‘Switching from WordPress.org to WordPress.com’ was a search term I used a few times when making a decision about which website platform to use for my website…
I did not find many hits for this particular phrase. In fact, I found the majority of the hits that came up were for the opposite wording – ‘Switching from WordPress.com to WordPress.org’. And this seems to be the main trend. But let me backtrack a little, so you understand where I’m coming from and why I made a decision to use WordPress.com as the main platform for my website.
Once Upon a Time… Choosing a Website platform
I’ve experimented with a few different website platforms for my business in the last 5 years. My first experiment was Mr Site, which was pretty basic and a bit heavy and slow to load. After that, I decided to pay a company that specially designs websites for complementary healthcare practitioners in the UK called WebHealer.net. That worked quite well for a few years giving me a decent number of clients. However, after a few years, I felt that I had taken this platform as far as it could go and there were several limitations to what I could do functionally with the website.
I always had a dream of creating a much bigger website with a large number of pages, a lively blog and lots of products such as eBooks or PDFs, that I could either sell or give away for free. I wanted to create a website that can get hundreds of thousands of visits a year in traffic, instead of thousands. Big dreams.
Eventually, the time came, where I could no longer delay this plan. A change in work and life circumstances told me it was now or never. I knew that creating a new website is a huge undertaking and would require a lot of work in structuring and creating content and so I jumped straight into it. It only took a few months to decide which platform to use. I should add that I can be a little slow to make a decision, but anyway after researching several options, I felt that it was going to be a choice between Solo Build It (previously Site Build It), because I liked the learning structure and support that they provide or WordPress.
WordPress or WordPress?
I’d had a chance conversation with a computer engineer, who gave me two bits of advice, when I asked him about websites. He told me that ‘as regards search engines, the only thing that matters is Google, and as regards websites – its all about WordPress’.
So I kept that advice in the back of my mind and soon after decided to create a website with WordPress.
The only problem is that this person didn’t specify which WordPress he meant to me at the time. Looking back, I understand that he most likely meant WordPress.org. However as a newbie, I really didn’t realise there were two WordPress’s. I mean, who does? Its not like there are two MacDonalds or two Coca Colas are there?
Hmm, well, I suppose there is Burger King and Pepsi – but they have completely different names and labels so you can tell the difference.
But anyway I signed up with WordPress.com because it came up on my search engine first and I slowly spent time getting acquainted with the interface. It didn’t come easy to me, but eventually I figured it out.
And then, whilst reading other websites and blogs, I discovered: ‘wait – there are two WordPress’s! What – WordPress.com and WordPress.org. ‘Squeeze me… Baking Powder?
And it was at this point that I started to wonder – well, which one should I be using? I guess that is one of the problems of having too much choice in life. You have so many good options in front of you that you can’t actually decide which to take anymore. In some ways it is better with less choice.
WordPress.com versus WordPress.org – some basic differences
So I used the power of Google to research the differences and found that WordPress.org and WordPress are pretty much the same in structure. They evolved from the same company. The difference being that you have to self-host WordPress.org – i.e. pay for a hosting service from an external provider. This means you own the website, design and content fully. You have a lot of freedom over inserting ‘plug-ins’ – a kind of software download, which can increase the functionally of your website. You do also have to take more responsibility for your site’s security and make sure all your security plug-in’s and updates are always up-to -date otherwise it can put you at risk of hackers.
A lot of bloggers use WordPress.org and recommend it to new bloggers, as it is said to provide a greater freedom to change and structure your website, as well as give you more control. It is said that it takes little bit longer to learn how to install and use than WordPress.com, but once you are past that stage, it is relatively straightforward and there is a lot of online support from the large WordPress.org community.
On the other hand, WordPress.com has pretty much the same interface and structure, but instead of paying for an external hosting service, WordPress.com hosts it for you. This also means that supposedly, they have more control over your design and content, which some bloggers say is not a good thing.
So, for example, if you wanted to create a Right-Wing website, based on a certain moustached individual from the 1940s, then you should probably not use WordPress.com, because otherwise they might decide your website breaches their terms of service and then shut you down. Mind you, perhaps the same thing could be the same for other blogging platforms and websites including YouTube.
On WordPress.com, there are several different options. There is a free plan, which has a limited number of templates to pick from and you can’t install plug-ins. However, it does mean, you can get started on building a website for free. And there is always the option to upgrade later to the Premium plan or Business plan. One potential down-side is that your domain name will contain ‘WordPress’ in it. For example, if you wanted a website for your carpentry business, it would be: ‘www.JoeBloggsCarpentry.wordpress.com’.
If however, you wanted your own domain name – e.g. ‘www.JoeBloggsCarpentry.com’, you would have to upgrade to the WordPress.com Premium plan.
With WordPress.com, you can insert Plug-ins. However, you have to upgrade to the Business plan which costs a bit more to do so. Plug-ins are really useful if you want to increase the functionality of your website. For example, if you want to start using Keywords to increase the searchability of your website in search engines or if you wanted to monitor your traffic using Google analytics, you would need to install a specific plug-in to do this.
Ultimately, I chose to stick with WordPress.com. And below I will explain the reasons why.
Looking for both perspectives
As I said earlier, I had carried out online several searches to understand the differences between the two WordPress’s. However, after reading through several articles, I noticed that the majority of articles were predominantly all about choosing or switching to WordPress.org and leaving WordPress.com. I could not find anything to give me a balanced point of view. I also noticed that the websites that recommended this, also offered specific services to help people make the switch. And in fact these websites tended to dominate the first few pages of my Google search.
This meant that it was in their business interests to promote WordPress.org and also for people to switch. Nothing wrong with this, but from reading these articles, it only created this uncomfortable feeling that – ‘I should switch ASAP!’ This wasn’t what I was looking for and I didn’t feel I was getting a balanced perspective.
I am aware that many people do happily use WordPress.com, so I wanted to hear from their perspective to decide if leaving WordPress was really the right decision.
Switching from WordPress.org to WordPress.com
So it is at this point that I typed in the keyword search – ‘switching from WordPress.org to WordPress.com’ to see what came up. I really wanted to hear from the other perspective of people that didn’t take to the WordPress.org experience and then switched to WordPress.com.
And well, pretty much exactly the same searches came up from the same website companies telling me to switch to WordPress.org and about their services to help me do it. Actually I did find one example from John’s Adventures, but it was not enough for me to make a decision.
Update (Feb 2019):
JaneWebsiteHelp.co.uk also has an article, which discusses this – Self Hosted WordPress versus the Rest. This also references another user of the WordPress.com – LiterallyShe.com.
From this, I can surmise that the majority of people do end up making their way to WordPress.org and leaving WordPress.com. But considering that WordPress.com is growing and doesn’t seem to be in danger of going out of business any time soon, I don’t think this is really the full story.
Well, as there were no articles coming up for my search term ‘switching from WordPress.org to WordPress.com, I decided to write my own. In this article, I will explain the reasons why I chose to stick with WordPress.com a bit longer, rather than make that switch. And that is the motivation behind the title to this post – Switching from WordPress.org to WordPress.com.
Renting versus Owning
Some of the websites in my previous searches, alluded to the idea that having a WordPress.com site is akin to renting a house, whereas having a WordPress.org site is like owning it.
This analogy sounds pretty sound, but then from my perspective, whether you own or buy a house, there are downsides and plus-sides. Whilst owning a house does sound better, you do have a lot of extra responsibilities like repairs, property taxes and a host of other things to consider, including lousy neighbours. The thing is that I am renter. My whole life I have been a renter of properties. I enjoy the freedom to move and to let someone else deal with the issues of repairs and fixing things when things go wrong. I’ve lived in Japan – Tokyo and Yokohama and various different parts of London. I would say there are benefits to being a renter, sometimes more so than owning a property.
Security & Paying for Peace of Mind
One of the largest concerns I had was about security. No one wants to be hacked and lose all their work. At the time of making my website, I really didn’t have a lot of time to put into it – perhaps two or three hours a day at best. And because I am a newbie it takes me so much longer to figure things out especially when they go wrong.
I am not always great at fixing technical things when they go wrong. For example, my first car was an old Ford Fiesta. It was over ten years old and occasionally things went wrong with it. Back then, I had an old Haynes manual, and I would often go through it, pop the bonnet and try to fix things. Then I would have to ask my local garage to unfix what I had fixed and then fix the original problem. I’m not a technical person.
So, one of the reasons, I chose WordPress.com is that I want them to take care of my security for me. Or to use the house analogy – I want them to do the repairs, pay my property taxes and other things, and just let me get on with building my content.
This lack of time to fix things if they do go wrong also leads me to my other reason why I chose WordPress.com:
I am often tempted to type in the question: ‘what is the meaning of life?’ in the WordPress help-desk function.
It still feels kind of weird that I can type in a question or problem in the text box and almost immediately someone, somewhere in the World, will reply to me and try to help me solve it. They are called Happiness advisors and this option is available on the WordPress.com Premium and Business Plans.
I have used it a few times and usually they give me a link to the relevant pages on their help guide. Other-times, it takes a bit of going back and forth, before I can figure out the answer. And I do think the emphasis is on them encouraging me to find the solution rather than baby-step me through it. Usually, they point me in the right direction, and in some ways, this is empowering and encourages me to stop being lazy. By doing this, I have been able to resolve most problems by myself with their patient support.
It is good, knowing that if I am stuck, then I can always use this resource, and I assume that they will stick with me until the problem is resolved.
One of the criticisms about WordPress.com was that it had less functionality than WordPress.org. However, its seems that these criticisms date back a few years, because actually this is not the case anymore. To give an example, many criticisms were about not being able to install plug-ins, which is a valid point. And a few years ago, this was the case. Plug-ins make a huge amount of difference to increasing what you can do with your website. if you are serious about turning your website into a business, you need plug-ins.
However, now you can install plug-ins on WordPress.com if you upgrade to the Business Plan. You can more or less install many of the same plug-ins that you would want with WordPress.org, including Yoast, MailChimp, Google Analytics and many others. The difference is that WordPress gives you a selection of plug-ins that they are satisfied will work OK on their platform.
WordPress is evolving
It does seem that the new Business plan has actually changed the old traditional view and role of what WordPress.com is about. For example, Medium.com talks about how this new WordPress.com Business Plan, and its greater functionality, now “obfuscates” the traditional difference between WordPress.com and WordPress.org.
It seems there is a blurring of lines as you can do a lot of things on the WordPress Business plan that you would not have been able to do previously unless you paid for some kind of VIP plan. I don’t know the history so much, but it may be that more people in the future may be choosing to make WordPress.com their main platform. There may even be more articles the same as this one coming out in the years ahead – ‘switching from WordPress.org to WordPress.com’.
Lots of people have WordPress themed websites. They have become a behemoth in the online world. On WordPress.com, there is a community of other WordPress.com bloggers and you have immediate access to their websites by using the ‘reader’ function. It means you can browse through their sites and they can browse through yours, so you can see that you are not alone. There are plenty of other people out there the same as you working on their websites.
If I use Google to try to discover someone’s blog on a particular subject, almost nothing relevant comes up except for the big MSM sites. Being able to find other blogger’s websites more easily through the reader function, is really useful because some of their content is really interesting. It also kind of reminds me of the early years of the internet, when you could more easily find unique and interesting websites written by people and not corporations or large organisations.
Being part of the WordPress.com community also gives you a little starter in getting some traffic, as other WordPress.com members may discover your site and give you the occasional ‘like’ or they may ‘follow’ you, which can feel rewarding. However, there is a downside to this, as according to PlanetBotch, this function can be abused with fake ‘likes’ or ‘follows’.
Templates & Themes
With WordPress.com, there is a large selection of templates to choose from. I assume most of them are mobile optimised, which will be an important requirement for the future as most people use smartphones to surf the net. The templates that are available are very attractive and there is a large range to choose from. The downside to this, is that these templates will be commonly used by many different people. I have seen the same design used by two different people and that was one of the first things I noticed.
On the other hand, a lot of websites these days are kind of similar in design, in much the same way that modern cars all look the same, whatever the make. So this is not a major issue unless you really want your theme to be unique.
I understand with WordPress.org you have more control over how you want to create your website theme. I think this is a great option especially if you have a background in graphics and perhaps want to create a unique experience. There is also a much larger selection of templates to choose from. However, if you did want to specifically design your own theme, it would require some technical ability and coding skills. I don’t have this and I don’t want to spend my time learning it, as I prefer to use my time to focus on creating content. So as long as the template does the job, I am ok with it.
My choice of theme
I wanted a simple, text-based design for my website and I had a particular design in mind based on the blog of another popular blogger. However, my choices were a little limited so I chose the closest equivalent.
I would have liked more choices. Despite that, I have been quite satisfied with my choice of template so far and the look of my website. I like the simplicity and the feel of it and I’m glad I didn’t try to simulate the other blogger’s design as that was unique to him. I feel that choosing this template has enabled me to make it my own. My current template is Penscratch 2.
On WordPress.com, some templates are free, whilst others are only available if you upgrade to the Premium or Business Plan.
Another criticism was over the issue of cost. And it appears at first glance this is another valid point. With WordPress.org you only pay for a hosting fee – less than $10 and then you can install all sorts of plug-ins for free.
In comparison, even though WordPress.com does have a basic free plan, if you want any greater functionally, you need to either upgrade to the Premium plan ($99 a year) or the Business Plan ($299 a year). So thats a big difference.
On the other hand, I read one article from copyblogger.com, who looked into these costs a bit more carefully and his conclusion was that actually there are actually a lot more costs involved with WordPress.org.
For example, though some plug-in’s are free, you may want to consider upgrading your packages. This is especially the case with security and back-ups such as Sucuri and VaultPress. When he estimated the actual costs of doing this, it actually came in the range of $125 – $425 a year, which puts it in the same price-range as the WordPress.com Premium plans and Business plan. So although people online say that all you have to do it pay the cost of a hosting fee, I think there are probably going to be more costs than this.
If you are really good with computers and coding, than WordPress.org is hands down the best option. But if you are not concerned with customising and creating things too much and installing html – and actually, this kind of thing terrifies you – than maybe its not right for you to begin with.
I personally, don’t have a lot of IT skills and so I wanted to keep things as simple as possible. For this reason, I decided to stick with WordPress.com because for the time being, I can learn safely on this platform. I can take my time and understand how to use the various plug-ins. I can gradually start learning how to create a mailing list and give away PDF’s and start to incorporate SEO. It provides me with a safe learning environment for me to build my skills and confidence using this platform. And this in turn leads me to be able to consider my next point:
You can switch from WordPress.com to WordPress.org or vice versa at any time.
With some types of companies, if you want to make a switch or quit a service, you have to go through an annoying last-pitch conversation or email exchange with a sales rep, who obviously will try to talk you out of it. This doesn’t seem to be the case with WordPress.com. They actually give you online instructions for how to switch your website (and traffic) over to WordPress.org smoothly, and if you are not sure about doing that, they also provide a service where you can pay (around $99), and one of their team will help you with the process.
I haven’t done this process myself, so I can’t say how it is. However, it is good to know that if at any point in the future, I feel I have outgrown WordPress.com and I am ready to move to WordPress.org, then I can still do so. I suppose then, I may have to write a new article.
Update (Feb 2019)
It may not be so easy to switch after all
Originally, I was under the impression that switching from WordPress.com to self hosted WordPress.org is a straightforward process. And this does sound like the case if you have a basic or free WordPress.com plan.
However, this may not be so straightforward if you have a paid premium or Business Plan. As I mentioned earlier, the owner of the website – LiterallyShe.com, Kaitlin attempted to switch from a WordPress.com Premium plan website to self-hosted, but found certain difficulties.
In the end, she decided it wasn’t worth the trouble and instead decided it was best to upgrade to the WordPress.com Business plan. This plan afforded her the same benefits as self-hosted. Her article is here – Getting Down to Business, Why I chose not to Self Host.
So with this in mind, it may not be so easy to switch to self-hosted once you have made a commitment to the WordPress.com Business or even Premium Plan. And that is worth taking into consideration.
For now, I am happy using WordPress.com. It fits my current needs and I don’t see any reason to switch for the foreseeable future. Also, having the option to switch if I do change my mind is good. WordPress.com is providing me with a useful learning experience and I am glad to have the support network that is available through the Premium or Business Plans.
I hope you found this post useful. For more information on the WordPress.com Plans, click here. For your information, I have made use of the Free plan, the Premium plan and the Business plan in the building of my website.
Just to add. This is an affiliated post. I have chosen to promote WordPress.com because I am happy with my experience of using it so far. Unlike some affiliate marketers, I am using the product I promote.
Monetisation of websites is a big thing. Personally, I don’t want to put Adsense on my site if I can help it, because I want to own all my space and have it reflect the message I want to promote. On the other hand, if I find a product I like, I am happy to promote it by writing a product review like this article.
So, if I have convinced you to purchase the WordPress.com Premium or Business Plan, and you would perhaps be happy with me receiving a large Cappuccino for my referral, then by all means click here. If you would like to consider an alternative to WordPress, I have written an article about Solo Build It (SBI) here, which is another good Website platform to consider for your business.
And before I go…
Free Business Ebook
If you are a Complementary Medicine Therapist trying to decide on which website platform to use for your business, you can find more information in my Kindle ebook: How to Set up a Complementary Therapy Business on a Budget (free for Kindle-Unlimited subscribers). It is also available as a Free PDF here, if you sign up to my mailing list.
UPDATE: Dec 2018 – Feb 2019
WordPress.org and WordPress.com rolled out a new editor called Gutenberg. it took the WordPress community by storm.
Initially, I found it buggy and started to wonder if this was the end of WordPress. I found myself contacting the Helpdesk a lot more often than usual, just to report bugs.
Fortunately, it seems their technicians worked away on these bugs and now I can say Gutenberg seems to be working fine. In some ways, it seems more efficient. So I am happy once again with WordPress and can recommend WordPress.com. (Just make sure you keep the Classic template, when writing content).
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