Upgrading to WordPress.com Business Plan

(Last Updated On: January 5, 2018)

Introduction

In this article, I’m going to explain why I took the decision of giving my blog and upgrade and why I chose the WordPress.com Business Plan.

When I started this blog, I chose WordPress.com because, compared to Blogger or other blogging services, it seemed a much more flexible alternative, especially in the long-run. Most web designers I knew were very familiar with WordPress, not to mention that it powers 25% of all Internet websites.

Four years, I’ve been using the Free Plan which, other than a Domain Name, it does not cost a dime. In the beginning, this was very convenient since I didn’t know what to expect from blogging. I was not sure if I was going to like it or stick to it.

Free plan

As mentioned already, the Free Plan is great to start blogging because it does not entail any cost and it provides decent tools to set up a blog in the firsts place. You just have to focus on writing since Automatic takes care of all everything for you, like backups, security, scaling, caching, and so on.

However, there are many limitations to the Free Plan:

  1. you can’t use Google Analytics
  2. you can’t install WordPress plugins
  3. you can’t change the WordPress PermaLinks

Google Analytics

As long as you don’t see anything, you can do just fine with the builtin JetPack statistics. However, if you plan on selling products (e.g. books, video courses), you need Google Analytics because it allows you to understand how your potential buyers interact with your blog and products.

WordPress plugins

Just like in Java you have a framework for anything, in WordPress, you have a plugin for everything you’d ever need. For instance, these are very common plugins you might want to add to your website:

The lack of the MailChimp plugin was a major disadvantage as I could not embed a subscribe form directly in my posts.

PermaLinks

The WordPress.com Free Plan does not allow you to change the default PermaLink which looks like this:

https://vladmihalcea.com/2015/03/05/a-beginners-guide-to-jpa-and-hibernate-cascade-types/

Now, unless you run a news website, you don’t want to record the date of your post in the PermaLink because your posts will be considered outdated after a while.

Notice thee #TBT hashtag in the tweet above? That’s what I’m talking about.

Even if your article is still relevant, people will inspect the URL and label it based on the attached timestamp.

To avoid this issue, you want your blog posts to look like this instead:

https://vladmihalcea.com/a-beginners-guide-to-jpa-and-hibernate-cascade-types/

This way, readers will be much more inclined to open your article and give it a chance.

But what if you’ve been running your blog for years and your URLs are already containing the timestamp attached to each post URL? You can’t just switch to a new PermaLink structure because all Google PageRanking will be lost.

That’s where the Redirection comes into place because you can instruct it to match all posts using the following Regex:

^/\d{4}/\d{2}/\d{2}/(.*)

and redirect using a 301 HTTP Status Code to:

/$1/

Notice the capturing group we used to match the post name.

And, that’s it! If you have plugins, you can tackle this issue very nicely. While previously Google would penalize a 301 redirect, they changed their policy, and this is no longer a big issue.

Custom WordPress installation

Of course, you are not tied to WordPress.com. You can export your blog and install it on a dedicated server or use a different WordPress provider. However, this comes at a price:

  • Either you will have to manage the entire instance yourself, taking care of security, backups, traffic, monitoring.
  • Or, you will have to pay extra in case your blog has a significant amount of traffic.

Neither of these two options worked for me. While the former requires me investing more time in making sure the blog works properly instead of focusing on the content, the latter does not scale well in terms of costs in the long run.

Business plan

Hence, I needed something else.

Until August 2017, the Business Plan covered only the first of the aforementioned requirements while also giving you more premium themes, storage, live support, and tools for designing your website.

After they added support for installing plugins, they now allow you to change the PermaLinks structure as well. Having these improvements in place, I decided to move to a Business Plan.

Pitfalls

Initially, I thought everything will work smoothly without any hiccups, but there were all sorts of problems:

  • MarkDown was not enabled so code snippets were HTML-escaped
  • Some plugins required some further setup which was not intuitive at all
  • Setting up the Redirection plugin requires you to hunt down many internal links and update them to avoid an extra HTTP redirect overhead.

Newsletter

Previously, you could follow my blog either through my MailChimp Newsletter or via WordPress.com. Because of this new set up and the plugins I have installed, you can now follow my blog via email through MailChimp only. The WordPress.com follower program is discontinued and, unfortunately, you will have to resubscribe if you still think my content is worth followwing.

Conclusion

All in all, I’m happy with this migration, and after I’m done with my video course, I’m going to allocate more time to redesign for an even better user experience.

So, thanks for reading my blog and stay tuned for more!

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