Self hosted WordPress.org vs WordPress.com – there is a big difference.
Recently, two different people that I know started blogs on self hosted WordPress. They then came to me with questions, so I asked them to log into their WordPress dashboards.
Guess where they went? Yup. WordPress dot com.
Of course, that didn’t work out so well.
Know What You Are Getting Into
As a blogger or a small business owner with a website, it is imperative that you know the difference between self hosted WordPress.org vs WordPress.com BEFORE you build your website.
Don’t rely on the recommendation of others to decide if self hosted WordPress is right for you.
I’m sorry, but what you might call a lack of technical experience is not an excuse. You need to educate yourself about your choices and make an informed decision.
It may sound harsh. But doing your homework upfront will save you a headache in the long run.
There are other blogging platforms out there besides WordPress but today I am talking about the two different WordPress products that are easily confused: Self hosted WordPress vs. WordPress dot com.
What is Hosting?
This article explains what web hosting is in greater depth. But I will give you the short version here.
To have a website you need to have a host. A host is basically a computer somewhere on which your website lives.
This computer is on 24/7 and has enough resources to handle the volume of web traffic that stops by your site.
This host is not YOUR computer but rather a server owned by a hosting company or by a website building service that includes hosting.
Self Hosted WordPress (aka WordPress.org)
Self hosted WordPress is called “self hosted” WordPress because you – as the website owner – purchase a hosting plan from a hosting company like SiteGround (which is the web host that I use).
The whole WordPress.org vs WordPress.com issue comes about because there is a misconception that WordPress.org is also a host, which it is not.
You install the WordPress software on your hosting account. If you use a host like SiteGround, they make it available to you and will even install it for you. You then install a WordPress theme like the combo Genesis framework and Brunch Pro theme that I use.
Next you add the WordPress plugins of your choice, set them up, and start blogging.
Related Post: See How Easy it is to Install WordPress on SiteGround
Benefits of Self Hosted WordPress.org vs WordPress.com
You will hear people say that self hosted WordPress is the way to go.
This is because self hosted WordPress is
- extremely flexible because of the plugin functionality
- and it is portable – meaning that you can change hosts or hosting plans at your discretion.
Basically, you have complete control over your website.
You log into your website directly from the back end. You do not go to WordPress dot com – the folks there have nothing to do with your website.
Responsibilities of Self Hosted WordPress
But complete control comes with responsibility.
Think of it as owning your own home vs renting an apartment.
When you own your own home you have great flexibility. You can paint it, hang pictures, plant a garden – whatever you want. You can even sell and move.
But, it is your responsibility to maintain the house, fix the plumbing, mow the lawn, rake the leaves. If you don’t know how to do the maintenance – you need to hire someone. And if you don’t maintain it, the house falls apart.
Such is the same with a self hosted WordPress blog or website.
You are responsible for maintaining your website. When there are updates to your themes or plugins – you need to install them.
If something doesn’t work, you need to figure out how to fix it. The problem may originate from your host, a plugin, or your theme. But you have to the troubleshooting. Or hire someone to do it.
WordPress dot Com
Alternatively, there is WordPress dot com.
WordPress dot com is a managed WordPress platform.
Basically, you sign up for an account, pick a theme, and you are ready to go.
Benefits of WordPress dot Com
The best thing about WordPress dot com is that it is low maintenance. They take care of updates, security, and backups. All you need to do is show up and add content.
They also have different plans to choose from. You can start off at with the free plan – and they give you a domain that is “yourdomain dot wordpress dot com”. (But you can purchase your own domain and have that redirected.) Then you can upgrade to a paid plan as your traffic grows.
Restrictions of WordPress dot Com
While maintenance free may sound attractive. There are limitations.
Being on self hosted WordPress is like owning a home, WordPress dot com is more like renting an apartment.
Ads and Ad Restrictions
On the free level WordPress dot com retains the right to display ads on your website. Any money generated through these ads goes to WordPress dot com.
Once you upgrade to a paid plan, the ads go away – but you cannot display advertising from Google Adsense, Chitika or other ad networks. You are restricted to using their WordAds network.
WordPress dot com does allow affiliate links and sponsored posts – but it is up to their discretion whether you are violating their terms of service. And that is a little scary.
On WordPress dot com you cannot add your own plugins.
This takes away a lot of the flexibility that self hosted WordPress offers. However, if you work within these limitations, you don’t have to spend time on plugins at all. This is why some people prefer self hosted WordPress.org vs WordPress.com.
To export your site from WordPress dot com to self hosted WordPress down the road, you will get a series of xml files to use.
WordPress dot com does offer a “done for you” export service that might be well worth the investment.
Comparison of Self Hosted WordPress.org vs WordPress.com
This page at WordPress.com actually does a nice job of comparing WordPress.org vs WordPress.com.
I encourage you to do the research and educate yourself on which one (or even a different platform altogether) is right for you.
Self hosted WordPress offers greater flexibility and functionality but that comes with greater responsibility. WordPress dot com does most of the back end maintenance for you but that comes with restrictions.
Which One Will You Choose?
Leave a comment below and tell us about your experience with wordpress.org vs. wordpress.com and why you chose what you did.
If you are new to blogging, check out all the articles in our Blogging Basics series here.