If you’re looking to create a WordPress website, the first decision you will be faced with is whether to go with WordPress.com or use self-hosting. Simply put, WordPress.com provides free/low-cost hosting for creating and publishing a WordPress site. On the other hand, with Self-hosting, you get your own server space where you can manually download and install a WordPress website.
For this comparison, I’ll be considering WordPress website installed on a shared web hosting plan and the free / Personal plans on WordPress.com as they have similar costs.
Have Full Control over your Website
WordPress.com plans are known for their limitations, even with their paid plans. You’ll notice that you don’t have much control over many things like uploading your own theme, plugins, FTP access, storage space, advertising, and statistical analysis. On the other hand, Self-Hosted WordPress gives you complete control over your website. You can install any template, theme, or plugin to customize it or even do your own custom design if you have the necessary coding skills. The contents will be yours and how your website looks will be up to you.
Ensure Security through Obscurity
WordPress.com uses common security and backup strategies for all its content. Due to its uniformness, attackers can easily find vulnerabilities and exploit them across many or all sites. On the contrary, on Self-Hosted WordPress you will have to secure your website yourself, using a third-party security plugin that is only known to you and hidden to others. So attackers have less of a chance exploiting. We have an entire article with tips on making your website more secure.
The backup strategy will follow suit. You can backup your data to a safe external location and attackers will have no information about it. Most users consider having to obtain external security and backup services as a disadvantage. In the cybersecurity world, keeping your security measures confidential increases security as a whole. In most cases, security and backup services are provided by domain and hosting services. However, having a third-party service is always a good idea.
Have Flexibility for Monetization
WordPress.com does not allow you to monetize your website on their personal or free sites but requires that you purchase their premium plans. On the other hand, Self-Hosted WordPress has no such restrictions. It’s a similar situation with advertisements as well. WordPress.com restricts advertising to their own channels. However, Self-Hosted WordPress gives you complete freedom in this sense and allows many third-party channels such as Google AdSense, BuySellAds, and OpenX. Unlike on WordPress.com, you have complete control over the types of advertisements that are displayed.
Track Your Website and Visitors with Google Analytics
Google Analytics is an essential tool for any website, irrespective of its size or the stage of the lifecycle it is in. However, you are only able to leverage the power of Google Analytics on self-hosted WordPress. Google Analytics will provide you insights regarding traffic to the website and visitor behavior. Your strategies will depend on this and as such forms an integral part of your website. Many other third-party analytics tools are also supported by Self-Hosted WordPress.
Make Your Website SEO-Friendly
WordPress.com provides some default SEO optimization. But it does not offer much flexibility for anything more. This is not the case with self-hosted WordPress. It allows you to leverage the power of keyword links, online marketing, writing content, and link building in a better manner so that you can increase the value of your website. In addition, Self-Hosted WordPress supports plugins like page load optimizers and caching tools that can improve the overall speed of your website. This is a key factor for SEO ranking. Furthermore, Self-Hosted WordPress allows access to the Google Search Console, which helps to identify things like broken links and which keywords your website ranks for.
Be in Control of What You Spend on Your Website
WordPress.com provides you a website with its own domain name entirely free of charge. However, Self-Hosted WordPress might cost you a few dollars each month for things like hosting and a domain. Considering that you can have your own domain name, no third-party advertisements, your own design, more storage, and many other benefits, Self-Hosted WordPress offers considerable value. You may need to get one of the more expensive plans from WordPress.com to match these benefits.
Let’s consider the Personal plan from WordPress, it will cost you around $48/year. The same setup on self-hosted WordPress would cost you much less for the first year, as you may only need to spend for shared hosting. But thereafter, you’ll need to consider a domain as well. An SSL may also be important to you. That means your cost will likely be more than $48/year. Spending some time comparing hosting deals can help you find a good deal with all of this included. Use our Hosting Finder tool, it’s made just for that purpose.
While it seems like a self-hosted website would cost more, its actually not the case. You are in control of your costs unlike with platforms like WordPress.com. With WordPress.com, every little upgrade will cost you a considerable amount. These premium upgrades included email hosting, removing adds, custom domains, custom design, plugins, and even something as simple as adding storage. So you don’t actually know how much you will be spending as your website grows.
WordPress.com does not support any e-commerce features at all; neither does it support any payment systems. The only options you have are to purchase a higher pricing plan, but you’ll still need to purchase the plugins. So you’re better off with self-hosted WordPress. With more than 54,000 plugins on the WordPress directory alone, you have the freedom to choose from both free and premium e-commerce plugins with self-hosting. In addition, you can also use any payment gateway plugins in a convenient manner avoiding the restrictions of WordPress.com.
Ensure Mobile Responsiveness
Both WordPress.com & Self-Hosted WordPress supports blogging and managing your content using smart mobile devices and tablets. The official mobile application can be downloaded from their site and can be used to manage both WordPress.com & Self-Hosted WordPress. So this is the same irrespective of which option you choose. In order to improve your Search Engine rankings, your website needs to support mobile devices as well. If your website is optimized for mobile devices, your Google ranking will also be higher. Mobile responsiveness can be achieved by choosing a responsive theme. As WordPress.com has some restrictions on themes and custom designs, you may not be able to achieve this as easily as you would be able on self-hosted WordPress.
Get Access to Email with Your Domain Name
Email is another important benefit that you will have on your self-hosted WordPress website. Whether you obtain through your hosting plan or set up your own email server, this is something that you cannot do on WordPress.com. At the minimum, you will need to opt for a higher plan, but you will still only have a limited number of email accounts and have to pay further for more accounts. Your other option is to obtain them via a premium upgrade on the free or Personal plans, which will also cost you a lot more because it requires that you also get a custom domain. So you’ll be spending more on that as well.
These benefits all heavily rely on the fact that you can obtain most of them at a considerably lower cost with a self-hosted instance of WordPress. While they are all possible with WordPress.com plans, you will need to spend a lot more each month. So it ultimately comes down to whether you have the skills required to self-host. If you do, your overall costs will be much lower, and you will be able to control every aspect of your website. Finding a good web hosting plan can increase your savings even more, and our Hosting Finder tool is the best way to do it.
However, if you are new to WordPress and don’t have any coding skills, then WordPress.com can be a great option as it offers a convenient experience without the hassle of having to worry about how everything works.
But new users keep in mind, as your website grows and you need more and more resources and features, WordPress.com may not be able to accommodate you.