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

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

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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