While they may both have WordPress in their name, there is no comparison between a self-hosted WordPress website and a WordPress.com website when it comes to features and potential. Today, I am going to discuss why a self-hosted WordPress website is the right choice for you.
What is WordPress.org (Self-hosted WordPress)?
WordPress.org is the open-source component of WordPress and is the software that powers over 75 million websites worldwide, including this one. This is the heart and soul of WordPress and is community-driven.
This is where the code is built by developers, tested, and pushed out to the public. You’ll also find thousands of themes and plugins to use to make your website even better at no additional cost.
What is WordPress.com?
WordPress.com is the commercial version of the open-source project and is where you can host a WordPress blog/website for free with limitations or pay for certain upgrades.
It runs on the same software as WordPress.org, however, opting to use this solution relieves you from having to manage your own WordPress install. Unfortunately, it also prevents you from earning ad revenue without upgrading your plan.
Let’s take a more detailed look at the differences between these similarly named projects.
WordPress.com vs. WordPress.org
1. The Cost
At the end of the day, the price is always the limiting factor when it comes to just about anything, and building a website is no different. WordPress.org and WordPress.com differ greatly in their pricing models, so let’s take a closer look at WordPress pricing.
While the WordPress software itself, is free, you must pay for web hosting services. Thus, we really need to examine web hosting.
Web hosting services are pretty simple to understand. As a customer, you are renting out a server or a part of a server to store your website’s data. The web host is responsible for maintaining your web server and ensuring you get the fastest speed.
However, not all web hosts are equal, and this is especially true when it comes to pricing.
For instance, at GreenGeeks, you get a free domain name, unlimited webspace, unlimited databases, and we even purchase three times the energy your server uses in renewable energy to ensure your benefitting the environment.
And this will only set you back $2.49 a month by paying in advance.
While you can use WordPress.com for free, which is its major selling point, in reality, it is really a web hosting service and an expensive one at that.
The WordPress free plan is extremely limited and not intended for developers who want to make money. In fact, you can’t even earn ad revenue from platforms like AdSense in the free plan.
It’s really more for people to get their feet wet and see if WordPress is right for them. However, even then, the account is so limited you can’t really see what WordPress is capable of.
Instead, if you plan on making money through ad revenue, as most blogs do, you will need to select a plan that enables that “feature” and it’s not cheap. For instance, the cheapest plan that offers ad revenue starts at $8 per month and still manages to offer fewer features than if you were to go with self-hosted WordPress.
For reference, that’s more than 3 times the price of GreenGeek services with less than half of the functionality.
2. Maintaining Your Website
It’s no secret that running a website requires a lot of work, and that doesn’t just come from the content creation aspect. You must also manage how your website is performing to improve the user experience, after all, nobody likes a slow website.
Let’s take a closer look at what each software offers.
Self-hosting your own WordPress website means that you are in complete control of every aspect.
This includes updating the core WordPress files, updating your plugins and themes, configuring webmaster tools, handling affiliate link track and ad click-through rates, setting up backups, and everything else associated with running your website.
Luckily, this sounds harder than it is. You do not have to have a great deal of technical know-how to do any of this as much of it is automated for you with the proper tools.
In fact, you don’t even need to write a single line of code to use WordPress. And in some cases, your web host will make these things simple. For example, here at GreenGeeks, we automatically backup your website data, so that’s one thing you don’t need to worry about.
And that’s if you don’t use a free backup plugin, such as UpDraftPlus.
WordPress.com is targeted at inexperienced web developers looking to build their first website for free. Thus, you can expect a lot of hand-holding.
Your website will be automatically updated to ensure it is up to date. And the more expensive the plan you pick, the more features you can take advantage of. For example, if you want automatic backups, that plan starts at $25 dollars a month. This is about ten times what we charge.
Unlike self-hosted WordPress installs, you also do not have the luxury of multiple databases. These are very useful when you want to run tests without impacting your website.
Thus, if you do happen to make a mistake, your website will experience downtime until the issue is resolved or you use a backup (if you bought the right plan).
3. Control Over Your Ad Space
Ad revenue plays a big part in keeping your website profitable, and the way ads are handled are drastically different between WordPress.org and WordPress.com.
You can handle ads anyway you want with a self-hosted WordPress website.
Of course, while you can choose any type of advertisement system, the majority of websites will use Google Adsense. It dominates the ad market with a market share of 60.69%. And because it’s Google, they know exactly what visitors are looking for.
Thus, you can expect ads that are relevant and more likely to be clicked on by visitors.
Though, not everyone wants to display ads on their website, which are mostly for businesses. For example, if you sell shoes and use Google Adsense, there is a very high probability that Google will show the visitor a shoe ad from a competitor.
This can cause you to lose customers to the competition. And as you would expect, it doesn’t cost you money to add or remove ads on your website.
WordPress.com does not provide you many options when it comes to advertising.
If you are using the free plan, WordPress.com will display ads on your website that is based on the visitor’s location and search history (similar to Google Adsense). However, you will receive no money for these ads.
To avoid displaying these ads on your website, you will need to purchase a paid plan, which is necessary for business pages.
If you are planning on paying for a plan and want to earn money, you are not given any option when it comes to ad choice. You are forced to use the WordAds program and cannot use Google Adsense, which is far more profitable due to Google’s dominance.
4. eCommerce Functionality
Not every website is a blog. If you are planning to build an online store, there is a very clear winner and a loser. Let’s take a look.
You can build an excellent online store using WordPress on a self-hosted site.
There are many options available, but the majority of WordPress users focus on WooCommerce. In fact, WooCommerce is the most popular WordPress plugin available with well over 5 million active installs.
With it, you can build a fully functioning shop in a matter of minutes and accept payments for free.
Online shops can easily be added to existing websites. For example, it’s quite common to add a merchandise store to a popular blog later on. This might seem like a daunting task, but it can be done in a single day on a self-hosted website. And you don’t need to pay a single penny extra to do it.
Unfortunately, eCommerce and WordPress.com do not mix very well. That said, there is an eCommerce plan that starts at $45 a month.
This plan allows you to collect payments from over 60 countries, integrate with shipping companies, a “pay with PayPal” button, and provide additional design options for your online store. And yes, all of this can be achieved for free on a self-hosted website.
If your goal is eCommerce, WordPress.com is not a good choice.
Is A Free or Self-hosted WordPress Site Right for You?
Ultimately, if you intend to make money with your website, self-hosting a website is the best choice. It offers you a variety of tools to build any type of website for a low cost each month.
Keep in mind that you can start out with a free platform and switch to a self-hosted website. This is a great choice for beginners looking to mitigate risks. However, you will quickly realize the limitations that WordPress.com delivers will impact your ability to grow.
Thus, WordPress.org is the best option to build a WordPress website.