New bloggers oftentimes ask me whether they should start a WordPress.com blog or a WordPress.org blog and what the difference is between these two options. I also get frequently asked if it’s possible to switch from .com to .org later on.
So, it’s about time for an explanation to cover this topic once and for all, and so you will be sure to make the right decision before you start a WordPress blog. Because even though these two options seem to be very similar at first glance, they’re in fact two completely different tools you should use in different situations.
Let’s start at the beginning…!
What is WordPress?
WordPress is open-source software that can be used to build a website. It is software that enables you to build your own website without (a lot of) coding knowledge. Everyone can learn how to build a website with WordPress and everyone can make a professional and gorgeous-looking website with WordPress, without the help of a professional.
There are 2 ways to start a WordPress blog:
- WordPress.com: Which is the free, and limited version of the software, which you directly install via WordPress.com, or:
- WordPress.org: You get yourself a domain name and a hosting provider to host your domain (paid), and then you install the WordPress software on your hosted part of the internet yourself.
WordPress.com and WordPress.org: The main differences
1. Hosted vs Self-hosted
One of the main differences between .org and .com is hosting. WordPress.com sites are hosted for you by WordPress, while WordPress.org sites are hosted by a hosting provider of your choosing.
But what does that exactly mean?
Simply put: with hosting, you rent an online home for your website. So, to be able to build your website in WordPress and to publish your website online, you first need to rent a digital house for your site to live in. That’s what web hosting means.
When you opt for WordPress.com, you’ll be assigned a digital house for your website for free! It will be hosted by WordPress.com.
Now you probably think, great, that’s awesome! Why pay if I can get something for free, right? 😉
Well… not so fast!
It does come with some limitations. 🙁 One of those limitations is the domain name. A WordPress.com URL is always constructed like this: she-can-blog.wordpress.com, instead of just shecanblog.com. You see that free commercial for WordPress in the middle of your URL right there? Doesn’t look so pretty, right?
Yep! That’s one of the downsides when you go for the free option here! 🙁
However, if you plan to start a blog just for fun, as a hobby, then this .com option might be the right choice for you. Don’t spend money on a blog if you don’t plan on earning it back anyways!
But if you’re planning on growing a serious business out of your blog, this option is a lot less attractive for you. Aside from the fact that it just doesn’t look so professional as a .org blog, this is just the beginning of the limitations you’ll run into with a WordPress.com website.
Yes, there is an option starting at € 4 per month (annual payment) to buy your own domain name, but then you’ll still need to deal with other limitations later on.
When you choose to host your own website (the WordPress.org option) you get to choose your own hosting provider and you’ll be able to build your blog from scratch, without any limitations. You’ll be able to design your blog exactly the way you want to! The only downside of a WordPress.org website are the costs for your domain name and hosting provider.
The best hosting providers for 2023
But, which hosting provider should you choose? There are so many to choose from! Which ones are actually good and reliable?
In order to stay up to date on all the newest blogging developments, I joined quite a few Facebook groups for bloggers. In these groups, the question: “Which hosting provider should I choose?”, is almost asked daily by beginning bloggers. And in 80% of the responses are coming down to just 2 hosting providers that are literally recommended by almost everyone there and that are absolutely reliable, and great: BigScoots!
I host my blog with BigScoots as well. I switched around six months ago and they have been great so far!
2. WordPress themes
A WordPress theme is a piece of software you can install onto your blog to create your site’s layout. WordPress.com sites can choose from several themes (not all too many) and they aren’t very customizable either. However, they’re much easier to configure compared to the WordPress.org themes.
If the backend of a website really isn’t your cup of tea, the .com option might be the better option for you!
Or, if you have the budget for it, you could hire someone to design your WordPress.org website for you, so you can focus on the fun part of your blog -> blogging itself! 😉
WordPress.org websites have thousands of themes (free and paid) to choose from, and you have all the freedom to customize them to your taste and to match your brand identity!
If you want to learn more about premium WordPress themes, please don’t forget to read my blog about the best elegant WordPress themes for bloggers!
3. WordPress Plugins
When you choose to go for a self-hosted site, you’ll get access to thousands and thousands of WordPress plugins. A plugin is basically a small piece of code that adds new functionality to your blog.
You can compare it to an app on your phone. With a phone, you can make calls and send text messages, but thanks to applications you can use your phone for example as a game console, or for social media as well. It works the same way with a self-hosted WordPress website and plugins.
You can use plugins to improve your site’s speed, improve the SEO of your site, add an Insta or Pinterest feed to your site, insert affiliate links, and much, much more!
Unfortunately, with a WordPress.com website, you don’t have access to these plugins. Unless you opt for the €25/month plan, and if you’re okay to pay for your blog anyway, you might as well go for self-hosted incl. absolute freedom to design your blog the way you desire.
Please read my blog post about WordPress plugins if you like to learn more on this topic. In this post, I’ll explain all about plugins plus I’ll show you the most essential plugins I recommend to every blogger!
When you go for a WordPress.com website, the features are already taken care of for you. You won’t need to worry about spam comments or making backups, for instance, because WordPress.com does this for you automatically.
Pretty nice, but at the same also a pity if you need a feature later on, which is not included in this software and you don’t have the option to install it yourself. 🙁
4. Earn money with your blog
On a WordPress.com website, advertisements and banners are being placed by WordPress automatically. And the fun part is that you don’t earn a dime on these ads that are placed on YOUR blog yourself. It’s how WordPress earns your free website back.
You also don’t have the option to place ads of your own choosing here yourself, and you can’t open an online store either.
However, on a WordPress.org website, you can set up an online store and sell products in a webshop. Plus, you don’t have to deal with those annoying ads from WordPress on your site! You can partner with an advertising company to earn some money by advertising yourself!
By the way, there’s one thing that is allowed on a .com website; affiliate links! As long as it’s not your main purpose of sending traffic there to sell and if it’s relevant to the content you’re posting, this is something you’re allowed to do! So, that’s a plus for WordPress.com here!
5. Google Analytics and Search Console
As a blogger, you want to be able to track your site’s statistics. You want to know which keywords you rank for, how often you rank in the search results, how high, which pages are visited often and which pages are less popular, how many visitors you receive per day, per week, per month, etc.
Why it’s important to keep track of your stats?
You can use this information to tweak your blog where it’s needed and this will help you grow your blog more effectively! I know ZERO bloggers who can live without these tools, and I’m not exaggerating.
How to keep track of your stats with a WordPress.com website?
You won’t be able to use Google Analytics or Search Console. You will have some built-in statistics, but those statistics are nothing compared to Google Analytics and Search Console.
Yet another reason to opt for WordPress.org instead of WordPress.com!
Can you switch from WordPress.com to WordPress.org?
This is another question I receive frequently from my readers; “Is it possible to upgrade to WordPress.org later?” The answer to that question is; yes, you can. But keep in mind that when you talk about upgrading on WordPress.com, it means you’ll upgrade within WordPress.com itself, which is quite expensive compared to self-hosting and compared to what you get in return for it.
You can’t upgrade to WordPress.org. If you’d like to make the switch to WordPress.org, you need to create a completely new website, including web hosting, and move your site’s content there.
So, yes, you can switch later, but it’s not the easiest task to do, and I don’t recommend it. It’s not impossible, it’s doable, but it will take time and stress, and it’s probably a headache.
That’s why you should ask yourself today: how do you see your blog in the future? Will it stick to a hobby, or do you want to work towards a successful blog on the internet that will earn you some real income one day?
Do you plan to start a self-hosted blog? Follow my step-by-step guide for starting a self-hosted WordPress blog for beginners!
As far as I am concerned, the decision to go for WordPress.com or WordPress.org is a very easy one to make.
If you intend to blog as a hobby, without having any desire to earn money from it, then don’t spend any money on it. Keep it fun and opt for a WordPress.com site. In that case, you don’t need all these extra features anyway, and a .com site will be sufficient for you!
Plus, the most important features are taken care of for you, so you just have to focus on the blogging part itself instead of on all the technical stuff. You now know that the design options are limited, but you also know that for a hobby blog, that’s perfectly fine.
Do you want to start a professional blog, now or maybe in the future? Then WordPress.org is the best option for you. You could start with a free blog at first, but if you already know for sure that you want to make money with your blog, you will run into the limitations of WordPress.com very soon.
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