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Free WordPress.com vs. Self-Hosted WordPress.org

Whether you’re new to blogging, or you’re considering the move from Blogger to WordPress, it’s important for you to learn the difference between the two types of WordPress blogs – WordPress.com (free) and WordPress.org (paid).

WordPress.org, which is self-hosted, is more SEO-friendly and gives you more functionality. It also allows you to have complete freedom in terms of using Google Adsense and other ads. On WordPress.com, you cannot use ads on your site.

If you’re looking to become a professional blogger, you need to choose self-hosted WordPress.org. You will learn why later in this post. If blogging is your hobby and you have no interest in making money from your blog, WordPress.com may be the right fit for you.

Here’s a breakdown between WordPress.com versus WordPress.org (which is what I use).

WordPress.com (Free – but with Limited Features)

For beginning bloggers who are not interested in earning money from their blog, WordPress.com is a good fit. WordPress.com uses the same WordPress software that you download onto your self-hosted server for WordPress.com.

The benefits for WordPress.com include:

  • WordPress.com is free and easy to set-up. When you choose WordPress.com, everything is taken care of, including your upgrades, backups, security, and spam blockers.
  • Your blog will be hosted on WordPress.com’s servers. Because your blog is on hundreds of servers, there’s very little chance that it will go down due to high traffic. (On a self-hosted blog, if your traffic skyrockets, and your server can’t handle that amount, your blog will go down. So this is a definite perk of WordPress.com).
  • Another benefit is that you get extra traffic from WordPress.com’s blogs of the day and tags.
  • WordPress.com provides gives you unlimited database storage. You never have to worry about upgrading the software. It is performed automatically.

The cons of WordPress.com include:

  • While you can choose over 100 themes, you can’t run a custom theme. You can edit the CSS but you can’t customize the PHP code behind your blog. (PHP code is the heart of WordPress, and it allows you to customize the theme to your liking.) If you want a customized theme, WordPress.com is not for you.
  • Another negative about WordPress.com – it does not allow you to upload or use any plugins. For SEO (search engine optimization) purposes, this is a real downer.
  • Unfortunately, if you are looking to monetize your blog, WordPress.com is not for you. WordPress.com does not allow you to use Adsense, Chitika, Text Link Ads, Yahoo, and other ads on your blog. However, if you generate a ton of traffic (around 25,000 page views a month), you can turn on Adsense and Skimlinks, but you have to share the profits with WordPress.com (50/50).
  • Because WordPress.com is free, they can sometimes run advertisements on your blog. You do not get any money from these ads.
  • You must adhere to WordPress.com’s Terms of Service, or there’s a chance that you will lose your blog.

Because of the limited features of WordPress.com, it would probably be more fair to compare WordPress.com (free) to Blogger.com (also free).

WordPress.org (Self-hosted – Perfect for the Professional Blogger)

If you are a professional blogger, and you are looking to make money from your blog, you should consider using WordPress.org as your blogging platform. I recently made the switch from Blogger to WordPress.org, and I am never looking back. (Since making the switch, I have seen a steady increase in my traffic and a huge spike in my followers.)

WordPress.org requires you to buy your own web hosting – they give you the names of a variety of trusted companies. You will download the WordPress.org blogging software to your web host, and all your themes, plugins, media, etc. will be hosted by the web hosting company. (The WordPress.org software is free, but web hosting is not.) Some web hosting companies offer one-step installations of WordPress, which eliminates the need for you to create the WordPress database and configuration files. You will be amazed at how many web hosting providers will install WordPress for you. (Just ask them their policy before you fork over any money.)

What I love about WordPress.org is that you have full control of your blog. Unlike Blogger (which can delete your blog, if your content is believed to violate Blogger’s Term of Service or Content Policy), your blog on WordPress.org will never be deleted unless you choose for it to be deleted.


The Pros of WordPress.org include:

  • WordPress.org allows you to upload any theme that you want. You can customize that theme in any way you want. You have free rein in editing and changing CSS and the PHP code. If you’re a programmer, you can even create your own theme and upload it.
  • You can upload any plugin that you want. (Plugins are used to extend the functionality of your WordPress blog. They make your blog stronger and more powerful. You can find plugins to make your blog more interactive – such as featured posts slideshows, Twitter and Facebook buttons, and more. Plugins can also make your blog more SEO friendly.)
  • WordPress.org is more SEO-friendly. WordPress.org allows you to easily know who is linking to you with trackbacks and pingbacks. You can also make your images SEO-friendly by carefully naming your photos and through WordPress plugins.
  • You are in full control of your blog. You don’t have to worry about following any Terms of Service.
  • You can use your own domain name, use your own favicon, and you can create as many sub-sections as you want. If you want to brand your blog, self-hosted WordPress.org blog is perfect for you.

The Downside of WordPress.org

  • Unfortunately, WordPress.com requires a monetary investment. You have to buy web hosting, which generally costs between $3 and $12 dollars a month (or upwards of $100 a year).
  • You need to have some technical knowledge to get your WordPress.org themes set up and customized the way you want it. WordPress.com themes are lovely, but if you want to customize them, you need to learn some CSS and HTML.
  • You have to keep up with the WordPress software, and make sure that your WordPress and all your plugins are up-to-date.

The Visual Breakdown

Here’s a visual breakdown for you – The Self-Hosted WordPress.org versus Free WordPress.com Infograph – many thanks to WPBeginner.com. (Click on the image to enlarge)

Which is Better – WordPress.com or WordPress.org?

I’m biased. I want to monetize and make extra income on my blog. I hope to turn blogging into a full-time job eventually. Because I need to sell advertising and I display ads on my sidebar, WordPress.org is perfect for me. My blog is also SEO-friendly, and I spend a lot of time tweaking my URLS, writing meta-tags and meta-descriptions for Google (thanks to the All in One SEO Pack Plugin). WordPress.org is the right choice for me.

But it may not be the right choice for you. You may find that you want the benefits of WordPress, and you can do without ads, so the free WordPress.com might be an option for you. When making your decision, just think about what you want and need for your blog.

If you enjoyed this post, please Tweet and Share this link on Facebook. Next week in the Blogging Tips and Tutorials series, I will be comparing WordPress.org versus Blogger.

Happy Blogging!


Other Posts You May Enjoy:

Blogger to WordPress Migration: A Step by Step Guide (Part 1)

Moving from Blogger to WordPress without Losing Followers or Page Rank (Part 2)

Blogger vs. WordPress: What’s the Best Blogging Platform?

About the author: DP Nguyen is founder and editor of Hip Chick’s Guide to PMS, Pregnancy and Babies. She’s an expert pregnancy and women’s health blogger. She is NOT a medical doctor and does NOT offer medical advice. Connect with her on Google+, Twitter and Facebook.

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      Hi Plami,

      I use plugins to help me deal with backups and spam protection. I use WordPress Database Backup to help back up my blog on a weekly basis, and Askimet is awesome for spam protection. Yeah, I update on my own. It’s really easy. You just click it a button to update and it does it automatically. Not hard at all!

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  • Becki January 17, 2011, 3:23 pm

    Wow- awesome information! I am in the process of switching over to wp.org also and this really helps. I’m hesitant because I haven’t been able to ask if I can transfer my existing comments and logged views? do you have any info on that?

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      Hi Becki,

      I am in the process of writing a tutorial about switching over from Blogger to Wordpress.org, and yes, you can import your blog posts and comments. I will have that post up sometime this week. I will email you and try to guide you through it too 🙂


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