After a small business owner gets a quote from a professional web design group for $10k+++, the conversation normally goes like this:

“Let’s just use WordPress or Wix or Squarespace or something like that!”

They add, “C’mon, it’ll be easy and cheap.”

And once the project is underway, an overwhelming feeling hits like a ton of bricks. This web site is going to take two hundred hours, a dozen plug ins, and Elon Musk is going to need to finish that artificial intelligence project pronto, so we can mind meld with this technology and get it to do what we want!

These easy, do-it-yourself web site builders can indeed build a decent looking web site quickly, but will it be SEO friendly? Will it load fast enough for your busy customers and prospects? Average load time should be under 2 seconds. Ideally, under 1 second. Did you know these things are measured in milliseconds now? If you’re suddenly curious about your current site, you can get a quick diagnostic about your site’s speed with Google’s Page Speed Insight Tool.

What about integrations with your sales team tools? Do you like the look and feel of every page? More importantly, what do you prospects think of the site? If it’s on Wix – chances are B2B prospects’ IT departments are blocking access since Wix servers are blacklisted by most enterprises. (I’ll do a post on that for you soon.)

If you do a little research on SEO, you’ll end up wanting to use Yoast and you’ll soon realize that WordPress is the modular D-I-Y tool that has room to grow. Squarespace is okay, but it doesn’t have the rave reviews, modularity, or room for growth that a WordPress site has. Plus, the code on a Squarespace site is going to be filled with super proprietary gibberish code that you’ll never get anyone to help you customize. On the other hand, you can call in the cavalry on a WordPress site, and you’ll have hundreds of freelance coders, developers, and experts to help you see your wildest dreams become digital realities.

So then you may have realized there’s two conversations about WordPress out there on the support forums and in the blogosphere. You have the wordpress.com that your niece uses to write her blog about travel, and you have the conversation about WordPress that talks about security, plugins, advanced functionality. You may be scratching your head trying to build at WordPress.com and thinking, “Man, there are all these tutorials about WordPress, but my screen looks nothing like those screenshots. I don’t have those features.”

Eventually, you may find yourself googling, “What is WordPress.org?” (asking for a friend obvi)

After some digging, you’ll gather that WordPress.org is not exactly for amateurs and WordPress.com can be extremely limiting, and you’ll have to chose. Do I want easy and limited? Or, do I want difficult and unlimited?

On one hand you get all-in-one hosting, editing, and themes at WordPress.com requiring very little web development knowledge, and on the other, you get full-featured, wide-open possibilities, and 3rd party hosting using WordPress.org that requires a good bit of tech savvy. Either way, the DIY web site route is still paved with good intentions and time consuming roadblocks and detours. That’s why I recommend outsourcing your small business web site projects to an experienced SMB digital marketing specialist – like me!

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Nonetheless here, are some key differences between WordPress.com and WordPress.org:

What I like about WordPress.org

  • the sky is the limit in terms of design, features, and functions
  • plugins are surprisingly easy to install and use
  • granular control of your layout with great plug-ins like Visual Composer that allow for drag and drop design AND custom HTML/CSS
  • easily control the style sheet for your theme
  • easily access files for advanced site development (like working with Google Tag Manager)
  • third party hosting allows for great caching, SSL management, backups, and SFTP (secure file transfer protocol) access – you can guarantee your site will be fast and secure.

What’s tough to sell about WordPress.org

  • a solid understanding of the web development stack is needed to build and maintain the site
  • third party hosting costs about the same as hosting at wordpress.com (so you’re not saving any money)
  • buying and implementing a theme is time consuming – support for themes is usually from overseas, and it takes a while to hear back from them
  • all that granular design control requires a great deal of time to implement and update
  • you’ll need a professional freelance developer handy in case of a mind-numbing css clash, slider issue,  navigation functionality issue (and more…)

What I like about WordPress.com (business package)

  • I think it really does fit a solopreneur’s needs pretty well.
  • You can get a professional looking web site for $350ish/year if you don’t hire anyone to help you.
  • They offer chat support which is my favorite (immediate help, they have your account open instantly, keep my music going, and work on other things while waiting for them to sort me out)
  • It’s really all there – hosting, support, themes, your CMS, and even domain management
  • If you do get ambitious, with the business package, you can upload a custom theme and use plugins – the royal key to customization, but then, you’re really not taking full advantage of the “easier” option here…

What’s tough to sell about WordPress.com (business package)

  • While there is a huge community of wordpress.com users, most of the time, when you Google for help with an issue, you’ll find a wordpress.org solution and end up either confused or frustrated.
  • Without going into the time consuming work of implementing a theme purchased elsewhere and learning about plugins, you’ve got a few dozen template-y looking themes to work with
  • When you get into improving your online presence, you’ll want to improve site speed, cookie people using Google Tag Manager, and set up advanced URL tracking. If you’re worried about advanced speed and security, you’ll want to implement a CDN. And all of that requires access to the site’s underlying database and infrastructure – access you don’t get with wordpress.com.

It mainly comes down to hosting. If you have a site hosted at WordPress.com, it will simplify things. If you want to get picky about design, layout, and functionality, the WordPress platform will not let you down, but you’ll need to host your site with a 3rd party. We’ve had phenomenal success with WP Engine. Their support is first class, and they do everything with WordPress site owners in mind. They have a wealth of support information, and my favorite – Chat Support!

Since you can get complicated and technical no matter where you host your site, the real question becomes – what do you want your site to accomplish? You can read more about that topic from my article: Five Things to Consider Before Building a New Small Business Web Site. In the mean time, here is my final recommendation about wordpress.com vs wordpress.org.

It depends on where you are in your business.

‘Treps Just Starting Out – Limited Time & Capital

While I prefer the functionality of a third party hosted site, I would recommend starting out with the business package of a WordPress.com hosted site. You can still have a custom domain and get rid of that pesky WordPress credit and follow button at the bottom. It will be easy to transfer to third party hosting as your business grows, and in the mean time, you can invest all that time and energy into truly marketing your brand instead of learning how to be a web developer.

Tenured ‘Treps – Limited Time & More Capital

Or, if you’re further along in your business, you may have some extra money to invest, but not so much extra time. I would recommend getting the full-featured benefits of a third party hosted WordPress site with the help of a WordPress implementation specialist – like me! Even if you don’t need a lot of high end features, getting the theme and any relevant plugins to conform to your expectations is still a time consuming job that you can outsource to a freelancer for a fraction of the cost of using an agency.

If you would like some help setting up your new wordpress site on wordpress.com or wordpress.org – I’d love to hear from you!

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