WordPress Free vs. Self-hosted Site | A Comparison and Review

As most of you are aware, I recently moved my blog from a free WordPress.com site to a self-hosted WordPress.org site. I have never reconsidered my decision to move from Blogger to WordPress a few years back, and so far I see no need to reconsider this most recent move either.

WordPress decision, free or self-hosted?
WordPress decision, free or self-hosted?

Many of you asked me to share how I reached my decision and about the benefits of one versus the other. I spent several days, maybe two weeks or more, researching and vetting the issues.

Today I'm sharing with you what I learned in the process and why I moved.

The most logical place to begin vetting blog moving issues was with WordPress support. On WordPress.com I found a helpful article setting out a chart listing the differences between the two platforms. This proved helpful to me in understanding not only the differences but how much I wanted to invest in time and money.

Here WordPress sums it all up pretty well:

WordPress is a publishing platform that makes it easy for anyone to publish online, and proudly powers millions of websites. It comes in two flavors: the fully hosted WordPress.com, and the self-hosted version available at WordPress.org.

A second article in my search is a post found at WP Beginner in the form of an infographic. The infographic summed up the WordPress article beautifully and in fewer words plus added a column for available upgrades for WordPress.com and each cost.

Despite the information found in these articles, the question I wanted answered was "Why should I pick one over the other?" I found this answer at Kimberley Grabas's blog,  Your Writer Platform. Kimberley writes:

One of the biggest disadvantages of free-hosted sites is that you don’t really own your site; the provider does.  You could spend years building up your site, creating a great resource and substantial platform, but never fully own or control it.  With that much investment at the whim of the provider, “free” no longer seems like good value.

And there was my answer. The concept of ownership is important to me. To work hard day in and day out writing and posting on a blog, maintaining a site such as so many do, only to have someone else with the ability to exercise final control over it made no logical sense to me.

So, I decided to make the move to WordPress.org.

Next step was hiring a host. Thinking I knew what I was doing (never fall victim to this!), I contacted the host who maintains our small business site and has for several years. What I didn't do was question fully the host's knowledge and ability to work with the WordPress.org platform. Result = mess! Parts didn't work, "we don't do that" responses, and more confirmed my poor business sense.

Off to Bluehost, a WordPress.org, and an organization deserving of compliments on their support staff who are very responsive. However, remember the site mentioned earlier, WP Beginner? At the time I made my move, WP Beginner was offering free installation and transfer of files if I linked from its site to Bluehost to make my Bluehost purchase, and then emailed a copy of my receipt as proof of purchase. WP Beginner's staff was priceless!

Not to lead you astray, there is some work to do on your part once your host has completed its work. Things like deciding which, if any, plugins you'd like to add to your site. For example, some widgets that come with WordPress.com are not standard with WordPress.org. But don't distress! The number and availability of plugins is unbelievable, including colors, fonts, use of Java script, Disqus comment format, Yoast SEO, Tweet This, Akismet, Jetpack, and more. Installation of any of these is a snap.

There was only one bump in the road that has yet resolve itself. To migrate my list of followers from the WordPress.com site to WordPress.org, I was told to use Jetpack's services. And it worked beautifully when it came to migrating followers who signed up to receive posts via email. Followers who had signed up on Facebook, Twitter, or other means would not migrate. Those followers must sign up to follow again, here on this site. This was the only thing I found a bit unpleasant in the process but I'm continuing to attempt to get the word out to my followers.

Now you know what I know. Like many decisions in life, this is one no one else can make for you. You have to decide!