WordPress.com is a commercial website based on the WordPress platform. It is famous because of the great ease of use, and it allows you to host a WordPress site for free for life, but with many limitations. When a site is hosted on WordPress.com, it is taken care by the Automattic company which makes regular security updates, and you, the user, are only responsible for the content.
There is always a debate on the question that whether WordPress.com is a good place to host a WordPress site. Some people say being free is of great appeal, while some others hold the opinion that WordPress.com is not worth a try because of too many limitations.
In this post, we will give our answer by analyzing the pros and cons of WordPress.com. The cost, ease of use, site customization, monetization and many other important factors are covered.
Pros of Hosting a WordPress Site at WordPress.com
WordPress.com, with its vast user base, comes with many highlights. For WordPress beginners, the free sites and ready-to-use WordPress environment are quite helpful for starting a presence online quickly.
- Free subdomain. On WordPress.com, you can start a site in minutes without buying a custom domain. WordPress.com allows you to use a subdomain like wordpress.com for free forever.
- Free disk storage. The free plan provides up to 3 GB storage space for your website files, with no extra cost. But pay attention that overuse will be charged.
A ready-to-use WordPress environment
- WYSIWYG editor. This editor makes it code-free to publish a post or page. The content format only needs clicks on buttons.
- Managed maintenance. Sites hosted on WordPress.com are maintained by the dedicated Automattic team, so there are automatic WordPress updates, security updates, backups, etc. You don’t have to manage the security by yourself.
- Pre-installed plugins. Besides the core features, WordPress.com has prepared many free plugins to extend the functionality, including site stats, email subscriptions, security scans, infinite scroll, polls, form builder, and related posts.
- User management. In the WordPress.com dashboard, you can add new users, manage the site followers, and manage the email followers easily.
- Automated social sharing.com is integrated with popular social networks like LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr, so you are able to share posts to these platforms without relying on a third-party service.
- Blog anywhere.com is completely mobile-friendly, which enables you to manage your site on any device at any time.
Cons of Hosting a WordPress Site at WordPress.com
The biggest downside of WordPress.com is the lack of site control. If you use the free plan, there are many limitations on the theme customization, ads, SEO, etc. To get rid of the limitations, you have to pay much for the upgrades, which makes your site not free anymore.
Free hosting doesn’t mean no cost at all
WordPress provides four plans. The free plan is the most popular, with the most limitations. The other plans are priced at $2.99/mo, $8.25/mo and $24.92/mo, and the payment is charged on a yearly basis.
To get the freedom to do the things you want, such as uploading videos, removing ads and using a custom domain, there were two options open to you. You can either buy a paid plan or purchase the premium addons provided by WordPress.com. However, to promote the paid plans, now WordPress.com requires you to upgrade your plan in order to get advanced features. And no matter which plan you choose, you cannot host a WordPress site for free anymore. Besides, depending on the types of control you want, the costs may be even higher than running a self-hosted WordPress.org website.
In the case that you want a fully-controllable WordPress site on WordPress.com, you will probably need the following things.
- A custom domain with your branding.
- Video uploads with VideoPress.
- Custom theme design or premium themes.
- No ads.
- Monetization tools.
- Google Analytics stats tracking.
- Live chat or email support.
To get all of these things, you have to pay $24.92/mo for the most expensive Business plan because the other plans are not feature-rich enough. Pay attention that even the Business plan includes one free custom domain only. If you need to register another domain, there is an extra cost of $18 per year. Besides, email accounts are charged additional $5/mo per user. Assumed that you want to host a small business site on WordPress.com with 5 email accounts, the payment should be about $30/mo.
What if you choose to build a self-hosted site with WordPress.org? The cost can be $5/mo to $10/mo only for a budget hosting plan. Since some of the budget offers come with a free .com/.net/.org domain, you can even save the domain cost.
A normal hosting plan should include 50 GB disk storage or more, unlimited bandwidth, email accounts, FTP accounts, and multiple databases. The freedom of theme customization, plugin installation and ad display is also yours.
So the comparison of the cost is:
- Host a site on WordPress.com: $30/mo or $360 per year.
- Host a site with WordPress.org: $5/mo – $10/mo, or $60 – $120 per year.
Limited site control
There are many limitations for using the free plan of WordPress.com. You may have got some information about this in the cost analysis, but here we want to provide more details.
- The free storage space is quite limited. 3 GB is not enough if you upload images to your site.
- You are forced to display ads which may not be relevant to your site content.
- You cannot make money by displaying your own ads. Third-party ad solutions like Google AdSense are not allowed.
- You cannot upload your own videos because VideoPress is not included in the free plan.
- You are restricted to the built-in analytics. Google Analytics or any other custom analytics software is not allowed for stats tracking.
- There are only a few free themes for you to choose. These themes are probably used on thousands or even millions of sites. Since the customization options are limited and custom CSS is not allowed, it is hard for your site to stand out.
In addition to these disadvantages, you should also pay attention to the following upsetting facts that are true with all sites on WordPress.com, no matter which plan you use.
- You have no FTP access, so you cannot access your files on the server, not to mention making changes.
- You cannot upload your own themes because you don’t have FTP access. This means you are forced to make a choice from the themes selected by WordPress.com which are already used on numerous sites.
- You are not allowed to install plugins. Plugins are a great feature of WordPress that make it possible to do almost anything, but WordPress.com doesn’t support this feature unless you pay $5000/mo or more for a VIP solution.
- You don’t own the site, because Automattic can delete it permanently without any previous notice if they think that your site violates the Terms of Service.
WordPress.com might be a good place to get started, but it is not powerful or budget-friendly enough for hosting business sites. We don’t suggest WordPress.com, but according to your own condition, you can make a choice by yourself.
- If you want a basic site without a custom domain, and don’t mind the ads and lack of customization options, you can try WordPress.com.
- If you want a full-featured site and the full control over it, leave WordPress.com for a self-hosted WordPress site.