Updated: April 30, 2017
Knowing the difference between the Self-Hosted WordPress and WordPress.com-Hosted blog helps you determine which course to take and which one fits your situation. Each option has its pros and cons that are detrimental to the goals you want to achieve.
When you are still starting in Blogging and still testing the waters of your interests, use WordPress.com-Hosted site. Click here to create a free account. When you have made your contents, then it’s time to arrive to a decision point. Here are things to consider:
Design and Functionality
If you are after aesthetics, freedom of functionality and design, go for a self-hosted WordPress. You have to buy your domain and host, and have to set-up WordPress inside your own host.
As a designer, I go for a self-hosted WordPress for my clients and for my portfolio. This allows me to install plugins and custom CSS because plugins are not available or limited in a WordPress.com-hosted blog- whether Free or Premium account.
Advanced Coders, including those who create PSD-to-Wordpress templates, would use self-hosted WordPress so test their designs and codes.
In self-hosted WordPress, you can place Google Adsense anywhere in the site- whether in pages, posts or widgets. This is only possible if you have an approved Google Adsense account.
WordPress.com has thought of this option already. Since 2012, they have worked hand in hand with Wordads.
Metaphorically speaking, using a self-hosted WordPress is like buying your own “tent” and placing it in your own lot in your own location out of the town. So you need to purchase your own security and other accessories to create your own experience. Add-ons such as SSL, VPN and other features are available inside your CPanel or Hosting packages. Other security features like Spam filters, Virus Scanners, you have to install as a third-party plugin. This takes time as you still need to search, analyze the ratings, the descriptions that suit your needs. It required me learning curves for each plugin before they become manageable.
While buying a Premium Account in WordPress is like renting an Apartment with built-in CCTV, guards and other features which you don’t have to mind.
In self-hosted WP, there’s this browser that will tell your visitors that they are not secure in your site. This is because you have not purchased another security feature. See image at the right (pixelhero.org).
In Premium WP, your account has this green lock icon that tells your audience they are secure.
In WordPress.com, security features are somehow packaged into the whole system. When you install Jetpack, a built-in system within the system, the security category goes along with it. Here’s the snapshot of Jetpack security inside my own Premium WordPress Account:
So it includes the three most important security features you will need: Security, Back-up and Spam. WordPress.com already takes care of its updating, debugging, etc. which you don’t need to mind already.
The reason why I reverted back to a premium WordPress.com blog is the thought of legacy.
I first started with Free WordPress.com to learn the interface. Then I bought a domain and hosting, installing self-hosted WordPress. Then, I went back again to WordPress.com for my Personal Blog. For my other ventures, I used self-hosted WordPress such as Invest-PH, Bacolod City Real Estate and my digital marketing company Pixel Hero.
When I had a self-hosted blog, I thought of the future and the possibility that if I am taken out of the picture, like dying or getting disabled, all my works could disappear when my credit card fails to pay the monthly premium. I thought of the fact that I have no one in my circle that would think of backing up my works, even there is, still he or she might still not be able to save the works.
So this thought prevailed, and I went back to WordPress.com. It cost me 84USD to pay for the annual subscription (As of Apr 30, 2017, it is 99USD).
In self-hosted, I only pay 15USD a year for the domain, and 8USD monthly for the overall hosting (shared hosting) of all my domains. So if I only have one domain for my shared hosting, I would have spent 111USD. Even though WordPress-hosted is more expensive, I opted that option because such factors weigh more for me. A cheaper option would be the Personal Plan which costs 2.99USD per month, but does not give you the ability to monetize your site.
100 years from now, Lordwilling, WordPress will still exist and its archives will still be retrievable, only except a giant asteroid falls down to all WordPress servers and no single one left. Backing up to the cloud and to the local storage is still a good way.
A WordPress.com is like creating a database of your lifework. Once you miss the schedule billing, you will revert back to the free package.
However, just in my unsupported observation, Google does not really rank WordPress higher because of the fact that its ads system is made up of Wordads, not Google’s own Adsense. But when I check my popular posts, they are still there appearing high in the niche searches. Update (4/30/2017): I also did a research trying to determine whether viewership changes when you switch from self-hosted WordPress to premium WordPress.com or vice versa.