Comparison

WordPress.com vs WordPress.org – What’s the Difference? (Explained)

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WordPress.com vs WordPress.org Full Comparison

Are you here to find out the difference between WordPress.com vs WordPress.org? 

WordPress is the most popular website builder and Content Management System (CMS) software used by over 35% of all the websites on the internet according to W3Techs.

Despite its popularity, many people still don’t know the difference between the 2 WordPress platforms; WordPress.com and WordPress.org. And due to the confusion, many users end up choosing the wrong platform for their website.

Therefore in this article, we’ll compare the 2 WordPress platforms side by side based on various factors like their features, expenses, requirements, ease of use, etc. to help choose the right one for your site. Let’s get started!


1. WordPress.com vs WordPress.org – Overview

Before comparing them into the depth, let’s first know what actually are WordPress.com and WordPress.org.

What is WordPress.org?

WordPress.org is the home to the most popular website creation software ‘WordPress’. In other words, it’s the official WordPress site from where you can download the ‘WordPress’ software for free.

WordPress.org Website
– WordPress.org Website

Before we dive more into details of WordPress.org, let’s first talk about what is WordPress.

WordPress is a free open-source site-building software distributed under the GNU General Public License. Being ‘free open-source’ means that the software is available for anyone to download, use, modify, and also redistribute freely, and at no cost. And WordPress.org is the website where this software lives.

Aside from that, WordPress.org features a theme repository with 7500+ free themes and a plugin repository with over 55,000 free plugins. The themes are design templates that define the overall appearance of your website. Whereas plugins are like apps that add additional functionalities in WordPress.

In addition, it has many useful pages like documentation, blog, support forums, etc. to help you learn WordPress better.

As an open-source project, the WordPress software is managed, updated, and improved by a worldwide community of volunteers. Independent web developers and users from around the globe contribute towards making the platform better for zero charges. The WordPress trademark and the WordPress.org domain are owned by the non-profit WordPress Foundation.

Now, let’s talk about the major point; how to make a website on this platform? In short, you can download WordPress from this site, install it on a web server, and then create your site. This means that you need to manage a web hosting and domain name on your own if you use WordPress.org.

What is WordPress.com?

In contrast, WordPress.com is a ‘fully-hosted’ website builder where you can sign up for an account and instantly start making your site. Being ‘fully-hosted’ means that it’s an already hosted platform, so you don’t need to find a web host, download, and install WordPress. It’s an easier way to use WordPress but has several limitations which we’ll explain below.

WordPress.com Website
– WordPress.com Website

At WordPress.com, you can find ready-to-use WordPress at different pricing levels including a free plan. With the free plan, you can make a blog but with a WordPress.com subdomain. For example, your site’s URL will like this: ‘example.wordpress.com’. Also, it shows ads and you can’t remove them unless you upgrade to a paid plan.

You can create a website on WordPress.com in just a few simple steps. Firstly, you can go to WordPress.com and create an account using your email address. Or you can sign up with a Google or Apple account, choose a domain name, and an appropriate plan. Then, the site will be ready and you can start customizing.

It’s owned by Automattic, a profit-oriented company run by a WordPress founder Matt Mullenweg. Meaning, the people behind the open-source WordPress software and the WordPress.com company are the same.

WordPress software was first launched in 2003 by 2 web developers Matt Mullenweg and Mike Little as a free open-source project. Later in 2005, the WordPress software co-founder Matt Mullenweg started WordPress.com under his company Automattic. 

Main Points:

In conclusion, here are the main distinguishing points between WordPress.org and WordPress.com.

  • WordPress is a free website building software. WordPress.org is from you can download the software. Whereas WordPress.com is a website hosting platform where you can sign up and start making a website.
  • To make a site with .org, you need to buy web hosting, domain name and install WordPress yourself. But at .com, you get hosting, domain, and WordPress pre-installed.
  • The WP.org (WordPress.org) offers everything free, the core software, themes, plugins. It’s a non-profit community project. Whereas WP.com is a for-profit business that lets you use its platform for some price.

Note: ‘WP’ is short for WordPress and it’s commonly used in place of WordPress. So, we’ve also used it in some places here. Also, we’ve used ‘WP.org’ for ‘WordPress.org’ and ‘WP.com’ for ‘WordPress.com’.


2. Domain and Hosting Differences

As discussed above, the main difference between WordPress.org and WordPress.com is how you get hosting and domain.

Domain and Hosting for a WordPress.com Site

With WordPress.com, you don’t need to worry about the domain name and web hosting because it provides you both as part of its website building package. Both free and paid WordPress.com plans have the domain and hosting included. 

If you start out with the free plan, then you get free hosting but not a custom domain name. You need to use a WordPress.com subdomain. With a WordPress.com subdomain, your website domain name will look like this: https://example.wordpress.com or https://mynewwpwebsite.wordpress.com.

A WordPress.com Subdomain Example
– A WordPress.com Subdomain Example

The WordPress.com branding will also appear on other different locations on your site like footer, sidebars, below content, etc. when using a free plan. For example, it’ll display a branding message “Powered by WordPress.com” or “A WordPress.com site” in your site’s footer.

WordPress.com Footer Credit
– WordPress.com Footer Credit

To get a custom domain without ‘.wordpress.com’ and to remove the WordPress branding from your site, you have to upgrade to one of its paid plans.

Domain and Hosting for a WordPress.org Site

While, if you use WordPress.org, then you need to take care of both the domain and hosting by yourself. And it’s easier than you think. You can get cool domain names at surprisingly cheap rates. Even better, you can get a free domain name when you buy hosting from some companies like  Bluehost

Your website domain after using a custom domain name would look like this: www.example.com or www.sitesaga.com or www.google.com.

Custom Domain Name Example (sitesaga.com)
– Custom Domain Name Example (sitesaga.com)

For hosting your website, you can also find free hosting services out there. But, it’s better to invest some money in hosting because it determines your site’s security, speed, SEO, and various other aspects. You can find various web hosting companies like Bluehost for cheaper hosting plans.

With WordPress.org, you own the website. So, displaying or removing branding is totally your choice. You don’t have to display any footer credit of WordPress.org on your site unless you want to.

Instead, you can add your branding and even a copyright notice in the footer. For example, you can see a copyright text like below in your site’s footer area.

Copyright Message on Footer (SiteSaga)
– Copyright Message on Footer (SiteSaga)

Conclusion: WordPress.com offers both hosting and domain name but you won’t be able to use the full hosting resources unless you purchase their expensive plans. With WordPress.org, you can host your site on any hosting you like.


3. Themes and Plugins Choices

Themes and plugins are very important in WordPress as they define how your site looks and what it does. The themes provide overall design for your site whereas plugins add new features. Here, we’re going to compare themes and plugins available on WordPress.org vs WordPress.com.

Themes & Plugins You Can Use on WordPress.org

First, you can pick from 7,500+ free customizable themes available in the official theme repository at WordPress.org. You can install any of these themes on your site directly from the admin dashboard.

Add Themes Page on WordPress Dashboard
– Add Themes Page on WordPress Dashboard

Secondly, you can also get thousands of options to pick themes from other third-party theme provider websites. Some renowned WordPress theme provider companies and their best themes are:

  • Elegant Themes – Divi multipurpose theme, Extra magazine theme, etc.
  • ThemeGrill – ColorMag WordPress magazine theme, Zakra multipurpose theme, etc.
  • ThemeIsle – Neve Multipurpose theme, Hestia One-page theme, etc.

Lastly, you can choose more premium themes from marketplaces like ThemeForest, Mojo Marketplace, Template Sell, etc.

What about plugins? Even more in number, you’ll get a larger selection of plugins at WordPress.org. There are over 55,000+ free plugins available at WordPress.org plugin repository. Similar to themes, you can install these plugins also from your WordPress dashboard quickly and use them for no cost at all.

Add Plugins Page WordPress (Installing Yoast SEO Plugin)
– Add Plugins Page WordPress (Installing Yoast SEO Plugin)

Plus, you can find thousands of other free, premium plugins at other third-party WordPress stores and marketplaces like CodeCanyon. 

Themes & Plugins You Can Use on WordPress.com

Whereas, there’re limited theme and plugin choices at WordPress.com. With free and Personal WordPress.com plans, you get access to only about 150 free themes. You can use a premium theme with a Personal plan but you need to buy the theme separately.

Add Themes Page on WordPress.com Dashboard
– Add Themes Page on WordPress.com Dashboard

If you upgrade to higher plans i.e. Premium, Business, and eCommerce plans, then you get access to 200 more premium customizable themes.

Can you use other custom themes? No, WordPress.com doesn’t permit you to add new custom themes, nor you can customize the existing themes a lot.

Similarly, plugin options are also limited in WordPress.com. With the free plan, you’ll find pre-built JetPack plugin features but you can’t add other plugins. If you’re on a Business or an eCommerce plan, then you can get access to a collection of plugins however you can’t upload any new plugin.

WordPress.org or WordPress.com, Which is the Winner? WordPress.org wins because you’re free to use any theme or plugins from thousands of options available. Whereas WordPress.com lets you use only a certain number of themes and plugins available on its store.


4. Expense/ Cost Comparison

Which WordPress platform is cost-effective; WordPress.org or WordPress.com? Here’s our side by side comparison.

Expenses for Making a Site in WordPress.com

WordPress.com comes with both free and premium plans. The free plans include the following things:

  • Free web hosting for your site
  • Free subdomain of WordPress.com (e.g.www.example.wordpress.com)
  • Limited storage space
  • Unpaid ads displayed by WordPress.com which you can’t remove
  • Footer credit by WordPress.com which you can’t remove

The free plan is limited in terms of features and flexibility but it can be a good option for learners to begin with. You can create a blog or personal website with free WordPress.com.

For adding more features, it’s better to upgrade to one of the paid plans that best fits your needs. The paid plans of WordPress.com look like this.

  • Personal plan: $48 per year – includes a custom domain, live chat support, and email access
  • Premium plan: $96 per year – provides designing tools and Google Analytics feature
  • Business plan: $300 per year – gives access to custom themes and plugins and 200 GB  storage
  • eCommerce plan: $540 per year – provides a flexible and powerful platform for your online store
WordPress.com Pricing Plans
– WordPress.com Pricing Plans

Expenses for Making a Site in WordPress.org

When you use WordPress.org, the price that you have to pay is basically the cost of your web hosting and domain name.

You can purchase a great hosting plan as less as $2.59 per month from DreamHost.com and other web hosts around a similar price range. A domain name usually costs around $15 per year but you can get a free domain if you buy a yearly hosting plan from DreamHost, Bluehost, and some other companies.

DreamHost WordPress Hosting Plans
– DreamHost WordPress Hosting Plans

A self-hosted website may also add additional costs. Other costs can include a CDN service for speed optimization, plugins and tools for site security, a premium theme, additional plugins, and developers’ fees if you need any technical support.

Which is Cheaper? WordPress.com lets you make a free website but you should buy a paid plan if you want a custom site. Whereas for a WordPress.org site, you should buy a domain and hosting whose cost can range from very little to a lot. When resources and pricing are compared, the .org option turns out to be cheaper than .com plans.


5. Monetization Options

Did you know that your WordPress blog can be used to earn money? If you don’t know, then you can read this detailed article to find out how you can monetize your blog and make money online.

In brief, once your blog website reaches enough viewers, you can sell some sections of your web pages to ad services to feature their ads on your website. And then, the ad service will pay you for it. It’s called ad monetization. Also, you can add affiliate links on your blog articles, and earn referral commission money.

Now let’s compare WordPress.com vs WordPress.org for monetization options and opportunities.

Monetization Options in a WordPress.org Website

In WordPress.org, you have complete freedom of monetization. a) Advertising: You can choose any advertising platform and also you can add as many ads as you want on your website. The important thing is that you get to keep 100% of the revenue earned from it. For ad management, you can use a plugin like AdRotate.

AdRotate WordPress Plugin
– AdRotate WordPress Plugin

b) Affiliate Marketing: You can also earn by affiliate marketing. It means promoting others’ products from your blog for commission money which product companies will give you for sending them customers. You can add thousands of affiliate links on your content and manage them easily with simple plugins like ThirstyAffiliates, Pretty Links, etc.

c) Selling products via an online store: Even more, you can also set up an eCommerce store and sell your product and services. To do so, you can use the WooCommerce plugin which is now the most popular eCommerce solution used by over 28% of online shops on the web. It lets you sell products, handle payments, shipping, etc.

WooCommerce, Most Popular eCommerce Plugin
– WooCommerce, Most Popular eCommerce Plugin

Moreover, you can make more money by selling memberships, online courses, or other types of premium content.

To conclude, you can enjoy limitless earning opportunities with a self-hosted WordPress site.

Monetization Options in a WordPress.com Website

On the other hand, the WordPress.com platform displays its unpaid ads on your site if you sign up for free. And if you upgrade to a Personal plan, then the ads are removed.

With higher plans, you can monetize your website using the provided channels. a) Set up a WooCommerce store and sell products: With a Business plan which costs $25/mo. or a higher plan, you can set up an eCommerce store and sell physical and digital products online.

b) WordAds advertising program: WordAds is the official advertising program of WordPress.com providing ads from external networks like Google and Facebook. Users signed up with a minimum of a Premium plan ($8/mo.) can use this program.

WordAds WordPress.com Advertising Program
– WordAds WordPress.com Advertising Program

c) Affiliate links: Similar to WordPress.org, you can add affiliate links to your WordPress.com blog as long as you’ve original content and write about useful legal products. However, you can’t add plugins for affiliate link management, so you must add links manually which can be a hassle.

You can check out all your earning options by going to the ‘Earn’ page from your WordPress.com dashboard.

Earn Page in WordPress.com Dashboard
– Earn Page in WordPress.com Dashboard

If you want to learn more, then you can visit this support article on way to monetize a WordPress.com site.

Which has better monetization features? WordPress.org offers unlimited monetization options; sell products, advertise, add affiliate links, create paid memberships, etc. WordPress.com also offers some earning options but they’re available only with its expensive plans.


6. SEO: WordPress.com vs WordPress.org


Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is a technique for making your blog or website visible on top of the search engine results. As most people rely on search engine suggestions nowadays, SEO has become one of the most important factors to determine the success of online businesses. 

WordPress software by default has many SEO benefits. It has an SEO friendly structure, lets you add meta descriptions, create website sitemaps, and also create SEO friendly URLs.

Now, let’s look at how you can do better SEO in these 2 WordPress platforms.

SEO Options for a WordPress.com Site

WordPress.com doesn’t offer SEO tools for websites on free, personal, and premium plans. Only websites with a Business plan ($25/mo.) and higher plans have access to SEO tools provided by WordPress.

SEO Tools on WordPress.com
– SEO Tools on WordPress.com

The tools include options to front page meta description, post meta description, search and social previews, etc.

Also, you can also install third-party plugins like Yoast SEO, All in One SEO Pack, etc. if you’re a Business plan user.

SEO Options for a WordPress.org Site

On the other hand, WordPress.org comes with several free SEO plugins and there are no restrictions for their use. Plugins like Yoast SEO, All in One SEO, Rank Math offer plenty of SEO options completely for free.

For example, you can add keywords and create SEO friendly title, meta description, URLs for all your pages and posts using Yoast SEO plugin or another plugin.

Editing Post Title & Description Using Yoast SEO Plugin
– Editing Post Title & Description Using Yoast SEO Plugin

Besides, you can also use other SEO tools and services like SEMrush, Ahrefs, etc. to get SEO ideas for your website. 

WordPress.com vs WordPress.org for SEO? The .org platform is certainly the winner when it comes to SEO features. It offers unbound optimization options with plenty of SEO plugins. The .com platform also lets you use these plugins but you should be a Business plan ($25/mo.) user.


7. Website Analytics Options

Web analytics is the process of studying, recording, and evaluating the website visitors and extracting some meaningful information out of it. Web analytics helps you know your visitors and their behavior on your website.

You can learn who your site visitors are, their location, the types of posts they prefer, the time they stay on your website, the devices on which they visited your website, and so on. 

Both WordPress platforms provide web analytics tools to keep track of website visitors. Now, let’s look at both of them separately.

Website Analytics Features in WordPress.com

WordPress.com provides basic built-in analytics and stats with Jetpack plugin in all of its plans. Free and personal plan users cannot use any additional plugins. But if you subscribe to their Premium plan ($8/mo.), then you can integrate Google Analytics on your site. It’s a popular web analytics tool by Google.

Jetpack Site Stats on WordPress.com
– Jetpack Site Stats on WordPress.com

With higher plans i.e. Business or eCommerce plans, you can also install other plugins for better analytics.

Website Analytics Features in WordPress.org

On the other hand, WordPress.org allows you to use multiple analytics tools. Like in WordPress.com, you can use Jetpack stats in WordPress.org too. Not only that, but you can also use other analytics tools like Google Analytics, Koko Analytics, HubSpot, and any other plugin you like.

Google Site Kit Dashboard on WordPress
– Google Site Kit Dashboard on WordPress

Among all, Google Analytics is the most used web analytics tool. To use it on your self-hosted WordPress site, you can use an integration plugin like Site Kit by Google or MonsterInsights. With MonsterInsights, you can easily track more advanced metrics like eCommerce, forms conversion, etc.

Which has better analytics options? WordPress.com allows you to add Google Analytics only with its Premium plan whereas WordPress.org lets you add various tools via various ways easily.


8. Support and Maintenance

Maintaining a site’s security, speed and user-friendliness are very important. And the process can be a bit complex sometimes.

Therefore, you may need some sort of help from others sometime in the process of making and managing a site. Here, we’re going to compare WordPress.com vs. WordPress.org, which has a better support system.

Support and Maintenance Options for a WordPress.com Site

WordPress.com handles all the technical aspects of your website. You don’t have to worry about performance, maintenance, update, support, or any issue because the technical team will handle everything. It means that you can focus on the core working of your website.

To help you with the website making process, it has a documentation page with simple articles. Free plan users must rely on them for support. You can find the ‘Help’ option also in your site dashboard.

WordPress.com Support Option
– WordPress.com Support Option

But if you’re on any paid plan, then you can get support via emails, live chat, etc.

Support and Maintenance Options for a WordPress.org Site

With WordPress.org, you’re the in-charge of your website. You’ve to take care of all the issues of your website yourself. You can install and use various available plugins to tune the performance of your website. It takes some time and effort to set it up but, you’ll have full control over your website.

For support, you can find a visit ‘Support’ page in WordPress.org. It has basic guides to help you get started.

WordPress.org Support Page
– WordPress.org Support Page

All the free themes and plugins at WordPress.org have a support forum page from where they provide support to their users. Some companies go the extra mile by offering email and phone support. While most of the premium product companies provide dedicated support. 

WordPress.com or WordPress, which has better support? It’s a tie because both platforms have support facilities for paid services, i.e. paid plan users of WordPress.com and paid service (hosting, domain, theme) users of WordPress.org. If you’re using free stuff, then you must rely on support articles.


9. WP.com vs WP.org – Pros and Cons

Let’s look at some plus points and limitations of both WordPress.com and WordPress.org.

WordPress.com: Pros and Cons

Pros:

  • It has an easy and clear setup process – just go to the website WordPress.com, sign up, choose a domain name, and choose a plan. Then, you are ready to customize your website.
  • The paid version of WordPress.com provides support and help according to the plan you choose. 
  • WordPress.com takes care of all the security and backup of your website. You don’t need to worry about the technical aspects of your website.

Cons:

  • It is a bit costly because you have to upgrade to paid plans for using most of the features. Only limited features are in-built on WordPress.com site.
  • It provides comparatively limited themes and plugins.
  • The customization option is limited.
  • Monetization is limited – only possible with higher plans, limited ad services, and you get a share of the revenue.

WordPress.org: Pros and Cons

Now, let’s see the pros and cons of WordPress.org.

Pros:

  • It’s a bit cheaper in comparison to WordPress.com.
  • It provides an impressive number of free themes and plugins.
  • It gives you the highest level of flexibility. You can add third-party themes and plugins, add your own theme, or even write custom codes for customization.
  • It gives you monetization freedom. You can choose any ad provider and you get to keep all the money from ad impressions.

Cons:

  • The installation process is a bit tricky. But, you can easily learn by reading articles and watching step-by-step tutorial videos.
  • As WordPress.org is an open-source platform, there is no support available from the WordPress.org team.
  • You have to take care of the backup, security, and maintenance by yourself.

10. Which one is Better for Your Website?

As we’ve seen, both WordPress.com and WordPress.org have their pros and cons. We can’t say that one platform is better than the other. It’s only a matter of your preferences and the functions that you want on your site.

For example, if you’re a beginner, looking for a blog website to share your thoughts or interests just as a hobby, then we recommend the free version of WordPress.com. It’s easy to use, costs you no money, and you don’t need to worry about the technical issues. And as your requirements increase, you can upgrade your site to a suitable premium plan.

But, if you want a more professional website with a unique custom design, then you should go for WordPress.org. You can use it to create blogs, business websites, online stores, personal websites, membership websites, news portals, and anything you want. Plus, you will have ownership and complete control over the website.

So, there is no clear way to compare and rank them. But in some aspects, WordPress.org is a little superior to WordPress.com. In terms of website authority, features access, flexibility, and customization capability, WordPress.org is quite ahead of WordPress.com.

Conclusion

That’s all! We hope this article helped you to know the differences between WordPress.com vs WordPress.org. And, we also hope that this article will help you pick the appropriate WordPress platform for you.

If you’re still confused, here’s our final suggestion for you.

  • Start with the .org flavor if you want to build a professional website or blog. This version allows you complete freedom to customize, monetize, and grow. Here’s our step by step guide to making a great website with WordPress.
  • You can choose .com flavor of WordPress if you don’t have time to maintain and manage your site. This platform lets you start a blog/ site easily and also manages speed, security, etc. of your site entirely for some fee.

If you want to learn more WordPress platform, then please don’t hesitate to leave a comment below.

Also, check this article on 10+ best web hosting services and 10 best domain name providers that suit your website.

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Written By SiteSaga Editorial
SiteSaga Editorial is a team of highly experienced writers, marketers, and web developers. We're here to help beginners get online with their self-made websites or blogs and succeed.

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