Understanding the Differences between WordPress.com and WordPress.org

WordPress.com versus WordPress.org

WordPress.com versus WordPress.org

In my last post, I mentioned various blogging services available, including the service I am currently using at WordPress.com. Initially, it usually takes people a little while to fully understand the differences between the free, hosted service at WordPress.com and the paid, self hosted service at WordPress.org, so I’ve compiled a quick summary of differences between the services.


WordPress.com is a freely hosted version of the open source package, where you can start a blog in seconds, without any technical knowledge.

According to the site, “[a]lmost everything on WordPress.com is free, and things that are currently free will remain free in the future, but we do offer paid a la carte upgrades for things like CSS editing and custom domains.” Through the upgrade option, WordPress.com also lets you increase the space of your blog.

As I wanted to get up and running very quickly, I decided to start out blogging, using WordPress.com. So far, I’ve been very pleased by how easy the WordPress.com service is to use as well as by the many professional themes available. By using the hosted WordPress service, I have been able to focus mostly on content, without worrying about the technical details. I have also been able to quickly build up search engine equity, which I have read takes a bit longer with self-hosted services.

However, even in the short while I’ve been blogging, I’ve already upgraded my WordPress.com service, as I wanted my own domain name, which to me seems more professional. For example, previously, this blog’s domain was pegmulligan.wordpress.com, but with the upgrade, which only costs $15.00 a year, it’s now pegmulligan.com.

According to the HubSpot post, 7 Beginner Blogger Blunders and How to Avoid Them,  it’s best to get a “real” domain name, so you do not lose your link juice, if you ever change services later. “At least this way, if you decide to switch later, you won’t lose all the search engine optimization (SEO) that you’ve built up.”

In a webinar hosted by the Society for Technical Communication, Tom Johnson mentioned that when your needs require, it is possible to move your WordPress.com blog to WordPress.org. Johnson also stated that you can import Blogger and Movable Type blogs into WordPress, but the code does not always map exactly.


If you are interested in applying WordPress Premium themes, or extending its functionality through its more than 4,000 plug-ins, then WordPress.org is the right service for you. Though the blogging software at WordPress.org is open source, it does require your own Web hosting service.

I was only a couple weeks into blogging, when I realized that long-term, I really want to move my WordPress.com blog to the WordPress.org service, to take full advantage of the Premium themes that would give my blog a better customized look and feel, more like a web site than a blog. Long-term, I also want to use the many available plug-ins there, including a well-known WordPress Search Engine Optimization (SEO) plug-in, which would help my blog’s Google ranking.

Choosing a Hosting Service. WordPress recommends these Web Hosting Options. In his STC-hosted webinar, Tom Johnson mentioned Lunarpages and DreamHost, as his favorite hosting services.

Installing WordPress. In his recorded webinar, Tom Johnson demos how easy it is to install the WordPress software. For complete instructions, see Installing WordPress.

Choosing Themes. Lots of free WordPress themes are available, as well Premium themes. According to Johnson, “the premium themes are usually more complicated. The code gets pretty advanced when you want to change a string.” New WordPress.org Users Beware: It is possible to blow away your entire blog site, if you are not careful about the changes you are making to the code.

Through the water cooler on Twitter (including recommendations from professional bloggers Chris Brogan and Darren Rowse), I’ve heard that Thesis is one of the best Premium WordPress themes available for non-coders. On Twitter, I’ve also heard good things about the Thesis Theme User’s Guide.

Using PlugIns. Over 4,000 WordPress plug-ins are available.

In the STC webinar, Tom Johnson mentioned examples of plug-ins that have been helpful to him:

  • Akismet: Blocks spam.
  • All in One SEO Pack: Optimizes your WordPress blog for Search Engines (Search Engine Optimization).Lets you make a generic title for Google, but a catchy title for your visitors.
  • Audio-Player for Podcasts.
  • Contact Form, with name & e-mail address.
  • Favicon for Admin Page.
  • Google Search Widget.
  • WP Related Posts: Shows all related posts in your archives.
  • Video Plugin: Lets you embed YouTube videos.
  • WP Super Cache: Generates static html fies from your dynamic WordPress blog.

For an excellent WordPress resource, see a complete list of all the plug-ins Tom Johnson uses in his highly informative I’d Rather Be Writing blog.

Recommendation and Additional Resources

For most nontechnical users, I recommend a phased approach to blogging, concentrating first on building your site’s content, and learning basic WordPress functionality. When you start to outgrow WordPress.com and want the more advanced functionality, moving to WordPress.org will probably be a natural progression for you. However, if you want to avoid the web hosting fee and have no desire to understand the technical details, then the hosted service at WordPress.com can continue to serve you. For users who choose long-term to stick with the WordPress.com service, the available Advanced Services may help meet your evolving needs.

In the meantime, here are some helpful blogging resources:

Photo credit, nbachiyski

Related Links

  • Choosing a Blogging Service
  • WordPress.com vs. WordPress.org
  • Chris Brogan’s Post: Thesis is My Favorite Premium WordPress Theme