It is sometimes hard for beginners to make a choice between WordPress.org and WordPress.com when they are planning to build the first WordPress site. The former, providing an open source application, seems flexible but hard-to-use. In comparison, the latter is free, while it comes with some limitations.
With a quick look at the getting-start guide, you may find that WordPress.com is more appealing. As a beginner, you can set up a site in minutes without downloading or uploading an application. Besides, you don't have to pay for the setup. Some good features, such as pre-installed plugins, built-in social sharing, and managed maintenance, are also available.
After comparing WordPress.org and WordPress.com carefully, however, we sincerely suggest you choose WordPress.org if you want to build a full-featured WordPress site that you can control. This choice can bring you huge benefits in many aspects, such as the hosting cost, monetization, and site control.
A Self-Hosted WordPress Site Costs Less
WordPress.com is free for the basic features. You only need to sign up, and a new site will be ready for you. This sounds great, but you must pay attention to the limitations of the free plan and the extra fees that you will probably need to pay.
The free plan includes 3 GB disk storage. With this plan, you are forced to display ads that may not be relevant to your site content, and you cannot upload videos or make customizations to the site design. Other limitations also exist, for example, no custom domain with your branding.
It is good that WordPress.com makes it possible to remove these limitations, but you have to pay. There are three paid plans available for you to choose if you want more disk storage or control, and here are the prices.
- Personal: $2.99/mo, including 6 GB storage, a custom domain, ad removal, and email/live chat support.
- Premium: $8.25/mo, including 13 GB storage, a custom domain, ad removal, technical support, unlimited premium themes, video support, and monetization options.
- Business: $24.92/mo, including unlimited storage, all things in Premium, SEO tools, Google Analytics integration, and premium plugins.
For all the plans, yearly payment is required. The registration of an additional domain charges $18 per year, and email accounts are priced at $5/mo per user.
Things become simpler when building a self-hosted site using the application available on WordPress.org. If you are creating a personal blog or a small business site, a shared hosting plan should be enough. The budget yet quality offers charge $5 – $10 per month only while giving you access to over 50 GB disk storage, unlimited email accounts, and multiple databases. You can even try them and get a full refund within 30 days when feeling dissatisfied. Sometimes a free domain is also available.
Now let's compare the costs of WordPress.com and WordPress.org, from which you will find that WordPress.org is the more budget-friendly option.
- WordPress.com Premium: $13.25/mo or $159/year (with one email account).
- WordPress.com Business: $29.92/mo or $359.04/year (with one email account).
- WordPress.org with a shared hosting plan: $5/mo – $10/mo, or $60/year – $120/year (with unlimited disk storage and email accounts). You can do whatever you want with no extra cost required by the hosting provider, such as customizing the design, integrating Google Analytics, and installing plugins.
You Can Make Money from a Self-Hosted WordPress Site More Easily
One of the main drawbacks of using WordPress.com is the lack of monetization options. With the free plan, you are forced to display ads on your site, but not a penny of the ad revenue is yours because the revenue is only made to compensate the cost of WordPress.com.
In the case that you want to make money by displaying relevant ads on your site hosted on WordPress.com, you have to buy the Premium plan or Business plan. These two plans include access to the WordAds program, an ad network developed by WordPress.com itself. Unfortunately, you get a little control over the ad content and placement, and you have to share the majority of the revenue with WordPress.com.
With a self-hosted WordPress site, however, you get much more freedom.
- You can select any ad network you like, such as Google AdSense, Infolinks, Propeller Ads, Bidvertiser and Chitika, instead of being limited to WordAds.
- You can design and display your ads if you don't like the third-party solutions. The content, size, and placement of such ads can be fully controlled, and you don't need to share the revenue with anyone. WordPress.com doesn't allow you to display custom ads unless you are a VIP user who pays at least $5000/mo.
- You can create a product page on your site to sell products and services.
- You can participate in affiliate programs and display ads for the affiliate products to make money.
You Get More Control over a Self-Hosted Site
When using WordPress.org, you have full control over your site. Besides adding the content you want, you can also get enough freedom for the site customization. For example, you can do all of the following things on a self-hosted WordPress site, while with the WordPress.com free plan, you are not allowed.
- Access your files through FTP or the hosting control panel, and change the file permissions.
- Purchase any third-party theme or upload your theme to make your site's design appealing and unique.
- Install any plugin you like.
- Use videos in posts to provide readers with more information.
- Install Google Analytics, or any other third-party analytics software for tracking.
In fact, even the paid plans of WordPress.com don't allow you to do some of the things listed above. For instance, they don't include FTP access, the support for custom themes, and the installation of plugins. You can only use what WordPress.com has already prepared for you.
WordPress.com can be a choice for beginners who want to create the first blog with the minimum cost. However, if you want a full-featured site that is under your complete control, it is necessary for you to build a self-hosted site with WordPress.org. The self-hosted option not only provides you with unlimited possibilities for customization but also makes it easy to monetize your site. What's more, the cost is lower in the long run.