What is the difference between WordPress.com and WordPress.org?

Are you thinking of making a WordPress site?

Before you do it’s important to understand which platform: WordPress.com or WordPress.org?

They have their differences and make sure you know your needs, abilities and goals before diving in.

What is WordPress.com?

In simple terms, WordPress.com is a hosted platform where you can create and manage your site without having to buy web hosting or manage servers.

It’s user-friendly and designed for beginners and individuals who really don’t want to, or know how to manage a hosting server.

Key Features and Benefits

  1. Easy Use: You can have your site up and running in minutes.
  2. No Hosting Worries: WordPress.com maintains hosting and servers.
  3. Built-in Security: It offers this to protect your site from common threats.
  4. Free Plan: There’s this, so it’s accessible to those on a tight budget.

Downsides

  1. Limited Customisation: Restricted plugins and theme choices.
  2. Limited Monetisation: WordPress.com takes a percentage of earnings.
  3. Lack of Control: Less control over your site in comparison to self-hosting.
  4. No Custom Domain on Free: You’ll have a subdomain (yoursite.wordpress.com) on the free plan unless you upgrade.

What is WordPress.org?

Now, let’s look at the WordPress.org site, often referred to as self-hosted WordPress.

Unlike WordPress.com, this gives you access to the software to create your site, but you’re responsible for hosting it yourself.

Key Features and Benefits

  1. Ultimate Control: You can choose the host, and server configurations.
  2. Unlimited Customisation: Install any theme or plugin, and do anything you want.
  3. Monetisation Freedom: You keep 100% of your earnings.
  4. Full Ownership: You own the site and all its data.

Costs and Expenses

While WordPress.org offers greater freedom and flexibility, it comes with associated costs:

  1. Web Hosting: This cost can vary depending on the provider and plan.
  2. Domain Name: You’ll need to buy a domain name, price varies based on the domain registrar.
  3. Maintenance: You are responsible for maintenance; software updates, security and backups.

Hosting and Control

One of the most important distinctions between WordPress.com and WordPress.org is the hosting arrangement and the level of control over your site.

Hosting Arrangements

WordPress.com: Hosting for your site on their servers so you don’t need to worry about managing one.

WordPress.org: You need to find your own provider and manage your server, it’s greater control but requires more technical knowledge.

Levels of Control

WordPress.com: You only have access to a selection of pre-designed themes and limited plugins.

WordPress.org: You can upload any themes or plugins you want, and even edit the code.

Domain Names and Branding

WordPress.com: You get given a subdomain on the free plan, but you can purchase a custom one for a more professional look.

WordPress.org: Complete control, register a domain name that reflects your brand and business, enhancing your online identity.

Design and Customisation

These are essential aspects of creating a website that represents your brand or message effectively.

Themes and Templates

WordPress.com: Limited to the themes on the platform, customisation options are restricted in the free plan.

WordPress.org: Select from thousands of premium themes, added flexibility to find the perfect look for your site and extra customisation.

Importance of Coding Skills

WordPress.com: Not required, it’s designed to be user-friendly and accessible to those without technical expertise.

WordPress.org: Having some knowledge of HTML, CSS and PHP can give you an advantage if you want to make deep customisations.

Plugins and Functionality

Plugins are needed to extend how your WordPress site runs.

How Plugins Enhance Site Functionality

WordPress.com: They cater to common needs like social media integration and SEO.

WordPress.org: Unlimited possibilities, install e-commerce and membership plugins, SEO tools, and more.

Restrictions and Advantages Related to Plugin Use

WordPress.com: You can’t upload custom or third-party plugins, limiting your ability to add unique features

WordPress.org: Choose any you like, but make sure they are compatible with your WordPress version and maintain them.

Monetisation and Earning Potential

If you plan to make money off your site, knowing the differences between the two platforms is crucial.

Opportunities for Monetisation on WordPress.com

You can monetise your site through the WordAds program, which shows ads to your site visitors.

However, there are of course limits on the free plan, and WordPress.com takes a percentage of your earnings if you use their ads.

Advantages of Monetisation on Self-Hosted WordPress

On the .org version, there are more options.

You can display third-party ads, sell products, offer premium content and keep all your earnings.

This high level of flexibility makes it an attractive choice for entrepreneurs and bloggers looking for revenue streams.

Examples of Successful WordPress.org Sites

Many well-known sites and online businesses are powered by WordPress.

Examples include The New York Times, TechCrunch and the official website of Sweden.

SEO and Performance

Search engine optimisation is how you drive organic traffic to your site and make sure it performs well online.

Capabilities on WordPress.com

Basic SEO features; customisable permalinks, meta descriptions, and alt tags for images.

However, some advanced SEO plugins and settings aren’t available on the platform.

SEO Advantages on WordPress.org

You can have access to a wide range of SEO plugins and tools like Yoast SEO and All in One SEO Pack.

This allows for in-depth optimisation, XML sitemaps and other advanced techniques.

Website Performance

WordPress.com: No control over the server, so it may impact your site speed and overall SEO performance.

WordPress.org: You have the freedom to choose a hosting provider with optimised server settings for fast loading times and excellent SEO performance.

Security and Maintenance

Website security and maintenance keep your site safe and running smoothly, so don’t neglect it.

Security Measures:

WordPress.com:

Includes built-in security features like DDoS protection and firewall monitoring.

They take care of security updates, reducing the risk of security breaches.

WordPress.org:

As you’re responsible for everything, it includes regularly updating WordPress, themes and plugins.

You also need to stay on top of adding security measures like firewalls and security plugins.

Not the best option if you want a low-maintenance website.

Migration Between Platforms

This is for those site owners who are thinking about making a switch from WordPress.com to WordPress.org.

What to Think About:

Factors like data transfer, domain mapping and choosing a hosting provider should be pretty high on the priority list.

Challenges:

While the process might seem daunting, the benefits of gaining more control, customisation options and monetisation potential often outweigh any challenges you may face.

Takeaways

Ultimately, the choice between WordPress.com or WordPress.org depends on your specific needs, goals, and technical expertise.

Do you want a user-friendly, all-inclusive experience but with customisation limitations?

Or do you want complete control where it could get a little overwhelming?

And if you’re thinking about migrating your site, don’t worry, we can help with that.

Lilli Foreman

Lilli Foreman

Lilli works on copy, content, site build and layout at Toast. She helps clients with optimised blogs, on-page SEO and general site work.

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