WordPress.org gives you access to:
- SEO plugins (eg. Yoast)
- Speed optimization plugins
- Rich snippet plugins
- Google Search Console
- SEO-friendly themes (eg. StudioPress)
WordPress.org also means YOU are hosting your website (not WordPress) which gives you more control over your design, SEO, and overall website. While wordpress.com makes it easy to throw up a website (or blog) with minimal technical knowledge, you will eventually want to do things you can only do with wordpress.org. You will save a LOT of time starting with the .org version, even if it means hiring a freelance developer (for around $100) to install your WordPress, theme, then have the developer send you your new WordPress login information.
I also want to start by saying Matt Cutts from Google recommends WordPress and you will notice in that video he is using WordPress plugins (only accessible to WordPress.org users), so this should tell you something off the bat. While WordPress.com claims to have good SEO, they’re bias since the .com version makes them more money when people buy a domain. I have a lot of WordPress SEO guides on my site but this is what you should know to get started.
- Minimal cost/time investment
- Minimal coding knowledge needed
- But… no access to plugins (like Yoast) which are a key part of both optimizing and designing your WordPress website
- No access to rich snippet plugins which add “extra information” to snippets about reviews, recipe info, etc… so you can drive additional traffic to your site
- No access to Google Search Console, also a key part of optimizing your site
- www.example.wordpress.com format is bad for SEO, and even though you can register a domain with wordpress.com (eg. www.example.com), hosting your own website gives you more control
- If you do choose .wordpress.com and eventually want to switch, you need to purchase a site redirect for a yearly fee but will lose about 10-15% of your”link juice” when making the switch
- WordPress.com themes are not all SEO-friendly especially when compared to StudioPress themes which are recommended by top WordPress people like Joost D Valk (Yoast) and Google’s Matt Cutts
- WordPress branding and advertising makes your site not look like a real business, which Google will recognize
- WordPress.com is still good for SEO since all themes come with an XML Sitemap, automatic backups, and you can still create good content around keywords (the heart of SEO), but wordpress.org is definitely better
- Full ownership of your website
- Access to SEO-friendly WordPress themes (eg. StudioPress)
- Access to Yoast’s WordPress SEO Plugin to help with better SEO settings and content optimization including the ability to write keyword-rich snippets (SEO titles and meta descriptions)
- Access to speed optimization plugins like W3 Total Cache which can shave seconds off your load time (website speed is a ranking factor in Google)
- Access to rich snippet plugins to enhance snippets with review stars, recipe info, and other data types
- Access to Google Search Console to identify broken links, submit your sitemap to Google, check for mobile and security errors, learn what keywords you rank for, and tons of other methods for improving SEO
- More design options can make your website more user-friendly and improve content, the main SEO factor
- All serious SEOs and web designers use wordpress.org (eg. Yoast + Matt Cutts)
- Takes more time, money, and knowledge to get started, but the long-term benefits far outweigh the initial cost (domain + hosting is $3.95/month from SiteGround, the host I would use, and a StudioPress theme is $100)
- Lack of technical knowledge is the #1 reason people don’t use wordpress.org, but you can easily hire a developer for $100 to help you get setup (see below)
WordPress.org Gives You Access To Yoast’s SEO Plugin
Yoast is the most robust SEO plugin for WordPress and allows you to configure sitewide SEO settings while giving you a content optimization checklist to help optimize a page or post for a focus keyword. WordPress plugins (including Yoast) are only available with wordpress.org. When you install the Yoast SEO Plugin you will be able to configure sitewide SEO settings…
When you edit a page or post, you will see a checklist to help you optimize it for a keyword…
You can also use the Yoast SEO Plugin to upload custom images to each page and post, so that when it’s shared on Facebook or Twitter, the featured image is formatted properly. Below is where you would upload the custom images (using Yoast) when you edit a page or post…
This makes the image look nice when the post is shared on social media…
You Also Get Access To Speed Optimization Plugins
Fast websites rank higher in Google (source) which is primarily done by using a variety of speed optimization plugins (plus Cloudflare and MaxCDN) which can only be used with wordpress.org. Caching plugins are the main speed plugins, like W3 Total Cache and WP Super Cache. If you do decide to go with wordpress.org, I recommend using my W3 Total Cache tutorial to configure the optimal settings which has been used by over 50,000 people, many of which have gotten less than a 1s load time. I have a full guide to fixing a slow WordPress site but you definitely want to be using a cache plugin + Cloudflare + MaxCDN.
Rich Snippet Plugins
Rich snippets enhance snippets with “extra information” and make you stand out in search results. This can be done with reviews, recipe information, and other data types. Rich snippets increase click-through rates and overall traffic to your website. They can only be used with wordpress.org since you must use a rich snippet plugin like All In One Schema.org (free and minimal) or WP Rich Snippets (premium and robust). If you plan on blogging about reviews, recipes, or other topics that can be enhanced with rich snippets, you want wordpress.org.
Google Search Console Is Only Available For WordPress.org
While Google Analytics is more about analyzing traffic to improve your website, Google Search Console is a tool focused purely on improving SEO and can only be used with wordpress.org. Assuming you’re using wordpres.org it’s easy to setup using the Webmaster Tools section of my Yoast tutorial. But you DEFINITELY want this in your box of SEO tools.
For example, Search Console allows you to see crawl errors (broken pages) on your website…
You can also target your SEO to a specific country…
Or use the Search Analaytics feature to learn keywords your WordPress site ranks for…
That is just a small preview of Google Search Console, and there are many other things you can do (see my Google Search Console tutorial for WordPress). But this is absolutely KEY to optimizing your website. While less people have heard of Google Search Console than Google Analytics, it is arguably more helpful when it comes to optimizing your website. Again, you can only use Google Search Console with wordpress.org which integrates with Yoast’s SEO Plugin.
SEO-Friendly WordPress Themes For WordPress.org
There’s a lot of confusion about WordPress themes and whether they’re SEO-friendly. Any WordPress developer can slap the words “SEO-Friendly” on their theme even though it isn’t. What truly makes your themes SEO-Friendly is the lightweight coding (which makes your site load faster), mobile responsiveness, and most importantly the reputation of the developer.
Instead of using a free wordpress.com theme, wordpress.org gives you access to third-party themes from websites like StudioPress. These have quickly become the industry standard for SEO-friendly themes and are recommended by Yoast, Google’s Matt Cutts, and WordPress founder Matt Mullenweg. They’re about $100 between your theme + Genesis Framework.
All StudioPress themes are:
- Lightweight (so they load fast)
- Mobile responsive
- Most are HTML5
- Updated to stay current with WordPress
- SEO-Friendly via the Genesis Framework
- Reliable (StudioPress has a great reputation)
Read my review of StudioPress themes to see why I use them for every WordPress site I build. I advise AGAINST using free themes since developers who get paid will obviously do a better job when it comes to coding, updating the theme, and providing support. I can’t tell you how many websites I’ve had to redesign using a StudioPress theme because the old site is using a crappy theme from somewhere like ThemeForest who offers themes from independent developers (who may or may not be reliable). Avoid having to redesign your site in the future and go with a premium WordPress theme from StudioPress. This can save you a LOT of time.
And The Winner Is…
If you want to make sure your website is SEO-friendly, wordpress.org is the clear winner. Yes it will require an initial investment between domain, hosting, a premium WordPress theme, and maybe some help from a developer setting your theme up. But you will have access to plugins, Search Console and SEO tools you would not have otherwise had with wordpress.com.
Getting started with WordPress.org
- Purchase a domain + hosting from a good host (SiteGround) for $3.95/month
- Purchase a WordPress theme from a reliable developer (StudioPress) for $100
- Install WordPress, theme, and Genesis Framework (see tutorial by WP Beginner)
- If step 4 gets too technical, you can hire a developer to do this for you (see below)
If you need help setting up your WordPress theme, you can hire the same WordPress developer I use by signing up for a freelancer.com account then searching for user bdkamol ($40/hour). I have paid him more than $20,000 in WordPress development and speed optimization for myself and clients and we’ve been working together since day 1 designing over 20 websites including my own. He lives in Bangladesh and speaks good English.
I hope this article helped you understand whether wordpress.com vs. wordpress.org is the right choice for you. If it did and you found it helpful, please share it. I would appreciate that.