Are you thinking of getting yourself online but just can’t decide between WordPress.com or WordPress.org? Or are you already online and still baffled by the difference between .com and .org? Well then this blog post is for you! Discover once and for all the difference that these three little letters can make to your website and the pro’s and con’s of both platforms!
Oh boy – if I had a dollar for everytime I’ve heard this question being asked! So many people are making an uninformed decision about whether to go for .com or .org simply because they don’t understand the difference! Making the wrong decision can be time consuming and costly so listen up as I tell you once and for all what it really means to choose WordPress.com or WordPress.org because the difference that three little letters can make is crazy!
WordPress.com vs WordPress.org
There are a number of differences between the two but the main difference between them is that WordPress.org is self hosted and WordPress.com is hosted on their free hosting service. Let’s break this down and explain it a little more.
WordPress.com (Free hosting service)
If you visit WordPress.com you can set up a site in minutes for free. You don’t have to purchase a domain or sign up for a hosting service because WordPress.com takes care of all that for you. There are the options to pay $36 a year for a personal subscription, $99 a year for a Premium subscription or $299 a year for a business subscription which come with some added perks which we’ll get to later.
Alternatively, if you visit WordPress.org, you can download a ZIP file that contains the WordPress content management system core files which can be uploaded to a self hosted site. A self hosted site is one that you have purchased the domain for and have hosted through a provider of you choice (I recommend SiteGround or FlyWheel all day long!). Most hosting providers have a one-click WordPress install function but for the purposes of explaining the difference, you can also manually install WordPress on your self hosted site by downloading the WordPress core files from WordPress.org.
What Do You Want From Your Site?
Now you know the technical difference, you’re probably thinking “WordPress.com is free so I’ll chose that one!”. Hold on a minute – we’ve only just scratched the surface of the differences between WordPress.com and WordPress.org.
Regardless of price, which platform you choose depends entirely on what you want to get from your site.
I’m going to give you a run down of the pro’s and con’s of both WordPress.com and WordPress.org so you can decide which best suits your needs.
With WordPress.com, you’re choice of themes is limited to the ones in the WordPress repository. This isn’t all bad as the WordPress core themes like TwentySeventeen are really robust. However, you cannot customize the existing themes or upload custom themes which isn’t ideal if you’re looking to be able to personalize your site with custom edits to the theme.
Premium users can customize the CSS of the theme and have access to some premium WordPress themes from the repository.
Those with a business subscription to WordPress.com have the freedom to upload themes from third parties such as the Genesis child themes.
Having self hosted WordPress.org allows you to have FULL theme support. You have access to all the free themes in the WordPress repository as well as the freedom to use third party, free and premium themes. Not only that, but you can also customize the themes to your heart’s content. You can change the CSS of a theme as well as the functions.php files to create an awesome and completely customized theme for your site.
Plugins are non existent for free and premium WordPress.com users. You cannot upload any free, premium or custom plugins. The alternative is that there are lots of plugin-like features that you can use.
The only way you can upload and use plugins on the WordPress.com platform is to purchase the business subscription which will allow you to upload third party plugins.
With self hosted WordPress.org you’re free to upload and use any and all the plugins you like. Free, premium and custom – giving you an even greater control and customization of your site.
The basic WordPress.com blog is free but this means that you are limited to 3GB of storage space and using a sub-domain (myblog.wordpress.com) as opposed to a custom domain. WordPress also displays ads on your blog and there is virtually no option to customize your blog in any way other than changing between WordPress repository themes.
For $36 a year you can have a personal domain and remove the ads from your blog but there’s still no customization options.
For $99 a year you get access to premium features like being able to customize the CSS file of your theme.
For $299 a year you get all the personal and premium features and some additional features that are only available on the business subscription such as being able to upload third party plugins which allows you complete customization of your site.
As this is self hosted you would need to buy a domain and register with a hosting provider. Domains range from $0.99 – $10/15 depending on the domain name and where you buy it. Hosting can also range from a few bucks a month to $100+ a year. For hosting a swear by SiteGround if you want a budget option with outstanding customer suport or FlyWheel if you want a fully managed hosting solution.
You cannot monetize your blog on the free WordPress.com platform. Users with high traffic of 25,000+ users can apply to be able to advertise but but WordPress gets a cut of the revenue of course.
WordPress.com (premium & business)
If you opt for either the premium or business plan you get access to Google AdWords straight away, no questions asked.
With self hosted WordPress you can monetise your site to your heart’s content with ads and affiliate links! And the best part is that 100% of the profit is yours!
If you’re using the free WordPress.com then you’ll have adverts placed on your site as well and the ‘Powered by WordPress’ link in the footer of your site. The only way to get rid of these is to pay for it to be taken off. Premium users can remove ads on their site and business users can also remove ads and the ‘Powered by’ link.
Self hosted WordPress gives you branding freedom. You can chose to have ads on your site just as easily as you can chose not to have them at no additional cost. You can also decide whether or not to have the ‘Powered by’ link without being charged anything extra.
Free users of WordPress have very little control over their Search Engine Optimization as they cannot install plugins like Yoast and Google Analytics to help give insights into organic search rankings.
As a business user of the platform you can upload and use plugins like Yoast and Google Analytics to give you those all important insights that help you better your search ranking.
Being self hosted gives you ultimate control over your sites Search Engine Optimization. You can install any plugin that you need to help give you a better insight into your search ranking and how you can improve.
Other than the analytic tool that comes built into WordPress, there isn’t a lot you can do to gain an insight into your sites performance on the free platform. The built in analytic tool is okay, but nowhere near as powerful as third party plugins like Google Analytics.
As with SEO, being on the premium plan allows you to install third party plugins to give you all the insights you want.
Analytic insights into your site are largely dependant on plugins. Self hosted WordPress gives you the freedom to use any plugins you want so you’ll be able to produce detail analytic reports for your site from the first day it’s launched if you so wished!
You cannot have an online store with WordPress.com. No matter if you’re on a premium or business plan, it just cannot happen. If you want an online store, WordPress.com suggest that you opt for the self hosted WordPress.org.
Being on the self hosted WordPress platform gives you the freedom to sell online – how awesome is that!? This is one of the biggest benefits of using self hosted WordPress.
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As with eCommerce sites, you cannot create a membership site on the free WordPress.com platform as it requires some pretty advanced controls and plugins to make it all work.
Yes – Absolutely! You can create membership sites with different levels of subscriptions, restricted content and payment gateways on the self hosted version of WordPress.
Nothing to worry about here. WordPress.com has a team of people working behind the scenes keeping everything up to date, taking backups and keeping your site secure.
From where I’m sitting, this is the only drawback of using self hosted WordPress.org. You are responsible for keeping WordPress, themes and plugins up to date as well as finding a solution for taking backups and running security checks. If you opt for a fully managed hosting solution like FlyWheel, then there’s nothing to worry about as all of this will be taken care of for you!
I Recommend Self Hosted WordPress.org
WordPress.com just does not compare to WordPress.org in my eyes. If you want to make the most of this awesome Content Management System then you need to be on the self hosted WordPress.com.
WordPress.org gives you complete freedom! Freedom to use whatever theme or plugin takes your fancy. The freedom to monetize your site and to be able to grow your site as your business grows.
Yes – You can achieve almost the same results with the business subscription of WordPress.com but $299 is a hefty price tag. Even with the business subscription, you won’t have the freedom to create an eCommerce or subscription site. I love WordPress because it gives me the ability to customize sites in any way I can dream of. If you take that away then WordPress loses so much of its power and appeal!
Why Pay For WordPress When It’s Free?
This is another question I hear a lot. “I thought WordPress was free so why do I have to pay for it?”. As with anything in life, you get what you pay for. The free WordPress.com will give you a bog-standard version of the Content Management System that allows for practically no customization. As you climb the subscription tiers of WordPress.com, you have access to more and more features.
If you want to compare prices, the business subscription of WordPress.com is $299 a year while you could get hosting with SiteGround for a year for just over $50 and purchase a domain for no more then $10 and have a self hosted site that gives you the freedom to do whatever you want with your site! It’s a no brainer – Chose WordPress.org!
[click_to_tweet tweet=”I’m so glad I know the difference between WordPress.com & WordPress.org! What a difference three little letters can make!” quote=”I’m so glad I know the difference between WordPress.com & WordPress.org! What a difference three little letters can make!” theme=”style6″]
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