WordPress.com vs WordPress.org: Which Platform is Best for Your Small Business?

Are you a small business owner who’s trying to launch a new website but feeling overwhelmed by the differences between WordPress.com and WordPress.org? With various features, customisation options and technical considerations to keep in mind, it can be challenging to determine which platform is best suited to your needs. In this article, we’ll compare the pricing structures, customisation options, security features and more for both WordPress.com and WordPress.org, so you can choose the option that works best for your small business.

What is the difference between WordPress.com and WordPress.org?

WordPress is an open-source content management system (CMS) that powers over 40% of websites on the internet. WordPress.com and WordPress.org both use the same core software but cater to different user needs, offering varying levels of customisation and control over your website.

WordPress.com is an all-in-one website-building platform provided by Automattic, which is similar in how it works to Wix and Squarespace. This solution takes care of the hosting, domain registration, and other technical aspects for you. It’s designed for users who want a simple, easy-to-use platform that requires minimal technical expertise. WordPress.com offers a range of plans, from a free basic plan with limited features to paid plans with more advanced options. Although it offers pre-built themes, automatic updates, backups, and security measures, the platform’s customisation options are limited compared to its self-hosted counterpart.Which is better? WordPress.com or WordPress.org? - 2 wooden crates one with a red cross on it and one with a green tick on it

WordPress.org, also known as the self-hosted version of WordPress, offers more flexibility and customisation options. This version of the platform requires you to handle the hosting, domain registration and other technical aspects of your website. While this provides more control over your site, it also means that you’ll need some level of technical knowledge to manage and maintain your website effectively. With WordPress.org, you have access to a vast library of free and premium themes and plugins, giving you the ability to create a truly unique website tailored to your business needs. Additionally, you can integrate various third-party tools and services, such as e-commerce platforms, SEO tools, and analytics software, to enhance your website’s functionality and performance.

The key difference between WordPress.com and WordPress.org lies in the level of customisation and control you have over your website. WordPress.com is a fully hosted solution that offers simplicity and ease of use, while WordPress.org provides more flexibility and control for users who are willing to manage the technical aspects of their website.

Is WordPress.com easier to use than WordPress.org?

WordPress.com offers a user-friendly interface that’s perfect for those with little to no experience in website building. The platform is designed for simplicity, allowing even complete beginners to set up a website quickly and easily. With its pre-built themes and plugins, you can start building your website without worrying about the technical aspects.

WordPress.org offers more customisation and flexibility, but it comes with a steeper learning curve. To use WordPress.org, you’ll need some technical skills to manage your website’s hosting, domain and other aspects.

Despite the initial setup challenges, the WordPress.org dashboard is similar to that of WordPress.com, with an intuitive interface for managing your website’s content, design and settings. However, since you have more control over your website, you’ll need to familiarise yourself with additional settings and options available through plugins and themes.

Which is cheaper – WordPress.com or WordPress.org?

WordPress.com offers both free and paid plans. The free plan comes with basic features, while paid plans offer more advanced options. Hosting and domain services are included in the price of the paid plans, making it a convenient all-in-one solution for users who prefer simplicity. The cheapest professional plan on WordPress.com is £84 per year but it doesn’t have anywhere close to the same functionality as going self-hosted with WordPress.org.

With WordPress.org, you’ll need to handle hosting and domain services separately, which can add up in cost. You’ll also need to factor in any premium themes you may need to use and whether they come with a lifetime licence or need to be paid for each year and whether you want to outsource any elements of your WordPress.org to someone else, website maintenance, for example.

Many business owners do find wordpress.org to be more cost-effective in the long term. You can buy lifetime licenses for themes and plugins rather than recurring sums and in many cases, you don’t need to pay for premium plugins and themes at all! It is possible to keep a secure and effective self-hosted WordPress website running for less than £60 a year. In my opinion, the equivalent paid-for plan on WordPress.com is around £240 a year, so I do believe WordPress.org is the better option to go for if cost is an important factor for you.

Can I customise my website with WordPress.com?

The customisation options on WordPress.com are limited, especially for free users. While you can choose from a selection of pre-built themes, you may not have the ability to modify the design or functionality of these themes extensively. Paid plans do offer access to premium themes and plugins but you’ll still face some restrictions compared to a self-hosted WordPress site.

WordPress.org provides full control over customisation, allowing you to create a truly unique website that aligns with your brand identity. With thousands of plugins available, you can add various features and functionality to your website, such as contact forms, social media integration and more. For this reason, most small business owners prefer to use WordPress.org so they can have complete control over how their website looks and functions, enabling the best user experience for their visitors.

Which version of WordPress is better for SEO?

WordPress.com provides basic SEO features and limited access to analytics and other advanced tools, however with the way Google pitches websites against each other and those that perform better being ranked higher, limited SEO features mean you’re going to find it much harder to reach page one on Google.

With WordPress.org, you can use advanced SEO plugins and tools to improve your website’s visibility in search engines, like RankMath and Yoast. You can also integrate Google Analytics and other analytics tools to gain in-depth insights into your website’s traffic, user behaviour and performance to monitor and improve your website’s performance.

If generating lots of organic search traffic is an important form of marketing for your website, going self-hosted with WordPress.org is the best way to achieve that.

What about support, maintenance and security?

WordPress.com takes care of updates and backups automatically, ensuring that your website is always up-to-date and secure. Customer support is available through email and live chat for premium users. With WordPress.org, you’re responsible for updates and backups but you can access a wealth of information and assistance through community support, forums and online resources. Many premium themes and plugins also offer dedicated support for their products.

Managed security features are included with WordPress.com, ensuring that your website is protected from common threats and vulnerabilities. SSL certificates are provided for your website, encrypting the connection between your site and its visitors to keep sensitive information secure.

On WordPress.org, you’re responsible for your website’s security. This includes installing security plugins, such as Wordfence, or AIOS, to protect your site from threats and vulnerabilities. You’ll also need to obtain an SSL certificate to ensure that the connection between your website and its visitors is secure. Many hosting providers offer SSL certificates as part of their hosting packages for free, or you can obtain one separately through a Certificate Authority.

In conclusion, choosing between WordPress.com and WordPress.org depends on your specific needs, technical expertise and budget. WordPress.com is great for those who want a straightforward, easy-to-use platform that requires minimal technical knowledge, while WordPress.org offers more customisation and control for those who are willing to invest time and effort into learning the platform.

In my personal opinion, I suggest you always opt for WordPress.org. The initial outlay for website design may be more expensive if you’re not good with technology but the increased customisation options, functionality, improved SEO features and having full control over every aspect of your website more than makes up for it.