WordPress.com vs WordPress.org
What You Should Know
If you’re thinking about starting a website for your small business, you’re probably going to hear about WordPress sooner rather than later. WordPress is known for having and hosting great websites, and making it easy to get started. One thing you might now know, however, is that there are two types of WordPress sites: WordPress.COM and WordPress.ORG. These three little letters make a HUGE difference.
If you’re relatively new to the whole website creation and management process, you should probably stick to a WordPress.com site. WordPress.com is a commercial website that offers free or low-cost sites hosted by WordPress and handles all backups and security issues. Instead of starting from scratch, you can pick from hundreds of pre-existing themes. Don’t know how to code? No problem. WordPress.com themes don’t allow changes to their HTML, but if you want to create a more custom look, you can pay a little more to customize the CSS.
On the other hand, if you’re fairly familiar with website creation and management, and/or want to have complete control over your site, you should probably go with WordPress.org. WordPress.org is an open source blogging/CMS software that you can use by finding a host and performing maintenance and backups yourself. WordPress.org offers a lot more freedom: you can install custom themes, build your site from scratch using PHP, HTML and CSS, and install as many plugins as you like.
For me, the two biggest pros of WordPress.org over WordPress.com are that you can use HTML and install plugins. HTML allows you to insert code snippets to keep track of your statistics on a multitude of social sharing sites like Pinterest, and also makes it easy to customize and make small tweaks to the functionality of your site.
Personally, the ability to install plugins like Google Analytics and Yoast SEO are truly the biggest perks. While WordPress.com offers its own analytics, they pale in comparison to those Google provides. WordPress Site Stats only provides referrers, top posts and page views, clicks, search engine terms, video plays, and total followers, spam, and shares. On the other hand, Google Analytics offers these stats in addition to in-depth data on engagement rates, bounce rates, best performing content and length of visits, to name a few.
Although it’s understandable why WordPress.com doesn’t allow plugins—it can make the software susceptible to security breaches—offering these tools would make it a lot more appealing. To name a plugin other than Google Analytics that almost makes the decision between .org and .com a no-brainer, Yoast SEO is incredibly useful. This free plugin grades your content by its SEO-friendliness, giving you a green for good, orange for okay, and red for not so much. It measures factors like how many characters are in your article’s title, how many times you use your target keyword, how many links you incorporate in your article, how easy your content is to read, how often you use the passive voice, etc.
Making the Switch
If you’ve already jumped the gun and started a WordPress.com site and are now second-guessing yourself, there’s an easy way to switch over to .org. Bluehost, a hosting service recommended by WordPress since 2005, specializes in WordPress and can make the transition easy. Furthermore, WordPress Support offers a handy guide that takes you from finding a new host to installing WordPress, customizing appearance, and more.
When it comes to creating a website for a small business that you plan to grow and expand, WordPress.org is probably your best bet. You won’t only have more control over your site, you’ll be able to utilize awesome and free resources to monitor its growth.
This post was originally published in 2014 and updated in 2021.