WordPress.org vs WordPress.com – Which One Should I Use?

by on July 31, 2008 · 215 comments

Continuing our series Why Use WordPress for your small business website, this week we’ll explore the difference between WordPress.com and WordPress.org, and help you choose which one to use for your small business web site.

WordPress.org vs WordPress.com


WordPress.org Banner

WordPress is open source blogging software, and WordPress.org is where you can go to download it. WordPress.org offers free downloads of WordPress files, themes and plug-ins, and includes step-by-step instructions for installing and configuring WordPress on your own hosting provider.

WordPress.org Pros:

The advantage of this approach is that you can install any of the WordPress templates or plug-ins available, and customize your site so that it doesn’t look like just another me-too blog.

  • You have complete control over the look and feel of your site
  • You can install any WordPress plug-in to extend the functionality of your site (believe me, this is a very powerful and inexpensive way to add functionality to your website)

WordPress.org Cons:

In order to do use WordPress this way, you’ll need a few things:

  • A hosting provider that allows you to have MySQL databases and FTP access. You can find good hosting for about $6.95/month at Bluehost and other hosting providers.
  • Knowledge of how to use FTP to transfer files, create a MySQL database, and edit configuration files. Note: many hosting providers now have a one-click WordPress installation that handles this for you.
  • You need to manage your own backups. (However, there are free plugins to automate this easily.)

If this approach sounds like a lot of work to you hang on – as you’ll see below many of the hosting providers have automated most of this to make it easier for you.


WordPress.com banner

WordPress.com provides a quick and easy way to get a blog online. You can go sign up and create a WordPress blog immediately, for free. This is a multi-user version of WordPress that hosts thousands of blogs.

WordPress.com Pros:

  • Easiest way to get started
  • Pick from list of available themes
  • Hosting is free (there is a $15/year charge to use your own domain name)

WordPress.com Cons:

The downside is that you cannot upload your own themes and plug-ins, and according to their FAQ you cannot use it to post Adsense ads or affiliate links. They also say that they may occasionally show Google text ads on your site.

  • Must choose only from their list of themes available, and you cannot customize them directly
  • Cannot install plug-ins to extend the functionality of your site
  • Sometimes they show ads on your site

In the past, I’ve bumped into some of those limitations when trying to customize the look and feel of a blog, and when trying to install some of the neat plug-ins available. I think WordPress.com is a great way to start a hobby or special interest blog, but for small businesses it is very important to have control over the look of their website, so it doesn’t look like a generic blog.

The Third Alternative – Hosting Provider Easy Install Scripts

There is another alternative; many hosting providers such as Bluehost offer one-step installations of WordPress, eliminating the need to create the WordPress database and configuration files.

This makes it easier to get going quickly, and still gives you the ability to customize things later on. This is the approach that I recommend for most small business owners. It gives you the best balance between simplicity of installation and customization later on.

Here is an example of a real business using WordPress for their web site, Sunnyvale Chiropractor Remington Chiropractic. You’ll notice that the site doesn’t look like a blog, and there is no easy way to tell it is running on WordPress. It has a very basic design, based on a modified WordPress template. Because it is based on WordPress, the content can be easily updated and changed.

Sunnyvale Chiropractor Remington Chiropractic web site

Here’s another example WordPress site that doesn’t look like a blog – SCORE Clinic, a Chiropractor in San Jose.

What about you? Do you have a website or blog already? If not, are you going to go with WordPress.com or self host your own WordPress?

Note: I’ve had quite a few questions in the comments where people ask: “can I use a .com domain name if I do not use WordPress.com?” The answer is YES. Just because you are using WordPress from WordPress.org (also called “self hosted WordPress”) doesn’t mean you can’t use a .com domain.

You can use any domain you want. Just sign up with a hosting provider (BlueHost is my recommendation) and you can use any .com domain name for your website.

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Don is an entrepreneur based in Silicon Valley. He founded Expand2Web and is the publisher of the Expand2Web Blog, and the GetFiveStars Customer Feedback and Reviews service.

Don has written 313 articles on Expand2Web

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{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

Georhe September 28, 2013 at 2:06 pm

Thank you Don for a very insightful article that anticipated and answered my questions before I even realized I needed to ask them!


Ashlyn November 28, 2013 at 8:04 pm

Hi Don!

I am soon confused, please help me!!

I started a blog two months ago. Purchased my domain name through go Daddy and my hosting through BlueHost. I downloaded WordPress via BlueHost and I have NO clue if I’m running off a .com or .org wordpress!

I want a custom theme designed for me but designers say it won’t work to upload a theme on a .com blog.

Thank youin advance!


Don Campbell December 4, 2013 at 11:30 am

Hi Ashlyn,
If you are talking about your http://hereismotherhood.com/ site – that is hosted on BlueHost and you have total control over the site. So any designer should be able to customize the theme, etc.


matt December 7, 2013 at 2:55 am

I own my own taxi and tour business on Maui. I don’t know much about coding or using plug-ins. I’ve been trying ot build a site on Squarespace.com but I’m hitting walls. I’ve already paid for my domain with GoDaddy and registered it with Squarespace. Should I, can I, switch to wordpress.org and use bluehost? Will I get to bring my .com with me?


Don Campbell December 7, 2013 at 2:20 pm

Hi Matt,
Yes you can bring your domain with you. But it is usually locked for 60 days after you first register it. After than you can transfer it to another registrar or hosting company.


Naomi December 12, 2013 at 6:06 am

Currently I have a wordpress.com site. About a year ago I tried to switch it to wordpress.org through host monster and switched back because I felt overwhelmed. I was new to website technology and had no idea what I was doing. Now that I am more familiar I would also like to set up a store/purchase option on our site. But is that possible through wordpress.com? And what happens to the followers from wordpress.com when I switch over? Because blog posts don’t go to wordpress.com dashboard when I post through a wordpress.org site.


Sandra February 26, 2014 at 5:04 pm

Hi Don,
I would like to rewrite a website from Expression Web (due to lack of support as of this year) using Wordpress.org. How do I go about creating a new site in Wordpress.org without interrupting the old website until the new one is complete? And then how to ‘kill’ the old site and turn on the newly written one?


Manu March 12, 2014 at 12:24 pm

Hi Don,

I have a little question for y0u, I’m not going to take too much of your time 😉 . I tend to start a blog, and I’m pretty sure it will be a WordPress blog. My only doubt is whether to make a free .com blog or to invest a little money and create a .org blog. I would like to start a food blog, and for that reason I must be able to post high-quality pictures. The design of the blog is also important for me. What version do you recommend ?

Thanks for an answer !


Jaswinder May 20, 2014 at 10:19 am

I just started with wordpress.org and there is lot to lern. I hope I can learn quickly and make a good blog.
I started with my above blog.


Dessy Dimanova June 10, 2014 at 1:16 am

Very helpfull one! Thanks!
Can I try wp.com, and then move to wp.org?


Nel June 18, 2014 at 7:24 am

I’m unfamiliar with/ but interested in having a WordPress website(as opposed to the monumental costs of a big developed website). Is there something called the “managed hosting provider” someone said for $50 month? I’m looking to begin a music instruction business online, so I went to the WordPress.com website and it said their cost per year for a WordPress “Business” set up would be $299 year with unlimited space and premium themes. I’m sure there would of course be additional costs for plugins etc. But would this be the way to go ? Would I be able to list instructors “bio-pages” with their videos; music clips and so on in there? Or perhaps is there a better way to go about all of this..just starting out (smile) help!
Thank You for any help and direction to point me in.


Don Campbell August 9, 2014 at 9:16 am

Hi Nel,
You are right – there are many options. Managed hosting providers give you a WordPress site and “manage” all of the security updates, version updates, etc. and even backups for you. It’s probably a good idea if you are new, because it will keep your site safe and secure. I would prefer this approach to the WordPress.com one, because you will not be limited in the themes and plugins you can use. But either approach should work fine for you.
Good luck, and let us know it it goes for you!


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