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What is the difference between WordPress.com and WordPress.org? This is a common question that I get asked all the time. In fact, I had wondered the same thing quite a few years ago and unfortunately made the mistake of choosing the wrong one! I don’t want the same thing to happen to you, so I’ve compiled a detailed comparison of the two below.
In this post, I will clearly lay out the differences between WordPress.com vs. WordPress.org, so that you are clear on which you should be using when creating your WordPress website.
This post may contain affiliate links. Please see my disclosure page for more info
One of the biggest differences between WordPress.com and WordPress.org is that one is a hosted site while the other is self-hosted.
A host or web hosting service provider gives you a space for your website to live. When you sign up for hosting, you are essentially buying space on the Internet for people to visit your site.
Just like you need a physical space to display your products and sell things in the real world, you need a physical space in the online world as well to store your files and code from your website.
I like to think of hosting as the equivalent to renting or buying a physical storefront property, only the online cost is a lot cheaper!
A hosted website like WordPress.com allows you to build your website with their software AND provides you with space for your site to live for free.
Sounds like a great deal, right? So why wouldn’t everyone pick this option?
A hosted website comes with a lot of limitations, which I will discuss throughout this article.
With self-hosting platforms like WordPress.org, you have to purchase your own hosting and domain.
There is more of an upfront cost with WordPress.org, but it is very minimal in comparison to WordPress.com if you want to have customization options and flexible features.
Self-hosted sites provide you with a lot more customization which we will get into
WordPress.com vs. WordPress.org is a bit more complicated when it comes to cost.
There is a free plan with WordPress.com, but it comes at the expense of a limit of 3GB of storage, WordPress ads on your site, and an unbranded domain name.
As you upgrade you can get more features; however to get the customization options and flexibility of WordPress.org, it will cost you well over $200/year.
WordPress.org is open-source software that is free to use, but you must purchase hosting and a domain name.
Hosting can range anywhere from $5-$30/month depending on the length of time you are purchasing hosting for, the plan you choose and what host you go with.
Typically most people can get good hosting that meets their needs at a price ranging of $5-$12/month.
Siteground is faster in my opinion and good for those with a lot of information and graphics on their site, but for those just starting out I strongly recommend Bluehost.
Bluehost offers a low, affordable price and great support for those just starting out. Plus you get a free domain name for the first year!
*WordPress.com vs. WordPress.org – Winner for Overall Cost: WordPress.org
Your domain name is the address of your website. It is what someone types in the URL bar or search browser when trying to find your business or blog.
Hosted sites like WordPress.com comes with a WordPress branded domain (i.e. yourwebsitename.wordpress.com)
You will need to upgrade to a monthly plan (starting at $8/month) to get a custom domain name.
Self-hosted websites like WordPress.org have custom domain names that are purchased (yourwebsitename.com) and therefore do not end in a provider name such as WordPress.com or blogspot.com (i.e. yourwebsitename.wordpress.com)
You can purchase a domain name through a domain registrar like GoDaddy, Namecheap, or your hosting provider. It will need to be renewed each year, but the average cost is very low, at approximately $11-$15/year.
A nice perk of signing up for hosting with Bluehost is that you get a free domain for your first year!
In WordPress, a theme is a collection of templates and stylesheets used to determine how your website looks and performs.
It also affects the user experience on your site.
You do not get much of a choice in terms of themes with the free version. There are only a few options to choose from and customization is severely limited.
With this platform, you have the freedom to upload any theme that you like. You get access to an abundance of beautiful themes to choose from, which allows you the ability to create and fully customize a strategic, visually appealing, and modern website.
The Best Free Theme in WordPress at the time of writing this article is Kadence in my opinion.
If you find that you really enjoy this theme, but want a little bit more customization you can always upgrade later on without disruption to your layout. Kadence Pro currently ranges from $89-199/year depending on your package.
A plugin is a piece of software containing a group of functions that can be added (plugged in) to a WordPress website.
These plugins add new features and/or contribute to the capabilities of your existing WordPress website without needing to use any code.
Think of plugins like apps for your cell phone. They are extremely useful and pretty much a necessity for a business website unless you are a coding master.
Unfortunately, plugins are not available on the free version of WordPress.com
You would need to upgrade to the business plan or higher in order to have the ability to install plugins, which starts at $25/month.
You have unlimited access to plugins and the ability to upload any that you like.
Everything is taken care of for you in terms of updates, backups, and keeping your site secure.
You are in charge of updating your theme and plugins, as well as backups and overall security. However, there are plugins that can schedule automatic backups and security scans for you.
If you are using the free plan, you will have their ads and banners running on your site, but you will not profit from them. You are also unable to sell ads on your site unless you upgrade to a premium plan.
The free version does not allow you to accept payments on your site and therefore e-commerce (the buying and selling of goods) is not possible.
You are also unable to create a membership site with WordPress.com
You can place products for sale on your website, run your own online shop and create membership sites. There are also no ads on your site unless you choose to show them, which you could then profit from.
There are several plugins and third-party services available to help you create an e-commerce site as well.
There is no support available for the free version of WordPress.com.
The Personal plan and further upgraded plans do provide email and basic live chat support.
Upgrading to the Business or E-Commerce Plan will get you 24/7 priority live chat support but these plans start at $25/month.
WordPress.org unfortunately does not have official support; however many hosting providers are knowledgeable in WordPress and have 24-hour support.
There are also numerous unofficial WordPress.org tutorials and communities on the web as well.
SEO stands for search engine optimization. This is the practice of optimizing your site’s content to be discovered by search engines’ organic search results.
Users of this platform have very little control of their SEO. They cannot install powerful free plugins like Yoast SEO to optimize keywords, readability, and meta descriptions on your site.
You are given full control over your search engine optimization with the ability to install SEO plugins.
Analytics is a way of collecting and analyzing what’s happening on your website. It enables you to understand your site’s performance with access to visitor numbers, conversions, etc.
Google Analytics is a very popular and free tool that allows you to gather a great amount of information regarding your site and can help you tweak your SEO efforts
You do not have the ability to install Google Analytics or other analytics plugins on the free version, so you are limited to the built-in tool on the platform that is not nearly as powerful as plugins like Google Analytics.
Again you are given full control over your site’s analytics with the ability to install powerful plugins to help with this.
As the winner of 8 out of 10 categories, WordPress.org comes out on top overall.
If you plan to only blog as a hobby then WordPress.com will work for you.
If you are thinking you want to earn some side money with a blog or create a full-time income online then you absolutely need to build your site with on a stronger platform like WordPress.org or another alternative.
Keep in mind that there is a HUGE learning curve with WordPress.org- much more than other website platforms. Believe me, I know. I used to design in WordPress and so many of my clients struggled to update/maintain their website on their own. It’s one of the many reasons I switched to Showit. But if you are up to the challenge, it’s an amazing platform!
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Website by Maureen, Creating An Impact, LLC All rights reserved
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