This past decade has seen many business owners establish an online presence because of the rapidly growing number of internet users. There is a very good chance you have heard of WordPress (WP) – a popular content management platform (CMS). But did you know that there are two different platforms with the same name but different domains?
To be completely honest, back when I started with WordPress a few years ago I had no idea that there were two versions. Not only did I not know that there were two versions of WordPress, but I had no idea what the difference was!
Some people acknowledge the existence of these two WordPress platforms, but they usually can’t tell the difference. It’s important to understand how they differ from each other in order to be able to use that info to your advantage when you want to start a website for your own business.
A W3Techs survey reveals that 38.5% of all websites on the World Wide Web are powered by WordPress. This is a great option for small business owners because of its wide variety of themes, plugins, SEO capabilities, and customization. If you are not a techie, plugins can help you to accomplish almost any task.
Without further ado, let’s take a look at the differences between WordPress.com and WordPress.org. I hope this will make things a little more clear for when you start your WP journey.
WordPress.com provides a fully hosted platform with a free domain name. The domain name is usually in this order: your name/name of your business.wordpress.com. For instance, plumbinginkamloops.wordpress.com.
When joining WordPress.com you get a site or blog with basic functionality. Even a beginner can set up a free WordPress.com blog within a few minutes and easily operate it. The problem with the free version is that it lacks some important features like plugins, premium themes, and SEO tools.
Here are the paid plans (with premium features):
- Personal (ideal for personal use) – $5.00 per month, billed yearly.
- Premium (good for freelancers) – $10.00 monthly, billed yearly.
- Business (great for small businesses) – $33.00 per month, billed yearly.
- e commerce (for businesses with online stores) – $59.00 per month, billed yearly.
- There is also a VIP (Enterprise) WordPress plan with cloud hosting, and according to Pagely.com the price range per month is $5,000 to $25,000 with a minimum $5,000 set up fee per site.
Advantages of using WordPress.com
If you’re looking to create a simple personal/hobby blog, then the free WordPress.com version will serve you well. The fact that the blog is hosted for you means that you won’t have to make any updates or backups.
What’s more, you are provided with 3GB of space; and in order to get more space, you can subscribe to the paid plans. The further you move up on the paid plans ladder, the more space you will receive.
Disadvantages of WordPress.com
WordPress.com doesn’t come without its downsides. Let’s dive in:
- There are no powerful analytics tools. You have to rely on the statistics provided by WP for your blog. It’s only with the paid business plan that you can access Google analytics.
- You cannot add or install plugins on the free, personal, or premium versions. Plugins only become available at the business level.
- It does not provide a custom domain name. You only get that once you upgrade to a paid plan.
- Free WordPress.com users can access a limited number of themes. Full customization is not possible. To upload custom themes and design your site to your liking, you need to subscribe to the premium and business plan.
- WordPress places advertisements on your blog/website. Your visitors see those ads and unfortunately, you don’t make a dime off of them. You can remove these ads by using a paid plan.
- No e-commerce platform (online store). You can only access e-commerce features by opting for the eCommerce option.
- A ‘powered by WordPress’ link will show on your site. Using the paid business plan enables you to remove this link, making your site look more professional.
- Placing your own ads on your blog is prohibited. This is a limitation if you’re thinking about monetizing your site. If, let’s say, you attract thousands of visitors per month you can apply for the WordAds program, which is an affiliate program where you share earnings with WordPress.com. People who are on the premium or business plan can use WordAds without having to apply.
From the information provided above, you can see that WordPress.com has more limitations than advantages and even the paid plans have their limitations. To unlock all of the more powerful features, you will need an e commerce account or enterprise (VIP) account and that can get quite expensive.
Unlike WordPress.com, WordPress.org is self-hosted. This means you have the ability to buy a domain name and web hosting and download the WordPress Software. WordPress.org is a little more advanced than WordPress.com, but there are plenty of fantastic tutorial videos on YouTube that can help you. Some of my favourite web designers can be found in an article I wrote on LinkedIn.
Bluehost (shared hosting) – comes with a free domain for the first year and a free SSL certificate. WordPress can easily installed and has 24/7 customer support. They offer Basic, Plus, and Choice Plus packages and you get a free trail of Microsoft 365 with Plus and Choice. The price ranges from $7.99 to $15.99 per month.
Siteground (shared hosting) – comes with a free domain, SSL certificate, email account, website migrations, and a CDN. They have 3 hosting plans StartUp, GrowBig, and GoGeek with prices ranging from $6.99 to $14.99 per month.
Cloudways (cloud hosting) – is a little different than the other two hosting providers above as WordPress websites are hosted on the cloud. You must first get server space through Digital Ocean, AWS, or Google Cloud ( this is a little more technical but the performance is definitely better). Cloudways comes with many of the features as above + more, and pricing ranges from $10.00 to $80.00 per month.
Before we jump to the advantages of WordPress.org , I just want to explain what those random letters above mean ( SSL & CDN).
Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) – This is what keeps your information secure and encrypted when you are searching the web. To know if your website has a SSL certificate or the online store you are about to make a purchase from has one, all you have to do is look in the search bar of your browser. If the website you are visiting starts with https:// and has a padlock to the left you know the website is safe and secure. The “s” in https stands for secure.
So getting a free SSL certificate with your hosting is a great thing. It will keep you and your guests safe, it helps with SEO, and you get to save a few bucks.
Content Delivery Network (CDN) – In brief, a CDN helps visitors from all different locations access the content on your website at the same speed. This works by having your website stored on multiple servers in different geographical locations.
Advantages of Using WordPress.org
- The ability to upload numerous WP plugins to your site (free, paid or custom made).
- For analytics, you have access to great tools such as Google Analytics – giving you the much-needed insights on the performance of your content and customer behaviour.
- You can create membership sites. If you have premium courses or content on your site, you can sell memberships and grow your business.
- You can easily set up an online store to sell physical and/or digital products and integrate various payment gateways.
- Allows you full ownership or control of your website. It’s not like WordPress.com where the management can decide to close your site because of the violation of some of their rules. With WordPress.org, you are good as long as you aren’t breaking any laws.
- You have all the free and premium WordPress themes at your disposal. In addition to that, you have the power to create custom designs.
- You can place ads on your website and get all the money yourself. You don’t have to share revenue as is the case with WordAds.
As mentioned earlier, you need to buy a domain name (around $10.00 to $20.00 per year) and web hosting ($7.00 to $80.00 per month). Think of a web host as helping you rent your own space on the internet.
With a free WordPress.com, there are no such costs. The good thing with WordPress.org is the fact that you can increase your website traffic, monetize the site, and bring in adequate cash. You won’t have to worry about the ‘small expenses’.
WordPress.org requires you to make updates on your own. It may seem like a difficult task but it’s not. All you need to do is to click ‘update’ and the update(s) will be made immediately. Moreover, you are in charge of backups. Fortunately, there are a couple of WordPress plugins that will help you make backups (automatically) regularly.
Having looked at the main features of the two content management systems, let’s now focus on other aspects.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
Search Engine Optimization is the process of optimizing parts of the website on the front end and back end in order to rank higher on major search engines such as Google. For WordPress.com, you are in a community of like-minded bloggers and collaborating with other site owners as well as having great content can help you in the search engine rankings.
The only downside is that you’ll be unable to make enough optimizations to give your competitors a run for their money. This is possible when using WordPress.org as you have access to awesome SEO plugins such as Yoast, Rank Math, All in One SEO and more.
Customer support is one of the things you ought to consider before purchasing any product or service. WordPress.com, does not have customer support so you’ll have to depend on forums when you have issues. That being said, the paid plans provide 24-hour live chat support.
On the other hand, WordPress.org doesn’t offer any support due to the fact that you own the site yourself. But even if you do come across some problems there are tons of forums and video resources. If you want some extra help with your WordPress site, you can contact your hosting company and they typically provide 24/7 support. The hosting companies will either explain how to fix the issue by walking you through it, give you extra information, or they will sometimes fix the problem for you.
Which Platform is Best For E Commerce?
As a business, you’ll probably need to see goods and services on your site. This is only possible with an online store. With WordPress.com you don’t get an online store unless you are subscribed to the e-commerce plan which starts at $59.00 / month (unfavourable if you’re on a budget). Still, this plan doesn’t offer full ecommerce features and you will be limited by WordPress.com’s rules and regulations. For e-commerce, you are better off going with WordPress.org. You can effortlessly install tools like WP eCommerce, WooCommerce, and Easy Digital Downloads to create your online store. Note that these plugins come with extra features to help you make the best version for your e commerce store.
Which is The Best For branding?
Branding means advertising your company in a way that makes it stand out from amongst the tens, or even hundreds of your competitors. You wouldn’t want your website looking like any other site out there.
With WordPress.com, you will have a “Powered by WordPress” link displayed in the footer. As if that’s not enough, the platform places ads on your site (your readers will see them) which you don’t even earn from. Remember ads can be quite annoying. WordPress.org allows you to remove the “powered by” links and replace it with something like “Copyright MC Web Studio 2020”. Also, no ads are placed without your consent. You can place some and make money from them.
I’m on WordPress.com. How Do I Migrate to WordPress.org?
Let’s say that you started with WordPress.com and have realized its limitations. You can easily migrate to WordPress.org. In fact, most web hosts will agree to help you move from WordPress.com to WordPress.org for free. So, there is no excuse for not switching.
My Final Conclusion: Which is Better: WordPress.com or WordPress.org?
Up to this point, you have some knowledge of the two content management systems. Which one would you choose? If you’re looking for a simple site with the basics that you can use for a school project or share thoughts with family and friends I’d suggest the free version of WordPress.com
If you want something more advanced and with more capabilities to help your business grow, go with WordPress.org. Unlike WordPress.com, it’s not limited. It comes with various features such as e commerce plugins and themes that you can use to create a look that fits your brand. Aside from that, it allows you to have full ownership of the website and it can be more easily monetizable.
Today a website is a major part of any business, it can be seen by millions of people and you can sell products or services worldwide. Choosing the right CMS will give your business a better chance at success, so this is why I recommend WordPress.org.