The Differences Between WordPress.org and WordPress.com

One of the most frequent questions we receive in our client work is about WordPress.com versus WordPress.org. Specifically, which version do I need? Why is one better than the other? What are the pros and cons of each system? What do you recommend?

Both systems, WordPress.com and WordPress.org are confused frequently. In this WordPress guide, we will go through both systems so that you will have a full understanding of each system to help you make an informed decision about which system is right for you. We want you to feel confident in your decision so if you have any questions at all, please feel free to ask in the comments section at the bottom of this guide.

WordPress.com Overview

WordPress.com Main PageWhat is WordPress.com? The WordPress.com website is a commercial site that allows you to create and host a site for free. It includes the ability to use your own domain name, they provide the web hosting for you and they offer add-ons to enhance your experience.

If you do not have a domain name, your website will use a subdomain on the WordPress.com website similar to https://tygrscott.wordpress.com where tygrscott is your username you select during the account creation process.

WordPress.com runs on the WordPress.org software which is important to understand. The WordPress.com website is simply a hosted solution that runs the WordPress content management system, however, if you choose WordPress.com, you will be locking yourself into a set amount of themes, set amount of available plugins and no way to customize your theme PHP files to enhance your website. The system, put plainly, is locked down.

WordPress.com Pros

  • There are 350+ elegant WordPress themes to choose from in the backend.
  • No worrying about hosting or site maintenance.
  • Regular security updates and backups performed automatically.
  • Available for free with limited features.
  • Affiliate links and sponsored posts are allowed.
  • Optimized speedy hosting.

WordPress.com Cons

  • The upsells to premium features are expensive.
  • The free account only allows 3GB of space before requiring a paid $20+/year upgrade.
  • Ads may appear on your website. A payment of $30/year is required to remove ads.
  • Many of the most attractive themes are marked premium and require a payment from $20 – $150.
  • Plugins? What plugins? You may not install or use WordPress plugins on WordPress.com without an expensive upgrade.
  • Mapping a domain to your account requires a $13/year upgrade.
  • Adding your own advertising requires “WordAds” which requires 25,000 pageviews per month to access. Even then, you will split your revenues 50/50 with them.
  • Adding your own image ads from third-party networks is not allowed.
  • Your site and content is subject to their Terms of Service.
  • If you advertise on Google Adwords, performance tracking via Google Analytics is not available.
  • Limited choice for eCommerce. WordPress.com Business users ($299) can choose between Ecwid or Shopify.

WordPress.com Premium Plans

Once you have setup your free website, you’ll notice in the backend that they have a “Store” option which includes enhancements to the free plan which you should be aware of. Most will setup their website, spend months writing content and then they will find out that they will need to pay in order to access certain features. Let’s go over these enhanced plans now:

  • Free Plan: As explained, includes 3GB space, create pages, posts, links and allows comments from your users. Some pages you create may surprise you with advertisements that cost money to remove.
  • WordPress.com Premium: Cost – $99/year. This plan will include a domain registration of your choice, domain mapping, removal of ads, ability to host your own videos with VideoPress, an upgrade to 10GB of space and the ability to customize the design of your chosen WordPress theme.
  • WordPress.com Business: Cost – $299/year. This plan includes all of the premium features plus it enables live chat with support specialists, enables access to all 50+ premium themes sold in the store and upgrades your storage to unlimited space. Offers access to eCommerce features from Shopify or Ecwid.
  • WordPress.com Enterprise: Cost – $500/month. That’s right, the isn’t per year, it’s per month. This plan allows full front-end customizations including CSS, fonts, JavaScript and more. You’ll gain access to 100+ plugins, have unlimited access to all WordPress.com themes, unlimited storage, ability to run your own advertising campaigns, choice of analytics and includes customer support.
  • WordPress.com VIP: Cost Starts at $5,000/month. Enables cloud hosting, enables 200+ certified plugins, hourly backups and is intended for high traffic websites that need scalability for optimal page delivery to all visitors.

WordPress.com Conclusion

As you can clearly see, the easiest way to setup a website isn’t always the best way to go. At one point or another, you will need to upgrade your plan to enable certain features that are blocked on the free plan. Whether you need to add a domain name, remove ads, upgrade to a professional theme, or heck, customize the theme to your liking, you’ll have to dig out your wallet.

Remember, with WordPress.com, your content is subject to their Terms of Service. If they designate your content to be spammy, includes threats, uses any form of spammy links to drive traffic, they find your content misleading, your site generates content via automated methods and many other reasons, your site will get shut down.

By submitting Content to Automattic for inclusion on your Website, you grant Automattic a world-wide, royalty-free, and non-exclusive license to reproduce, modify, adapt and publish the Content solely for the purpose of displaying, distributing and promoting your blog. This license allows Automattic to make publicly-posted content available to third parties selected by Automattic.

The above quote is taken right from their Terms of Service as well. Your content is not under your full control like it would be if you hosted your own WordPress website. Additionally, WordPress.com includes a reblog feature that allows any WordPress.com user the ability to repost your content on their website.

WordPress.org Overview

The WordPress DashboardWhat is WordPress.org? An open source content management system that powers 22% of the Internet now including T5A.com. WordPress.org is the website you visit to freely download the latest version of their software including installation files.

Almost all of the guides and tutorials for WordPress on TopFiveAdvisor is based on the WordPress.org software that is installed on your own web hosting provider. Many web hosts include access to an automated WordPress installer which means WordPress on your own web hosting is about as easy as WordPress.com. If you happen to have a higher quality VPS hosting service that doesn’t offer a WordPress installer, you can use our installing WordPress manually guide.

WordPress.org Pros

  • It’s 100% free to use. You just need web hosting (see our InMotion Hosting review).
  • You can upload and use WordPress plugins for which there are over 35,000 to choose from.
  • You can use any free or premium WordPress theme.
  • You can freely edit your WordPress theme files including making styling edits and more.
  • You have full control over your content and you are only limited by the Terms of Service of your web hosting company.
  • You’ll earn 100% of your advertising revenue.
  • Custom analytics and tracking solutions available.
  • eCommerce is best with WordPress.org with premium plugins.
  • WordPress Network Install is available to run multiple blogs with on installation.
  • You are only limited by your web host for disk space and bandwidth. Most hosts offer unlimited everything which eliminates any worry.
  • No hidden fees or upgrade costs. You can use your own domain, add advertising and you can take advantage of your web host for customer support.
  • Wide choice of eCommerce platforms without a $299 fee to access them. You’ll need to ask your web host for an SSL certificate but once installed, you can use any premium eCommerce platform that offers a WordPress plugin.

WordPress.org Cons

  • Bring your own hosting. You’ll need to register a web hosting account. See our web hosting reviews for help choosing your web host. We recommend InMotion Hosting because they automatically but optionally setup your WordPress for free during your hosting order.
  • You will need to upgrade your WordPress occasionally. This process takes a single click to perform and many minor maintenance / security updates are done automatically with the latest editions.
  • You are responsible for your backups. There are plugins available that automate this task but we do recommend downloading your backups at least weekly. Many web hosts also will backup your data at least weekly.
  • You’ll have to deal with security issues including dealing with SPAM. Your WordPress will come with Akismet that can be configured to help with SPAM.
  • Tougher learning curve and additional research needed when choosing customizations, plugins, themes and more.
  • At one point or another, you will need to learn how to optimize your website for page load times. Usually, this will require an upgrade to SSD hosting or VPS Hosting (see our KnownHost VPS SSD hosting review for a decent solution) and installation of a caching plugin.

Our Recommendations

If you are just getting your feet wet, don’t care about making money from your website and just want to setup a quick personal blog, your choice is best with WordPress.com. However, considering all the fees you’ll likely face as you get more serious with your website, there may come a point where you’ll wish you started with your own hosted WordPress installation.

Therefore, for the majority of viewers who are unsure, we highly recommend starting with the solution that gives you much more freedom, far less hidden costs and you are in full control of your content. The clear winner is WordPress.org. Of course, besides your web hosting, you’ll still need a domain name from GoDaddy (that link offers you their best domain registration discount) to use with your WordPress website.

Ease of Use Factor: Whichever you choose is essentially the same as far as creating your content. Since WordPress.com uses the same software that you download from WordPress.org, you won’t have a different experience for the most part. The only difference, as we’ve discussed, is the fact that you’ll need to do additional research about which plugins and themes to use. Remember though, that research and testing is what makes WordPress.org magic because you are in full control.

Did we miss something that you love about WordPress.com or WordPress.org? Be sure to leave a comment below and let us know. Of course, please consider sharing this guide on social media (sharing options below), in email, or with a friend. We’d appreciate your support!

About Scott Buehler

Scott is the owner and founder of Top Five Advisor. He specializes in business to business products and services. He offers digital marketing services to any local business that wants to drive traffic and customers from the Internet including search, pay per click and social media marketing. This page is maintained by Scott Buehler.

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