WordPress.com and WordPress.org
Both WordPress.org and WordPress.com are part of the open-source WordPress platform. Both are used by millions of blogs and websites around the world. The main difference comes down to hosting. WordPress.org is a self-hosted platform, which means that you have to get your own hosting. WordPress.com, on the other hand, provides the hosting (although you also have the option of using your own domain with paid versions). The need to make this distinction is why we refer to WordPress.com rather than just “WordPress.”
Both WordPress.org and WordPress.com are fairly easy for anyone, even beginners, to start using right away even without programming skills. However, WordPress.com offers a simple point-and-click system for quickly creating blogs and websites. In this review, we’ll be focusing on WordPress.com, which has added quite a few new features in the last few years.
Leading Features of WordPress.com
WordPress.com is probably best known as a blogging platform. While it is now much more than just that, it’s still one of the easiest ways to start and grow your own blog.
● A wide selection of themes. Themes are the blueprint for your blog or website, and WordPress has a large and always-growing selection of them. There are both free and premium themes, and the number you have access to depends on your plan.
● Access to plugins. Plugins are one of the best things about WordPress (both .com and .org). With WordPress.com, you can easily install many useful plugins that give you all kinds of capabilities. There are plugins for SEO, e-commerce, security, galleries, and much more. The plugins you have access to are based on what kind of membership you have. However, even free WordPress.com sites give you some helpful plugins.
● Analytics. You can check Stats to see how many visitors you’re getting, which posts are most popular, and other metrics. If you have a Business plan, you can connect your WordPress.com account to Google Analytics, which gives you access to a wide range of metrics.
● Mobile-friendly. Themes are responsive, so they look great no matter what kind of device your readers are using.
Start a Website For Free
WordPress.com is known as one of the leading free blogging platforms, and this is still the case. The difference is that now they are also offering a range of higher-level paid services, which we’ll explore later. However, you can still do a lot with the free version of WordPress.com.
● Choose among dozens of free themes. You can start your website with a professional-looking theme that you can customize.
● WordPress.com Subdomain. It’s important to realize that with the free version of WordPress.com you’re using their domain. So you’re URL is going to be something like www.mywebsite.wordpress.com. While there’s nothing wrong with this if you want to send people to your website, it’s not ideal for SEO purposes.
● Jetpack. This is a powerful WordPress (used by WordPress.org sites as well) plugin that helps you in areas such as SEO, spam protection, social media sharing, and tracking your stats.
● 3GB storage space. This is usually sufficient for personal and small business websites.
● Community support. One of the nice things about WordPress is that there’s a large community of users, many of them with years of experience, who are ready to help you. You can ask a question on a forum and usually get an answer the same day, often within minutes.
● Third-party ads. With the free version, your website will have WordPress.com ads and banners.
It’s quite simple to start a free website with WordPress.com. The system is designed to be “click and point.” You choose a name for the site (which is included in your URL), a theme, and start building your website. A free site is a good way to start if you’re not sure you need the more advanced features that come with paid plans. You can, of course, always upgrade to a paid plan later.
Paid WordPress.com Plans
Now let’s look at what you get with WordPress.com paid plans.
● Personal: $4/month – This plan lets you use a custom domain name and removes all WordPress advertising from your website. Both of these are helpful for personal branding. You also get 6 GB of storage space, double what you get in the free plan.
● Premium: $8/month – This plan is appropriate for businesses and entrepreneurs who want to build a site with more features. You get 13 GB of storage space, access to unlimited Premium themes, which is a big plus. While free themes are fine, they are common, so not as good for distinguishing yourself. You also get more extensive tools for design customization, VideoPress support (a simple way to upload videos to your website, and simple payments, a feature that lets you add PayPal buttons to your site to sell goods and services.
● Business: $25/month – If you want to get a website with the maximum possible impact, this is the plan for you. You get unlimited storage space, the ability to install custom plugins, custom themes, additional SEO tools, Google Analytics integration, and access to live training.
July 2019 WordPress.Com Discount: Get 20% off WordPress.com and Jetpack via this link by using coupon code DISCOUNT20 (valid July 18-July 31, 2019).
Benefits of a Custom Domain
One of the key advantages of choosing a paid plan for your WordPress.com website is that you can have a custom domain. While not absolutely necessary, this feature is useful for branding and optimizing your site with the search engines. When you have your domain name, it’s easier for people to remember. Your domain will be shorter without the “wordpress.com” at the end.
A custom domain is especially valuable if you hand out business cards or tell someone your website URL verbally, such as over the phone. Having your own domain is also better for search engine optimization. WordPress.com does provide SEO help even for free accounts with Jetpack. However, it’s always easier to rank your own domain rather than a website that’s part of a third-party platform such as WordPress.com.
You can either register a brand new domain or transfer an existing one to WordPress.com. A custom domain is probably the #1 reason to consider using a paid WordPress.com account, even if you’re just starting out.
New and Innovative WordPress.com Features
If you’ve ever looked at, considered, or even used WordPress.com in the past, you may not realize that it’s added quite a few features over the years. What was once a fairly simple blogging platform is now a full-service website builder and host. Here are some of the capabilities that WordPress has added recently.
● Large Photo Library – Images are more important than ever if you want to engage your visitors. WordPress.com, in partnership with Pexels, added a large library of stock free photos in January 2018 that display a diversity of people, places, and activities. These are photos you can use on your website (and share on social media) without worrying about copyright violations. This photo library is constantly growing as photographers add new images.
● Podcasting Support – Podcasts are getting more and more popular and give you another powerful way to connect with a wider audience. People can listen to podcasts anywhere, such as while commuting or exercising. WordPress.com has been adding support for podcasts so you can easily add them to your website. Normally, when you create a podcast you need to host it somewhere such as BuzzSprout, SoundCloud, or Blubrry (some of the leading podcasting hosts). This is yet another step you need in addition to your website hosting. WordPress.com, however, lets you host your podcast with them. You can use WordPress.com to create, edit, manage and host your podcasts. This is a simple way to get started with this exciting medium.
● Storytelling Features – The multimedia storytelling platform Atavist recently became part of WordPress.com. This gives you the ability to publish content in multiple formats, including text, images, slides, videos, and social media embeds. This helps you publish the kind of content that today’s readers find most compelling.
● WordAds – This isn’t a brand new feature but many people aren’t aware of it. WordAds is WordPress’s own advertising platform. WordPress claims that these ads reach over one billion people per month. This feature is limited to Premium and Business accounts.
● PayPal Integration – In 2017, WordPress.com introduced Simple Payment Button, a way to collect payments for any product or service. More recently, they’ve added features to this widget, allowing you to add payment buttons as headers, footers, or sidebars. This is only available on Premium and Business plans.
Leading Advantages of WordPress.com
If you want to build a blog or website, you have quite a few options. You could build a website from scratch or hire someone to build it. You could even use WordPress.org to build your site. There are also numerous other website building tools and platforms. Here are some of the reasons to consider using WordPress.com.
● Ease and simplicity. WordPress.com is one of the simplest website building tools you can find anywhere. Whether you use the free version or one of the paid plans, you can build a website with a few simple clicks.
● A free or low-cost site. While there are limitations to the free plan, it still provides an easy way to set up a website for those on a limited budget. And fo only $4/month, you can have a custom domain and remove third-party ads.
● No need for separate hosting. When you build your own website, even if you use WordPress.org, you need to host it somewhere. This is an additional expense, and you may have to log into your host every so often to make changes. When you use WordPress.com, hosting is included. If you use the free or Personal plan, you can save money (though there ARE extremely low cost hosting plans that are about the same as Personal). Just as importantly, you don’t have to worry about logging into a separate service to make changes.
Is WordPress.com the Right Choice for You?
There are so many options for creating websites that it would be overly simplistic to say there’s one right choice for everyone. You have to consider quite a few factors when selecting a web design/hosting solution. Here are some criteria and questions to ask yourself.
● What is your budget? If you run a large company with a dedicated web design department, you probably don’t need WordPress.com. The same is true for anyone who can or is willing to outsource web design. WordPress.com, on the other hand, is a good choice if you have a limited budget.
● What’s your technical background? If you’re able to do your own coding and design, you can build your own website even with a minimal budget. However, this requires certain skills and time investment. WordPress.com is ideal if you have little or no technical experience and want a simple, point-and-click website builder.
● What are you selling? As noted, WordPress.com lets you integrate with PayPal (on some of its paid plans). However, there are certain limitations on what kind of selling you can do. You cannot run Google ads or other third-party advertising platforms to your site. However, you can apply for WordAds if you have a Premium or Business account. You can also add Amazon affiliate (partner) links. As a rule, you can sell your own products without many restrictions (e.g. WooCommerce integration for Business plans lets you create an online store with ease) while rules for affiliate sellers are more limited. Affiliate or CPA marketers who want to use a variety of advertising platforms may find WordPress.com too limited for their needs.
These are some of the questions that can help you decide whether WordPress.com is the right website solution for you or your business. Fortunately, it’s easy enough to get started and try the platform yourself with little investment of money or time. You only have to create an account and start your website in a few clicks.