Many people have heard of WordPress and consider using it to start their first website. But many do not realize that there are two types of WordPress: WordPress.com and WordPress.org. And it gets even more complicated when you consider the different WordPress plans.
To put it simply, WordPress has a huge ecosystem and it can be intimidating when you are getting started. That said, its popularity proves that the small learning curve is well worth the effort. After all, over 40% of the internet is built with WordPress.
And today, I am going to explain which WordPress platform is right for you.
What is WordPress?
The problem with this question is that there are two kinds of WordPress, but both use the same software, at least to a certain extent. Let’s go a step further and ask what WordPress.com and WordPress.org are.
What is WordPress.com?
WordPress.com is a self-publishing platform that specializes in blogging. It uses the WordPress core files to operate, but they have been slightly modified to fit the platform’s niche.
It is a self-contained package that not only includes the software but the hosting services.
While WordPress.com is free to start, you are severely limited in what you can produce. Or to put it another way, WordPress.com owns everything, including the right to monetize your content. And you will not receive a cut.
This is where the other plans come in, they allow you to monetize your website and utilize more features that are unavailable in the free version. You will also need a plan to be able to conduct any eCommerce on the platform.
What is WordPress.org?
WordPress.org is free open-source software that anyone can use and is often referred to as self-hosted WordPress. When someone mentions WordPress, this is the version of it that they mean because it offers you complete control over your website.
While the software is free, you will need to pay for web hosting services. The good news is that competition is fierce, so the prices are very low. In fact, you can get web hosting for less than the cost of a daily cup of coffee for a month.
With this WordPress, you can build any kind of website without any restrictions. You own your content and can monetize it any way you want. Not to mention that the number of plugins and themes is far higher than what you would find at WordPreds.com.
So What’s the Difference?
WordPress.com is a Software as a Service (SaaS) that provides multiple plans with extra features, whereas WordPress.org is open-source software that is free to use.
You get access to all of the WordPress features in a self-hosted environment at no extra cost to you.
Meanwhile, on WordPress.com, you must pay for the right plan to get access to certain features. This can drastically cost more than a self-hosted site. And as a piece of open-source software, the number of free plugins and themes is much greater.
The value and customization options are much better in a self-hosted environment.
WordPress.com offers customers multiple plans to choose from. I will list these plans in order of their tier but keep in mind that every plan contains everything the previous plans included but with a few new extras.
So let’s get right into what each plan offers.
Note: While all plan prices are listed as monthly prices, they are billed annually. Thus the upfront costs are much higher than you might expect. This is also true for most web hosting companies, so be on the lookout.
The WordPress free plan is the most common starting point, so that’s where we shall begin.
In this plan, you are given a free subdomain, which will appear as “URL.WordPress.com” and yes, it is not SEO friendly. You will also have access to a free SSL certificate and 3GB of storage.
You will also have access to the free themes WordPress offers to get started. This isn’t a bad starting point if you are just testing the waters, but there are some serious limitations.
You cannot monetize your website, you cannot use a custom domain name, and there is no customer support.
Instead, you will be forced to display WordPress.com ads on your website.
The Personal plan will set you back $4 a month, or $48 a year. The main difference between this and the Free plan is that you can now use a custom domain name that is included for the first year at no cost to you. And you will even be able to remove those WordPress.com ads.
On top of this, your storage is increased to 6GB and you now have access to email support. The biggest feature is being able to create subscriber-only content, which is just content that only subscribers can see.
It’s not much, but it is a huge improvement over the free plan.
The WordPress Premium plan costs $8 per month or $96 annually. This plan includes everything from the Personal plan, but enhances several options and adds new ones.
For instance, now you will have access to premium themes, which can be customized with custom CSS.
This plan also opens the door for additional monetization options. You can now choose to display WordPress Ads and get paid for them. You can also accept PayPal payments and integrate with Google Analytics.
This is the most popular WordPress.com plan because it gives you a lot of control over your website at a good price.
WordPress Business plans begin at $25 per month or $300 annually. As always, you can expect all of the features from the previous plans, but with additional enhancements.
One of those enhancements is the huge increase in storage space that goes up from 13GB to 200GB.
The main features of this plan include the ability to remove all of the WordPress.com branding to make room for your own, the freedom to install plugins and upload themes, and automated backups.
The price tag is much higher than previous plans but includes a lot of features that are essential for businesses.
Last, but not least is the eCommerce plan. This one starts at $45 per month or $540 annually. This is the most expensive plan and includes every feature the platform has to offer with a focus on running an online store.
The main difference between this and the Business plan is that you can now accept payments from over 60 different countries, integrate with multiple popular shipping options, have access to a variety of premium themes built for eCommerce, and a plethora of marketing tools.
That said, the price tag is huge compared to the other plans, but comes with every feature.
What About Self-Hosted WordPress?
Self-hosted WordPress, or WordPress.org, does not offer any plans. Instead, you have full access to the software. Right out of the box, it can do everything that the most expensive WordPress.com plan can do, and more.
That said, you will still find yourself paying a monthly fee due to web hosting. A web host is a company that rents you a web server, which is where your website is stored. Its performance will have a direct influence on your website’s performance.
And when compared to the most expensive plan on WordPress.com, which is still limiting compared to self-hosting your site, you’d save a ton of money overall.
There are a ton of web hosting companies to choose from, but not all of them are equal. Thus, you need to pick the best one. And here at GreenGeeks, we are proud to be one of the best web hosting companies in the industry, without having to harm the environment.
In fact, because we purchase three times the renewable energy our websites use, each website is actually carbon negative.
Other than web hosting, the only other mandatory cost is a domain name, which is included for free by most web hosts. There are optional costs like premium themes and plugins if you so choose to use them.
Why is Self-Hosted WordPress Superior?
So the real question is why is self-hosted WordPress so much more popular than WordPress.com? And the truth is that it’s for a variety of reasons that I will cover.
While WordPress.com has over a hundred themes to choose from, it’s nothing compared to WordPress.org. Self-hosted WordPress sites have access to thousands of free and premium themes right from the get-go.
In comparison, you would need to upgrade your plan to get more theme options, or even to get the ability to customize them. And even then, WordPress.com only has a fraction of the options available.
On top of this, everything about a WordPress.org theme is customizable.
This is a big reason why the platform is so popular, as themes can be made to fit any type of website.
Many websites exist to sell products, and like most things, there’s no comparison here. WordPress.org is hands down the better environment to run an online store, and it’s all thanks to the WooCommerce plugin.
It enables you to transform WordPress into an eCommerce site at no extra cost, unlike WordPress.com. It natively supports multiple payment gateways (PayPal, Stripe, etc.) and currently powers over five million online stores.
There’s no contest here, eCommerce is free to set up, offers more options, and has lower transaction fees while using WordPress.org self-hosted sites.
Many websites may want to integrate with third-party services.
For instance, if you want to create an email campaign, you will probably consider Mailchimp. This service is available on platforms, but the more you dig around, the more you realize the options for WordPress.com are limited.
Whereas on WordPress.org, the options are almost limitless. As the most popular CMS on the market, just about everything is compatible with WordPress. Most have dedicated plugins or API support that makes integration a breeze.
Again, you would need a more expensive plan to even get access to the most basic integrations on WordPress.com. In this instance, self-hosting WordPress is far superior.
WordPress.org is completely free to use, the only cost associated with it is web hosting and the domain name. And even then, it is far cheaper than any of the plans offered by WordPress.com.
And at no point are your monetization options limited. You always have complete control over the ads displayed on your website and can reap the benefits of them. Not to mention all of the other ways to monetize your website.
It’s also worth highlighting that you might end up paying for features you have no use for in WordPress.com plans. Whereas in WordPress.org, you can freely negotiate plans with your web hosting company to just pay for the resources you need.
In terms of value and earning potential, there is no competition here, WordPress.org is superior.
When it comes to WordPress.com, you only have one option available. That means if you are unhappy with the service or need more server space past the limits of your plan, you are out of luck.
Whereas, WordPress.org allows you to use any web hosting service.
As a result, you have complete control over the service you choose. This means if you are unhappy with a web host, you can find a new one. Or if you need to add more space or resources, it’s not a problem. Just give the web host a call to change your plan.
Web hosting services are designed to grow with your business. So, it doesn’t matter how much you grow as they can usually support you.
Self-Hosted WordPress is The Best Option
No matter how you look at it, a self-hosted WordPress website is the best option to build a website. Outside of the free plan, self-hosted WordPress is cheaper and provides far more options than any plans WordPress.com offers.
There is a reason that over 40% of the internet chooses to build with WordPress.org…because it works. The versatile tool kit it offers users is unmatched in the CMS space. You can build any kind of website at any scale.
Do you prefer WordPress.com or WordPress.org?