WordPress comes in two forms, which might seem confusing for those who are new or wondering where to situate themselves in the vast world wide web. The oversimplified explanation of “one is free and one is paid” can be more harmful than helpful because, well, everyone likes free, right, and that’s what we’d gravitate towards if we’re just testing the waters. However, if you dig deeper, it might not be exactly what you’re looking for for the long term. As you gain experience, and thoughts of expansion begin crossing your mind, you’ll start running into limitations on your free website. And when you decide it’s time to make the switch, you’ll be hit with a new bunch of uncertainties: Will all my content transfer over? Can I keep the same theme? And most importantly: how do I switch? Before continuing, ask yourself, what is the purpose of my website?
Opening an account on wordpress.com is totally free. In just a few minutes, you’ll have created your account, picked out a nice looking theme from a preset selection, tweaked some settings, and you’re online and ready to post content. WordPress takes care of the hosting, security, backups, maintenance, and offers a bunch of free features such as social media share buttons, traffic statistics, polls and more without the use of plugins. You are given a subdomain—something that looks like www.yourblogname.wordpress.com. The options they offer allow you to do basic design customization, and you’re given 3GB of free storage for pictures and videos. It’s much easier to get the hang of and maintain since most of the moving parts are taken care of for you. If you require a bit more functionality, there are premium plans available with options to create a custom domain name, to remove all wordpress advertisements on your site, and to increase storage. When your account is on wordpress.com, WordPress owns your website and controls what can happen to it, including deleting it completely if they feel it violates their terms and services.
A website that is self-hosted means that you are hosting it yourself through an outside company such as Bluehost or Siteground and paying them a monthly or yearly fee. To set up your site through wordpress.org, you will go through a longer process because you will have to do everything manually, starting with acquiring your domain name to downloading and installing the wordpress software (from wordpress.org) onto your host’s server. When all the parts are in place, you choose any prebuilt theme you want and begin customizing the design of your website. I like the themes by StudioPress which also come with its own framework. You are not limited to what wordpress offers you for themes in the free version. You will also have unlimited space provided by your hosting company. Plugins will have to be installed manually from your wordpress dashboard depending on what functionalities you want. Google Analytics to track traffic? SEO? The sky’s the limit. (not really- you should be selective as too many plugins tend to slow down your site). Everything you build in the back and see on the front will be yours—you own it and you are free to use that space in any which way you like, including renting it out for ad placement. Which brings us to the next topic and one of the main distinguishing points between the two versions:
WordPress.com vs WordPress.org – Monetization
You want to make money off your site, build an online store, get into affiliate marketing, put ads, sell online courses and a bunch of other ideas you’ve been brainstorming. If you’re thinking of establishing an online business or putting things up for sale, the best solution is to own and be responsible for the site you are selling their products and services on and to do that, you need to go with self-hosted wordpress. With this WordPress platform version, you have total freedom over your website:
- Complete control over design and customization
- Access to a huge library of plugins which makes setting up your online store or business a breeze.
- Ability to place ads or banners anywhere on your site
- Your choice of payment gateway (Paypal, Stripe, etc)
- Use of third party applications like ConvertKit and Optin Monster to create web forms, collect emails, and manage your lists
- Unlimited storage—helpful when you have a ton of products with pictures to upload, or a resource library of video courses you’re trying to monetize.
In contrast, WordPress.com offers monetization options with heavy restrictions.
- You aren’t allowed to put ads on your site. The exception is that, if you’re on a premium plan, you may apply and get approved if you have over 25,000 page views per month. Note that WordPress will then be entitled to 50% of your revenue
- Google Adsense is not allowed
- Affiliate linking to specific industries and websites aren’t allowed
- You aren’t allowed to sell other people’s products. The only products you can sell are the ones that you yourself create.
- Sales have to be made through a Paypal button on your site
You might be able to tell that I’m a bit biased in this comparison—I prefer self-hosted wordpress—but the truth is it depends on your needs. I have used both versions of the WordPress platform, .com when I blogged recreationally about expat life and self-hosted when starting a business. For those who want an outlet with only the intention to post and share with your circle of friends, wordpress.com is a good place to start. For the rest of you, head on over to read: How To Setup and Install WordPress On SiteGround.
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