If you’re ready to start a new website, you’ll need to choose which software to build it on. WordPress is a safe bet, but between WordPress.com vs WordPress.org, which is the better option for you? You may be unsure how these two choices compare.
Fortunately, it’s relatively easy to distinguish between WordPress.com vs WordPress.org. By evaluating factors such as potential monetization, customization options, and price, you can decide which platform is better suited for your website.
This article will explain the critical differences between WordPress.com and WordPress.org. Then we’ll evaluate each CMS based on nine crucial criteria to help you decide if it fits your website’s needs.
Let’s get started!
What Is WordPress.com?
WordPress.com is a managed hosting platform that operates on top of the software from WordPress.org.
It is owned by Automattic, the powerhouse behind other well-known platforms such as WooCommerce and the Jetpack plugin. Additionally, it operates as a for-profit business that can host and manage various aspects of your website.
With a WordPress.com account, you’ll get access to a website builder, hosting account, and domain name all in one. You’ll manage everything from the software’s dashboard, and (depending on what plan you purchase) you can extend your site using a variety of themes and plugins.
- Is user-friendly and has an easier learning curve
- Includes automatic site maintenance
- Comes with built-in hosting
- Has limited monetization options
- Offers fewer options for customization and scalability
- Has limited Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and analytics tools, particularly on the free plan
This is a brief overview of the advantages and disadvantages of WordPress.com. However, we’re going to dive deep into the pros and cons of its different features later in this article.
What Is WordPress.org?
This free open source platform enables you to use, change, and contribute to the core software. Its dashboard has a similar appearance to WordPress.com, and you’ll get access to a wealth of plugins and themes for customizing your site’s look and functionality.
Although WordPress.org is free to use, you’ll need to pay for hosting and a domain name to make your website live. You’ll also have greater control over your site, with the option to change every single aspect if you like.
- Offers multiple monetization opportunities
- Is flexible and has many customization options
- Enables you to create membership and ecommerce stores
- Has a steeper learning curve
- Needs more manual maintenance in most cases
- Doesn’t include a domain name or hosting
We’ll take a deeper look at the features, pros, and cons of WordPress.org vs WordPress.com in the next section.
WordPress.com vs WordPress.org: Which Is Better for Your Site?
Now that we’ve presented a general overview of each platform, let’s dig deeper into WordPress.com vs WordPress.org. There are several vital considerations when choosing one of these platforms for your new site.
1. Ease of Use
If you’re building a new website, user-friendliness is likely one of your highest priorities. If you’re looking for the simplest possible platform, you might prefer WordPress.com.
When creating a WordPress.com site, you need to sign up for an account and walk through several steps. You’ll then have to choose your website’s type, pick a theme, and customize a few other details during the process.
If you use WordPress.org, you’ll need to purchase hosting and a domain name and then install the WordPress software on your hosting provider’s dashboard. Some hosts may take care of the installation process for you. Still, WordPress.org has a steeper learning curve.
The two platforms have very similar-looking dashboards once you start working with them. However, there are fewer features on offer with WordPress.com, so you’re less likely to feel overwhelmed. At the same time, it’s worth noting that WordPres.org is still built with usability in mind and is reasonably beginner-friendly.
2. Ecommerce Sites
If you want to create an online store with WordPress.com, you’ll need to purchase a dedicated ecommerce package. This pricing plan enables you to accept international payments, connect with shipping companies, and customize the design elements of your online shop.
None of these features are available with the cheaper WordPress.com packages. As such, you’ll need to make a larger monetary investment to get your store off the ground. However, you’ll still have access to free ecommerce plugins such as WooCommerce.
Since you don’t need to pay for a WordPress.org account, it can be a more affordable option for running an ecommerce store. The CMS includes access to multiple ecommerce plugins, both paid and free. Additionally, you can integrate third-party payment providers such as PayPal or the Stripe platform.
3. Monetization Opportunities
If you want to make money from your website, WordPress.org is likely the better option. You won’t have any restrictions on the monetization strategies you can use, such as adding affiliate links to your content or creating a membership website.
In contrast, WordPress.com makes it more challenging to monetize your site. For starters, you’ll need to have the Business plan or higher to access features such as ecommerce capabilities and Google Adsense.
Moreover, WordPress.com puts some restrictions on affiliate marketing. The user guidelines stipulate that you cannot use the platform primarily for promoting affiliate products. Although the policy’s wording is ambiguous, WordPress.com also states that any rules are subject to its interpretation.
Finally, WordPress.com does not allow websites with a “vast majority” of sponsored content. Again, these guidelines are subject to interpretation, so you’ll need to be careful when monetizing your site.
4. Technical Support
Even if you’re a WordPress expert, you’ll likely run into technical issues from time to time. As such, helpful and available technical support is essential to running your website.
With WordPress.com, you can access varied levels of technical support depending on your plan. All packages come with email assistance, but you’ll need a Premium plan or higher for live chat help. Business and ecommerce accounts also come with priority chat access.
If you have a free WordPress.com account, you have limited access to technical support. However, there is a knowledge hub with helpful articles.
WordPress.org doesn’t include dedicated technical support. Instead, you can read through the provided documentation or head to the support forums. These discussions are run by volunteers and can be sources of helpful information.
If you’re looking for more personalized assistance, you’ll need to use a third-party company for premium help. If you’re a Kinsta customer, keep in mind that you can access 24/7 support for any problems or questions!
5. Learning Web Development
Furthermore, WordPress.org has various resources to help new and experienced developers alike. For example, you can read the coding standards, access code references, and learn to run commands from detailed documentation.
In contrast, WordPress.com provides limited opportunities for developers. It has a REST API, developer console, and some resources for development. However, when compared to WordPress.org, there are few resources available. Additionally, some features (such as design resources) are still in the works.
6. Customization Possibilities
Additionally, you can directly edit your WordPress.org site’s HTML or add CSS classes to adjust its appearance and functionality further. As such, you can easily tweak small details and make your website fit your needs.
In contrast, you cannot use plugins with WordPress.com unless you have a Business plan or higher. You cannot use advanced design customization features without a Premium package or higher. Therefore, cheaper sites are very limited in their customization and scalability potential.
Choosing between WordPress.com vs WordPress.org is crucial if cost is a significant factor.
WordPress.com has multiple pricing options. Although we don’t recommend this for business sites as it adds WordPress branding, you can start with a completely free plan.
Alternatively, you can choose from one of the paid plans:
- Personal: This plan is designed for hobby websites and includes hosting, email support, and the option to take payments.
- Premium: This builds upon the Personal plan by offering live chat support, video capabilities, the ability to use ads, and integration with Google Analytics.
- Business: This package includes the full library of plugins, SEO tools, automatic site backups, and Secure File Transfer Protocol (SFTP).
- Ecommerce: This plan is geared toward online stores and includes international payment gateways, shop design features, and shipping integrations.
In contrast, WordPress.org is free to use. However, you’ll need to pay independently for hosting and your domain name. Therefore, your ongoing costs can vary dramatically, depending on your chosen provider.
Both WordPress.com and WordPress.org can be vulnerable to security threats. From 2018 to 2019, the number of cyberattacks increased by 11 percent. Evidence also suggests that this statistic continues to rise.
Furthermore, the culprit is usually outdated WordPress software. Roughly 40 percent of hacks happen to websites that are not using the latest software version. Third-party plugins and themes can also leave your site vulnerable to attacks.
If you use WordPress.com, your site will automatically update themes and plugins. Furthermore, the core software updates will also happen behind the scenes.
However, WordPress.org does not automatically update its software. You’ll need to enable these upgrades and keep an eye out for any changes. As such, WordPress.org might not be the best option if you don’t want to monitor your site constantly.
SEO is one area where choosing between WordPress.com vs WordPress.org can make a huge difference. After all, using an effective SEO strategy is crucial to make your site more visible in search engine results. Without decent SEO rankings, you might struggle to attract new readers and grow your website.
Additionally, you can use Google Analytics to view various data about your website, such as traffic sources, conversions, and your best-performing content. Then you can use that information to adjust your strategies and attract more readers.
In contrast, WordPress.com has limited SEO options. You’ll need at least a Premium plan for Google Analytics integration. Moreover, advanced SEO tools aren’t available unless you have a Business plan or higher. As such, you won’t optimize websites with cheaper packages.
Before you begin building a new site and creating its content, you’ll need to choose the platform you’ll use. WordPress.com and WordPress.org are two of the most popular options, but they’re suited to different kinds of websites.
To recap, here’s when you might want to use WordPress.com vs WordPress.org:
- WordPress.com: This managed hosting platform and website builder offers a user-friendly design, automatic backups, and technical support. However, you’ll need to pay for a premium package to access customizable features such as plugins.
- WordPress.org: This popular and free CMS can be more challenging to learn and requires more ongoing maintenance. However, it offers uncapped monetization possibilities, endless customization options, and lots of resources for developers.
Do you have any questions about using WordPress.com vs WordPress.org? Let us know in the comments section below!
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