The Difference between WordPress.com and WordPress.org
It happens a lot.  A potential client comes to me with a “WordPress” blog that they want redesigned.  Which is awesome, I love blog design!  And they look at their blog, and everything on it says WordPress.  So of course it’s WordPress, right?  Well, the answer, in short, is yes and no.  

Keep scrolling to view the full post or watch my short video at the end.

WordPress is the premier content management software for most websites today.  But if you are wanting to start a new blog, and you Google “start a WordPress blog” the first thing that is going to come up, after all the ads of course, will be a link to WordPress.com.  So what is WordPress.com?  The basic difference between WordPress.com and WordPress.org is the hosting.  Wordpress.com is similar to Google Blogger, in that it includes free hosting with your WordPress installation.  The WordPress software comes already installed, and your domain will be something like “www.myblog.wordpress.com”.  You can definitely choose to point your WordPress.com blog to your custom domain, which adds to the confusion because then it’s hard to tell, if the wordpress.com is hidden, where your blog is hosted.

With WordPress.org, or self-hosted WordPress, you need to have your own hosting.  What is hosting?  I like to explain hosting and domain registration in terms of real estate.  Your domain (eg. www.littlebluedeerdesign.com) is like your street address.  And the hosting, where all of your files and content live, is like the actual house itself.  Wordpress.com provides free hosting or a free house, with a number of restrictions.  With WordPress.org, the house is not free.  You have to pay for the land, or the hosting (I love and use Bluehost.com!).  But once you have your own hosting and WordPress.org, the sky is the limit when it comes to what you can do with your blog.

To read more about what hosting IS exactly, visit my hosting and domain tutorial here.

WordPress.com has a number of restrictions on what you can do with your blog, including restrictions on monetization and advertising, which is huge for style bloggers.  Additionally, the blog design customization you can do with WordPress.com is extremely limited, which is why most blog designers (myself included) will only design blogs in WordPress.org.

So, how do you tell if your WordPress blog is at WordPress.com or WordPress.org?  The easiest thing to do is to go to your domain, and add /wp-admin/ to the URL.  So go to http://myblog.com/wp-admin.  What do you see?  A blog that is hosted on WordPress.com will look like this:
wordpress

You can actually mouse over the little W icon in the upper left corner, and see if it says WordPress.com or WordPress.org.

A self-hosted, or WordPress.org blog will look like this:
wordpress.org

Once again, mouse over the W icon in the center of the page, it should say WordPress.org.

So once you have ascertained that you have a WordPress.com blog, but you want a WordPress.org blog (particularly if you are ordering a custom blog design by Little Blue Deer, we do require that your blog be on WordPress.org to work on it), what do you do?  The answer?  Easy!  This is not an uncommon request at all, and WordPress.com actually has a fantastic Guided Transfer service that is a one-step product that will seamlessly transfer your theme, blog posts, followers and Jetpack settings to WordPress.org.  THIS IS ONLY NECESSARY IF YOU HAVE EXISTING CONTENT ON YOUR BLOG.  You do need to purchase hosting (hosting runs about $5-7 per month, a small price to pay for the design freedom of WordPress.org) but the Guided Transfer includes a list of preferred hosting providers (and Bluehost is one of them) and the service will take care of everything for you.  The WordPress.org dashboard is virtually indistinguishable from the WordPress.com dashboard so there is virtually no learning curve when switching from WordPress.com to WordPress.org.  The Guided Transfer service is currently $129, but because you literally do not have to lift a finger, I think it is SO worth it.

One thing to keep in mind is that if you have purchased a premium WordPress.com theme, it is required that you switch back to a free theme for the transfer.  But if you are ordering a custom blog design from Little Blue Deer, we will be designing your new WordPress.org theme anyway, so a switch back to a default or free theme is only temporary.

So, if you are ordering a custom blog design and you want to switch your blog from WordPress.com to WordPress.org, here are the steps:

  1.  Set up a hosting account (we are a Bluehost affiliate and recommend Bluehost, so you can click here to order your hosting package if you wish).  All you need is the Economy hosting package, and we do recommend the Site Backup and Site Lock add-ons for additional blog security.  When asked for the domain to add to the hosting package, simply type in your current domain, even if it is registered elsewhere.  Be sure to save your Bluehost username and password as it will be needed in Step 2.
  2. Go to the WordPress.com Guided Transfer service page here.  THIS IS ONLY NECESSARY IF YOU HAVE EXISTING CONTENT ON YOUR BLOG.  Click on the blue Add $129 Guided Transfer to Your Cart button, and proceed with checkout.  The Happiness Engineers at WordPress.com will be in touch to let you know the date of your scheduled transfer (this usually happens quickly).  Your blog will experience no disruption and they will notify you when transfer is complete.  You will notice virtually no difference in the blog dashboard or the look of your blog, but you will have all the freedom or WordPress.org (and own your own virtual house!).

If you have purchased a WordPress.com hosting package and wish to have your blog designed by Little Blue Deer but have no content on your blog yet, you do not need to purchase a Guided Transfer, you will only need to order hosting through a web host provider like Bluehost.  Now you get to go to (design) town!  There is a huge library of WordPress.org themes, or you may choose a custom blog design to better reflect your personality and content.  You will have the use of literally millions of plugins (mailing list opt-ins, social media, slideshows and galleries) and your blog is yours to monetize as you wish.  So enjoy, and if you have any questions, leave a comment below!