Is WordPress.Com or WordPress.Org better for business? Which CMS platform will help you to blog like a pro?
WordPress is huge. About 39% of the web is powered by WordPress. From bloggers to small businesses to Fortune 500 companies, WordPress is arguably the most preferred CMS.
Did you realize that WordPress.com and WordPress.org are two different platforms for starting your blog and website?
The truth is that many people who are new to blogging using WordPress don’t even know the difference. Often, they end up choosing the wrong platform that will help them actualize their blogging goals.
To help you master smart decisions when choosing to build a blog for your business, I wrote this in-depth guide to shed more light on the free WordPress.com vs WordPress.org (self-hosted version).
WordPress.com vs WordPress.org – The Core Difference
This is where we dive into the nitty-gritty of the two platforms, to help you understand the main differences between them.
WordPress.com is a popular all-in-one website builder and web hosting solution for individuals and small businesses.
You don’t need to sign up with Bluehost or Hostgator before you can build a site/blog on WordPress.com; get started right away.
Here are the 5 distinct plans you can upgrade to when using WordPress.com:
If you need to build a personal blog to test out the waters, then choosing WordPress.com might just be the perfect decision. It doesn’t require a self-hosted server to work. Freelancers who are just getting started can use it to showcase their portfolio. It’s quite similar to a website builder like Wix or Shopify for example.
The downside is the limitation. You have less freedom — which is obvious for any business where you’re not hosting your site at a third-party hosting server.
Now let’s talk about WordPress.org. Why do bloggers prefer this platform over WordPress.com? Let’s find out.
WordPress.org is a Content Management System (CMS) designed as an open-source platform for creating websites, blogs and even eCommerce sites and B2B portals.
What’s open-source software?
The open-source platform gives users the rights to study, change, and distribute the software, at no extra cost, for any purpose.
So, is WordPress.org free?
Yes, it is!
WordPress.org is recommended for individuals and businesses that want to create and launch their websites/blogs. An example of a popular news site built with WordPress.org is TechCrunch.
Pro tip: Find out which websites are built with WordPress using IsitWP.com
You simply pay for a domain name and web hosting package. That’s all, your site will be up and running in no time.
Unlike WordPress.com where you don’t have to worry about web hosting, you’ll need a third-party hosting solution for your site built on the self-hosted WordPress.org.
Your self-hosted WordPress blog puts you ahead of your competition, it gives you an edge over other bloggers who are still messing around with outdated tools and features inside WordPress.com.
Having established the primary difference between WordPress.com and WordPress.org, let’s see the pros and cons.
WordPress.com vs WordPress.org – Pros and Cons
It makes sense to consider the pros and cons of each platform. This would further guide you when making decisions for your blog.
If you’re looking to start a blog as a hobby or personal diary where you document your journey, WordPress.com can be a great option.
Take a look at the pros of WordPress.com:
1). Free Plan
If you’re on a tight budget but you want to start a website/blog, you can take advantage of the free plan that WordPress.com offers.
This free plan could act as an inspiration to start your site without spending any money at all.
2). WordPress.com is Low-Maintenance and Easy Setup
Anyone can easily set up a site on WordPress.com. With a little digging around on YouTube, even complete beginners to WordPress can sign up for an account, choose their preferred site name, add a URL, and start creating posts.
When you’re blogging on WordPress.com, backups and updates are handled automatically.
What about the negative aspects of using WordPress.com? At the surface, it seems like a great idea to get started for free, however, there are some limitations you should be aware of.
Let’s highlight these cons:
1). You Can’t Use A Custom Domain Name
Serious businesses have a business name. The majority of them are duly registered. Hence, it’s important to use such a custom name as the domain name for the site.
Unfortunately, when you create a blog on WordPress.com, you’re bound to use a subdomain that looks somewhat unprofessional like www.wordpress.com/thisblog.
A custom domain name is always better. For example, a custom domain name is www.forbes.com, www.disney.com, and so on.
As you can see, custom domain names are meaningful, easy to remember, short, and fun. It’s a lot easier to build a successful business with a custom domain name.
If that’s the case, then WordPress.com will not be helpful. Since you can’t use a custom domain name, why waste time and resources creating a site that will leave on a weird or borrowed URL.
2). You Can’t Install WordPress Plugins
The WordPress CMS is amazing. It allows you to install useful plugins that will power your website. If you’re looking to make your blog powerful, you need to install some of the cool plugins out there. Sadly, when you create a site on WordPress.com (free plan), you’re not allowed to install plugins.
There’s no setting or feature that will allow you ‘attempt’ to install plugins.
The only way to install and use WordPress plugins is to upgrade your account. Also, you can’t install or use third-party scripts like Google Analytics on your free WordPress.com site.
3. You Can’t Customize Your Site So Much
The keyword is being able to take control of your website and customize it as you want. With your site built on the free WordPress.com plan, you’re only allowed to use a few WordPress themes.
With thousands of professional and mobile responsive WordPress themes to choose from, unfortunately, you can’t do that.
4). You Can’t Make Money With Your Blog
It’s true that a lot of people started blogging to share what they know and are passionate about. It wasn’t for the money. They were passionate about creating an online learning platform for people.
But as the years went by, they discovered that blogs can generate income. If they used the WordPress.com free plan to create their website, then they can’t sign up with affiliate programs and promote their products or place ads on the site.
For example, if you’re an eCommerce store like one of my favorite brands Zoma, it’ll be difficult to write about these products when you’re using the free WordPress.com plan. If you ever get ads on your free WordPress.com blog, those ads are served by WordPress.com. You can’t control which ads are shown (I have seen intrusive and annoying ads on such blogs).
It’s difficult to make money from all of your marketing efforts. Will you let that happen to you?
5). You’re Not in Charge
The downsides to choosing a free WordPress.com plan far outweigh the benefits.
The same thing can be said of your social media page and accounts, you don’t own Instagram.
Maybe you’ve mastered the best time to post and engage your audience, regardless, Instagram still makes the rules.
Even though you can easily upgrade a free WordPress.com plan to a paid plan to access some of the features you’re missing, the experience and freedom aren’t there. Worse, it’s quite expensive.
If you’re interested in building a successful business and you want to generate organic visibility, get leads, and drive sales through blogging, you should use WordPress.org instead.
It’ll give you all of the enormous features you want, without having to spend a ton of money.
Here are some of the advantages of building your site on the WordPress.org CMS.
1). It’s 100% Free and Easy to Use
I use the WordPress.org CMS to build my blogs. It’s open-source software for everyone — regardless of their blogging experience.
Yes, you will have to pay for a domain name and web hosting, which can be free or cost $3.99 (at Bluehost) for both hosting and free domain name. Although you’re required to pay yearly to enjoy this cheapest deal.
As you can see, this is relatively cheaper than most paid WordPress.com plans.
Another excitement about WordPress.org is that it’s easy to use. You’ll find a ton of tutorial videos, blog posts, presentations, and webinars online that will proffer solutions to your WordPress.org questions.
2). Customize Everything
When you create a new blog on the WordPress.org platform, there’s so much room for customization. You can customize everything — from the WordPress theme to the plugins, and even use custom CSS and codes to improve your site’s design and functionality.
WordPress plugins can handle both the major and minor customization you will ever need on your site. For example, designing your homepage to look professional is key.
While designing the Infinite Recovery website, the drug rehab center used a page builder WordPress plugin to customize the homepage, here’s how it looks:
There are currently 65,000+ plugins (free and paid) that you can install on your blog to add a layer of functionality — without writing codes.
Plugins will enhance the feel of your WordPress.org blog and make it more powerful.
Self Hosted WordPress
Self-hosted WordPress.org blogs are best suited for businesses, personal, events and even eCommerce stores as well as online arbitrage sites.
You’re in control of your blog, the content, plugins, and everything on your site.There are no restrictions. You have a chance to build, scale, and establish a profitable blog. Create engaging blogs to build an audience that will listen, believe, and trust you. That’s how HubSpot, Marketo, and Moz grew their business.
Regardless of your industry, WordPress.org will work for you: For example, fitness coaches use self-hosted WordPress to create stunning websites to promote their meal plans.
Musicians leverage the immense customization power to promote their new album and stay relevant in their music genre. The list of what you can do with WordPress.org is endless.
The content you write can be tailored to a smaller group of your audience, for example, Close.com published a post on predictive dialing, as a way to create awareness and answer questions.
When it comes to the Terms of Service, it’s not your concern because you don’t need to abide by it. As long as you’re not doing any illegal work on your blog, it can’t be deleted or suspended.
With a self-hosted WordPress blog, you’re the Boss. You make the rules, no other company can drive you crazy.
Make Money From Your Blog
It’s easy to monetize a WordPress.org blog. Advertising networks such as Google AdSense, Mediavine, and AdThrive can place display adverts on your blog once you reach their traffic requirements.
This can generate monthly income at no extra cost to you.
Affiliate marketing is also huge with bloggers. Writing sponsored posts, collaborating with eCommerce brands, and selling leads, are some of the proven ways to make money from your blog.
You can also create informational products such as eBooks, books, online courses, audiobooks, and software products. You get to keep all of your earnings 100%.
What Type of Website Do You Want To Create?
WordPress.org is truly amazing. You’re not limited on the types of websites you can create. Even if you don’t want your site to look like a blog, you can simply use a corporate WordPress theme to give it that professional look.If you want to create an eCommerce site, it’s also easy. Use the WooCommerce WordPress plugin to turn your blog into an eCommerce store. GILI Sports, for example, is an eCommerce paddleboard store built on WordPress.org.
If a membership site is what you care about, you can easily create one using self-hosted WordPress.org CMS.
You can charge a monthly subscription to customers and students. This is a proven way to earn recurring revenue from your blogging adventure.
What are the downsides to using WordPress.org?
1). You Need a Small Upfront Investment
A self-hosted WordPress.org website requires a hosting service. You might get started for free, but buying a hosting package is important. There’s a ton of cheap WordPress hosting solutions to pick from. Bluehost and Siteground are two of my favorite hosting services. They’re quite good.
2). Regular Site Maintenance
If your site was built on WordPress.com, the company handles the maintenance. But it’s not so with a self-hosted WordPress blog.
You have to check for updates and security threats. You have to do daily WordPress backups of your files and database.
Interestingly, many popular web hosting services will back up your site automatically, Hostinger, for example.
It’s quite easy to do, but you must be well aware of what your responsibilities are when you’re using the WordPress.org CMS.
Updating your plugins requires a few clicks on the “update” button. Or you can set it up to upgrade and update automatically.
WordPress.com vs WordPress.org — Which Should You Use for Business?
Overall, WordPress.com is best suited for people who want to start a blog and share their stories, experiences, and adventures. It’s also ideal for students.
If you’re not interested in customizing your blog, publishing regularly, building a community of avid readers, and making money from your blog, then the limited free plan is fine. However, if you prefer to start a blog business, research keywords, and create content that will drive traffic from organic search — so that you can generate leads, and grow your revenue, you should choose WordPress.org.
Burkhard Berger is the founder of awesomex™. You can follow him on his journey from 0 to 100,000 monthly visitors on www.awesomex.com. His articles include some of the best growth hacking strategies and digital scaling tactics that he has learned from his own successes and failures.