So you’re toying with the idea of starting a blog. Exciting!! Then you start researching how to get started. Overwhelming!!
There’s a lot to take in when you’re starting a blog, and if you’re brand new to the blogging world, it can get confusing super quickly. Know that you’re not crazy and you’re not alone if you’re feeling like your head is swirling right now.
One thing that confused me when I started this blog in March 2017: there are two different “WordPress” sites for blogging, and they are both used for completely different types of blogging.
I had another blog a few years ago on wordpress.com and thought that wordpress.com was the WordPress that other bloggers were constantly referring to when discussing starting a profitable (money-making) blog. Spoiler alert: it’s not!
WordPress.com and WordPress.org are two entirely different things. I’m going to say that one more time, as you will end up deeply confusing yourself (as I did) if you don’t grasp this. WordPress.com is not the same thing as WordPress.org. They are different. They do different things. They are for different types of bloggers. We on the same page here? DIFFERENT.
Okay, cool. 🙂
Now that we are on the same page, let’s break down the differences between the two:
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WordPress.com vs. WordPress.org
1. Big-Picture Differences
WordPress.com is for blogs that are not self-hosted (which means you don’t own your website/blog; wordpress.com does).
This platform may be best for you if:
- You have no interest in ever making money off of your blog
- You’re more interested in documenting your day-to-day life (like you would in a journal) than writing articles that the general public might benefit from (like informational posts that you typically find in places like Pinterest)
- You aren’t concerned with the visual appearance of your blog or having control over what your posts look like
WordPress.org is for self-hosted blogs (which means you’ll own your website).
This platform may be best for you if:
- You’re interested in making money from blogging at some point
- You want to produce shareable articles that will help others (like on Pinterest)
- You want complete control over what your site and blog posts look like
WordPress.com offers a basic account that is free to use. It’s a bit limited (only up to 3GB of storage) and it doesn’t include a custom domain name in the basic plan. This means that your domain name would be domainname.wordpress.com instead of domainname.com. If you want anything above the basic plan, it will cost you anywhere from $2.99/month for a personal plan all the way up to $24.92/month for the business plan (which is the only option that includes GoogleAnalytics, which you’ll definitely need if you’re considering blogging for profit at any point). All the the wordpress.com pricing options can be found on their website here, but if you’re doing anything above the basic plan, you’re getting much more bang for your buck by starting a self-hosted blog that you have full control over for.
Bottom Line: Free for super basic; expensive for other plans
WordPress.org is for self-hosted blogs, which means you will have to pay for web hosting. This can run anywhere between about $3.95 (if you use my discount code to set up web hosting through Bluehost) up to about $8 a month, depending on what you need. For brand new bloggers, Bluehost is a fantastic web host, as they have a one-click WordPress.org install (and customer support available 24/7 in case you get completely lost, like I did when I was first starting out). You also get a free domain when you sign up through Bluehost, which will save you about $10-$15 annually. If you need some help deciding on the perfect domain name for your blog, I’ve outlined a few tips here.
Bottom Line: $3.95 per month for web hosting (if you use this discounted link from Bluehost), which includes a free domain name and wordpress.org account. You will have to pay for the whole year up front, so just be prepared.
WordPress.com allows you to select only from wordpress.com themes, which are pretty darn limited. You cannot upload themes, and the ability to edit code on your site will cost you an additional $30ish a year. (Not worth it.)
Bottom line: Limited themes to choose from; limited control over site design
WordPress.org, on the other hand, gives you access to tons and tons of beautiful themes (some crisp, clean free ones to get you started, and others you can purchase once you’re a little further down the road in your blogging journey). You also have free range to edit code as you see fit, aka you have complete control over how your site looks and the ability to design and redesign as you choose.
Bottom line: Huge selection of themes; complete control over site design
4. Plug Ins
WordPress.com doesn’t allow users to upload any plug-ins, and you are limited to using a very small number of pre-selected plug-ins that they’ve made available to users.
Bottom line: Not allowed to upload plug-ins; very limited control over how site functions
WordPress.org allows users to upload any plug-in that they want, which means your site can function as you need it do.
Bottom line: Can update any plug-in you’d like; complete control over how site functions
5. Site Maintenance
WordPress.com takes care of all site maintenance for you, meaning you’ll really never have to worry about things backing up your blog, spam, or running updates.
Bottom line: you don’t have to worry about it!
WordPress.org users, much like homeowners or car owners, are responsible for the maintenance of their websites. This is where having a kick-ass web host service like Bluehost (and their 24/7 customer support) is super useful. If you end up confusing yourself with a site backup, just reach out and they can point you towards some great resources.
Bottom line: entirely your responsibility
6. Monetization (aka Making Money!)
WordPress.com is incredibly limited when it comes to your ability to monetize. You can read their full policy on monetization on their website here. While making a little bit of money through a wordpress.com account could be possible, you will have to purchase one of their plans above the basic, which will cost you anywhere from $2.99 to $24.92 a month. Not worth it for such limited control. If your goal is to make any kind of income with your blog (or if you’re interested in keeping your options open for monetization down the road), self-hosted is going to be the option for you.
Bottom line: Incredibly limited; not a good option if making money blogging is your goal.
WordPress.org gives you 100% control of how you monetize your blog because you own the site. It’s your space to do with as you please. Banners, ads, affiliate links, selling your own products…the sky is the limit when you’re a self-hosted site.
Bottom line: 100% freedom to monetize as you choose.
What it Really Comes Down To
In the end, what it all boils down to is if you want to make money with your blog, use WordPress.org; if you don’t, use WordPress.com. If you need a little help getting started, follow my step-by-step tutorial on how to start your own self-hosted WordPress.org blog here.
Once you set your blogging goal, you’ll be able to make your decision on which service to go with. And once that goal is set…you’ll have completed your first majorly huge decision with starting your blog. Whoo hoo!
P.S. If you’ve started up your own blog and aren’t quite sure where to go next, check out my Mama Blog Audit here. (And don’t let the name fool you—non-mamas are 100% welcome, too. ;))