Becoming an Entrepreneurial Writer: WordPress.org vs WordPress.com

WordpressThis past weekend, I attended a workshop with Girl Develop It Philly on learning the ins and outs of WordPress.org in a course called WordPress 101. The number one confusing thing about WordPress that I see is that many people don’t understand that there is a difference between WordPress.com and WordPress.org. Both can be great for different purposes.  WordPress.com can be good for some things, especially if you’re unsure of your website and want to set something up temporarily and is also  a good way to test settings out before committing to anything. In this post I’ll cover the main differences and why you would consider picking one over the other. Then next week I’ll go over how to transfer to WordPress.org from WordPress.com (it’s really straightforward but there’s some tricks and stuff  to watch out for) as well as some of the best themes and plugins to use that I learned from the workshop.

 

WordPress.com

WordPress.com is the free, cloud-based version of WordPress that’s great for bloggers who want to be able to do very simple posts and pages with their blogs. There are no plugins to customize your blog further. Unless you pay a fairly high fee there is no customizing CSS or HTML. There are also a limited number of free themes available, you can however pay to get premium themes (priced per theme). Although there are a limited number of options, I’ve  found that starting out a project you might want to build on WordPress.org later can be extremely useful. You can get a good handle on some of the basic tools and structures of WordPress without committing to your own host for a fee.

WordPress.com is great for learning the ropes of the software too, and comes with great things ready to go. These include tools for sharing, statistics, integration for automatic posting to Facebook and Twitter, polls, comment forms, and other useful ready-to-go widgets. There’s also a lot of themes available that you can mess with to a certain extent. WordPress.com has a great community of bloggers to help build up your following on a blog.

You can still have a professional looking blog (including your own domain name) using WordPress.com, so it’s probably a good option while starting out without having to commit to the costs of WordPress.org. I’d also recommend you have a print component of your website like a newsletter, newspaper or magazine. For people like my professor, who runs a print music magazine and prints his ads in the magazine, WordPress.com is  the perfect venue for an online presence for your smaller magazine. I know of a couple of online versions of magazines that operate using WordPress.com and look fairly professional.

Probably the best benefit is you’ll never have to worry about security issues and you’ll probably never get hacked on WordPress.com.

The downsides? You cannot use advertising of any kind (except for the few exceptions for a few affiliate programs like Amazon, which as I’ve said before can be a big pain to set up).  They do offer WordAds, which won’t make you any money unless you have a super high level of traffic (which you’ll probably move to self-hosting if you have that much traffic anyway). There are no plugins on WordPress.com (I’ll get to the advantages of those in a second) and customization is limited unless you pay (and the fees will start to add up to those similar to paying for hosting).

 

WordPress.org

WordPress.org is software that you install onto your own web host. If you’re a non-techie, WordPress.org can take a little bit of work to figure out.  A lot of hosting services will allow one button installs, making the process as painless as possible, especially if you’re starting your website from scratch. The advantages of WordPress.org are endless, as there are an endless amount of add-ons, whether you are  capable of coding or are primarily a power user (like I am). You have access to use any theme you  choose (free or paid) or design your own using PHP and CSS.

There are a bunch of Theme frameworks available that make it super easy for non-coders to modify their site, such as Elegant Themes, Woo Themes, and StudioPress. These put a special tab into your back end to allow you to easily modify things like font, colors, sliders, and other sections of your website with ease for a fairly low price, which gives you access to a lot of premium themes versus one premium theme with WordPress.com.

Unlike WordPress.com, you are free to use any advertising you choose, such as Google Adsense. I’ve also set up an account with Passion Fruit Ads, but haven’t gotten any bites yet (although I just finished getting things reconfigured with my site).

WordPress.org will give you a lot of great plugin options to make your site more functional, from SEO tools, to form builders, to security plugins. These are easy to install, but make sure you read reviews since WordPress doesn’t monitor these as much as they do themes.

WordPress.org also makes it super easy to set up your own e-commerce site, using free themes such as the most popular one through Woo Themes.

Using WordPress.org gives you access to things like Google Analytics (which can provide you with a lot of information about your hits as well as reader demographics) moreso than WordPress.com’s statistics will. This is super easy to install by plugging the code in or using a plugin (it’s built into some themes frameworks as well).

While hosting your own website can put you at a slightly higher security risk, there are things you can do to bulk up your security. While you can purchase Sucuri.net‘s service, they also have a plugin that helps harden your security for free. If your website gets hacked and blacklisted on Google, you can sign up for their services and get your site cleaned up as part of their fee.

I’ll cover more of these tools in my upcoming posts. Whether you choose WordPress.com vs. WordPress.org comes down to what you are looking for in your site, whether you’re looking for a simple blogging service or more. You can always start with WordPress.com for free and then easily move to using WordPress.org software like I did.

If you have any questions, feel free to reach out to me. I’m also willing to help you pick which one might be right for you.

About Kristen Gillette

Kristen Gillette is a freelancer who has written for a wide variety of publications including Philly2Night.com, two.one.five. Magazine, and Cred Magazine, thINKingDANCE.net, the Philadelphia Dance Journal, TechnicallyPhilly.com and more. She runs AdultBallerinaProject.com

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