When it comes to building a blog or a website one name usually always comes to mind, WordPress. It’s the household name that over 75 million websites (yes million!) are currently using as their CMS (Content Management System).
But what is the difference between WordPress.com vs WordPress.org? I know it looks weird having almost the same name for kinda the same thing when you first look at it.
However, even though their names are similar, that’s about as far as it goes. They are actually two completely different websites/organizations.
Before we get down into the details and looking at the key differences with each, here is the main difference between the two to get us started.
WordPress.com – The .com is for commercial. This is where your blog or website will be hosted. It is an “all in one” “one-stop-shop” to build your own website, and you can get started for absolutely nothing.
So on this platform, everything is looked after for you (including hosting and your domain name) but it does come with some limitations.
WordPress.org – The .org is for an organization. Also known as “the real WordPress”. This is all about the software or the CMS that you will use to change and format your WordPress blog however you like.
While the software itself is free, you will need to purchase a domain name and hosting from a third party to use it.
Now that you know the difference between them, let’s look further into what you actually get with each one so that you can make the best-informed decision for your blog.
If just want to start your blog the right way, then feel free to skip over this article and head on over to my ultimate guide here:
- How to start a blogging business (step by step)
Disclaimer: This article includes affiliate links that may provide a small commission to me at no cost to you (it will buy me a cup of coffee though 😉). However, these are the best tools to help you with building a blogging business. You can read more about my affiliate disclosure in my affiliate policy.
Here is what we’re going to cover in the WordPress.com vs WordPress.org battle:
1. The Cost Comparison
The first thing most people go to when researching for a new product or service online is how much it costs.
While it is possible to get your website up and running absolutely free, the reality is that you will have to spend some money to get something decent, especially if you want to actually make money from your blog or website.
Let’s look at the available plans:
|Plan||Cost (Billed Annually in USD)|
A couple of things to note here. First of all, yes the Free plan is in fact 100% free, however:
- Your website will include a subdomain. Meaning that it will look like this, yourdomain.wordpress.com. You won’t be able to have a straight website name. You’ll need a paid plan to get rid of it.
- Your website will have WordPress’ own ads all over your pages and include its own branding.
- You only get 3GB of disk space to build your website on.
- You can’t monetize your blog or website.
- You’re limited to the number of plugins and themes you can use.
- You’re at the mercy of WordPress.com. If they believe you violate any one of their terms and conditions they can delete your website instantly.
- No Google Analytics. You’re limited to their own analytic stats. Premium plan users and above can get access to Google Analytics. With plans starting from $8/month.
If you want to use your blog for any kind of business purpose then the minimum you would go for is the Business plan which is $300 per year! The free domain is valid for the first year as well so you’ll then need to go and buy it after that year.
We can do better than that!
So like I mentioned above, this is the actual CMS or software that gets “downloaded”. An easy way to get a hold of this piece of software and then make sure people actually get to see your website is to buy your own hosting and a domain name to go with it.
Here are the typical costs in setting up your own self-hosted website:
- Domain – From $8.88 per year (Start your domain search here with Namecheap)
- Hosting – From $47.40 per year* (My recommendation is Siteground at $83.88 per year)
- Security – From FREE to $250 per year (Namecheap will give you free WHOIS privacy with their domain name and most hosting providers will give you free SSL certificates)
*Bluehost offers the cheapest hosting at $3.95USD per month however that will need to be bought on a 3-year plan to get that pricing. The regular pricing is $5.95USD per month and also includes your domain name for that year too.
Conclusion: Which is cheaper?
Well seeing as you can get started today with literally zero money down WordPress.com is the cheapest.
However, if it’s the flexibility you’re after then comparing the WordPress.com Premium Plan ($96/year) compared to Bluehost’s 12month plan ($71.40/year) which includes the domain name and fully customizable WordPress CMS with free themes and plugins, you’re better off going with Bluehost.
Not bad that you can start an entire business for under $72 for an entire year!
2. Which is Easier to Use?
As a beginner, it can be overwhelming to use WordPress, but like with anything it will just take some familiarity and then you’ll be left wondering how you ever had a website without using WordPress.
This could not be any easier. To start straight away, click on start your website on the homepage and then input an email address, a username, and a password. Type in the domain name you wish to have, choose your plan, and finally select your theme. That’s it!
It only takes a few minutes to get set up and you’ve got a fully functioning website ready to start making content.
This one is not as straightforward. It will require a bit of research and decision-making on your part. The things you will require for the setup are:
- Domain name
Once you’ve got these sorted, it’s a matter of joining the two together. It’s still really easy to get it set up though.
Step 1. Once you’ve chosen your hosting of choice, go to their website and complete the form.
Step 2. At some point along the way, your new hosting company will ask you to install WordPress through a one-click installation.
If you’re using Siteground (my recommendation for hosting), then it really is as simple to install the software, similar to WordPress.com itself. Once you’re set up, Siteground will also keep your WordPress website up to date automatically.
Of course, not every host has the same installer. Some may prompt you to use a tool called Softaculous. While it looks ok, it’s actually a script installer and not quite as user-friendly as a one-click installer that you’d get from SiteGround or Bluehost.
Conclusion: Which is Easier?
Given that you don’t have to worry about a domain name or hosting WordPress.com is the clear winner here. Having said that, with the right hosting company, the one-click installer is still really simple to do and you still get complete control over your website.
This leads me to…
3. Who Actually Owns Your Website?
This is actually an important question to ask and not actually limited to WordPress.com and WordPress.org so it’s something you should look into if you’re considering a career online.
If you go with this option, technically WordPress.com owns your website. What this means, is that your website, content, and conduct must not violate their terms of service.
This gives them the power to remove your website in an instant if you’ve been found to breach simple rules.
Unfortunately, it’s not you who determines if you violate their terms or not (and there’s a lot of them!). While I’ve never heard of anyone actually having their website shut down overnight, it’s still important to know that this exists.
Because you actually own the domain name and the hosting itself, the great thing is that no one can actually take down your website but you!
Of course, if you perform any kind of illegal activity online then be prepared for the hosting company to remove your subscription.
Conclusion: Website Ownership
Seeing as you own the rights to your website, if you’re looking to have a website and make money from it, WordPress.org is far less risky.
While that’s not to say that WordPress.com is bad – far from it. What I’m saying here is that if you’re relying on an income, it would be a lot less stressful knowing someone can’t just turn off the power to your income stream.
4. Support/Help You Can Count On?
When building a brand new website, there will be plenty of questions that will come up. Like machines, technology also has its own issues.
So when you encounter them, how can you know you’re not going to be waiting a week for a reply, and also that the reps actually have some knowledge in fixing your problem.
This one is pretty simple. If you’re on the Free plan, then you’re out of luck already. WordPress.com doesn’t offer any support for you. If you’ve got plenty of time you can use their dedicated forum for answers.
But be prepared to go through a whole heap of different answers to try and find one that will actually fix your problem, if at all. There’s a lot of posts on there!
You’ll need to be on the Premium plan ($8/month) for just basic support which is only 5 days per week. If you want 24/7 live support, then you’ll have to stump up to the Business plan for $25/month.
Going directly with WordPress.org technically won’t offer you support either. However, if you’ve got your own hosting set up then most of them will provide 24/7 live chat support for their customers.
If you can, try and go with a web host that knows about WordPress to make sure that you achieve the support you need. This is one of the reasons I choose SiteGround for my web hosting.
Conclusion: Who Can Help Me the Best?
Because we’re only comparing WordPress.com vs. WordPress.org, this one needs to go to WordPress.com. The fact that there is absolutely nothing on WordPress.org except for third-party hosts meant that you are on your own to fix the problem yourself.
Of course, remembering that you need to be on a paid plan if you need more help outside of the community forums that WordPress.com offers for free.
Failing that, there’s a whole heap of information on the interwebs to help as well. You can also head over to the Facebook group and ask there.
There’s a whole community there built around people who live and breathe WordPress, there’s bound to be someone who can help you.
5. Which is Better for E-Commerce?
If you’ve got products to sell online, whether that’s digital or physical, just how easy is it to collect payments from customers and process orders? Let’s take a look.
If you’ve got an e-commerce store then the E-Commerce plan is just for you. You get all the marketing and monetization tools on this plan included.
Marketing tools such as subscriber-only content, paid newsletters, and advanced social media.
To help with the monetization side of things, you’ve got the ability to accept payment in over 60 different countries, the ability for customers to pay with PayPal, and integration for top shipping carriers.
So if you’ve got a physical product, you get live rates from carriers like UPS to choose from.
Doesn’t sound so bad right? Well if you’re just starting out then coughing up $45/month for it may seem a bit rich. Plus if it turns out you don’t like some of the tools provided to you it’ll cost you extra to install a different plugin.
Once again WordPress.org doesn’t come with any built-in features but here you can install plugins for free from WooCommerce, Ecwid, and WP eCommerce. As your business scales then so can your plan.
But when you’re just starting out the plans are either free or a minimal amount to get you going.
If however, e-commerce is all you’ll ever need then I would seriously consider an e-commerce purpose-built website. Shopify has everything you’ll ever need in an e-commerce store and you can do it much cheaper than $45/month.
The best part is, you can create any kind of store you like.
Of course, selling products isn’t the only way to make money from a blog. In my post here, I show you the different ways you can monetize your blog. All of which can be done from a WordPress.org website.
Conclusion: Which one for E-Commerce?
The winner from this round goes to WordPress.org. The amount of ways you can make money and for a lot less per month, along with the fact there are no restrictions, makes it the clear choice if you are in the e-Commerce space.
WordPress.com vs WordPress.org FAQs
Click on each of the questions to reveal the answer below.
So now that we’ve gone through a few of the main points, it still begs the question of which one do I go for?
When to Use WordPress.com
If you’re an absolute beginner and not sure which way to take your blogging career, then WordPress.com would be the way to go.
The Free version allows you to get your feet wet and have a play around with the interface and build yourself a website with no coding required and no money down.
It will also suit those who are a little less tech-savvy. The setup is almost instantaneous, and WordPress.com takes care of all the maintenance for you.
However, because of the limited features, it may be best to choose this one if your blog:
- Is a personal blog
- Just a hobby website
- A project that you have no intention of making money from it
When to Use WordPress.org
If you want complete control over how your website looks and performs then this is the platform for you. There’s no risk here of anyone deleting your website (unless the activity is illegal) without your knowledge.
I would look to using a hosting provider if you want your blog:
- To become a business
- To even be a side hustle for you
- To make money from it
- To be a professional site
- To be an e-Commerce website
Remember by choosing a domain name and host provider doesn’t have to be hard at all. The steps are all relatively straightforward.
It may seem like a daunting task at first but you’ll thank yourself later for it.
Even though you can get a lot of the features on a Business plan with WordPress.com ($300 a year), your money can actually go further on a WordPress.org website for around $47 per year for the cheapest hosting plan.
- Get started by choosing your domain name with NameCheap
- Install WordPress.org by signing up with SiteGround or Bluehost (domain name not required to be bought, as it is given for free as part of the plan)
Of course, if you still want a step-by-step tutorial of how to set up a WordPress.org website then head over to my ultimate guide on how to start a blogging business.
So how about you? Which platform have you chosen to go with? Let me know in the comments below.
It’s time to be the pilot of your life and not the passenger.
Chris Bournelis is a blogger and part-time web developer. He has been working in online business since 2015. Join him here at ChrisBournelis.com for the best SaaS reviews and tips to get the most out of your online business.