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WordPress.org vs WordPress.com: A Detailed Comparison

Alekh Verma | February 7, 2023
Wordpress.com vs wordpress.org

There has been a common misunderstanding around WordPress.com and WordPress.org almost since the day WordPress launched. What distinguishes them from one another, then?

WordPress.com is a fantastic hosting solution for beginning bloggers and those who are willing to give up control in exchange for simplicity when building their websites. On the other hand, WordPress.org lets you host your website and offers a variety of appealing features and customization possibilities. It is perfect for companies and bloggers who want a little more control and aren't scared to work on the functionality and appearance of their websites in secret.

In this article, we’re hoping to clear all your misconceptions and doubts about this subject. Our goal is to provide you with all the relevant information which would help you to make an informed decision.

What is WordPress.org?

The free, open-source WordPress software can be downloaded from WordPress.org. Anyone can download and install the WordPress software on their web hosting by visiting WordPress.org. The software is completely yours to use in any way you choose, so you can alter it as much as you like. WordPress.org is also sometimes referred to as self-hosted WordPress because you must install the WordPress.org software on your website hosting to utilize it.

Once more, when individuals use the term "WordPress," they typically mean WordPress.org and not WordPress.com. You may utilize all of the WordPress content management system's (CMS) functionality with WordPress.org. One of the tens of thousands of WordPress themes and plugins is available for installation:

  • Think of themes as the "clothes" that your website wears because they determine how it looks.
  • Plugins are what give your site new functionality. With plugins, you can pretty much add any feature you can think of to your website. Want to create your website using a visual, drag-and-drop website builder? Start developing immediately after installing the Elementor plugin.

Additionally, you get total access to the source code of your entire website. This might not sound all that interesting to a novice right now. But when your site expands, it becomes increasingly crucial because it means you can always make changes to better suit your needs (or at least hire a developer to do that for you). Finally, since you have a choice in hosting, you can choose a cheap web host to reduce your expenses.

Advantages of WordPress.org

The biggest benefit of adopting self-hosted WordPress is that you can access all of its flexibility and have total control over your website:

  • You can put in your plugins and themes.
  • You can choose any web host, making it possible to start with extremely affordable hosting.
  • There are no arbitrary restrictions on what you may do; you can alter practically anything on your website.
  • You can create any kind of content you want (as long as you abide by the laws of your nation, of course).

Disadvantages of WordPress.org

  • To host your WordPress.org website, you must select a hosting company. There are good and terrible providers in every industry. Fortunately, several trustworthy and proven hosting companies can serve practically any user.
  • org gives users a lot of flexibility, but that freedom also comes with responsibility. You are in charge of keeping up your website (unless you pay for a premium managed WordPress host). You'll need to upgrade WordPress, back up your data, and other things.
  • You are also in charge of keeping your website secure (unless you pay for a premium-managed WordPress host). You should utilize security plugins and adhere to recommended practices for security.

Your self-hosted WordPress site only requires a small amount of additional effort from your end, you do not necessarily need to be a developer to keep it secure.

WordPress.org Cost

A self-hosted WordPress site can only be run at two fixed costs:

  • When you're just getting started, paying less than $5 per month for web hosting works.
  • Domain names typically cost $10 a year; however, some web servers will give you one for free.

All, this indicates that the annual base cost of a self-hosted WordPress site is about $70. However, this excludes any premium themes or plugins you might want to use, and as your site expands, you might need more expensive hosting.

You can host several WordPress sites with the majority of web hosting. In other words, if you want to construct numerous sites, the "per site" fees will decrease.

What is WordPress.com?

WordPress.com is a for-profit business that provides users with a less complicated software installation process. WordPress.com assumes this duty on its own – for a fee, just like a decent hosting company that charges extra for maintenance and security services. Owning it is the firm Automattic, which was established by the co-creator of the open-source WordPress software (hence the similar names).

Consider WordPress.com as a particular use of the free and open-source WordPress platform. WordPress.org software is used by all WordPress.com sites, however not all WordPress.org sites are also on WordPress.com (in fact, most WordPress.org sites are self-hosted).

It's really easy because all you have to do is sign up for a WordPress.com account and get started, rather than having to install the WordPress software on your web hosting. However, to attain that simplicity, you must give up some of the freedom that comes with using self-hosted WordPress. For instance, according to your plan, you might not be able to add your own WordPress plugins and themes, and your website might display advertisements from WordPress.com.

WordPress.com Business Plan vs. Free/Cheap Plans

The distinction between WordPress.com and WordPress.org used to be quite obvious. WordPress.org was the de facto alternative for anyone who wanted the full flexibility of WordPress because it was the only option if you wanted to use your own themes and plugins.

When WordPress.com revised its Business and eCommerce plans in 2017 to enable customers to install their own themes and plugins, that distinction became far less obvious.

Currently, the self-hosted WordPress and the free WordPress.com plan are kind of sandwiched together by the WordPress.com Business plan. The Business plan allows you a lot more flexibility than the free WordPress.com plans, but it still falls short of self-hosted WordPress in terms of versatility.

You will be able to, for instance, if you purchase the WordPress.com Business plan:

  • Install your own plugins and themes (including Elementor).
  • Use SFTP to connect to your server and access the files for your website.
  • WP-config.php file editing (a key WordPress configuration file).

Advantages of WordPress.com

The major benefits of using WordPress.com are related to simplicity:

  • When you create a new account on WordPress.com, you won't need to search for a third-party hosting company because WordPress.com provides its own hosting.
  • com takes care of all maintenance and security for you, so you don't have to. This implies that you can relax and concentrate on producing content. Of course, there is a price for this.

Disadvantages of WordPress.com

The biggest drawback of WordPress.com is that in exchange for its simplicity, you give up a lot of the versatility of the WordPress program. The following are some of the greatest issues:

  • Without purchasing the Business or eCommerce plans, you are unable to install your own themes and plugins.
  • Without purchasing the Business or eCommerce plans, you won't be able to add specific sorts of code, access your site via FTP, or carry out other similar updates.
  • The WordPress.com Business plan is relatively pricey; but, if you want to install your own themes and plugins, self-hosted WordPress offers more affordable possibilities (especially for multiple sites).
  • The WordPress.com Terms of Service apply to you. Although not overly rigid, these rules nevertheless restrict the kind of content that can be on your website.

You can see from the list above that the majority of the top drawbacks concern the free and low-cost WordPress.com plans. In other words, a lot of the arbitrary restrictions WordPress.com places on the WordPress platform are removed by the WordPress.com Business plan. However, there are still some more sophisticated restrictions, such as the absence of jobs and WP-CLI. Many plugins are also prohibited on WordPress.com.

Pricing for WordPress.com

You have the option of creating a site for free on a WordPress.com subdomain (yoursite.wordpress.com) or using your own custom domain name for $48 per year. These programs, however, have severe restrictions. The biggest drawback of these plans is that you cannot install your own themes and plugins.

You must pay at least $300 annually for the Business plan to be allowed to install your own themes and plugins. After the first year, you'll also need to pay for your domain name, although this doesn't include any premium plugins or themes you might wish to use.

These charges are per site; they will remain the same regardless of how many sites you build.

WordPress.com vs WordPress.org: Which One is Better for You?

1.  Customer Support  

With WordPress.com you get built-in customer assistance with all of its plans (except for the free version). WordPress.com connects you with “Happiness Engineers” who can handle the coding parts for you if you’re new to websites and can’t take the sight of code. You can always reach out to live support to fix any issues with your website, especially something that requires coding knowledge.

On the other hand, when it comes to customer service, WordPress.org is a different experience. It’s simple to forget that you now have to deal with a range of issues on your own without the support of a live and committed workforce. You might need to find the theme’s author to get assistance and support if you’re having a problem with one of the themes you’re using on your website. Although it’s not particularly difficult to do, there isn’t the same sense of assurance that a team will figure it out.

The same is true for site backups, theme and plugin upgrades, and regular upkeep to keep everything working properly. This place allows you to pay for extra services, so that is always an option. Online networks and forums where individuals share and assist one another in solving problems are other great resources for getting support.

With the features provided by WordPress.org, you may build some fantastic websites thanks to the independence and flexibility this affords.

2.  Pricing

WordPress.com offers a variety of plans to meet the demands of users. It all comes down to what you need for us to make the most accurate comparisons when discussing how well something compares to WordPress.org. For instance, starting a blog is something you can do on WordPress.com for no cost. The premium plan, which is ideal for freelancers and content creators and a wonderful place to start if you want more features, can be upgraded if you desire. Additionally, the premium plan offers live chat assistance, the option to remove WordPress.com branding, the access to premium themes that are otherwise inaccessible under the free plan.

Let's imagine you operate a business and are trying to launch a website. You could choose the "Business" plan, which includes professional themes, automatic site backups, and sophisticated SEO tools. The Business plan, which allows access to extra themes with customization choices and plugin capability, is the first plan to move up in chronological sequence, albeit it may not be as obvious as it could be. Anyone who lacks access to WordPress's strong plugins and gorgeous themes is actually at a disadvantage, and companies are typically the ones who require more capability.

WordPress.org definitely wins on price in this comparison and provides access to all themes, plugin support, and pretty much-unlimited website customization options. With the addition of some affordable but dependable hosting and the purchase of your domain name, you can get started for less than $100. Naturally, this means that you will have to manage more moving components on your own and without the assistance of a dedicated crew. With WordPress.com, there is unquestionably a hands-on vs. hands-off strategy.

Convenience is ultimately what you pay for when it comes to price; this factor will be more important to certain people than it is to others.

3.  Hosting

Although I've only touched on hosting briefly, this is frequently a point of uncertainty for beginners. Because WordPress.org is self-hosted, you are responsible for choosing a provider. Although it may sound frightening, it's not as difficult as you might initially believe. Here, choosing Bluehost, which offers a one-click install and automated updates, is a simple option, if not the easiest.

You can effectively have the same simple setup with this that you would get with WordPress.com, but with a lot more options and flexibility. The quality of hosting itself can vary greatly as well. Excellent providers, like Bluehost, can give quick speeds and guarantee a stable site uptime to reduce disruptions. Other users may run into trouble with their host's inconsistent uptime, slow speeds, and poor customer service. This can be reduced by choosing a reliable web server.

You don't have to bother about looking for a provider because WordPress.com includes hosting as part of the service. Enterprise-grade security is also included in the WordPress.com Business plan, which should not be undervalued, along with 200GB of storage. Keep in mind that there are differences between all of the WordPress.com plans here and that migrating to WordPress.org will lower the cost of the Business plan.

Should you so want, WordPress.com also offers the option of simultaneously launching several sites.

4.  SEO

An essential component of an internet marketing plan is search engine optimization. SEO can determine where a site ranks on the search results page, regardless of whether you're a blogger just starting with your first site or a company that needs to advertise your blog material. There is considerable disagreement over how much attention should be paid to SEO in comparison to the concept of organic content, but it is still something you should think about. With that said, you can trust WordPress.org to deliver on this.

Because WordPress runs so many websites on the internet and is trusted by search engines, websites created using it—whether on WordPress.org or WordPress.com—have a chance to rank highly. If anything, by choosing one of them, you're already in the lead. Which is the best choice, and how do they differ?

Strong SEO plugins are available on WordPress.org, and they can efficiently inform you of content changes that could raise your ranking. The majority of third-party sophisticated SEO plugins, like Yoast SEO, concentrate on altering elements like metadata content, choosing keywords, and developing links. WordPress.org essentially offers everything you require.

In terms of overall ranking, WordPress.com is on par with WordPress.org and frequently ranks highly on Google and Bing. However, it lacks WordPress.org's extensive access to plugins that improve SEO. Plugins are typically only accessible from the Business plan and higher, except for a few that are already included in the base package.

This means that unless you choose the Business or E-commerce plan with WordPress.com, the use of third-party SEO plugins won't be possible. This problem does not exist with WordPress.org, and once your website is set up, you can find any plugin you can imagine.

5.  Customization

With WordPress.org, there are no restrictions on modification, so you may gladly create a website exactly the way you want it. This is accomplished by employing themes, which may be changed, and plugins, which enhance a site's functionality. For instance, a company running a directory-style website might decide to modify a theme created for businesses but later decide to change the appearance. They could accomplish this by adding code that can successfully change many characteristics or by directly customizing the theme.

They could then utilize one of the various directory plugins to further improve this. Alternatively, they may create their own custom directory and design their site from the ground up; they might even employ a team to accomplish this for them. The idea is that there are almost endless alternatives to WordPress.org. Everything may be altered.

WordPress.com does have customization options as well, but not to the same extent. You can modify a variety of themes with the built-in customizer on the Business plan and higher, and you can even ask Happiness Engineers for the right code to modify your site. Concerning options and potential, WordPress.com has produced some excellent websites. Additionally, some plugins may be used to accomplish a lot in terms of design.

That being said, it's just not quite as adaptable and open source out of the gate as WordPress.org is. Critical components like plugins and particular themes won't be available on the cheaper plans, and your customization possibilities are only as flexible as the plan you're on. The more expensive plans do quickly increase in cost, especially when you consider that WordPress.org offers the same amount of flexibility for less money.

Conclusion

WordPress.com and WordPress.org are both excellent platforms to use to launch a website this year. Both give you access to systems that let websites rank well, are typically simple to use, and don't cost a fortune to get started.

However, WordPress.org is a better choice in the majority of the important categories. Depending on what you're looking for, WordPress.com is still a decent choice for bloggers and people who prefer a hands-off experience. Nearly everyone else would be happy with WordPress.org, which excels in areas of Pricing, Hosting, SEO, Analytics, Customization, and more.

Whichever option you choose, keep in mind that building an authoritative site that ranks highly requires a lot of time, effort, and diligence, but the payoff is well worth it.

Alekh Verma

CEO and Founder at eSearch Logix Technologies!

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