What is the difference between WordPress.com and WordPress.org? (and which one you should be using to grow your business)

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The photo I really wanted to use for this blog post is that orange-filled apple on the cover of Freakenomics because I think that is how most people view WordPress.com and WordPress.org. Let me start by saying they are both AWESOME, both are connected to Matt Mullenweg and both SERVE totally DIFFERENT PURPOSES.

In my opinion – WordPress.com is perfect for the person who wants a very professional looking blog or a simple website without much hassle. WordPress.org is a allows you full control over the development and direction of your website.

WordPress.com

  • Owned by Automattic (Founder of Automattic is Matt Mullenweg). Automattic is for-profit.
  • Best place to start if you want a super simple blog or website.
  • It comes with several free and premium themes and some add ons.
  • You can pay to upgrade and remove ads, host videos, map your domain (i.e. point your domain to your WordPress.com site)

WordPress.org

  • Developed as Open Source (meaning developers all over the world can work on improving the software behind it). It is considered a not-for-profit.
  • Great if you want to take your website to the next level up from WordPress.com – I personally find the themes on WordPress.org much more dynamic.
  • Ability to install and use Plugins (WordPress.com has its Plugins already built in, you cannot add new ones)
  • If you switch, make sure you read my Top Tips below.

My love affair with both WordPress.com and WordPress.org

… started when I went The Business Show in 2011 where I heard that nearly all the leading websites in the world were run by WordPress. Fast forward 6 years and I’m still building with WordPress. WordPress currently powers 26% of the web. When I first started though, I was so confused about the differences between WordPress.com and WordPress.org that I decided to stick with WordPress.com until I needed more functionality than it could offer. Overall, while I was learning how to build websites, WordPress.com was a fantastic free playground.

In 2009, I set up a blog on WordPress.com, by 2013, we needed more functionality and in doing so we made the switch to WordPress.org. Switching allowed us to capitalize on well known and established plugins such as Gravity forms, MailMunch, WooCommerce and Time.ly.

 

Top Tip for making the switch from WordPress.com to WordPress.org

  1. Install Jetpack almost immediately, it makes you feel more at home as you will recognize many of the features you loved in WordPress.com instantly. Only downside is that the JetPack stats don’t include the Visitor count and so you will need to set up Google Analytics.
  2. Don’t feel like you need to buy a template immediately when you switch to WordPress.org – one major downside to the template setup is that they are not uniform. I wasted a couple hundred dollars buying templates which were complete junk (of course not according to their designers!) only to find out that there are thousands of free templates (to get to them, go to Appearance, Themes, Install Themes and then click the Search button – leave it blank!). We’ve created a FREE step by step guide to building a WordPress.org site using a free theme called pinboard. It is a bit of an older theme but it gets the job done and is an easy one to learn on. You can see a site using this theme in action (which was built during one of our courses at http://1440leadershipservices.org.uk/.