The difference between wordpress.com and wordpress.org, or as I like to call it: The Great WordPress Debate.
Whenever someone asks me how I started my blog I always tell them my blog has been a process. I started it waaaay back in 2011, and had no clue what I was doing. Read my entire blogging story here! Sometimes people tell me they want to start a blog but they don’t know where to start. Today I want to talk about where you need to start: choosing between wordpress.com and wordpress.org. You might want to buckle up. This is a long post, but I want to be thorough. So let’s get down to it! Which one is better? Which one should you go with?
WordPress.com or WordPress.org
WordPress.com is a commercial site where you can build your own website completely for free. Essentially your site is a small part of wordpress’ much larger site. Because of this, wordpress takes care of all of the technical aspects of your site, including controlling spam, installing or updating new software, and backing your site up. WordPress.com is super simple and user friendly. You can literally have your site up and running in a matter of minutes.
A free wordpress.com site gives you your own subdomain. For example, when I started my site it was: http://carrielippert.wordpress.com. You can have a wordprss.com site with a custom domain, but it is an added fee. After about two years of blogging, I was ready for my own custom domain so I paid the extra cost (I can’t even remember how much it was). This took my site from http://carrielippert.wordpress.com to http://carrielippert.com. As you can see it is much more professional looking to not have the wordpress part in my URL. (If you’re new here, Lippert was my maiden name). Moving on…
A little while after this, I got an e-mail saying I was out of space on my free site. After you use 3GB of space, you’ll need to pay to get more. I made the choice to pay $19.95 per year for an extra 5GB of space on my site.
Some other things to know about WordPress.com:
WordPress is free to place ads on your site. This means they’re essentially making money off your site. They sell ad spaces and then put them anywhere they want on your site. You’re not entitled to any of this profit. If you’d like your site to be ad free it’ll cost you $29.99 per year.
You cannot sell your own ads on your site. Once you receive a certain amount of page views (last time I checked it was 25,000 per month), you can apply with wordpress.com to place ads on your site. BUT any revenue you make you have to split 50/50 with wordpress.com.
You’re limited to basic analytics. These are fine enough, but any kind of sponsored work or influencer networks will only accept analytics that have come from google analytics.
You are limited to using only their themes. This isn’t all bad. They have plenty of different styles to choose from, but your site is going to look like many other sites out in internet land.
Customization is minimal. Basically non-exsistient. Those wonderful things called plug-ins aren’t available while hosted on wordpress.com. Major sad face, because I love those little guys.
Your site isn’t 100% yours. Technically wordpress.com can delete your site at any time if they decide you have violated any of their Terms of Service, or for basically any other random reason. I’m not saying wordpress.com is a bunch of playground bullies looking to shut down people’s sites, but they do have a certain amount of control and sway over your site.
The Bottom Line on WordPress.com
I am truly glad I started on wordpress.com. It was super easy to get started and literally took me (someone who is not computer savvy at all) a few minutes to set up my site. In the long run, there are some major drawbacks. It offers very limited customization, and your site is not technically completely yours. That being said, wordpress.com is perfect for someone who is unsure about blogging and just wants to test the waters before making a big commitment.
With WordPress.org YOU host your own site. Instead of piggybacking on to wordpress’ large website, you pay to have your own space in the big vast space that is the world wide web.
A lot of people think you pay for wordpress.org. That’s not true. Wordpress.org is a free software that you install and download on to your own server. What you pay for is a hosting provider. My hosting provider is Bluehost. That means I pay Bluehost a monthly fee ($3.95 per month) to have my own spot on in the internet world.
Other things to know about WordPress.org
Super easy to use. Once you have it set up, it is literally the exact same dashboard as wordpress.com so there is no learning curve to conquer.
The wonderful world of Plugins. That’s right, these guys will change your life. You can do so many awesome things with plug-ins. I wrote an entire post about them right here!
Custom, Custom, Custom. Theme, style, colors, layout, anything, and everything can be custom fit to whatever you’d like. You can even make adjustments to your CSS and HTML.
You can make some moo-la & it’s completely yours. Whether it be from influencer networks, advertisements, or selling products, you are able to make money from your site and it is all yours. No splitting profits with wordpress or your hosting provider.
Custom analytics and tracking. Google analytics is the holy grail of site tracking and analytics. It’s super easy to install and it gives you seriously in-depth insight into your blog stats.
You can pick your own hosting based on your individual needs. One of the most important aspect of any site is having reliable hosting. Different sites need different things. When you make the decision to be self-hosted you can go out and find the best hosting provider for you.
Migration is easy….maybe…kind of..?? Ok ya’ll, what’s the deal with the question mark. Let me tell you. I did so much research before I migrated my site. Everything I read said it was soooooo easy. Well honestly, migration was not easy for me. I spent a solid 3 days doing nothing but staring at my site, crying, or talking with Bluehost’s customer service (which was great, by the way). I could have paid Bluehost $99 to migrate my site for me, but I was being cheap and convinced myself I could do it. In the end, I got it all figured out and I lost nothing and everything is good, BUT honestly, if I could go back I would save myself the tears and just pay to $100 to have it all done for me.
You are in charge of all site updates and backups. they’re usually 1-click updates so it’s completely manageable and not scary at all. There is also some great plug-ins available to help with site backups.
It’s your job to prevent spam. This was a big shock to me when I first switched over. I was getting upwards of 100 spam comments on my blog per day! Spam is one of the things wordpress.com took care of for me, but switching to wordpress.org means it’s all on you for handling your site’s spam. After a brief freak out, I did some research and found out all I had to do was activate my Askimet plug-in and all my spam problems were good as gone.
Your site is completely 100% yours! The best part of wordpress.org: your site, your content, everything is completely yours and completely owned and controlled by you! YAY! WOO HOO! YIPPEE!!
The Bottom Line on WordPress.org
I am truly glad I migrated from wordpress.com to wordpress.org. At the end of the day, I outgrew the basic options of wordpress.com and I was ready for the change. I decided I was going to stick with blogging for the long haul so I was ready to make an investment into my site. If you are just starting out and have no knowledge of any of the technical aspects of running a website then it might be a lot to learn all at once.
With WordPress.org you can create a completely customized, money making website. There is not a single part of your site you cannot change. It is 100% yours, and while that means there are a few more maintenance things you will need to handle, it – hands down – gives you the most options for your site.
WordPress.org is free, but you’ll pay a monthly fee to your hosting provider, and you’ll pay for a theme for your site. Don’t be intimidated by this! From time to time, I see articles saying switching to wordpress.org means having to make at least a $1,000 investment into your site right off the bat. False False. FALSE! This is hogwash. I pay $3.95 per month for hosting and I paid a one time fee of $50 for my own custom theme (I talk about my theme HERE!)
Which One is For You?
It comes down to what you want and need. If you are a hobby blogger and have no intention of making money from your site, OR if you are brand new to blogging and don’t know if it’s for you, then wordpress.com is your best bet. You’ll be able get your feet wet with blogging without making any kind of financial commitment, and you can slowly learn the ropes of the wordpress platform without overwhelming yourself with hugely technical aspects of blogging.
If you are sure that blogging is for you, and you want to make it part of your career, do sponsored posts, or sell products then you need to be self hosted with wordpress.org. Making the investment in hosting and a theme is a small price to pay if you’re in it for the long haul.