If you’re looking into starting a blog or a website, I’m sure WordPress has come up in your research. But do you understand what WordPress is?
And are you aware of the differences between the two WordPress versions – WordPress.com versus WordPress.org? It can be confusing, so I’m going to break them down for you.
I’m also going to tell you about my personal experiences with both WordPress.com and WordPress.org (along with why I recommend going with the .org version).
What is WordPress?
First of all, let me explain what WordPress itself actually is. WordPress is a Content Management System (CMS), which is a platform for creating blogs and websites.
It’s a free, open-source software for people to build websites and publish content, such as blog posts.
In case you’re wondering what open source software is, it’s public software that people are allowed to share, change, and make their own.
WordPress.org says it best in their Mission: “WordPress is software designed for everyone, emphasizing accessibility, performance, security, and ease of use.”
WordPress is the most popular CMS used for any kind of site. Users range from simple blogs to full-blown large scale business websites. According to WordPress.org’s About page, “It is also the platform of choice for over 34% of all sites across the web.”
So if you’re planning on starting your own blog or website, you’ll definitely want to consider using WordPress. But you’ll need to decide if you’re going to use WordPress.com or WordPress.org. What’s the difference you ask? First I’ll explain each version.
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What is WordPress.com?
WordPress.com is free to use, but you can also upgrade your account with premium paid plans. For the purposes of this description, I’m going to refer to the free version, since it’s the most well-known.
WordPress.com uses the WordPress software and includes web hosting at no extra charge. “What’s web hosting?” you ask. It’s basically where your website lives and where all the files are stored. So with WordPress.com, your website is hosted and stored with WordPress.com.
Your content is not owned by you though, it’s owned by WordPress.com. See WordPress.com’s Terms of Service for more details on this.
As for designing your site, WordPress uses themes, which are basically templates. WordPress.com has a limited amount of themes you can use. Limited themes mean limited design options and site customization.
Another customization tool with WordPress is plugins. Plugins are used to expand the functionality and customization of your WordPress site. There is no plugin capability with WordPress.com’s free plan though. This is another reason why site customization with WordPress.com is so limited.
You also can’t monetize your site with the free version of WordPress.com. This means you won’t be able to make money from ads, affiliate marketing, or e-commerce with your WordPress.com site. WordPress.com will place ads on your website, but you won’t earn money from them.
And since there’s no e-commerce capability with the free WordPress.com, you won’t be able to accept online payments. So you won’t be able to sell products or services with your free WordPress.com site.
For these reasons, WordPress.com is best for people who are blogging as a hobby and don’t have the goal of creating an income-producing blog.
What is WordPress.org?
With WordPress.org, you can use the WordPress software but it has to be self-hosted. “Self-hosted” means you have to host it yourself by paying for your own web hosting with a hosting provider.
By paying for a web hosting provider to host your site and house all your website files, you own your content. It also provides scalability to grow with your business. Because as your page views increase, you’ll want your website to be able to handle the load.
The WordPress software has to be installed, but many web hosting providers make it easy. For example, SiteGround offers automated WordPress installation. Using WordPress.org can be more complicated, but it also gives you a lot more options.
With access to countless themes and plugins, WordPress.org users can create a fully customized blog. You also have the ability to use coding for further customization. But you don’t have to know coding to use WordPress.org. You can get by with little to no coding just using themes and plugins.
In addition to more customization options with WordPress.org, you also have the ability to earn money from your blog. You can do this by monetizing your blog with ads and affiliate marketing.
You can also sell products or services by accepting online payments with WordPress.org’s e-commerce capability. For example, with the WooCommerce plugin. This all makes WordPress.org the best choice for people who are blogging as a business.
The differences between WordPress.com versus WordPress.org
Both WordPress versions are free to an extent. But what it really comes down to is the hosting and customization. There’s also the freedom, flexibility, and control you have with your website. WordPress.com includes hosting whereas WordPress.org must be self-hosted.
Paying to host your own site using WordPress.org will give you many more options for your blog, such as design, monetization, and scalability. This is because WordPress.org gives you access to more themes, plus plugins and e-commerce capability.
The free version of WordPress.com is very limiting. You can’t monetize your blog or website with WordPress.com’s free plan. So if you want to make money, you’re going to have to spend money to make money.
There are paid plans with WordPress.com that offer more options for customization and monetization. But it’s probably cheaper to just pay for your own hosting and using WordPress.org.
Rather than pay for an upgraded plan with WordPress.com, you’re better off paying to self-host your website using WordPress.org. Let me tell you why based on my experiences with both.
You may also like: How to Easily Start a Self-Hosted WordPress Blog in 5 Steps
My experience with WordPress.com
When I first started blogging back in 2014, I used WordPress.com. At the time, my blog was mainly just for documenting my year-long cross-country RV road trip.
Rather than considering it a business, I looked at it as an online scrapbook of my travels. Plus, I had quit my job and wasn’t going to have any income while I was full-time RVing. So the idea of paying for hosting (or any services for that matter) didn’t seem like an option.
Self-hosting my blog also seemed overwhelming at the time. I didn’t know the first thing about it and assumed it was only for professional web developers with expert coding skills. The free version of WordPress.com did the trick for my needs early on. It was easy to set up, and my blog was live in no time.
I had my blog with WordPress.com for years, and it was fine. It served a purpose, but it was extremely basic and seemed outdated. Okay… If I’m being honest, it looked completely amateur. It wasn’t something I was proud of or wanted to promote. I knew it could be better.
You may also like: How to Convert Your WordPress.com Site to a Self-Hosted WordPress.org Site
My experience with WordPress.org
Fast-forward to 2019 when I decided that I wanted to completely revamp my blog and finally start monetizing it. I realized that it was time to convert my WordPress.com blog to a self-hosted WordPress.org site. Luckily, it wasn’t as complicated as I had feared.
After A LOT of research on different hosting providers, I ended up going with SiteGround. My decision was based on their documented uptime, site load time, customer service, and affordability. They’re also officially recommended by WordPress.org, which is kind of a big deal!
I also had to transfer my domain name, which I had originally purchased through WordPress.com. It seemed easy at the time to just have everything together. But I recommend keeping your domain name separate from your hosting (whether that’s with WordPress.com or a different hosting provider).
It may seem easier to keep your domain name and hosting together. But keeping them separate will make things easier down the road if you ever want to change hosting providers or convert your WordPress.com site to a self-hosted WordPress.org site. That way you won’t have to go through the hassle of moving your domain name too.
I decided to transfer my domain name to Namecheap based on their affordability and the fact that they include domain privacy protection for FREE! Other domain registrars charge extra for that service. So I love that it’s included with Namecheap!
Next, I knew I’d need to choose a Theme for my website design. I’ve used drag-and-drop website builders before and like being able to customize and design my website myself. But… I’m not a web developer, and my coding skills are very basic.
Luckily I came across the Divi Theme which includes a page builder as well as a super handy theme builder! I love how I can customize my site with little to no coding needed. It’s exactly what I was looking for! Plus, their customer service has been incredibly helpful.
>>> Get 10% OFF the Divi Theme here! <<<
Honestly, I’m wondering why I didn’t self-host my site with WordPress.org sooner (like, from the start). But better late than never, right? Plus, technology has come a long way since I first started this blog way back in 2014.
I’m so glad I finally took the leap and moved my site from WordPress.com to WordPress.org. And SiteGround actually helped me with that (thank goodness)!
I love how I’ve been able to customize my website and truly make it my own. And I’m looking forward to having all my hard work pay off… literally!
So which WordPress should you use?
If you want to blog for fun as a hobby, WordPress.com will do the trick. Or if you just want a simple solution to get your blog or website off the ground and running ASAP, WordPress.com is fine.
But if you want more tools, flexibility, and customization options, a self-hosted WordPress.org site is the best option. And if you want to make money and treat your blog as an actual business, going the self-hosted WordPress.org route is a must!
I know what you’re thinking… “What about coding?” If you’re intimidated by the idea of having to know coding to have your own self-hosted WordPress.org website, don’t be!
You can get by without having to know any coding or using very little simple coding. One of the many things I like about using the Divi Theme is that it makes it easy to add code where/when needed.
If you just want to start with a simple, free option though, WordPress.com can be a good jump-off point. And keep in mind that you can always convert your WordPress.com website to a self-hosted WordPress.org version later. SiteGround even offers a free professional website transfer service!
You may also like: 10 Free Essential Plugins to Use for Your WordPress Blog
Why I recommend WordPress.org over WordPress.com
WordPress.org is the way to go if you want to be a legit blogger. By investing money into your blog, you’ll treat it like a business rather than a hobby. You’ll give yourself more options and set yourself up for success.
If you have a few bucks, you’re better off going the self-hosted route from the start. SiteGround makes it affordable starting at just $6.99/month. That’s not much more than WordPress.com’s paid plans starting at $4/month and will give you way more options.
In fact, if you want to monetize your site, the cheapest option to do that with WordPress.com is the Premium plan at $8/month. And if you want to be able to use any available theme or plugin with WordPress.com, you’d have to upgrade to the Business Plan at $25/month.
Those options don’t even include e-commerce though. If you want an e-commerce site to sell things online, you would need WordPress.com’s E-Commerce plan for $45/month. Yikes! That’s really starting to add up!
Why choose one of WordPress.com’s paid plans when you can host your own website with SiteGround and have all those options available starting at just $6.99/month?! That’s less than $84 for your first year’s worth of hosting!
It’s worth it to invest the minimal cost upfront to have full control over your blog/website. Plus, paying a small amount upfront is worth it to avoid the hassle of having to move your site later when you’re ready to take it to the next level.
To sum it up, pay a little money and go with a self-hosted WordPress.org site if you can. You’ll be happy you did. And if by some chance you don’t feel it’s worth it, just don’t renew your hosting plan.
Also, most hosting companies like SiteGround offer a 30-day money-back guarantee. So you can at least give the self-hosted thing a try!
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