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10 Big Differences Between WordPress.com & WordPress.org That You Need To Know

Are you thinking of creating a website for your online business, but just can’t decide between WordPress.com or WordPress.org? Or do you already have a website but are 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 WordPress.com or WordPress.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 .com or .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 platforms, 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. However, if you want to ‘unlock’ more features from WordPress.com, you’ll have the option to pay $36/year for a personal subscription, $84/year a year for a Premium subscription, $240/year a year for a business subscription, or $432/year for an eCommerce subscription which all come with some added perks (but more on that later).

WordPress.org (Self-hosted)

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. For a self hosted site, you need to purchase a domain name and host (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 WordPress Site?

Now you know the technical difference between WordPress.com and .org, 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.

1. Themes

WordPress.com

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 Twenty Seventeen, Twenty Twenty and Twenty Twenty-One are really robust. However, you cannot customize the existing themes or upload custom themes which isn’t ideal if you want to be able to personalize your site with custom edits to the theme.

WordPress.com (premium)

Premium users can customize the CSS of the theme and have access to some premium WordPress themes from the repository.

WordPress.com (business)

Those with a business subscription to WordPress.com have the freedom to upload themes from third parties such as the Genesis & StudioPress.

WordPress.org

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 without having to upgrade a subscription.

2. Plugins

WordPress.com

Plugins are non existent for free and premium WordPress.com users. You cannot upload any free, premium or custom plugins. The alternative is to use their ‘plugin-like’ features.

WordPress.com (business)

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.

WordPress.org

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 functionality.

3. Cost

WordPress.com (free)

The basic WordPress.com blogging platform 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.

WordPress.com (personal)

For $36 a year you can have a personal domain and remove the ads from your blog but there’s still no customization options.

WordPress.com (premium)

For $84 a year you get access to premium features like being able to customize the CSS file of your theme.

WordPress.com (business)

For $240 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.

WordPress.org

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 from. I recommend Namecheap for purchasing domain names. 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 support or FlyWheel if you want a fully managed hosting solution.

4. Monetization

WordPress.com (free)

You cannot monetize your blog or website on the free WordPress.com platform. Users with high traffic of 25,000+ users can apply to be able to advertise 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.

WordPress.org

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!

5. Branding

WordPress.com

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.

WordPress.org

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.

6. SEO

WordPress.com (free)

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.

WordPress.com (business)

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.

WordPress.org

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.

7. Analytics

WordPress.com (free)

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.

WordPress.com (premium)

As with SEO, being on the premium plan allows you to install third party plugins to give you all the insights you want.

WordPress.org

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.

8. eCommerce

WordPress.com

WordPress.com has an eCommece subscription plan for $432/year or $47/month. This will allow you to accept payments in 60+ countries, integrate with top shipping carriers, and give you premium design options for your online store.

WordPress.org

Creating an online store using self-hosted WordPress.org doesn’t incur any additional cost from WordPress itself. You will have to pay for a payment gateway and a means of shipping through third parties, but ther are ways to achieve that for less than $432/year.

9. Memberships

WordPress.com

On the WordPress.com Business and eCommerce plans, you could create a membership site as you would have access to advanced controls and plugins to make this functionality work.

WordPress.org

Yes – Absolutely! You can create membership sites with different levels of subscriptions, restricted content and payment gateways on the self-hosted version of WordPress.

10. Maintenance

WordPress.com

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.

WordPress.org

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.org.

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 $240 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 $240 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!

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About the Author:
Some people look at the sky and see stars; others see constellations. Some people look at lines of code and see a website; Julia saw a path to empower women in building their dreams. As a (former) military wife, self-taught web developer, and lover of location independence, Julia has taught over 2,400 women to say “YES” to any WordPress request, but not only that, “YES” to themselves, and “YES” to creating life on their own terms. Empowering women and seeing others succeed is the biggest motivator for Julia. And so, she created a program to teach others the skills that allowed her to take back control of her life and start living on her own terms.
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