WordPress.com or WordPress.org?

January 21, 2013

by Jeanine Vecchiarelli                                   return to JayVee Media Link LLC

Our blogs are the most potent weapons we currently have in the great war of the search engine rankings.  Considering the recent algorithm changes that give more weight to our original content creations, our blog sites can literally make the difference between being found and being invisible.  For our clients and ourselves, there is no getting around the power of our blogs.

WordPress is probably the most popular blogging platform.  The choices and the versatility it offers make it a favorite home for our original content.  The platform even comes in two varieties, with each offering different levels of features and user abilities.  Which one is best suited to us?


wordpress.com home page screen shot

For the beginning blogger, the person who desires a simple, straightforward platform, or one who possesses limited technical know-how, wordpress.com is the way to go.  It is an open source platform, free to use at its most basic level.  While they can do so if they wish, users don’t even need to purchase domain names.  There is no charge for hosting the blogs, and set up is quick and easy.   WordPress.com also provides some handy features, including spam protection, automatic backups and updates, and security protections.

As convenient as the platform is, wordpress.com does have its limitations:

–Users are allowed 3 gb of storage space for their posts.  Additional space is available for purchase.

–More enterprising users who would like to customize their WordPress.com sites may quickly discover how few choices they have.  There are a limited number of free themes available for site design.  While some “premium themes” are available for purchase, users are not permitted to upload custom ones.  Whether free or premium, wordpress.com themes are not transferable off the platform.  Also, at the free level users have no option to alter those theme designs (a small annual fee permits only minor changes).

— As for customized enhancements to the blog site’s functionality, wordpress.com offers a very limited selection of “plug-ins” – just a fraction of the more than 19,000 that are available for wordpress.org.

–The .com platform also does not permit video hosting on its free site.  The feature is available for an additional annual fee.  Embedded videos from YouTube are accepted.

–Users who do not have custom domain names and large followings are not permitted to advertise on their wordpress.com blog sites. But the platform itself may place third party ads on them.  Those can be removed…for a fee.

Ultimately, for those users who wish to expand their free blogging sites, the paid add-ons to the wordpress.com platform may exceed the cost of a wordpress.org site. Even then, only limited control over a user’s page can be attained.

Here’s a final thought on the wordpress.com site that I find mildly disturbing: technically, users don’t “own” the content they publish there.  The chances of having the platform decide it has an issue with a user’s content and shutting his/her site down are supposedly infinitesimal.  But even a tiny chance of that happening sets off alarm bells in my head.  That’s one of the reasons I advocate against foregoing a website in favor of using Facebook to house our content.  Even if the chance is smaller with the .com site, the fact that a chance exists at all makes me uneasy.


wordpress.org home page screen shot

For any use beyond a beginner stage, and especially for business purposes, WordPress.org is the desired alternative.  The platform does require a user to purchase a domain name and pay a service to host it.  But these are not big costs.  And many hosting services offer free one click installation of the WordPress platform, so the user doesn’t have to know the intricacies involved in a manual install.

WordPress.org does require a degree of technical knowledge. Happily, there are scores of support forums and how-to guides to help users along.  Unlike its .com counterpart, WordPress.org offers complete control over the look and feel of the site.  Beside the abundance of free and paid themes available for the platform, users may upload custom theme layouts.  And functionality can be tailored to users’ needs via any combination of the 19,000+ available plug-ins.  Layout and page design as well as its functionality are subject only to the limitations of users’ imaginations and capabilities.  Video hosting is permitted, as are affiliate advertising and promoting of products and services.  Ultimately, the .org site can be configured to serve as a whole website, and commerce can be conducted from it (either platform can also be connected to users’ websites if they already have separate sites). Best of all, users own and maintain complete control over all the content on their WordPress.org sites.

Needless to say, there are some drawbacks to WordPress’ self hosted platform.  Spam protection and backup services are not automatically provided.  Appropriate plug-ins must be installed and configured to obtain them.  There is a fee for spam control.  And again, users need to possess a level of technological knowledge to use the site.  In the event the support forums and how-to guides aren’t enough for a user, this factor can be mitigated by outsourcing responsibility for it.

wordpress.com or wordpress.org?

WordPress.com or WordPress.org?  Which is best for you?  Your needs, intended purposes and technical abilities should guide you in making the choice.  And in case you think you made an incorrect decision, there’s no need to worry:  a wordpress.com site can be migrated to the wordpress.org platform.  So which is it for you, and why?  Please share your thoughts in the comments section below!