A very common mistake a lot of WordPress ‘newbies’ make is that they sign up for WordPress.com OR WordPress.org without knowing exactly what these services are or how they differ. It is easy to confuse the two because of their similar name—a co-creator of WordPress.org went on to create WordPress.com.
This page will discuss the benefits and drawbacks of each and help you decide which platform offers better features you may need.
In addition to ease of use, some other factors to consider include:
- Customization options
- Search engine optimization (SEO)
- Hosting capabilities
- Customer support
I have also looked for answers to frequently asked questions regarding available plugins, maintenance, and content ownership. Read on for help to decide whether WordPress.org or WordPress.com is the better option for your personal or company blog.
WordPress.org Pros and Cons
- Basic services are free to use
- Users own their own content
- Users can generate revenue by selling ad space
- You can set up an online marketplace using a third party to sell digital or physical merchandise
- Supports many useful plugins and apps
- Compatible with data software such as Google Analytics
- Allows users to set up membership sites to build a community and offer exclusive, premium content
- Users must pay hosting fees, which increase as your website grows
- You must back up your own content
- Users are responsible for updating their own sites
- Some premium features, like additional templates, cost extra money
WordPress.com Pros and Cons
- The platform handles updates and backups for you
- Limited service is free
- The platform places its own ads on free sites and collects the revenue
- Users may not sell their own ad space on less-expensive plans and must share ad revenue with the platform for ads on sites under the more expensive plans
- Personal users are not able to set up a retail marketplace or membership websites; only business accounts (which are more expensive) have access to these options
- Most features require users to purchase a plan ranging from $48 to $5,000 per year
- Most plans do not allow users to use third-party plugins
- The platform can remove sites that are not in compliance with the company’s terms of service
- Your site will indicate it is “powered by WordPress.com” unless you purchase a high-end plan
WordPress org vs WordPress com: Price
It is free to launch a WordPress.org blog, but users are responsible for hosting fees, which can cost as little as $3 per month. Costs increase as your blog adds content, attracts more visitors, and becomes more complex. You should expect to spend somewhere between $48 and $120 per year, depending on how much web traffic you draw.
WordPress.com offers a free version, but it provides very few features and only permits 3 GB of storage. Paid accounts start at $48 per year. WordPress.com also offers business plans for $300, $540, and $5,000 per year, with more features and storage available at each level.
Another consideration is revenue opportunities. WordPress.org allows users to sell their own ads and establish an eCommerce page to accept credit card payments and handle shipping, which lets users bring money in. Users can choose a service like WooCommerce to set up a digital marketplace and manage membership programs.
High-traffic free WordPress.com sites may apply to sell ads but must divide the revenue with the platform. Users who pay a minimum of $96 per year may also set up this service, known as WordAds. WordPress.com does not support eCommerce sites unless you switch to a more expensive plan costing $540 or $5,000 per year.
WordPress org vs WordPress com: Domain and Hosting
With WordPress.org, users are in charge of hosting their own websites, meaning blog owners are in charge of paying hosting fees, backing up data, and installing updates. This can sound intimidating to people who are not technologically-inclined, but these tasks are not difficult to learn. This format provides a greater level of freedom, monetization, and customization.
WordPress.com hosts content for you like other website builders such as Wix and Squarespace. The platform handles maintenance such as updates and content backup. The trade-off is that WordPress.com owns your site and can limit your control or even delete it if the platform believes you have violated your terms of service.
WordPress org vs WordPress com: Search Indexing and SEO
Both platforms rank well in search engine results, and each relies on third-party plugins to manage search engine optimization (SEO) tools.
The two services are tied on this point. With WordPress.org, users can pay for more advanced SEO plugins like Rank Math. On WordPress.com, the platform opens additional features as users purchase more expensive plans. So WordPress.org provides the ability to fine-tune your SEO if you are willing to put in the effort, while WordPress.com has SEO features built in but offers less customization.
WordPress.org vs WordPress.com: Customization
WordPress.org is an open-source platform, so your customization options are limited only by your imagination and technical know-how. Alternatively, you can hire a third-party to help design a personalized website if you are uncomfortable coding on your own. If you want to save time and money, the platform also provides some base website templates you may use.
WordPress.com’s low-level plans provide templates to build out your site, so the work is easy, but your webpages will not be unique. Free users can choose between 91 templates or “themes.” Purchasing a higher-tier plan, such as the Business or eCommerce plans, opens up access to 200 additional premium themes and permits custom themes.
WordPress.org vs WordPress.com: Customer Support
Because users own their sites through WordPress.org, the platform does not provide customer support. If you have a problem, you must fix it yourself or hire a web developer, which can be expensive.
WordPress.com provides email support starting on the $48-per-year plans. If you upgrade to plans of $60 per year or more, you will have access to live chat support 24 hours per day, five days per week.
Frequently Asked Questions
Which platform is better for eCommerce?
Most users will find that it is easier to set up an online store through WordPress.org. While the platform does not provide any of its own eCommerce tools, users may contract with third-party plugins like WP eCommerce and Ecwid. Keep in mind that some of their features and services may cost money that will increase your web budget.
WordPress.com offers eCommerce tools with plans starting at $540 per year. Users may hire a third-party to handle their online sales, but they must still pay the platform fee, even if they do not use WordPress.com’s tools. The platform is handy for people who want to pursue affiliate marketing and paid partnerships. Those tools unlock at the Premium Plan level, which costs $96 per month.
How can I track my website performance?
The best way to understand your website data is to use Google Analytics. This plugin can tell you how much traffic your website attracts, when people visit, how long they stay, and what they do while you have their attention. It allows you to learn additional details about the visitors to your site and gives valuable insights to help you create a better business strategy. WordPress.org users can install Google Analytics, but WordPress.com users have to upgrade to the $300-per-year Business Plan.
Who owns my website?
Users own their WordPress.org sites, but WordPress.com owns the sites constructed on its platform.
You can keep a WordPress.org site up as long as you pay the hosting bills and are not doing anything illegal. Users are free to add any compatible third-party plugins and apps and may customize their sites to suit their tastes.
Because WordPress.com technically owns its users’ sites, they can shut down sites they believe have violated the WordPress.com terms of service. WordPress.com also puts its brand on sites hosted under less-expensive plans and takes a cut of advertising revenue.
Which platform is easier to maintain?
Think of your website like a car. With WordPress.org, you are in charge of your own site. You find a service to host it and perform your own maintenance. When something breaks, you have to fix it yourself or hire someone to do it for you, just like a car owner who does his own engine work or hires a mechanic.
If the owner is skilled or hires a good mechanic, he can customize his vehicle to get the performance he wants: WordPress.org also offers this level of personalization and control.
WordPress.com is like buying a car with a service guarantee. You can take your vehicle to the dealership to change the fluids and rotate the tires, just as WordPress.com will back up your data and stay on top of updates.
If something breaks, you have a manual or, in blogging terms, a bit of technical support. You cannot make too many alterations or you will break your car’s warranty or your blog’s terms of service.
The Bottom Line
In most cases, WordPress.org, sometimes known as “the real WordPress,” is a better option than WordPress.com.
WordPress.org allows users to create unique websites that they own outright. Users can leverage a wide variety of third-party apps to exercise greater control over their sites and focus their attention on the most critical aspects. WordPress.org business users can easily set up an eCommerce site, manage membership pages, and retain all the revenue from selling ad space. All the while, they can use helpful analytics tools to keep tabs on visitors’ behavior and make necessary changes.
WordPress.com may be more appropriate for personal blogs or small companies without coding experience or the budget to hire a web developer. The platform performs minor maintenance, even on free plans, and users do not have to worry about setting up hosting or handling security.
WordPress.com often attracts users with its free plan. If you have already created a site using this service and want access to more features and third-party apps and plugins, you can move your existing content to WordPress.org relatively easily.
There are other website builders on the market, some of which cater to niche audiences. For example, if you are primarily focused on building an eCommerce store, you could consider a specialty company like Shopify to help you create a website.
WordPress.org remains the top option for the widest variety of users. One of its websites can be personalized to provide an online home for different types of businesses or organizations. Costs will increase as you invest in additional plugins and technical help, and hosting prices will scale as your traffic increases, but WordPress.org offers many attractive features at a highly competitive price.