One of the first things you are asked to decide when signing up for your WordPress.com site is your site’s Privacy setting. Most people have already thought about whether they want their site visible to casual readers or have their site out of public view, but they may have not thought about the subscriber aspect of this decision.
Sites whose Privacy settings are either public or blocked to well-behaved search engines are open to subscribers, whether by RSS feed, Email subscription or, for WordPress.com users exclusively, the WordPress.com Reader (“Blogs I Follow”). Subscribers can also find your site through the tags and categories you have used on your Posts by browsing the WordPress.com global tag listings or by searching. The global tag listings also automatically send out notifications of new posts via Ping-o-Matic.
Sites that are private do not publish an RSS feed, do not have their Posts added to the global tag pages, nor do they appear in any search. Visitors arriving to your site will see a log-in page and unless you have invited them to view it, they will not have access. In order to be invited, visitors must have a WordPress.com account.
New to WordPress? In addition to that WordPress.com address you really want for your public site, register a second, private site for testing settings, themes and features.
Up to now this is pretty straightforward. So what happens if you start out with a public site and later decide to make it private?
First of all your site’s feeds will no longer be available. Anyone who has subscribed by RSS feed will not receive notice of new posts, nor will new posts be pinged by WordPress.com to the various services they connect to through Ping-o-Matic. Categories and Tags on your posts will no longer appear in the global tag listings. Subscribers, both WordPress.com users and those who have subscribed by email, will still show up on your Subscribers stats page. However, in spite of any misleading dashboard messages, like the one below that appears after you publish a new post, new posts are not sent out to your previous subscriber list. The only people who will be able to subscribe to your private site are the people you’ve invited to view it.
•If you change your private site to a public one, keep in mind that all the posts that were previously published will now be visible to your site visitors, subscribers and search engines. Any private users that you have invited will be removed from the invited list, however, if they have also subscribed to your site, they will continue to receive notice of new posts.
•••Note: The behavior described in this post is correct as of today’s post.
•••Additional Note: This post deals with privacy settings for your entire site. In addition, there are visibility settings for each post and page that allow you to selectively keep them out of public view. Information on this and other privacy settings in an upcoming post.