Differences Between WordPress.com and WordPress.org

When I say ‘WordPress’, there is sometimes a bit of confusion between two versions that not everyone is aware of. So what is the difference between wordpress.com and wordpress.org? Let’s take a look at the main differences that most people running their business day-to-day may not realise exist.

Main Differences Between WordPress Versions

WordPress.com is hosted by WordPress on their own server; a hosted option. WordPress.org is a self-hosted option where you download the WordPress files you can then install on your own web server.

What this means is if you sign up on wordpress.com, you can start blogging right away. You don’t need to know anything about designing and building websites, without any technical knowledge about hosting or knowledge of running a website. The address of your blog will be your-blog-name.wordpress.com.

When you go to wordpress.org and download the WordPress files, you’ll need a server to keep them. You’ll also need to have a domain name and enough bandwidth to support your website.

With wordpress.com, you don’t need to worry about anything technical and it’s free to use, unless you want to pay for extras. With wordpress.org, you need to take care of everything to do with owning and running a website including the cost of hosting.

WordPress.com Example

One client I consulted for hired someone to do their marketing for them with a huge number of responsibilities stretched across a variety of areas. They expected their marketer to be hands-on and proficient in all areas.

The tasks their marketer had to complete without the help of any freelancer or agency included graphic design, writing and technical areas of website management. In this case, their marketer was a very creative person. He was great at graphic design and blog writing, but less adept at the technical aspects of website management.

“The best thing he did for us was set up our blog” they said during the initial consultation. The blog’s website address was company-name.wordpress.com. This partially branded wordpress.com blog displayed the company name prominently, with good content.

Unfortunately, their wordpress.com website:

  • could not fully match the branding of their main website
  • provided no SEO benefit to their company-name.com website
  • made tracking visitor behaviour more complicated

WordPress.org Example

Using my former client as an example, the best thing for their business would be to host the blog on their company-name.com domain. This would be the best solution all-round.

My client’s main website was actually developed with WordPress, so adding the blog to it was a simple way to solve several problems in one go.

The blog becomes fully branded and updates are applied everywhere in one go without the need to make alterations to two different websites. SEO is improved and reporting on website performance becomes more simplified and accurate.

A wordpress.org website where you install the files yourself on your own web server means that everything is customisable. The look and feel of the blog can match the look and feel of your main website as it should; because it is a part of your main website.

Engage effectively with visitors

With wordpress.org, once your great content starts to attract visitors, those visitors will already be on your website, so you can sell to them right there. The seemingly small change from a blog hosted on a different website to your actual website, should you ask them to click through to another website, could raise red flags in the mind of your visitors.

Great content also means great rankings In search engines like Google. Why not provide a boost to your own website’s SEO rather than WordPress’ website? Your company-name.com/blog will help your website to rank higher in search engines and provide more opportunities to target valuable keywords.

Report effectively on visitor behaviour

Reporting on visitor behaviour also becomes much easier and accurate. It’s not good to complicate things having to report on different websites, where there may be different user intent and they both deliver a different experience. How would you aggregate that data and report on it insightfully? A website developed from the files provided on wordpress.com allows you to track and report accurately and efficiently.

Invest in channels you own

Whatever work you do to promote your content and attract visitors, it all costs money. Spend your time and money getting traffic to the website you own and control, not on rented land. Episode 89 of This Old Marketing with Joe Pulizzi and Robert Rose.

Working with wordpress.org files, all of the time and effort you’ve gone to will be compounded, rather than being sent to a property you ultimately don’t control. Speaking of control, with wordpress.org, you also have the ability to customise your website both visually and under the bonnet. Any plugin you want to use or any edits you want to make to your website’s theme can be done. Just like you’re able to make modifications to a home you own, but not (necessarily) a home you are renting.

Which WordPress Should You Choose?

Should you chose wordpress.com or wordpres.org? Well, that depends on why you’re starting the blog and your plans for the future. If you just want to blog because you’re passionate about something and don’t have the knowledge, budget, time or a combination of all three, then wordpress.com is for you.

WordPress.com is fairly customisable and as you develop your blog, you have the option of purchasing a domain name and using that as the website address people use to find your blog. No more your-blog-name.wordpress.com as it will be replaced with you-blog-name.com as if you were hosting the website yourself. You would also be spared from dealing with a lot of technical things you’re probably not passionate about.

If you want a fully customisable, properly branded platform where you can add whatever plugins you need, you should go with the wordpress.org option. You may need to get someone a little more technical to set everything up for you, but it will pay off in the long run.

Pros and Cons

This table will help you get a clearer idea of which WordPress you should go for.

WordPress.com WordPress.org
Hosting is free You need to buy hosting
Plugins can be limited Plugins can achieve anything you can imagine
No custom coding Fully customisable
Partial control of your brand Full control of your brand
Traffic and SEO work benefits wordpress.org Direct traffic and SEO benefits for your website

Go to the WordPress.com website here to learn more or get your own website.

Go to WordPress.org to download the files you need here.

If you have a great wordpress.com website that’s performing really well that you’d like to share, or any questions, pop them in the comments below. On the other hand, if you’d like your own wordpress site, I can develop one for you (usually with wordpress.org), so get in touch.