WordPress.com vs. Self-hosted

WordPress logo

WordPress logo

WordPress software is an open source Content Management System (CMS). Released in May 2003 as a blogging platform, it is now a robust CMS platform used by nearly 68 million websites and blogs. People use WordPress to manage web content on sites large and small because it offers a web user and web developer friendly solution.

You have 2 options if you want your website / blog to run on WordPress software: host it on WordPress.com or self-host the site. If you choose to host on WordPress.com, your site will live on the WordPress.com servers (computers). WordPress.com offers free hosting, but only with limited options. If you choose to self-host, you will pay a web hosting company to host your site on their servers instead.

There are 5 major differences to consider when deciding whether to host a site on WordPress.com or to self-host.

Themes

A theme provides a built in look and design for your site.

WordPress.com provides a limited directory of themes for you to choose from—if you pay $30/year (a-la-carte fee) the colors and fonts on your site can be customized.

On a self-hosted WordPress site your theme won’t be limited to the WordPress.com directory. That means you can use any free or paid WordPress theme. A web designer/developer can customize these themes far beyond fonts and colors, or they can create a custom design for your self-hosted site.

Plugins

Plugins are tools that can be incorporated into your site to extend the functionality of WordPress, for example some plugins create widgets that appear in the website’s Sidebar.

WordPress.com provides a few plugins for your site, but you don’t get to choose which ones. You also won’t be able to use many useful plugins your business might need, like the Scribe SEO tool.

Any needed plugin can be added to a self-hosted WordPress site, which gives you much more control over your site content and functionality.

Ads

Ads can appear on your WordPress.com site unless you pay a yearly a-la-carte fee of $30.

On a self-hosted site, you can decide whether or not to have ads and choose the ad provider.

Maintenance

On WordPress.com, your site will be updated automatically so you don’t have to worry about maintenance.

On a self-hosted site you’ll have to plan for regular software and plugin updates to keep things running smoothly.

Cost

WordPress.com hosted sites can be free, cost $60/year for the limited options mentioned above, or $100/year for a Premium bundle that gets you:

  • your own domain name,
  • the ability to customize theme colors and fonts,
  • an ad-free site, and
  • more storage space (5GB).

With WordPress VIP Services you can fully customize your site on WordPress.com–prices start around $45,000/year (no, that’s not a typo).

Since WordPress software is free, the required cost for a self-hosted site comes from the web host (our fav BlueHost costs about $100/year). If you don’t have web development skills, plan to pay a web pro to maintain your site and keep it up-to-date.

Verdict

When you need a website / blog for your business, we recommend self-hosting a site created and maintained by web services professionals. It takes specialized knowledge and skills to create a search engine friendly site that successfully conveys your message, is visually appealing, and secure. Unless you’re a web professional you will not have the necessary skill sets, time to keep current, or knowledge-base to support good decision making. Period.

If you absolutely must bootstrap your business website / blog by doing it yourself, then a WordPress.com site with a Premium bundle ($100/year) is your best option. You’ll be able to have your own domain name, extra storage space, and the ability to customize the colors and fonts on your site.

Full disclosure: We participate in Scribe’s and BlueHost’s affiliate programs because we use, know, love, and recommend their products.