You know that you want your blog to be a WordPress blog. You love the options it gives you and the variety of themes and plugins. There is just one problem: WordPress.com or WordPress.org? What’s the difference, it’s the same right? RIGHT? One little top-level domain can’t mean that big of difference right? There are differences between the two and they are big differences that you should know before you decide to go with one or the other.
WordPress.com offers hosted WordPress sites. The free option gives you yourblogsubdomain.wordpress.com as your url. With the free option you will get access to an assortment of free themes, with the option to buy premium themes. You will NOT be able to install any of your own themes, or plugins. You are stuck with the options that WordPress gives you. You can upgrade your account to a paid account, or upgrade to your own domain name. This will give you more options, and more customization abilities. You also get the security of knowing WordPress handles all of the updates and maintenance type of tasks that you would otherwise have to do on your own.
This is the “self-hosted” option that WordPress has. WordPress it’s self is completely free. You just download it and set it up on your own server. You will need both your own hosting as well as your own domain name. Going self-hosted will give you access to all of the WordPress themes and plugins you could ever want as well as the ability to get custom themes made for your site. This is a much more flexible option and the options you have for site designs and functions is pretty limitless. It’s also not that expensive!
Which should you choose? WordPress.com or WordPress.org?
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I recommend that you go with self-hosted WordPress, WordPress.org. Why? First and foremost there is price. You can easily get a domain name for under $10/year, and web hosting can run as low as $35/year for A Small Orange’s most basic option. Even if you decide to go for a host that gives you more bandwidth, or even unlimited bandwidth like Blue Host, you can still get your hosting for around $5 dollars a month, and new customers get a free domain name!
Second there is flexibility. There are lots of really awesome plugins out there that you will want to use on your site. IF you are WordPress.com you just can’t use them. This means you might be missing out on tools that will help you grow your blog and email list. That’s not cool! You’ll also be able to have access to even more themes. This ranges from additional free themes that aren’t listed on the WordPress registry, as well as premium themes from other sources, and of course custom design work. If you want to be a professional, full-time blogger, you need a custom blog design!
Third, advertising. If you are going to advertise on your blog, and your blog is on WordPress.com you can ONLY use their own ad service. That means no Adsense, no BlogHer, no ads of your own through Adproval or PassionFruit. This can be a very big issue if you are planning on monetizing your blog this way. This alone might be all the reason you need to go self-hosted.
Fourth, and perhaps on of the biggest reasons I recommend self-hosted is control. If you host your own blog you have complete control over it. You can add what ever plugins you want, use whatever themes you want and generally do whatever you want so long as it’s within the bounds of your hosting agreement. If you are building a blog to be an income source, so you can be a professional blogger you will want to know you are in 100% control of your blog.
So WordPress.com isn’t good at all?
No, it does have it’s benefits. If you are blogging for pleasure then it’s a great option. It’s easy to use and you don’t have to worry about any of the back-end stuff. Plus if you stick with the free option there’s no costs to you. If you are just starting out blogging and not sure if you will stick with it, or just want to blog for the fun of it, it’s a great and easy to use choice. However, if you want to be a professional blogger, you really need to go self-hosted so you ultimately have total control of your blog. Even if you start off on WordPress.com you can still transfer your blog to self-hosted later. It’s pretty easy to do on your own or you can affordably hire someone to get it all set up for you.
Ultimately you need to keep the needs of your blog in mind and your own personal goals. Deciding which platform is right for you doesn’t have to be a hard choice, you can always switch later. The most important thing is that you are happy with the results and it works for your blog.