Website/Blog Tips

WordPress.com vs. WordPress.org: Which One is Right For You?

January 19, 2012
WordPress.com vs WordPress.org

When I first started blogging, I read several articles about the differences between WordPress.com and WordPress.org, but eventually decided to host my blog using WordPress.com.

My easy-to-use WordPress.com site has served me well over the past year or so, but when I decided to combine my blog and website, it was time to move to WordPress.org. I’ve spent the past few weeks searching out a new theme, finding a good web host, and learning a little bit of coding to get my new WordPress.org site up and running.

Here are a few things I learned about the difference between WordPress.org and WordPress.com, in case there are others out there who are wondering which option is right for them.

What’s the Difference Between WordPress.org and WordPress.com?

WordPress.org:

WordPress.org is open source blogging software that you can download, upload to a 3rd party server, and create a blog or website with. When you use WordPress.org you have the ability to make your blog or website look however you’d like it to, and the option to install lots of ‘plugins’ that super-smart people create and add to the WordPress.org plugin library. Plugins range from social sharing widgets to contact forms to spam blockers and much more.

To use WordPress.org on your own you’ll need to know (or be willing to learn) a little bit about servers (web hosts) and ftp sites and possibly some CSS coding. Don’t let this scare you though! I knew very little about any of these things a few weeks ago when I decided to make the move – you can learn as you go.

A Few Benefits of WordPress.org:

  • You have more control over the way your site looks.
  • You can sell ads for your website and keep 100% of the profit (I’m not interested in doing this, but I know many bloggers are).
  • You can add lots of fun plugins.
  • You can make use of just about any custom theme you’d like.

A Few Cons of WordPress.org:

  • This might sound like a minor quibble, but it’s driving me batty: as far as I can ascertain, there is no ‘Like this post’ button for WordPress.org. I’m hoping that someone will create a plugin for one soon. [Update: they did eventually add this to Jetpack!]
  • You’ll likely need to pay a monthly fee to a hosting company. I’m using Laughing Squid, which has been wonderful and very helpful thus far! The monthly fee is modest, but it’s something I didn’t have to worry about with WordPress.com. [Update: I eventually moved to Site5, which I’ve been very happy with for many years.]
  • If you’re not technically savvy to the ways of self-hosted blogs (I wasn’t), it might take you some time to get a WordPress.org site up and running. You can pay someone to help you do this if it’s not something you want to bother with. WordPress offers this service, as does wpbeginner, to name two options.

WordPress.com:

When you use WordPress.com, you set up a site and WordPress.com takes care of the rest (back-ups, upgrades, spam, etc.). You don’t have to worry about adding plugins or messing with coding or paying a monthly fee for a server host. But, you also don’t have as much freedom when it comes to making your site look and act the way you would like it to.

A Few Benefits of Using WordPress.com:

  • It’s easy to set up.
  • You can get traffic from WordPress’s Freshly Pressed [now called Editor’s picks] and post tags.
  • You don’t have to worry about your site crashing if you get a monstrous amount of traffic.
  • There’s a like button for every post (I love that button!).

A Few Cons of Using WordPress.com:

  • WordPress can show ads on your blog to users who aren’t logged in if you don’t pay the yearly fee of ~$30 to have the ads removed.
  • You can’t modify your theme very much (although you can a little bit with the CSS upgrade [$30/year]).
  • You can’t use plugins.

Here’s an official explanation from WordPress along with a full list of the pros and cons of each platform: WordPress Com vs. Org.

And here is an easy-to-read infographic that shows the differences between the two options from the wpbeginner site.

Which WordPress site is Right for You?

To decide which WordPress platform is right for you, you’ll need to consider your plans for your blog or website.

  • Do you want to blog just as a hobby? WordPress.com is probably right for you.
  • Do you want to blog to earn money? You’ll likely need to move to WordPress.org.
  • Do you want something that’s easy to set up and takes very little work to maintain? WordPress.com is probably a good option for you.
  • Do you want something that gives you total control over the way your site looks, and any profits you might make from your site? WordPress.org is for you.

In a nutshell:

WordPress.com: Easy to set up, not as much design flexibility, you won’t get 100% of your profits should you choose to monetize.

WordPress.org: You need some technical know-how to set it up, but you get full design control and do with it as you please.

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  • Gabriel Santos January 19, 2012 at 12:52 pm

    Hey Carrie! how is it going?

    Well, I bet it’s going great! you always surprise us!

    I loved the new website, very professional.

    Great to see how much you’ve grown since “Occupation: Writer”.

    Congratulations ;)

    • carrie m January 19, 2012 at 4:43 pm

      Aww thanks for remembering Occupation: Writer. It’s amazing how much can change in just one year. Thanks for being a loyal reader!

  • 3by3 writing method January 19, 2012 at 1:00 pm

    i am not happy with my hosting company my WordPress loads slowly or fails, however, I am working on several projects, including the 3 by 3 writing method for print, my novel, and my day job. I would suggest sticking with the free WordPress until your traffic is high and/or you have something to sell because trying to be a webdesigner is a lot different than a blogger on WordPress

    • carrie m January 19, 2012 at 4:45 pm

      Hello! Thanks so much for your advice! I’ve already made the move to .org, and despite some seriously frustrating moments where my knowledge of coding failed me, I’ve managed to muddle through. As a long term solution, WordPress,org is a better choice for me. I hope things improve with your hosting company!

  • rutheh January 19, 2012 at 8:03 pm

    Lots of good information for the uninformed-ME. Thanks for taking time to spell it all out about the differences. It is something I never really considered or gave much thought to.

    • carrie m January 19, 2012 at 8:43 pm

      It’s been in the back of my head for awhile now, but it took me a long time to make the decision to move. WordPress.com is just wonderful in so many ways too!

  • jelillie January 20, 2012 at 9:52 am

    Carrie your blog gives me such great information and I have made some great connections through it! Thanks! I have nominated you for the 7×7 link award for your blogging. Hope you will accept!

    • carrie m January 21, 2012 at 8:59 am

      Thanks so much for the nomination! I’m truly flattered!

  • Blog Treasures 1-21 | Gene Lempp's Blog January 21, 2012 at 6:51 am

    […] Carrie Mumford takes a look at WordPress.com vs. WordPress.org. Which is Right for You? […]

  • Ben January 22, 2012 at 1:08 pm

    I just wanted to let you know that I nominated you for the Versatile Blogger Award! Congratulations! You can find the rules and details here (http://storymultiverse.wordpress.com/2012/01/22/versatility-linkativity-insightitude/).

  • Sonia G Medeiros January 23, 2012 at 12:34 pm

    Fantastic information! At the moment, I’m still content to stay with WordPress.com. It’s great to have clear info on the differences though.

  • Pardon the Construction | Lisa Rivero March 25, 2012 at 8:34 am

    […] make the switch from WordPress.com to a self-hosted WordPress.org blog (read Carrie Mumford’s excellent explanation of the differences). If all goes well, the new layout and host should be up and running by the end of the week. I […]

  • Lisa March 25, 2012 at 8:39 am

    Carrie, thanks for taking the time to provide such excellent and detailed information and guidance. I’m making the switch this coming week!

    • Carrie M March 25, 2012 at 9:33 am

      My pleasure! It can take some time to get set-up, but I’m glad I made the move. Here’s another blog I recently found that is super helpful: tentblogger.com. There’s a full ‘How to set-up WordPress” series with a ton of great tips. You can find the posts here: http://tentblogger.com/launch-wordpress-blog/. I look forward to reading your new blog!