What is the difference between WordPress.com and Self-hosted WordPress

Written by Nadin Thomson

 
which email account is the right one for me?
First of all – why WordPress and not one of the other “easy” website builders, such as Wix or Squarespace?
Have a look at this trend – the following graphic is provided by Google (you can check all sorts of trends on Google Trends)
As you can see, WordPress websites have pretty much dominated the internet since it started and it seems that WordPress is here to stay.

There are 2 options when you want to host a WordPress site for your personal brand or business: WordPress.com and self-hosted WordPress.

After this article you will know which service would be best for you or your business. Find out about how they work as well as their pros and cons.

Here is a brief list of the differences between the hosting services:

 Wordpress.com

  • WordPress.com hosting is provided for free on WordPress servers
  • Hosting using WordPress.com limits chances of monetising your website
  • WordPress.com hosting puts WordPress adverts which you cannot remove, on their free version of hosting.
  • WordPress.com limits the items you can add on to your website to the plugins, themes and addons available from WordPress.
  • E-commerce capability on WordPress.com hosting services are limited to the available plugins.
  • You get customer support services directly from WordPress through emails and live chat when you host your site with wordpress.com.

 Self-hosted WordPress

  • A self-hosted WordPress website is hosted with an external hosting company, such as ourselves. There are many hosting companies available, such as Ionos, Bluehost etc.
  • Self-hosted WordPress gives you freedom to use your website as you like.
  • Self-hosted WordPress does not show any adverts unless you use banner advertising of course.
  • Self-hosted WordPress, on the other hand, allows you to add any items from WordPress resources as well as add third party plugins. You can also develop your own additional features by adding them into the website source code.
  • E-commerce services on self-hosted WordPress sites are scalable according to your needs.
  • Self-hosted WordPress opens you to customer support from other developers and discussion forums.

WordPress.com hosting – who is it for

WordPress.com hosting allows you to create a WordPress account on the WordPress website and customise your website from their platform. You can create a website with many of the available features. Another feature about WordPress.com hosting is that you can edit the website when it is live. You do this by switching to edit mode, doing the necessary edits, and finally refreshing the main website to load the new changes.

Free and paid WordPress.com plans

When starting out, you can create a website with wordpress.com hosting, which is free. The free plan comes with limited features and limited 3GB storage space. This is a great place to start when you first join the online space since all you have to pay for is the domain name. The free hosting also comes with advertisements that you and your websites’ visitors might find annoying. The worst part is that you don’t have any control regarding the ads that show up. Neither do you generate any income from the ads. As you become more knowledgeable and grow an audience, you have the option of upgrading the hosting to a paid plan that opens you to more storage space and more features.

Paid plans on wordpress.com hosting are available for different budgets as outlined below:

  • Personal paid plan- £3 per month
  • Premium paid plan – £7 per month
  • Business paid plan – £20 per month
  • E-commerce paid plan – £36 per month

Every paid plan comes with additional features than are not available on the free plan. Storage space also expands from 6 GB and 13 GB on personal and premium plans respectively to 200 GB on both business and E-commerce plans. You should note that WordPress bills you annually for each plan, which you must pay upfront. In simpler terms, you have to pay a whole year’s subscription before hosting your site on any of the paid plans.

Plugins on WordPress.com Hosting

Plugins available on WordPress.com hosting differ according to which plan you have subscribed to. For instance, e-commerce plug-ins that allow you to sell products and services to customers are only available on the e-commerce paid plan. The basic plans are priced lower but will limit the amount of functionality you can add to your website. You should therefore plan ahead before settling on which hosting plan works best for you. For basic blogging and company websites, all features you need are already built into the website.

Advertisements on WordPress.com Hosting

The free plan puts adverts that you cannot do away with on your website. Visitors to your site see the adverts but you don’t get any income from them. The paid plans don’t contain any ads. You can partner with companies to advertise on your website if you have any of the paid plans but the revenue generated from the adverts gets shared between yourself and WordPress.

Ease of Use

WordPress.com hosting allows you to create a fully fledged website without writing a single line of code. You can simply drag and drop features you want to add to the site by selecting from the wide collection of resources available. This makes wordpress.com hosting perfectly suited for beginners.

Self-hosted WordPress – how does it work and who is it for

To be able to host your website with your own chosen hosting provider, you need to download WordPress (which is free) from WordPress.org. This allows you to create a website using content management system resources from WordPress and then select a third party hosting provider to host your website (for example our hosting services, or IONOS, Bluehost etc.).

It also provides you with customisation freedom and multiple third party plugin compatibility.This means you manage the website independently after creating it. You can begin with free themes and plugins but for you to add all-round functionality to the website, you need premium themes and plugins.

WordPress requires no coding skills for the implementation on an external hosting provider. Often, the hosting company provides a one-click install which means they provide a button and via this button WordPress is installed within a couple of minutes. All you need to do after the installation is enter a username and a password and give your website a name.

Self-hosted WordPress also supports third party plugins. You have therefore much more freedom and customisation features to make the most amazing website. You can basically implement anything that you envision for your website.

WordPress plugins integrate into self-hosted websites saving you the trouble of hard coding everything from scratch. For customisation purposes however, you must understand code so that you can customise the plugins to match the rest of your website pages, headers and menus. Hosting on third-party servers means that you require to back up the website yourself to avoid losing data in case of any mishaps.

How much does self-hosted WordPress cost?

WordPress itself is available for download free of charge from the WordPress website. You can either download it and install it on your chosen web host in your account, or you can use their one-click install method.

Depending on your future requirements, basic WordPress hosting is relatively cheap and is available from as little as £5 per month. However, cheap hosting usually has a few drawbacks. If you pay less than £10 per month on your web hosting, chances are your website is hosted on what’s called “shared web hosting”. I have written an article about the different types of web hosting here.

If backups and speed is important to you as well as a good support team, then web hosting will be much more expensive.

E-commerce and Affiliate Marketing on Self-hosted WordPress

You have the freedom of incorporating third party e-commerce plugins into your self-hosted WordPress website and start selling products and services from your website. In addition, you can choose to add fully fledged e-commerce solutions like Shopify which transform a regular website into an online store. Incorporating e-commerce functionality into the website requires some technical skills that you can get from a seasoned developer.

Since self-hosted WordPress gives you full control of your website, any income generated from the affiliates you partner with remains with you. You don’t pay any percentage of the income to WordPress.

Search Engine Optimisation on Self-hosted WordPress

The freedom to customise your website how you deem fit in self-hosted WordPress enables easy search engine optimisation. Unlike wordpress.com where you are only allowed to edit blog posts, self-hosted WordPress allows you to edit everything on your website including the headers, menus, and webpage content. Such functionality means you can incorporate keywords that make your website rank top in the search engine results.

Website Analytics on Self-hosted WordPress

Analytics allow reviewing of the websites performance over time. Self-hosted WordPress integrates with Google analytics which provides a more comprehensive analysis report than the typical WordPress analysis tools. The normal WordPress analysis tools only give you details about the traffic. With google analytics, you can track growth of the website and traffic of each individual page. WordPress.com limits integration with Google Analytics to the paid versions which means users on the free version must upgrade if they want to use google Analytics.

Ease of Use

Self-hosted WordPress is fairly easy to use. The setup process is straightforward for people with basic coding skills. Intermediate and moderate coding skills are however required to correctly integrate and customise more advanced plugins. However, the unlimited environment it provides allows you to create stunning websites with extensive features. If you are a beginner in coding and you don’t really understand the jargon in coding languages, you can seek the services of a web developer to help you with setting up and managing your website.

Conclusion

When selecting a web host, one of the key things you should consider is whether WordPress is supported. This allows you to enjoy building your website using tools and plugins provided by WordPress. Users who begin hosting their websites on wordpress.com services and later on want to migrate to self-hosted services enjoy smooth transition. Web host providers provide tools that easily move the website with all contents from the WordPress servers to their servers seamlessly and with no loss of data.

Before settling on a web hosting service, you should fully understand the capabilities and limitations that come with each service. This will save you the trouble of switching to a new service later on. When looking to host a WordPress site, try and measure wordpress.com against self-hosted WordPress to see which hosting best serves your needs.