Choosing WordPress.com vs WordPress.org – A Big, Dumb and Costly Mistake
The verdict to the question of WordPress.com vs. WordPress.org was already buried in my memory. Unfortunately, it was a bit too buried. I started my first WordPress blog at WordPress.com back in 2013. I wasn’t that interested in blogging back then, but I had searched the differences between wordpress.com and wordpress.org. After all, they sound the same, don’t they? Well, they are not, and I could have avoided an extra cost of $254 for the first year.
Case in hand, I started this blog in September 2020 on wordpress.com, and I paid for the personal plan as I wanted my own domain name. Back then, it was anantoni.com. Eventually, I switched to borderpolar.com, which looks pretty inappropriate at the moment.
Anyway, I thought the personal wordpress.com plan would be enough initially. Soon, I realized it was very restricting, and I moved to the $300/year Business plan of WordPress.com to monetize my blog and use free/paid/custom plugins. Now I know better, and I want to share this valuable information.
A comparison between WordPress.com and WordPress.org will help you understand the difference too. Wpbeginner.com heavily inspires this comparison.
WordPress.org is the actual WordPress we all have in mind. It is the most popular website building CMS platform and why you ended up in WordPress.com. Funny thing, isn’t it?
WordPress.org is open-source and 100% free for everyone. On the other hand, you need to buy a domain name and web hosting first. That’s why it’s called self-hosted WordPress. Here are the advantages and disadvantages of WordPress.org.
Here is the list of benefits that makes WordPress.org the best choice for website building.
The WordPress software is free, open-source, and easy to use. You know that already if you use WordPress.com. It’s the same platform, used by a different company.
You can add free, paid, or custom WordPress plugins to your website or blog.
Also, you are free to customize your website as you want with free or premium WordPress themes. You can also create your designs.
On WordPress.org, you can monetize your site and run your ads without sharing revenue with anyone.
You can use analytics and tracking tools like Google analytics without any hassle.
Finally, you can use your website for eCommerce and sell digital or physical products, accept payments and provide shipping from your website. You can also create membership sites and online communities or online learning.
There are very few cons here for WordPress.org. If that were not true, I wouldn’t have written this post. Let’s see them.
The primary downside is having to pay for web hosting. That’s pretty much the only disadvantage there is when you decide to start blogging. You want to start with something free and WordPress.org does not give that option. And yet, web hosting can cost as little as $46 per year and the hosting service will be faster than WordPress.com.
The second and easily solvable downside is taking take care of backups. Thankfully there are many plugins to automate this process.
The hosting costs will eventually increase if your blog becomes more successful. But you should easily cover that cost and have passive income based on ads and monetization alone. I’m pretty sure you have figured things out already but let’s keep going.
WordPress.com is a hosting service created by the co-founder of WordPress, Matt Mullenweg. Because of the same founder, users often confuse WordPress.com with the popular WordPress.org software. Yes, confuse. Many of us ended up at WordPress.com out of confusion while aiming for WordPress.org.
WordPress.com as a hosting service offers the following plans:
The free version of WordPress.com is only suitable for hobby bloggers, nobody else.
WordPress.com is an excellent hosting provider, and you can expect your uptime to be 100%, especially on the more premium plans. That’s indeed a big one since you don’t have to worry about finding a trustworthy hosting provider.
WordPress.com is free for up to 3GB of space. Anything more than that and you will need to switch to a paid plan for space.
The Personal plan provides 6GB of space
The Premium plan provides 13GB of space
The Business plan provides 200GB of space.
WordPress.com takes care of your website’s backups.
Here are the limitations of WordPress.com when you are on a free plan:
WordPress.com places ads on your website and makes money from them. You don’t. To remove their ads you need to switch to a paid plan.
You can’t sell ads on your website so there goes one way to monetize it. If you eventually acquire high traffic you can apply for WordPress.com’s WordAds and share revenue with them. Meh. Premium and Business plan users can use WordAds straight away, just like borderpolar.com does on the business plan, running AdSense.
You cannot use plugins. You need to switch to the Business plan that costs $300 per year to install plugins. That’s what I had to do too.
On WordPress.com, you cannot use custom themes on the free or Personal plan. You will have to switch to the Premium or Business plan to use premium themes and custom CSS.
WordPress.com restricts you to their own traffic stats. You cannot use Google Analytics or any other tracking software unless you switch to the Business plan.
Free WordPress.com websites come with a WordPress.com branded domain of the form https://borderpolar.wordpress.com. You will need to switch to a paid plan to get a custom domain name such as https://borderpolar.com.</li><li>WordPress.com can delete your website at any time if they consider it to violate their ToS.
Your site will display a “Powered by WordPress.com” link. You need to upgrade to the Business plan to remove it.
You will have to switch to the eCommerce plan to get access to eCommerce features. That’s $540 per year. Add to this the fact that you cannot build membership sites either.
What does all this mean? It pretty much means that to get all the perks that WordPress.org offers you, you will need to reach at least the Business or eCommerce tier of WordPress.com paid plans. That’s $254 or $494 more than paying for the lowest tier of web hosting. Pretty cool, huh?
WordPress.com vs WordPress.org: The Verdict
Everyone recommends WordPress.org instead of WordPress.com. Every professional blogger or business uses WordPress.org.
So if you plan to pay for blogging and monetize your blog, WordPress.com is the wrong place to be; it’s as simple as that. To sum up, WordPress.com is only suitable for hobbyists who don’t want to invest in blogging.
What to Do After Reading This Article
Firstly, I recommend waiting for your current subscription with WordPress.com to expire and then move to WordPress.org. Next, the only thing you will have to figure out is what kind of web hosting you need depending on your traffic.
Finally, all this is not a personal opinion. You can do your research and reach the same conclusion. Generally speaking, FOSS is always the way to go, and you will find plenty of hosting providers that can provide much better value than WordPress.com. We moved BORDERPOLAR to Cloudways, but there are other standout hosting providers too, like Kinsta, SiteGround, WP Engine, and more.