Update: October 22, 2014. Changes to the WordPress.com upgrades policies mean accounts registered after September 1st, 2014 cannot purchase individual upgrades other than, domain mapping, premium themes and site redirects.
If you have a username account registered after September 1st, 2014 you have to purchase either a Premium bundle of upgrades or a Business bundle of upgrades to get the No-Ads or Custom design upgrades that are included in those bundles.
The Internet provides powerful networking opportunities that allow bloggers to effectively target their audience. Hobbyists and professionals are long time members of the blogosphere who are skilled at networking.
Small business people and big name brands are now taking advantage of blogging software and social networks like Twitter, Facebook and Linkedin to assert their business presence online and to reach more potential customers, business partners and employees through relationship building. In the future most businesses will have both a website and a blog and the two will most likely be on the same site.
Despite the fact the majority of bloggers are hobby bloggers, most online conversations on taking your blog to the next level are focused on making money. I pay for a No-Ads upgrade to keep all advertising off this blog and making money is not the focus of this post. So if making money from blogging and/or submitting comments to get do-follow backlinks is your thing, then the time to stop reading this article is now.
However, if you are in business and need a website, but don’t need to sell anything directly from it, then WordPress.com may have the right plan for you. And, if you are a blogger who isn’t in business but you do want to take your blog to the next level, then WordPress.com may have the right plan for you too.
Let’s see what the Learn WordPress.com Tutorial, a living document that’s just been updated has to say about three hosting plans for WordPress.com users, including Basic — Free; Premium — $99; and Business — $299.
Basic — Free includes a .WordPress.com address, select from over 120 free themes, basic customization (widgets, pages, custom header image and/or background; 3 GB of space for photos, Community support in the WordPress.com forums.
Premium bundle($99. per year) includes your own domain, 13 GB of storage space, select from over 120 free themes, customize the fonts and theme appearance, direct email support from our Happiness Engineers.
Business bundle ($299. per year) includes your own domain, advanced customization, select from 120 free themes or 50+ premium themes, and switch premium themes at any time, unlimited storage space, direct email and live chat support from our Happiness Engineers.
There is no FTP access to free hosted WordPress.com blogs and we bloggers cannot install plugins or upload third party themes. There is no upgrade that provides FTP access and the ability for bloggers to upload their own plugins and third party themes. However, the Enterprise upgrade provides a dashboard a plugins tab and allows use of these additional plugins.
Note: Leveling up means making a move in your life or career for the better and that may mean doing something different. Those with WordPress.org installs do have FTP access and can install their own themes, third party themes and plugins. So in our blogging improvement scenario leveling up can mean hiring a web host and setting up your own WordPress.org install. For details on the differences read this WordPress.com vs WordPress.org comparison, as that may be the right plan for you.
We all want to improve our blogging skills and our blogs. For most that’s a a steady progression for others it may not be, but I don’t know any bloggers who are not making any future plans.
In 50 Ways to Take Your Blog to the Next Level, Chris Brogan shares his ideas on considering your goal, your design, your content, how you promote it, and the business aspects of your blog.
Chris focuses on what matters most saying: You might not really want to take your blog to the next level just yet. But if you’re feeling as if you want to get serious (in whatever direction that takes your efforts), you ought to give strong consideration to making your goal and target audience crystal clear.
Baby Steps and Great leaps
Your plans for blog improvement may be small such as refreshing your blog, changing themes, creating a new header and/or graphics, adding new article types and increasing traffic in step by step fashion. Or your blog improvement plans may be as large as securing a VIP Hosting account.
Reader involvement through surveys, polls and/or, brainstorming may be a starting point for making plans for the next step up. Or reader involvement may not be a factor in the planning stage for taking your blog to the next level.
The next step up for your blog may not be costly and may not include a time investment when it comes to acquiring new skills. For example, bolstering your content by publishing posts in new categories, and/or by publishing tutorials and/or tips will increase the scope of topical coverage in your blog and your audience reach.
Or the next step up for your blog may involve both a financial and time investment. For example, your plans for taking your blog to the next level may include purchasing a custom design upgrade and acquiring CSS editing skills. It may include purchasing other available upgrades and for example acquiring video making and/or podcasting skills.
Your plans for blog improvement may be a great leap forward. Taking your blog to the next level may even involve creating a new blog, and/or purchasing a Premium bundle, Business bundle, or Enterprise upgrade and using WordPress.com software to structure a website.
Bottom line: If you don’t have a clear vision of where you want your blog to be, then you won’t be able to take it to the next level. What’s key is having a plan and mind mapping your course of action to achieve your goals.
I don’t have any leveling up plans for this blog. I’m not planning to make any big changes but I will continue to make some smaller ones. For example I have now trashed the many draft posts I had on the back burner on subjects that I no longer intend to publish on. Next I will tackle repairing broken links.
What does taking your blog to the next level mean to you?
Have you begun to formulate a plan, no matter how sketchy for taking your blog to the next level?
If and when you take your blog to the next level do your think will it be at WordPress.com?