what is wordpress .com vs. .org self-hosted

WordPress is a Content Management System (CMS); software that enables entrepreneurs to design and manage a website without learning how to code.

It’s open source, meaning it’s free and available for anyone to use. It also powers ~42% of the Internet; everything from personal blog and podcast websites, to photographer and artist photo galleries, to small business service, product and startup landing pages. You can build almost anything with WordPress, with an important caveat…

there are actually 2 types of WordPress

WordPress is really just a piece of software, but there are 2 ways to use it, with big implications. The naming structure is… a bit confusing.



WordPress.com is a SaaS (Software As A Service) – a cloud hosting system that is similar to Squarespace. You sign up for a cloud account that includes the domain name and web hosting all in one. However, like Squarespace, options are limited and everything requires a cost/plan upgrade. Maybe you start with a more basic plan and decide you want scheduling. That’s going to be +$X per month. You’re locked into their system and pricing tiers, just like any other website builder platform.



WordPress.org is the hub for all the help articles, forums, and the plugin directory. This is where you go to download the WordPress software to install on your own web server. You’ll need to purchase separately the domain name (yourbusiness.com) and a website hosting plan (where you’ll upload the WordPress software). You can then set everything up yourself, exactly the way you want it. This is known as self-hosted WordPress, and this option is limitless.

download WordPress button
All that stands between you and a powerful package of website software is this big blue button.

With self-hosted WordPress, you own and control everything.

If you happen to discover that yes, GoDaddy is as terrible as this blog post says, you can package up your website files and database and easily migrate to another web host.

When you run WordPress on your own hosting, you can install any theme, any plugin, send email newsletters, offer free downloads, add an online store, add custom functionality–anything you can dream up, with no additional hosting fees or pricing package upgrades from the platform itself. Many of these themes and plugins are free.

wait, what’s a WordPress theme?

WordPress is the platform.

The theme is the overall framework that styles it.

If WordPress is the coat hanger, the theme is the button-down shirt that provides the overall shape.

If you plan to launch an e-commerce store, you might choose a product-focused theme. If you’re creating a personal art portfolio, you might want a theme with built-in portfolio gallery features. There are many highly stylized themes that offer special functionality. A real estate theme might have a built in listings post type, for example.

At cyclone press, we use a couple of lightweight, all-purpose themes that will work for any business, then style them and add the exact features and look you need. After years of designing websites, I believe this is almost always the better option. Individual theme developers all tend to style their theme options differently, and may not include much customizability. When they offer more customizability, it makes the theme “heavier,” meaning it won’t load as quickly. There’s also the potential for hacks if you select a theme that was badly built or isn’t updated regularly.

I’ve used my experience to put together what I believe is the best possible combination for small business websites: a great theme base + a highly customizable page builder. This combo will work for anything you can throw at it, whether you’re a startup, a growing business, or an artist. You’re looking at that package right now.

A few free WordPress theme options.

How to install a WordPress theme:

  1. Inside your WordPress dashboard, go to Appearance > Themes > Add New
  2. Search for the theme you’d like to use (or click ‘Upload New’, if you’ve downloaded a zipped file to install)
  3. Click ‘Install’ (or upload)
  4. Click ‘Activate’
  5. Click ‘Customize’ and upload your logo, adjust the colors, fonts, etc.

Congratulations! Your site now has an entirely different look and feel! Not a fan? Repeat the process to try another. You can access theme options from the Appearance > Themes tab, and the bulk of the customizations are done via Appearance > Customize.

what’s a WordPress plugin?

Let’s go back to our coat hanger/shirt example. Would you like that button-down shirt to have pockets? With snaps? Or perhaps some Star Wars themed cufflinks? Those extra special features are plugins.

Plugins are nicely packaged snippets of code that add extra functionality to your website. Let’s say you’ve realized how important it is to build a mailing list, so you want to add a signup form to your footer. You decide you’re going to use MailPoet, which runs inside your WordPress site. This is the plugin we recommend and use for email newsletters, and it’s free for up to 1000 subscribers (and we offer MailPoet Premium for free through with our WordPress website hosting). Here’s how you’d set it up:

Some of the available options seen when searching ‘Mailpoet.’

How to install a WordPress plugin:

  1. Inside your WordPress dashboard, go to Plugins > Add New
  2. Search for MailPoet
  3. When the search results populate, find the correct plugin and click ‘Install’
  4. Click ‘Activate’
  5. Tweak the Mailpoet Settings to your satisfaction

Congratulations! Your website now has email newsletter capabilities! Plugins usually add a tab to your sidebar, so you now have a MailPoet tab with newsletters, lists, forms and settings ready to customize. It really is that simple.

Another WordPress Plugin Example:
Let’s say you want to share recipes on your website. You could search for and choose a recipe plugin, then follow the same process above, and you’ll now have a tab in your sidebar for recipes. Depending on the specific plugin options, it might add special fields for ingredients, instructions with prep time and more.

There are many fantastic plugins we recommend that are paid, but even paid options often have a freemium (reduced features) version you can try first to see if it’s worth the (small) investment. For our recipe plugin example, the base plugin might be free, but the premium version might include the ability to scale servings or download printable versions. This allows you to test and confirm it works for you before investing any money. And by small fee, I mean something like $50/year, $99/year, etc. Check out our 5 must-have plugins for every WordPress website.

We love our recommended paid plugins so much that we include ~$1567 worth of plugin licensing for free with our managed WordPress hosting. Meaning that simply by choosing our managed hosting (managed means it includes maintenance), you get access to plugins that would cost you $1567 outright.

If you’d like to see what kind of WordPress plugin options are out there, click here to search the entire WordPress Plugins Directory. You might be there a while, as there are ~58,994 free options to choose from.

BONUS: what’s a WordPress page builder?

A page builder is front end editing software that runs on top of WordPress. It means you can design your site live, in real time using a WYSIWYG editor, instead of having to jump between the front end and back end. WYSIWYG = What You See Is What You Get. Click to drag and drop different modules for text, images, buttons, etc., then adjust the settings in the accompanying control panel. It makes design much more straightforward.

Elementor is a page builder which is incredibly popular for some reason (I do not recommend it). There are quite a few options out there and have various pros and cons, the biggest issue often being how much they can slow down your site. WordPress sites don’t need a page builder, especially with the new Gutenberg block editor (installed by default). Some themes include their own page builders, and overall page builders have become much more common because they’re easier for non-developers to use. We use and recommend BeaverBuilder, which is included on every site we build, including the special package below…

Self-hosted WordPress definitely sounds like the better option… but setup seems too technically complex!

In that respect, you are correct. I don’t know many business owners with the technical know-how (or time) to set up a self-hosted WordPress install. I do know some (especially artists), that like the idea of designing their website themselves, however.

Fortunately we’ve got a solution for you: our custom DIY WordPress package.

It’s self-hosted WordPress that launches more easily than something like a limited Squarespace site, and it’s pre-configured, pre-loaded with a demo site, and ready to customize. You can sign up right now on cyclonepress.com and start designing in minutes. More demos are available and we’ll take care of all the launch pre-checks so you aren’t entirely on your own.

This is the same setup used on my done-for-you WordPress packages, but it’s more affordable for DIY soloproneurs who are just getting started. Hourly design is always an option if you get stuck, so it’s a safer choice than a random SaaS website platform.

I’m really excited to be offering this, and it’s been in the works for a while. Click the button below to get started on your own website. If you’re not the DIY type – never fear; our consulting-driven website design and redesign packages aren’t going anywhere. Schedule a discovery call to find out which option is right for you.

[dollie-blueprints columns=”1″]
Anything else you’d like to know about WordPress? Questions about the DIY package? Drop your comments below!

I’ve wanted to write this post for years. After this most recent escapade, I’ve had enough of GoDaddy’s shenanigans, and I’m going to let you in on what professional web developers know and discuss amongst themselves.

GoDaddy is terrible.

This is an open secret, and yet a decent number of new clients come to me with a domain name and/or web hosting through GoDaddy, and it always amazes me how they continue to somehow attract new clients. I imagine this is like that one model of car that all the mechanics know to run away from, but it’s popular among consumers because they don’t know things could actually be much, much better. That could probably be said for crappy web hosting of any kind, actually, but let’s stay on topic.

Is GoDaddy really that bad?


Ask any web designer/developer with a reasonable amount of experience and you’ll hear something like this:

  1. they upsell everything, constantly
  2. they charge for things you can get for free and add hidden costs
  3. they prey on client’s ignorance about technical issues
  4. they lock you into multiyear registrations so you don’t want to leave (sunk cost fallacy)
  5. support is terrible – you’ll get a different answer from every person you talk to

Also, they don’t play nice with Cloudflare and things just break randomly… (???) To be fair, things break randomly on most websites, but for some reason, they break more often on GoDaddy hosting. 🤔

This list is just off the top of my head, mostly because every one of these elements are present in the story I’m about to tell you.

In 2020, I began working with a client who had an existing WordPress website at GoDaddy.

After my initial cleanup, we would make occasional changes and updates as needed. We have the site on a maintenance plan to make sure it’s being backed up, plugins updated and it’s being monitored for security issues. Obviously I don’t like that it’s on GoDaddy hosting, but if a new client has already paid for a year of something I totally understand. We make it work and then migrate when the plan ends. Usually.

One of the first things I did on this site was to route the domain name through Cloudflare, which I do for every client. It provides greater speed, security, and most importantly, free SSL. SSL is what adds the “s” to “https” in your URL (along with the padlock icon). After Google’s changes in 2018, this went from nice-to-have, to need-to-have. Your browser will give visitors a security warning if you don’t have this, so it matters. The original site did not have SSL at all.

You can get free SSL from a lot of web hosts (probably most of them). Not GoDaddy. Here’s a screenshot from a client’s account page:

Wow, so generous.

It took some finagling – SSL is notoriously difficult to set up – but we got it done. That was sometime last fall.

This spring, the site broke out of nowhere. I can’t remember specifics at this point, but I think a lot of the images disappeared/ended up broken. Images and SSL are always tricky, but the site had been fine for months. However, my developer and I have both noticed that GoDaddy doesn’t seem to play nice with Cloudflare (I wonder why?) One of the benefits of having a system and maintaining a ton of different sites is that you start to notice patterns. When all variables are consistent except the hosting… it’s probably the hosting.

I fixed the issue somehow (the problem with troubleshooting is it’s hard to remember what ended up being successful). Life went on.

Cut to this past month… site goes down, support is terrible.

The site went down again. Just… down. Error. Unless an update broke the site (these things happen), no one had actually touched it. I contacted support and the first thing they said was to turn off Cloudflare. Of course. Then they said the domain wasn’t connected at all (no settings had been changed). I tried for way too long to get it to work with SSL through Cloudflare, then gave up on Cloudflare and reverted to the default GoDaddy settings just to make sure it was online. Unsurprisingly, support was worthless while trying to figure any of that out. Rote answers, no attempt to troubleshoot (see complaint #5). There were at least 3 different chat sessions.

After speaking with the client, they agreed to go ahead and move to my hosting. I immediately set up a new hosting account and quickly rebuilt the site from scratch. I didn’t want to migrate anything that was potentially corrupted (I did not create the original site). Back online, mission accomplished.

Then I went through the entire GoDaddy account to cancel the remaining hosting and send the client an update on what was actually in their account. This is what I found (shared with client’s permission and no identifying details):

Let’s play a game: which of these things do you actually need?

Let me point out the first thing I notice. This is a subscriptions page, and I took a screenshot of the full table. There are no prices in those columns. If you click on the item title, it still doesn’t show you a price. How am I supposed to figure out how much “Basic Managed WordPress Websites” will renew for? To be fair, navigating any part of their dashboard is a nightmare, but this is deceptive. I want to see, at a glance, how much each of these things cost.

At the top of the list you can see where it says “4 of 5 results.” That’s because the client’s 5th product is free, so it’s not listed here. It’s email forwarding (or an email alias), which is when [email protected] forwards to [email protected]. The client is perfectly happy with this (I mean, do any of us really want another email account?).

Now let’s go through each line item so we can understand my first complaint:

1. GoDaddy upsells everything, constantly

Item 1: Search Engine Optimization – 1 Year
What the heck is this? SEO isn’t just something you slap on to a website. It takes a ton of time, money and often on-page changes to headings, keywords, blogging on relevant topics, etc. No one is touching the website besides us. From the backend, it looked like you could create posts to share on social media or something. But when I searched on GoDaddy’s website, it looked like a tool that made SEO recommendations you could apply. Either way, it’s something my client has never used and probably didn’t even know they were paying for. This title makes it sound like someone is doing something, and could easily be fixed by adding the word ‘tool.’

Item 2: (Blurred)
This is the website domain name/URL, and the only thing on this list my client should actually be paying for. More on that in a second.

Item 3: Basic Managed WordPress Websites
This is the website hosting plan, which was originally for 3 years. Exhibit A of how they try to lock you in for crazy long time periods. I’m not sure I would pay up front for hosting for 3 years, and I’m a website hosting provider.

Item 4: Microsoft 365 Starter Email from GoDaddy
Remember how I mentioned this client uses email forwarding? Item 4 is an actual email account. It says “New Account” because it’s never been set up. My client has been paying for an unused email account. Why is that even in there?

But wait, there’s more!

2. GoDaddy adds hidden costs

In order to figure out how much these items cost, I had to switch to the Order History tab. I then discovered that the domain name had an add-on charge, which leads us to:

Item 5: Search Engine Visibility V1 Renewal.
Search engine visibility? Talk about a sentence designed to make consumers think it’s a magic bullet (let me interrupt this programming to tell you that there ARE no magic bullets for SEO, and anyone that tells you otherwise is a liar. It takes a ton of time and effort and it never ends).

So what is this?

Search Engine Visibility is an Internet-based search engine optimization and submission tool that guides users to optimize their website. Search Engine Visibility shows users how to improve internal and external aspects of their website. Doing this increases the visibility of the website in search engines via the “natural,” or unpaid, search results.

– GoDaddy Search Engine Visibility FAQ

Ah yes, another tool. Because what every business owner has is time to consult hard-to-navigate GoDaddy tools to optimize their website. That same GoDaddy page also says: “Once refined, use Search Engine Visibility’s site submission options to submit your site, correct any submission issues, and track number of pages indexed by various search engines.”

OK, so it sounds to me like this tool is just a way to submit a sitemap to Google? You can do that for free (Google Search Console). I do it for every site as part of our post-launch checklist. And yet this “Search Engine Visibility” product:

  • Costs the same amount as a 2-year domain name renewal
  • Has an incredibly deceptive title that’s going to make small business owners think they magically have better SEO without doing anything
  • I have no idea if it’s included by default with the domain name renewal because the subscription page has no info on actual cost
  • Why isn’t this part of the “Search Engine Optimization – 1 Year” line item?

This is why I’m now saying that GoDaddy shouldn’t even be allowed to register your domain name. Use Namecheap. Or talk to us and we’ll do it all for you so you never have to worry about it.

Can you see why every web designer/developer will warn you about GoDaddy upselling?

This is not the first time I’ve seen this kind of thing, either. Here’s another screenshot from a different client (also from 2020).

Circled items are upsells. These are legitimate, but still extra charges on top of their hosting.

Again, Standard SSL could be had for free, backups are an upcharge and… security?

The page that comes up when I search “Website Security Essential” (which is like this whole separate per-month plan) says it includes SSL and one click restore from backup. Yet this client also has SSL and Website Backup listed here… ??? Is this one package that includes everything, or are you paying twice for a) backups from the Security package and b) standalone Website Backup 10GB? Did this site just need more space? What if you just subscribed to products in the wrong order?

Just browse their site and you can see how the way they list and describe their products is almost intentionally confusing. It’s not just the sales pages either; if you’ve ever tried to navigate the dashboard it’s terrible and buggy (I use software all day every day, and it took me 15+ minutes just to find the settings for the email alias).

Now, I understand that someone reading this might say, “OK, but what’s wrong with charging for website tools? It’s not their fault if customers don’t use them. After all, this person signed up for this stuff.”

That’s right, they did. More than likely because they were told they “needed” it because it was “important for SEO” or “a better deal to sign up for 15 years” or any other number of things. Every web host, – every business – upsells. It’s a strategy that makes sense if it’s a service your individual customer genuinely needs and you aren’t intentionally misleading people. This really feels like the latter, and it leads to my second point:

3. GoDaddy preys on their customers’ technical ignorance.

Small business owners know SEO is important, even if they don’t know how it works. So if they have a chance to buy something that sounds like it’s going to drop them on the front page of Google, why wouldn’t they? When I see something called “Search Engine Optimization – 1 Year,” why wouldn’t I assume that means GoDaddy is going to optimize my website for 1 year? And if I have no idea what’s involved in SEO, how would I know they’re not doing something?

Obviously we want consumers to do their due diligence, but in a world that’s increasingly technically complex, with more choices than ever before… this is just predatory. It makes me angry. It’s no different than a mechanic who adds a made-up charge to your bill because they know you don’t know any better. It’s unethical, and if you knew it was happening, you’d take your business elsewhere. But once you find out…

4. GoDaddy pushes customers into multi-year registrations

Well, you’ve already paid for 3 years, so guess you’ll just have to deal with it. They’re hoping at the end of those 3 years you forget before auto-renewal hits, because if you don’t notice within 30 days… sorry, no refunds. They’re taking advantage of the sunk-cost fallacy, which is when you don’t want to make a change because you’ve already invested so much time or money into something.

5. GoDaddy support is terrible.

You might already know this, but it’s fairly easy to outsource customer support to companies/services who will (I assume) read from a script or refer to a FAQ page to handle your website chat inquiries. I can often tell when I’m talking to one of these people, because they will have no comprehension of the actual topic. That’s what every GoDaddy chat felt like.

I’ve also made phone calls on behalf of clients in the past, and I remember one conversation where my client had said they told them to upgrade to a certain hosting plan because it was “faster.” When I repeated this to support, the guy I was speaking with scoffed at that and was like, they said what? Yeah, no, that’s not true. That’s been typical of my experience. Also see my above complaints after 3 chat sessions.

Now there are always exceptions, and there might be some web designers/developers who actually like GoDaddy, I guess? (I’ve never met any). I’d genuinely love to hear from them. But if you are a developer, you’d know when you’re being sold something you didn’t need, meaning your experience would be very different from the average small business owner.

Also, I’m not familiar with any of these products listed, and sure, they probably have genuinely useful features. There might even be people actively using them that love the options. I don’t have a problem with offering a tool – it’s about how it’s marketed (and to whom). I mean, when services or products are this convoluted, the conclusion I have to draw is that it’s intentional. It’s not any one technique that they’re using; it’s all of them taken together that paint a very sketchy picture.

I also feel like this is a great example of what happens when small business owners work with a massive company where you’re just another number in the system. There is no 1:1 relationship or personalized communication. They don’t know you, or your business, or your story. The importance of relationships with providers who really get your unique needs is why I’m such a proponent of entrepreneurship, consultants, and long-term, ongoing relationships with service providers. It can be so much better.

If you take nothing else from this, know that there are too many other good options for hosting to mess with one that toes the line. Don’t use GoDaddy.

Questions? Horror stories? Totally disagree with me? I’d love to hear all of it – leave a comment below.

Real advice real quick: if you have your domain name registered at GoDaddy, you’re probably fine as long as you make sure they aren’t adding any weird charges. If you want to leave, you can buy a domain transfer at Namecheap, unlock your domain at GoDaddy, verify and move it. Pretty straightforward. If you have hosting at GoDaddy, you’ll need to set up an account at another host, then migrate your site, which is bit more technical. We host all our website clients and can help with any of this if it’s intimidating.

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5 must have plugins every wordpress website

I’ve used a lot of WordPress plugins over the years. The plugins below are longtime favorites that come installed on every site we build. This post is for those curious how our WordPress hosting is better, developers interested in the tools we use and recommend, or savvy WordPress wielding business owners in need of new plugins.

Note: Some of these are affiliate links, but that’s irrelevant to me choosing them. I’m going to sing praise regardless because I dig these plugins. These certainly aren’t the only plugins we use, by the way, but I define “must have” as “bare minimum.”

For the uninitiated, a WordPress plugin is an added folder of code that extends the functionality of your website. You can easily install plugins from the WordPress dashboard. Decide to sell products? Install the WooCommerce plugin and you’re in business. Want to share recipes? Install a recipe plugin. This is one of the reasons we love WordPress. It really is that easy (and many of them are free).

1. GravityForms

Without a doubt, this plugin is #1. Contact forms are one of the most important components of your website, and we believe GravityForms is the best WordPress form builder. We build extremely complex forms, and there are an insane number of ways to add functionality. Generate PDF’s, send forms to Zapier, create auto-responses, use conditional logic in the form or notifications. I’m not really sure what features to even list here because it does all of them. We’ve built application forms, contracts, signup forms, payment options, estimates, post submissions… the list is endless. We often use/include additional Gravity Forms Certified Developer plugins to add even more functionality, depending on the client’s needs.

A license to GravityForms will run you $59/year. For cyclone press web hosting clients, it comes free with your website.

2. WP Rocket

Caching is an absolute must for your website. It helps your website load more quickly by storing a cached version. We optimize for speed in every possible area, but if the only thing you did was install WP Rocket on your WordPress site, you’d still see a speed boost. Caching plugins are notorious for causing issues (caching in general is just a pain. Necessary–but a pain). There’s no telling what you’ll have to deal with if you’re using a free option, and many hosts will actually block you from installing free plugins. WP Rocket is in a league of its own.

A license to WP Rocket will run you $49/year. For cyclone press web hosting clients, it comes free with your website.

3. ShortPixel Image Optimizer

Images are the biggest drain on your website’s speed. They should always be resized for web use before you upload them, but optimizing through your website is equally important.. We use ShortPixel, which optimizes images as you upload – no extra steps needed. Note that WordPress generates lots of thumbnails automatically, so 100 credits does not mean 100 images. Uploading 1 image is more like uploading 5 due to thumbnail generation (the exact number depends on your setup).

You can optimize 100 images a month for free, and ShortPixel plans start at $5. For cyclone press web hosting clients, optimization credits come free with your website (the number varies – generally we allot several hundred for the initial build, then drop down to 100/month, depending on how active/how many photos you’re uploading/if you’re a photographer, etc. We have plenty of credits to go around).

4. iThemes Security Pro

A security plugin is absolutely a must. While there are several good security plugins out there, we like iThemes. We believe in a layered approach to website security, and this WordPress plugin allows you to add a lot of layers from the dashboard (including 2 Factor Authentication for WordPress logins). Security plugins can sometimes be tricky to work around, but we’ve never had any major issues with this one. Wordfence is also a great option (if you don’t use the live traffic feature), and Sucuri is where you’ll want to go if you get hacked.

A license to iThemes Security Pro will run you $80/year. For cyclone web hosting press clients, it comes free with your website.

5. SEO Framework

While Yoast is the popular choice for a WordPress SEO plugin, I’m not a fan. SEO Framework is cleaner and more user-friendly, without constant up-sells and ads. We find the free option is sufficient for our needs; adding meta information and providing feedback on posts and pages that need it, without being in your face.

A license to SEO Framework will run you $0-84/year.

For WordPress Developers: Bonus: Userback

When building a website, it can be difficult to collect feedback (“OK on the about services page, on the right-hand side, just underneath the image of the rubber chicken–yeah that’s the text this is replacing… no that photo’s on the left – the section just underneath that heading in blue…”). Not fun. We are huge fans of Userback for the ability to draw on the screen and leave comments right next to the photos or text to be updated. We install this for every website build to facilitate feedback by our clients. It can be used indefinitely to collect feedback or bug reports from your users, and we also use for design feedback and approvals. For our website agency, this tool is incredibly important.

A developer’s license to Userback starts at $8/month. cyclone press web hosting clients benefit from the ability to use this tool for free because it’s part of our development process.

I hope you found this list helpful. If you’d like to start a conversation about your website, schedule a discovery call or request a free website assessment to find out how we can take it to the next level.

You can learn more about our hosting here.

Free Website Assessment

Embedding a Google map on your WordPress website is no longer a simple (or free) process. Find out why and how this affects you.

In May 2018, Google announced pricing plans for Google Maps.

Beginning June 11, you’ll need a valid API key and a Google Cloud Platform billing account to access our core products. Once you enable billing, you will gain access to your $200 of free monthly usage to use for our Maps, Routes, and Places products. As your business grows or usage spikes, our plan will scale with you.

via Google Blog

Here’s the most important note for our clients: “We estimate that most of you will have monthly usage that will keep you within this free tier. With this new pricing plan you’ll pay only for the services you use each month with no annual, up-front commitments, termination fees or usage limits.”

As cyclone press works exclusively with small businesses and soloproneurs, most of you should be fine unless you have crazy high traffic on your website. In this case, the people this affects most are developers. It’s now become a pain for us to embed a Google Map on your website (or more likely, fix the map on your website that is now broken), because we now have to create a Google Cloud billing account and have you log in and assign credit card info.

Here are the key things to note in less intimidating bullet point form:

  • Use of Google Maps now requires 2 things:
    1. A Google Cloud billing account connected to a valid credit card
    2. An API key (this was already in effect)
  • You will receive $200 of free monthly usage to use for Maps, Routes, and Places (for now)
  • Most small businesses will not have enough traffic to exceed the free monthly usage, meaning you will not be charged
  • Google Cloud has a notice saying they will notify you before billing

So how does this affect you?

If you’re a website client of cyclone press and have an embedded Google Map on your WordPress website, we’ve already emailed you with steps to add billing info to Google Cloud. You’ll need to do that to remove the “Oops! Something went wrong.” notice. Instructions below. We’ll have already created a project in Google Cloud and generated an API key.

How to add credit card info to a Google Cloud account:

  1. Log in to Google Cloud Console: https://console.cloud.google.com
  2. Billing > Manage Billings Accounts > Add Billing Account
  3. Agree to Terms, then enter business name, address, credit card information

How to create an API key for Google Maps:

If you are not a client of cyclone press and don’t have a dedicated developer who manages your website, here’s how to create the API key yourself (do this after creating a Google Cloud account above).

  1. Log in to Google Cloud Console: https://console.cloud.google.com
  2. APIs & Services > Dashboard
  3. Create new project
  4. Enable APIs and services
  5. Maps Javascript API > Enable
  6. Credentials > Create Credentials > API Key
  7. Copy > Restrict Key
  8. Rename /  HTTP referrers
  9. Copy API key
  10. Paste the API key into the API field in your WordPress theme (location/setup will vary)


While this won’t end up being another bill for most of our clients, we’ll still be keeping a close eye on the competition and looking at alternatives. The free $200 credit feels like a promotion, which makes me wonder if they’ll remove that as soon as businesses have gotten used to the new normal.

Additional Links:

We’d love to know what you think about this change, whether you’re a website owner revising your strategy, or a developer still looking for his lunch money. Let us know in the comments.

Website encryption changed a lot in 2018, so I’ve updated this post with the current state of website encryption and SSL certificates.

First, a quick explanation. We’re talking about the lock icon that’s displayed next to the URL in your address bar (see note at the end of this article about how this is changing).

The padlock (and the use of “https” instead of simply “http”) announces the presence of a Secure Sockets Layer (SSL), which encrypts the connection between your browser (Firefox, Safari, Chrome, Internet Explorer) and the website you’re visiting.

“SSL allows sensitive information such as credit card numbers, social security numbers, and login credentials to be transmitted securely. Normally, data sent between browsers and web servers is sent in plain text—leaving you vulnerable to eavesdropping. If an attacker is able to intercept all data being sent between a browser and a web server they can see and use that information.” via DigiCert.

To set this up, you would purchase an SSL certificate for your website URL and install it on your server. SSL certificates contain a pair of keys (public and private) used to establish a secure connection between the viewer and the website. If you’d like a rough analogy for how this works, click here.

Do You Need SSL? Yes.

Several years ago, when I originally wrote this post, I recommended purchasing SSL for the following reasons:

  • if you collect personal information through forms
  • if you collect credit card information/sell products
  • if customers log in to your website
  • if you have restricted content
  • if you wanted a potential SEO boost

Part of the reason for this criteria was because the average certificate cost an additional +$99 per year for hosting costs. It was a good practice to have it, but for a small business with nothing more than service options and contact forms it didn’t seem necessary.

However, in February 2018, Google announced that it would begin marking all HTTP sites as “not secure” in Chrome beginning in July 2018. Since Chrome is currently the most popular Internet browser, this is a big deal. It’s not like your site suddenly became less secure, it just looks that way, particularly to someone who might not understand the nuance of browser security warnings.

We include SSL certificates free of charge with every website we build.

No longer a nice option; SSL is now a must have for every small business on the web. This is also a great example of the power an industry behemoth has – if Google even announces they’re thinking about a change, everyone stops and listens. In this case, it’s a good thing, because it’s making the web more secure.

Important Note About the SSL Icon:

Google is changing the style of the padlock icon. “Users should expect that the web is safe by default, and they’ll be warned when there’s an issue. Since we’ll soon start marking all HTTP pages as “not secure”, we’ll step towards removing Chrome’s positive security indicators so that the default unmarked state is secure.”

This means that instead of looking for a padlock, you won’t even have to think about a secure connection unless you get the red “not secure” notice (in Chrome). This is beginning October 2018.

I hope this article was informative, practical, and gives you a decent idea of how SSL certificates work and why they’re now a must for every business. Keep in mind that while this is a best practice, it doesn’t mean that every website will abide by it. Always check for SSL when submitting credit card or personal information online. Thanks for reading and feel free to ask questions in the comments below.

If we built/maintain your website, you already have SSL. If you’d like us to send you an estimate to build a new WordPress site (or redesign an existing website), schedule a discovery call.

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