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WordPress.com or WordPress.org: Which one is best for you?
First, what is WordPress?
One of the most confusing concepts in blogging when you’re just getting started out is WordPress.
You see information about it everywhere, yet somehow you’re not entirely sure what it is all about. You only know that it has something to do with blogging so you’d better figure it out. And then you’ll see that once you start investigating a bit, there are actually two different options. Dot-com and dot-org.
You see the terms, .org and .com and probably figure immediately (like I did) that dot.com would be the way to go. Why wouldn’t it be? Most of the legitimate websites we visit end in .com. The problem is, one has nothing to do with the other.
I know! Confusing!!
So let’s break it down.What is WordPress, what is it used for, how does it help you, AND FINALLY EXPLAIN- what’s the difference between dot-org and dot-com?
The main difference is who will be hosting your site. For free, WordPress.com can host your site. Or, you can choose to be self-hosted with another provider.
WordPress itself is simply a platform or space that you download to your computer
Now, WordPress.com uses this same platform for you to write your posts but also is the hosting site for your blog.Think of your hosting site as the internet’s version of a landlord.
WordPress.org, on the other hand, is only the writing platform itself and you will need to pay to outsource a hosting site to keep it on the internet.
In this case, you’d be living on your own. Sweet!
So you’re probably thinking to yourself, why would I pay for hosting if WordPress.com can provide it for free?
Well, I don’t know about you, but as comfy as living at home might be for some people, I was ready to move out at 15.
Independence… oh. And Bills ughh. Right.. lol.
To make this easier to understand, I’ve broken the key features into four categories: appearance, functionality, financial considerations and ownership below so you can decide which is the best solution for your blogging needs.
Appearance: .org vs .com
Custom Domain Name
So your domain name is basically your personalized web address. It’s what you find in the search bar at the top of your browser. It usually looks something like yourblogname.com.
When you register for WordPress.com, you’ll be issued a standard generic WordPress domain name that looks like yourblogname.Wordpress.com.
You can upgrade to the Personal plan for a fee to get a custom domain name if you want so it will look like yourblogname.com. In my opinion, this is more professional especially for a serious blogger and definitely easier for people to find you on the web in a search bar.
If you’re using WordPress.org you will have to purchase your domain name seperately, and can make it look however you like right from the start.
This is usually fairly cheap (starts at $0.99) and with some site hosting
WordPress.com comes with its own inserted ads which if clicked, all revenues are paid back to WordPress. It also comes pre-stocked with WordPress.com branding, which can be removed through upgrading to a Business plan.
This can be busy and distracting so if aesthetics and branding are important, this could be a deal breaker.
WordPress.org is a clean slate. You choose what your branding looks like right from the beginning. If you choose to use ads, you get to choose what ads are used throughout your blog and where they are placed for maximum return.
Currently WordPress has almost 100 free themes available and 190 premium themes, so there are lots of options to getting started.
If you are on WordPress.com, you can purchase the premium themes for a fee or you can have unlimited access with an upgraded Business plan.
If you have WordPress.org, not only do you have access to the same hundreds of free themes, but many of them are upgradeable to access additional customisation options such as fonts, colors
You also have the ability to purchase and download literally thousands of other themes through Creative Market, Etsy, and other web developers.
The prices vary for premium themes but you can usually get a very good one for less than $100 that can be fully customizable to your needs. This theme was purchased from Creative Market and I absolutely LOVE it!
Functionality: .com vs .org
This is one where WordPress.com is definitely the winner. It regularly schedules website maintenance for you automatically- Which is really great if you’re not very tech-savvy or have swiss cheese brain and might forget.
For WordPress.org users, you’ll need to spend some time doing monthly maintenance at the very minimum, making sure your plugins are all up to date, cleaning up broken links and other regular maintenance.
Honestly, I don’t find that this is terribly difficult or time-consuming for my blog. I usually spend maybe 15 minutes monthly doing maintenance.
Plugins are added modules or software that you install to help with website features or improve usability.
The basic WordPress.com plan comes with the Jetpack plugin built in which includes a suite of services like visitor stats, SEO tools, as well as spam and security threat protection.
On the free plan, this is the only plugin available. If you upgrade to the Business plan, you can have additional
WordPress.org users automatically have access to over 46,000 plugins in the database. Some are free, while some are premium and need to be paid for- but clearly the options are unlimited here.
Widgets for WordPress
A widget is an add-on tool that helps to customize the appearance of your page. They can be added almost anywhere (depending on your theme) including into sidebars, footers, and headers to help with access around your webpage.
They can also be mini-applications, like adding in your Pinterest or Instagram feeds
Some widgets are automatically included with WordPress including categories, navigation menus, searches, and recent post. Some are included with a theme to enhance it, such as a gallery widget for a photography site or a recipe widget on a foodie site.
On either WordPress platform, you’ll be limited to what the theme has to offer in terms of widgets.
In WordPress.org, because of the vast number of themes you can access, and the additional number of plugins you can use automatically, you’ll typically have access to more widgets to better be able to better customize your blog to your needs.
Analytics for Your Website
Stats on your blog are important to know so that you can understand your audience better, and create content that supports their struggles.
Unless you’re part of the business plan, you only have access to the basic Jetpack analytics on WordPress.com.
These include number of site visitors on a daily, weekly and monthly basis as well as viewing what your top posts are and any searches used to find your posts.
WordPress.org has instant access to a ton of customizable analytic plugins.
Using plugins like Monster Insights will allow you to dive deep into your all your stats including bounce rates, demographics, session duration and what types of devices your readers are using.
Financial Considerations: What is the cost of WordPress.com and WordPress.org?
Monetizing Your Blog
Monetization is the act of making money through your blog either through passive means, affiliate marketing, or advertising. It can also be through selling goods, either digital or physical like ebooks, courses or products.
There is a bit of a misconception that you can never monetize if you don’t have your own site hosting. There are some ways to make money on WordPress.com.
If you have upgraded to the Business plan, you have your own domain name and comply with the traffic requirements, you can apply to WordAds.
WordAds are advertisements that are managed directly through WordPress.com and placed on your site in place of their ads. In this case, you would receive the revenue from any interaction on these ads.
You are also able to use affiliate links with restrictions and can now add a PayPal button to your account so you can sell your products.
If you have your own site hosting plan, you can monetize and place ads as you wish. There are no restrictions to where you can place the ads or how they look, as long as you’re complying with the affiliates you’re working with.
Cost to Start a WordPress.com Blog vs a Self-Hosted WordPress.org Blog
The great thing about the basic WordPress.com is that its free. You can easily get your blog up and running in no time and be able to share your thoughts and passions for virtually no cost.
Of course, you can purchase upgraded plans if you want to try monetization or add extra
The options to upgrade include the Personal plan for $60 a year, where you’ll get a custom domain name and you’ll remove all the WordPress advertising.
If you upgrade to the Premium plan for $120 a year, you get everything from the Personal plan but you also have access to extra cloud space for larger file storage and you can monetize with WordAds.
For $396 a year, you can upgrade to the Business plan which gives you all the other bonuses plus access unlimited premium templates and themes and additional Google analytics support.
With WordPress.org you need to pay for your domain name and your site hosting and you’ll need to do this at least yearly.
If you get in on the introductory rate, it could be as little as $3.95 per month for the site hosting and you can buy your own domain name for $0.99 on some sites. (This is already less than just the Personal plan upgrade.)
PRO TIP: Purchasing at the introductory rate on Siteground will get you 3 years which would cost less than one year at the regular rate.
Ownership of Your Blog
This one’s a big one for me and that’s why it has it’s own section.
Owning my blog and the content I’ve put all my blood, sweat and tears into is not an option. With a self-hosted, WordPress.org site, I own my work. FOREVER.
Just like if you live under your parent’s roof, and they don’t like what you’re doing, they make the rules and can ground you because you don’t own the house.
If you are violating terms or conditions, WordPress.com can shut your site down. You may have no recourse to access your data.
If you register with your own site hosting pla, you own your site and as long as you maintain your fees, your site will never be shut down.
Unless you are doing something illegal, of course. I can’t help with that lol.
So which is better? WordPress.com or WordPress.org?
As you can see there is a vast difference between WordPress.com and WordPress.org.
Depending on your needs, and what you’re wanting from your blog in the future will determine which option you’re going to want to choose from the start.
Most people are drawn to and start out with WordPress.com simply because it’s free. And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. I’m always up for a bargain. But when you start looking at the options available, the free version starts looking less and less free.
What you might have noticed throughout this post, is that although WordPress.com has a free version, anytime you’re wanting to add features you’ll need to upgrade your plan which in the long run is actually more expensive than having your own site hosted.
As for me, the options for customisation, unlimited monetization options, and the fact that I actually own my blog space made WordPress.org the hands-down winner.