When starting out, many bloggers seek out the cheap and easy route, either choosing to blog on Blogger, WordPress.com, or another free and hosted blogging platform. This approach makes sense, since a person can never know until they’ve started if they even like blogging, let alone whether they’ll be successful.I almost always suggest to beginner bloggers to set up a blog on WordPress.com, but the reason is not because I think this is ideal, but because it is easiest to migrate a blog from WordPress.com to a self-hosted WordPress.org site, which is ideal (as opposed to migrating from Blogger, which can be a nightmare). One of the reasons it’s so easy is because you can select the same permalink structure as in your original WP.com blog, and just change the main domain name part in a 301 redirect. Also, by using WP.com, you will become familiar with the WordPress system and interface, which is similar in the self-hosted WordPress.org version.

Why am I against WordPress.com?

I am not against WordPress.com. I think it’s a great service, and the quality of the features is unmatched in any of the other free hosted blogging platforms. In addition, people in the SEO industry have told me that due to the strength of the WordPress.com network, blogs that are hosted there do incredibly well in the SERPs. But if a person wants to take up blogging as a serious activity, or finds that their WordPress.com blog is growing, I suggest that they move their blog off of WP.com to their own self-hosted blog. Here is why:

  1. Limited blog design flexibility – whenever I’ve tried to use a WordPress.com blog, I’ve always found myself stuck at some point because I can’t add certain features. Users are limited on WP.com by the amount of customization they can do to the CSS, even if they pay for extra access to the CSS. They also can’t customize the loop, and the sidebars can only be modified to the extent that widgets allow. Also, WP.com users can’t add WordPress plugins, which is one of the keys to expanding your blog’s features.
  2. You don’t control your content – as soon as you are using a service that is hosted by someone else, you have lost partial ownership over your content. I’m not talking about what exactly it says in the WP.com terms of service (we’ll get to that soon), but I am talking about the issue of your content sitting on someone else’s servers. I personally prefer to try to keep my content under one roof – my own. As for the WP.com Terms of Service – you are at the mercy of their discretion as to whether your content is appropriate. When hosting your content on someone else’s servers, you are always at risk that someone may decide that your content is inappropriate, and they can easily shut you down.
  3. Hosting quality issues may haunt you – if the WP.com servers are having trouble, like the recent DoS attack on the WordPress.com servers, you will suffer. Of course, that is the case on all servers, but if you are really unhappy with a service provider, you can call them up, complain, and always change servers if need be. When your blog is on WP.com, it’s not as easy.
  4. You are at risk of being censored in certain countries – upon finding content that they don’t like on WP.com, certain countries with undemocratic tendencies will simply block the entire system. While it is possible for them to just block the individual WP.com blogs that they find offensive, these countries either don’t care enough to try, or are happy to block an entire blogging universe since blogging is all about free speech, and they are not. Countries that have blocked WordPress.com are Turkey, China and Brazil.

WordPress.com is a great service, and the people providing it are incredibly generous. However, like any other free hosted service, it has its drawbacks which should be taken into account when deciding on which path to take for your blog: free hosted or paid and self-hosted.