WordPress.com vs. WordPress.org: Which One is the Better Option?

The confusion between WordPress.com versus WordPress.org continues to rage. This persistent confusion leads many people to choose the wrong blogging platform for their needs. 

Before we dig deeper, let’s answer a fundamental question: What is WordPress? 

WordPress is the simplest, most popular way to create your website or blog. WordPress powers over 40% of all the websites on the internet. 

However, WordPress.com and WordPress.org offer completely different platforms. This article outlines the main differences between WordPress.com vs. WordPress.org so you can choose the right blogging platform for your needs.

What is the Difference Between WordPress.com and WordPress.org? 

The main difference between WordPress.org and WordPress.com has to do with hosting

WordPress.com, a platform for building your website where you do not need to pay for external hosting, creates a WordPress.com website. You sign up for a free account and start building a professional-looking blog or website immediately.

WordPress.org is an open-source software that allows for complete customization and increased functionality. To get started, you need to buy a domain name and purchase web hosting from a different company. WordPress.org gives you full control of your website and makes sense for technically capable individuals or those who have access to development resources.  

WordPress Setup Process

The WordPress setup process doesn’t have to give you a headache and can be relatively easy if you know what to expect.

WordPress.com Setup 

The WordPress.com setup process goes like this: You complete a step-by-step setup process before your website is published online. 

Step 1: Choose your identity.

It’s important to choose a name for your blog. It tells visitors about your blog before they read a single post. You register your domain name, which is free for the 1st year.

Step 2: Write your first post.

You are now ready to start writing. The first post usually lets people know about your blog and invites them to follow along. 

Step 3: Display your posts.

Once you write your 1st post, you can decide how to display it on your website. WordPress.com allows you to choose whether you display your posts in a grid format or a carousel format. 

Step 4: Create a navigation menu.

A navigation menu includes the list of links at the top of a website that visitors use to move around your website. Standard navigation links include “Home,” “About” and “Contact Me.”

Step 5: Get your first followers.

WordPress.com lets you insert a follow widget or subscription form to get followers. You can also promote your new blog on your social media channels such as Facebook, Instagram or Twitter. 

WordPress.org Setup 

Setting up WordPress.org takes time, so learn the process so you can properly manage your website. The more time you take up front, the more time you will save in the long run:

Step 1: Find the hosting service that is best for your website. 

Before you can use WordPress.org, you need a hosting service. 

Step 2: Choose a domain name. 

You will need to register a domain name for a fee.

Step 3: Customize your site design.

You can use one of the many templates offered by WordPress.org or design your own to upload into WordPress.org.

Step 4: Add plugins for more features.

WordPress.org offers countless plugins through 3rd-party vendors that allow added functionality to your website. 

Step 5: Create key pages.

Create content for key pages within your website. This may include your home page, “About Us,” FAQs and more.

Step 6: Import and export content.

With the WordPress Import tool, you can import content into your site from another WordPress site or from another publishing system. When you get ready to export your site to a host, WordPress has a built-in export tool that lets you export your website. To use this, simply go to “Tools,” then “Export” in your admin panel.

Setup Process: Who Wins the Battle? 

WordPress.com wins the battle when it comes to setup. WordPress.com is designed for beginner bloggers, and the process is very intuitive. WordPress.org can end up more complicated but provides customization and functionality not available on WordPress.com. 

WordPress Themes

A WordPress theme is what controls the overall look and feel of your site. Themes define where menus and widgets appear on your website. Your site’s theme also incorporates color schemes, fonts and other design features.

WordPress.com Themes 

WordPress.com offers over 200 theme options, many of which you can get for free. You can make your blog your own without spending any money. WordPress.com offers numerous headers, colors, fonts, link colors, column layouts, sidebars and images to add to your blog.

WordPress.org Themes 

On WordPress.org, you can choose from over 10,000 themes and a filter can help you find the theme that meets your needs. You can search for free or paid themes based on specific features you want, like getting ready for e-commerce or allowing for a flexible header. 

Themes: Who Wins the Battle? 

WordPress.org wins the battle for having the most dynamic and unique themes. Countless features and plugins can improve the function of your website. If you want to write a simple travel blog, WordPress.com should have a theme that offers the style and functionality you need. 

WordPress Customization 

WordPress.com and WordPress.org both run on the same native WordPress software. The differences in customization lie in the interfaces, limitations and mechanisms on your WordPress dashboard.

WordPress.com Customization Options 

WordPress.com does allow for minor customization on many of its 200-plus free themes. These options can enable you to create fairly unique-looking sites by changing the colors, fonts, columns, headers and images displayed. WordPress.com does not allow you to upload custom themes. 

WordPress.org Customization Options

WordPress.org is highly customizable. You can choose from themes that allow for customization. Once you decide on a WordPress theme, go to “Appearance,” then click “Themes” on your admin panel. 

Customization: Who Wins the Battle? 

When we compare customization options for WordPress.com versus WordPress.org, WordPress.org wins. As far as themes go, it’s not even a close comparison. 

WordPress Available Plugins

A plugin is an installable software package that extends the functionality of your WordPress site.

WordPress.com Plugin Options 

WordPress.com includes the most popular plugin functionalities automatically. If you’re on the business or e-commerce plan, you will have access to thousands of plugins to customize and improve your website’s functionality.

WordPress.org Plugins Options

On WordPress.org, you can install as many plugins as you wish as long as they are compatible with your website. You will have access to over 50,000 plugins that you can install for free. You can find free and premium plugins all over the internet.

Plugins: Who Wins the Battle? 

WordPress.org is the clear winner because of its free access to thousands of useful plugins.

WordPress Monetization

If your website or blog aims to earn money, it’s important to consider which WordPress software has the best earning power.

WordPress.com Blog Monetization 

WordPress.com puts its ads directly on your website. You won’t be able to disable them and won’t get paid if visitors click on them. Or you’ll need to upgrade to a paid package.

WordPress.org Blog Monetization

WordPress.org allows you to monetize your website by buying ads that can be placed on your website. You can make money however you wish.

Blog Monetization: Who Wins the Battle? 

If the battle comes down to making money, WordPress.org wins the battle hands down.  WordPress.org allows you to monetize your site however you want, with no restrictions whatsoever.

WordPress Backup and Security

WordPress backup and security promises peace of mind and saves you if your site gets hacked or accidentally locks you out.

WordPress.com Customization Options 

WordPress.com provides basic security and backups when you launch your site.

Your site’s security depends on the internal security of WordPress.com and the security and backup mechanisms it uses for its service. 

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WordPress.org Customization Options

WordPress.org software adheres to all modern standards and security requirements. Cleanly installed WordPress offers security on its own. But if you genuinely value your site’s security, a WordPress security plugin will go a long way toward fully protecting your site.

You’ll also need to take care of backups on your own when using WordPress.org. To do this,  download and install one of the many WordPress backup plugins.

Backup and Security: Who Wins the Battle? 

The winner of the WordPress.com versus WordPress.org backup and security battle goes to WordPress.com for its low maintenance and low costs for basic website protection. 

WordPress.org gives you customizable maintenance options to further secure your site if that is a priority for you.

How Much Does WordPress Cost?

The cost of WordPress is often a leading decision-maker when it comes to building and hosting a website. Let’s walk through a simple comparison between WordPress.com and WordPress.org.

Cost of WordPress.com 

The cost of a WordPress.com website ranges from free to $45 per month. You pay for all plans annually upfront, so keep that in mind when making your decision. 

If you opt for the free plan, you will usually need to pay for an inexpensive domain name. You can purchase a domain name for about $10 to $15 per year. 

Cost of WordPress.org  

It’s free to download WordPress.org, but you’ll pay more to maintain the website. These costs include a hosting service, domain name, security, plugins and themes. It’s possible to build a WordPress.org website for as low as $55 per year, but it costs considerably more for a high-quality website. 

What Are the Benefits of WordPress?

WordPress has been around for many years and both platforms offer many benefits.

WordPress.com Benefits 

It’s free or inexpensive to build your blog on WordPress.com. You don’t need a lot of technical abilities to set up your site, as the website builder remains easy to use. You also don’t need to pay additional money for a hosting service.

WordPress.org Benefits 

The customizable WordPress.org offers many plugins to improve the functionality of your site. It offers scalable e-commerce options and powerful tools to organize your blog. 

What Are the Drawbacks of WordPress?

Of course, both WordPress.com and WordPress.org have some drawbacks to consider while making your decision. 

WordPress.com Drawbacks 

WordPress.com does not offer enough options to host a complicated blog or business. It offers very basic e-commerce capabilities and you won’t find a lot of ways to customize your website. 

WordPress.org Drawbacks 

WordPress.org costs more money as you have to pay for a hosting service and domain name. You’ll also pay additional costs as you customize your website. You also need to show how tech-savvy you are as you learn how to update and maintain your WordPress.org website. 

WordPress.com or WordPress.org: Which is Better?

This is a very tough question, as it depends on your needs and how you will be using the platform. 

With that said, WordPress.org offers the more powerful platform. You will have full ownership of your website and complete control over its content. If you are using WordPress for anything more than a hobby blog, you should consider WordPress.org.

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