Want to use WordPress but confused about which version of WP you should use? Below I’ve shared everything I know about self-hosted WordPress and WordPress.com.
Note: I’ve been using the WordPress CMS since 2012.
WordPress.org – Self-hosted
Self-hosted in layman’s terms means that you must download WordPress and host it yourself. The WordPress CMS has been built with the PHP scripting language. It saves data to a MySQL database or one of its flavors i.e. MariaDB. PHP is a scripting language. It is not a web server.
To make sure that your WordPress website is available on the internet or locally (localhost), you must install a web server i.e. Apache, Nginx, LiteSpeed, etc, and configure it to open the WordPress website by editing the webserver configuration file. You must also install PHP, MySQL database server, and edit the wp-config PHP file to add the database username, password, etc. Shared hosting companies offer a 1-click WordPress installer tool that automates the task of installing WP, PHP, MariaDB/MySQL, Apache, or Nginx. They also allow users to change the version of PHP, enable SSL certificate, and backup the entire website/database with a few clicks of a button.
Where to host a WordPress website? Well, I recommend the Hostgator Baby plan and Bluehost shared hosting to the users who are new to WordPress or have never used a web hosting service before. These two hosting plans will not only save your money but will also give you the freedom to install and use the WP plugins and themes of your choice. These two plans support unlimited websites and offer a 1-click WordPress installer tool. Why Bluehost or Hostgator? Well, Bluehost and Hostgator are the best shared hosting companies. They offer 24 x 7 customer support and have cheap hosting plans.
If you’ve Linux administration skills and you can install/configure web/database server, SSL certificate manually, you can go for an unmanaged cloud hosting service provider. You can learn the differences between various types of web hosting companies in our Shared vs VPS hosting article. Once your WordPress website is ready, you should optimize it by installing the best WordPress plugins.
Plugins: You can install and use plugins of your choice. Plugins are very important. They make the website faster/SEO friendly/feature-rich, etc.
Themes: WordPress.com doesn’t allow you to upload themes. If you’re using self-hosted WordPress, you can install any theme of your choice.
Domain: Once you buy a domain, you just have to change the nameservers to the one provided by your hosting company. Once you do so, you can reach your site by entering the domain name in the browser and pressing the enter button on the keyboard.
Monetization: Self-hosted WP users can monetize their sites with any technique, method, or program they’re aware of. Placing advertisements on a WP site is easy. Some WP themes (Example: TagDiv Newspaper) come with an ad management system built-in. If your theme doesn’t have this feature, you can use an ad inserter plugin.
Customization: As you’ve got control over the server and your WordPress installation, you can customize your website with the help of page builders plugins or by modifying the existing CSS code or adding a new one. If you’re using a template such as the Divi WordPress theme which has a page builder and advanced CSS tools built-in, you don’t have to install a page builder plugin nor you have to edit CSS files manually.
Hosting fees: Hosting a WordPress website requires you to buy a hosting plan. The hosting companies have to pay the electricity bill, salary to engineers, etc. They also have to buy servers. To do so, they charge customers. Frankly speaking, the hosting fees are very low. If you monetize your website, you can earn multiple times the amount you have to pay to the WebHost.
Domain renewal + buying cost: Domain name registrars charge between 0.99 to $30 for domains. The price of a domain depends on the TLD you’re buying. For example, .com domains are available for purchase at 6 to 10 USD.
Are there any risks in using WordPress.org
No. WP is a very secure content management system. Unless you install a very old and outdated plugin or theme that you’ll find in the WordPress repository or you download a plugin/theme manually from other websites (non-trusted or illegal), you’ll never face any issue. I’ve been using the self-hosted WP for 8 years. I’ve never faced an issue to date. If you want to play safe, you can install WP security plugins such as Wordfence or iThemes Security and stay away from nulled plugins/themes or outdated plugins/themes you’ll find in the WordPress repository.
WordPress.com is a free blogging site. To use it, you should create a WordPress.com account. Once you create your account, you can create a new website/blog. Your website will be reachable by the following URL:
The free plan of WordPress.com doesn’t allow users to install plugins or upload templates. It displays advertisements. WordPress.com also offers paid subscription plans wherein you can use a custom domain. The CMS offers the following four paid plans:
- Personal, Premium.
- Business, eCommerce.
The Personal plan is priced at 2.13 USD/month. The premium plan costs 3.73 USD/month. The limitation of the personal and premium plans is that they support only 1 website. Unless you’re using a Business or eCommerce plan which costs 8 and 16 USD/month respectively, you won’t be able to install a plugin. To start a blog or website, you’ll have to buy a new subscription plan.
WordPress.com Pros (free)
No domain or hosting required: You don’t have to purchase a domain or a hosting plan to use WordPress.com.
Installation: You don’t have to install PHP, MySQL DB server, Nginx/Apache, or any other software/package to use WordPress.com. To create a WP dot com site, all you have to do is create an account on WP dot com.
Analytics: If you want to know how many people have visited your website or you’d like to know the most popular pages of your website, open the Analytics page that you’ll find in your WP dashboard. To be honest, WordPress analytics is not as sophisticated as Google Analytics.
Subdomain: Your WordPress website will be reachable via subdomain. If you want to use/map a custom domain, you should purchase a paid subscription plan. WordPress.com plans are costlier compared to the shared hosting plans.
Ads: Free WordPress.com websites display ads. The only way to get rid of the advertisements is to upgrade your account.
Plugins: You can’t install SEO, translation, gallery, analytics, contact form, or any other plugin on your website.
Monetization: As you’re not allowed to edit the theme or install a plugin, you won’t be able to place scripts that display advertisements on your website e.g. Adsense, Media.net, etc.
Customization: Only paid users are allowed to add custom CSS code to their website. Why this is a drawback? Imagine you want to change the color of the text or hyperlink. If the theme doesn’t have an option to change the color of a hyperlink, text, etc, the only way you can change the color is by adding a custom CSS code. Also, as you’re not allowed to install a page builder plugin or any other plugin that adds a new feature to your website, you won’t be able to heavily customize your website.
Self-hosted WordPress vs WordPress.com: Which one should you use?
If you’re not planning to monetize your website in the future or you want to launch a blog where you can share your personal thoughts, you can go for WordPress.com. If you’ll monetize your website in the near future, you should use self-hosted WP.