Exists?

Did Facebook Save PHP, Or Did WordPress Save PHP?PHP isn’t going anywhere, and I don’t think that Facebook is the reason for that. It always helps to have some large brands behind a language/platform that could prove the stress testing factor, but it’s not a necessity.

In fact, often the largest and most massive platforms are rarely used statistically speaking. They just require a large number of people working together for a long time on a single project. PHP allows you to spin off a site in a few hours in any of the popular CMS or even frameworks.

While WordPress powers 32% of the web (stats from last week) other popular platforms built in PHP existed prior to that, too. Think of other CMS (like Joomla! or Drupal), photo management engines (Gallery), forums (phpBB, IP.Board, vBulletin), Wiki/docs portal (MediaWiki).

When it comes to web applications, the LAMP stack is the most widespread one. PHP is widely supported, fast, less resource-intensive and cost-effective for hosting vendors who can afford to provide low-cost hosting plans. That reduces the entry investment for small clients and allows for various affordable hosted solutions, too. Try hosting a small site on a .NET or Java web host and compare the resources and costs.

That said, the reasons for the very existence of PHP are a lot, but it got some traction many years ago and the community behind it is enormous. It’s currently used by about 82% or so of the Web. It’s supported practically everywhere and it’s both applicable for small blogs and websites or massive web platforms.

In spite of the common opinion of other developers for the code conventions or the broad PHP community, it isn’t going anywhere and a new successor would require a massive change in numerous industries in order to be just as accessible and affordable in order to make such a difference.

What Are Some Valuable WooCommerce Extensions for WordPress Stores?

Before considering a list of plugins for a WooCommerce website, you need to analyze your buyer persona (the target audience) and your customer market. Answer some of the initial questions before you proceed further:

  1. Who is my ideal customer?
  2. What are they buying habits?
  3. Do they buy from desktop, tablet, or mobile?
  4. Where do they live?
  5. What would be the standard payment processors that they would use?
  6. Are they discounts-driven, or looking for the best deal for their problem?
  7. What do my competitors use?
  8. How to provide a better user experience and more features for my ideal customers?

Once you establish these and reiterate a few more relevant questions, you’ll get a better idea toward what you support in your store and where is the missing gap between you and your prospects.

Moreover, there are two types of plugins for WordPress stores using WooCommerce:

  1. Standard WordPress plugin applicable in WooCommerce as well
  2. WooCommerce extensions that focus on the eCommerce portion of your websit

The first list includes plugins for SEO, secure login (or login with social media accounts), contact forms and others that are “good to have” and not necessarily related to eCommerce (the same would apply for a membership website, for example).

With regards to the WooCommerce part of your website, based on your initial analysis you may identify that your store does not support required features, or payment gateways that your customers use, or require Subscriptions in order to work properly.

Some handy extensions applicable to many WooCommerce stores are:

Why Isn’t WordPress Taught at Schools And Universities?

I’ve taught WordPress for several years in a high school, a couple of universities, and several training academies. Currently, I’m negotiating another short training (24–30 hours) in a couple of months from now that I would like to launch for free on YouTube for the general audience, if the private university permits.

Generally, schools and universities often focus on theory and the big pictures in their field. When it comes to computer science, most universities focus on algorithms, computer architectures, data structures, mathematics, basic programming or languages such as C++ and Java which are among the top 5 most popular programming languages. Those solid foundations allow students to leverage their skills and continue their education in web technologies, desktop or server development, mobile applications, machine learning, AI, embedded development etc.

WordPress is also a software itself. Despite of the fact that it powers 27% of the web, utilizing it properly in a programming context requires PHP, JavaScript and SQL experience (often not covered in schools), among some front-end development techniques. Covering everything would be a lengthy set of courses that would take quite some time, which makes it harder to include in the curriculum just like that.

But as other folks mentioned in this thread, there are indeed progressive school and universities teaching WordPress and producing young entrepreneurs who can bootstrap their online business or join a web agency thanks to their formal education.

Can I Use WordPress For Single-Page Applications (One-Page Websites)?

The valid question here is – what are the project details and business requirements behind building a SPA (Single-page application) website?

In case you are building just a single static page with no interactions or editability whatsoever, you may very well proceed with plain HTML, CSS, and JavaScript.

Successful websites that I can think of usually require (and even plan for) regular editing and continuous updates. In that case you will need a persistent storage that would keep track of your changes and authorized users (as you will need credentials in order to update content). The website would also need an administrative panel of sort, and management of all moving wheels.

Furthermore, the site may require certain integrations – be it a social login feature, a booking form, or anything else. Some of those could be integrated directly with embeddable scripts or simple libraries, but sometimes it simply takes a bit longer.

The more you need to build from scratch (which is provided in WordPress by default), the longer and more expensive the build would be, and requiring more time for Q&A and revisions.

You may utilize WordPress in terms of efficiency of implementation and control/flexibility. It will likely be heavier than a custom build, but depending on your setup and monthly traffic, the difference may be 200–300 milliseconds at worst which can easily be cached so that recurring visitors won’t see difference after their initial load.

Is WordPress Easy to Use?

Three years ago my friend Morten posted a great article called:

WordPress is not easy, and that’s OK. How we speak about WordPress.

The ease of use in setting up WordPress and start blogging right away has shifted the focus from “launching a blog” to “building a viable system running on top of WordPress”.

WordPress Powers 30% of The Web

The popular platform that has launched in 2003 is nowadays mature and used by various Fortune 500 companies, some of the most influential blogs and online magazines, large businesses and enterprises, eCommerce platforms and more. Based on the latest research studies, WordPress currently powers about 30% of the top 10 million Internet websites.

10 years ago or so, WordPress was one of the easiest platforms for starting a blog or a website built on top of the content management system. Competitive platforms were either paid and clumsy, or providing tedious user interface that was designed for programmers or tech geeks and not for the public.

Site Builders vs. The Power of WordPress

Nowadays, simple website builders like Wix, Squarespace, Weebly provide a more simplistic look and feel and a limited feature set that is often said to be easier to use than a generic WordPress installation.

Things get slightly more complicated if we account for the numerous settings and options that you can see in the dashboard. There’s the Media top level menu, Tools, Settings, Comments. Plenty of folks don’t use these menus at all (or rarely when they start using WordPress).

You have “Appearance” which is used for themes, menus, and widgets. Some folks are not aware of the best way to navigate to their navigation (pun intended) or adjust the flexible boxes in their sidebar.

Adding more and more plugins will likely result in additional top-level menu elements or somewhat “hidden” subelements under Tools, Settings, Appearance. That’s fine as long as you’re willing to search for them.

Content Writing and Editing

The writing experience in WordPress may also cause some friction. Add an SEO plugin that adjusts your meta data indexed by Google and a couple of plugins registering additional boxes and you may end up with plenty of fields to be filled out for each entry of yours.

That said, WordPress is not necessarily a complex platform for users. But it does require proper training and onboarding given its vast set of default options and the almost unlimited extensibility through plugins.

Developing Complex WordPress Solutions

WordPress is also not easy for development. Building a “LEGO” project by bundling plugins is not development. Programming plugins from scratch, adjusting the life cycle of the platform and connecting various services is development. Optimizing the platform for performance and security is development. Migrating proprietary platforms to WordPress and writing custom database migration and import scripts is development.

Everything else is “power user site building” craft that allows for quickly spinning up small blogs or sites as a proof of concept before hiring a professional developer who can take care of the system (and probably override part of the codebase).

But once you get used to the power of WordPress, the flexible engine behind the wheels may let you provide outstanding value to your users and visitors.

How to Overcome the Blogging Platform Stereotype Before WordPress Platform Development?

During our enterprise sales meetings, we often use presentations tailored to the needs of the business, including case studies, showcase entries and established/reputable international brands using WordPress. We have provided numerous WordPress-driven solutions for the automotive industry, a couple of banks, several platforms generating over 10M page views a month, a number of SaaS applications and more.

The best way to demonstrate the potential of WordPress is utilizing the real world cases from websites generating tons of traffic or handling massive volumes of data. In certain cases, we focus on specific integrations with 3rd party systems or solutions such as ERPs or CRMs as well.

Our team of WordPress programmers consists of 6 WordPress Core developers as well. That’s a good selling point when compared to every other WordPress site builder or people with little to no experience in customizing themes or plugins.

We have over 50 patches available in the WordPress Core spread out in over 10 consecutive major releases. On top of that, we’ve launched over 30 open source plugins and a bunch of themes for the community, sponsored a number of events, presented at over 20 WordCamps and meetups.

We’re reusing some of our slides or videos for client pitches as well along with the data from some of our internal products and projects.

Large brands and enterprises often point out potential problems with WordPress security, lack of reputability in the marketplace or any certification authority available, loose processes, regular updates, marketing oriented toward small businesses and the like. I’ve enlisted the main obstacles that Enterprises report during sales meetings and how we tackle them during negotiations and while building a roadmap for a high-scale project.

Here’s a couple of other handy resources that we rely on while selling to enterprises:

How to Sell to Large and Enterprise Business [Top 17 Point Checklist] – DevriX

How to Attract High Paying Clients for your WordPress Business – WP Elevation