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Self Hosted vs. Free [Infograph]

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Self Hosted vs. Free [Infograph]

When starting out as a beginner, this question comes in everyone’s mind. Which one is better? Is it better to pick the Self Hosted, or is it better to go with Free In this article, we provide you with an infographic that compares vs side by side with list of pros and cons. We also tell you in the end which one is our pick. Click on the image to see the full version of the Infographic.

Note: We have updated this infographic because there was a huge debate about the comparison. The goal of this infographic is to compare Self Hosted vs. FREE*. We were called out by many folks saying, offers CSS upgrades etc. etc. But apparently, we were not clear enough in the title when we said we were comparing to only FREE This new infographic indicates with a * all the upgrades that are possible. Another reason for the update was that the numbers used in the infographic were outdated.

Self Hosted vs Free

Convinced that you should use now? Want to switch away from Here is a tutorial on how to properly move your blog from to

If you don’t want to read the infographic, then here it is in the text: Benefits

  • It’s free and super easy to use.
  • You own your data. You are in full control. Your site will NOT be turned off because someone decides that it is against their terms of service (as long as you are not doing something illegal). You are in control.
  • You can upload and use plugins.
  • You can upload custom themes. Modify theme files (not just styles) if needed.
  • You can make money from it by using your own ads, and doing things your way.
  • Custom Analytics and Tracking Cons

  • Like any other website, you need a good web hosting. This bits cost you money somewhere from around $3 – $7 per month (as your site grows, your hosting costs will too). But then you would be making enough money to cover the costs :)
  • You are responsible for updates. WordPress upgrades require 1 click (Not too hard eh).
  • You are responsible for backups, but thankfully tons of amazing plugins are out there like BackupBuddy.
  • You are responsible to prevent SPAM, but if you enable Akismet (which comes built-in with, then you won’t have to worry about it. Benefits

  • It’s free for upto 3GB of space. After that you will have to pay for space ($19.95 per year for 5GB) or ($289.97 per year for 100GB).
  • They make regular backups of your site. Cons

  • They place ads on all free websites. Did you really think it was free without a catch? If you don’t want your users to see ads, then you can pay them $29.97 per year to keep your site ad-free.
  • You are NOT allowed to sell ads on your site unless you receive 25,000 pageviews per month. In which case, you have to apply to try their feature called Ad control. The approval process doesn’t cost you any money, but you have to split your revenues 50/50 with them *Ouch*
  • You cannot use plugins. Yup WordPress is well known for it’s flexibility due to the plugins. does not allow you to use plugins! If you want to use plugins, then you have to move to their VIP program which starts at $3750 per month. No joke.
  • You cannot use custom themes. Yup, you have to be stuck with their choice of themes which is being used on hundreds of millions of sites. They do offer a “design upgrade” which should really be called CSS upgrade for $30 per year. Meaning, you can change the color of your site. But if you want to add something really custom, you cannot.
  • You are restricted to their analytics. You cannot use custom analytics software because you cannot add custom codes.
  • They can delete your site at anytime if they think it violates their Terms of Service.
  • They will change your theme without your permission if the founder doesn’t like the theme developer (yup it happened).
  • Even if you pay for their upgrades, you still have to tell others that your site is powered on

Which one is for you?

If you are a personal blogger who do not care about making money from their sites, then go with If you are a blogger trying to make blogging into a career, then you want to use self hosted Often people will say, self-hosted WordPress will cost you money. For a small enough site, it is actually cheaper.

Let’s say you use, buy their custom domain ($17 per year), pay for ad-free option ($29.97 per year), and get custom design upgrade ($30 per year). That total is $76.97, and you are still not in full control.

For, you can use Bluehost (officially recommended by WordPress) which costs $3.95 per month so $47.4 per year, and it includes a free domain name. If you go with other web hosting companies, then you will pay a similar price, but you won’t get a domain. However, you can get a domain name for $10 from Godaddy or NameCheap. Your total would come to $57.4 per year. You will have full control over everything.

Is one easier to use than the other? Nope. The interface of both are very similar. We have free WordPress video tutorials that will guide you through the whole dashboard.

We always recommend everyone to use, so you are in full control of your site. The final choice is always yours :)

P.S. Here is a tutorial on how to properly move your blog from to

We hoped you like the infograph. If you liked it, make sure you share it on Twitter, Facebook, or any other site that you like (ofcourse with a credits link back to WPBeginner – preferably this article).

Also don’t forget to subscribe to our YouTube Channel for tons of free WordPress video tutorials.

Editorial Staff at WPBeginner is a team of WordPress lovers led by Syed Balkhi. Page maintained by Syed Balkhi.

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  • WPBeginner Staff

    Using a self hosted site means that you get full control on your website.

    This will allow you to install any plugin you want including the plugins for recipes.

    You will have to maintain your website. This means you will have to make sure your site is up to date using the latest version of WordPress and all plugins and themes. This might sound like a lot of work, but actually WordPress has a built in update system so all you will have to do is to click on the update button.

    As for backups, there are several WordPress plugins which automatically create backup of your website and store it to your dropbox, google drive, or anyother desired location.

    Hope this answered your question.

  • R

    Can I start out with and switch to without loosing my search result rankings?

    • WPBeginner Staff

      Yes you can, but we will not recommend it. If you are just starting out then why not start with it will save you from the hassle of transferring your website.

  • Matija

    Any way I could put this infographic on my blog with link back to wpbegginer?

  • Marti

    I’m using WordPress for my website, but it’s hosted through ipage. Will OptinMonster still work?

    • WPBeginner Staff

      OptinMonster works with all self hosted WordPress sites on most WordPress hosting providers.

  • WPBeginner Staff

    We would say you have come to the right place. We do not offer career advice but we are confident that you will lots of learning material on WPBeginner.

  • Angie

    This is very helpful. I am totally new to this and would like to use the, which I already downloaded, but you have to start a host acct first as far as I can tell, and I can’t afford it yet, so I will start creating content on the free hosted .com, and keep learning until I can afford to switch over. Thx for the info!

  • Joe Good

    Is the self hosted version available to run on your own private web server?

    • WPBeginner Support

      Yes, it is.

    • Craig Corbin

      You can self host using a hosting service, but I didn’t see any mention the option of actually self hosting. While I’m learning WordPress I installed aamps and I am running my WordPress site from my server. My server in my house. It is for the more geeky in the group but it is an actual free way to test WordPress.


  • Larry H.

    I definitely like the hosted wordpress as I am able to get help when I need it. I am relatively new to building a site and need to learn everything which is quite extensive. I have a quality choice for a wordpress theme and can customize it also.

    Does anybody have any great ideas for building backlinks manually that are effective?

  • Melanie

    Although I don’t have the intention to transform my blog in a money machine, I choose the self hosted version. The change happened only this week and I am struggling with some feature that I loved in the version. I miss the “like it” button for other WP bloggers and the reblogg function. There’s plugins for that?
    All in all, I am very happy with my choice and till now don’t regret it. PS: thank you for the post that helped me a lot.

    • WPBeginner Support

      You can try JetPack plugin, which is a bundle of modules which allow you to add features to your self hosted site.

  • Beth Kahlich

    Can’t emphasize enough how disappointed I was that you can’t use Google Analytics tracking code on sites. This is a complete deal breaker for me. If you upgrade to the Premium service – you should certainly be able to install that functionality, as their own reporting is totally inadequate.

  • Robert

    ALL reviews for seem to forget a major advantage there. When you start a site there. You will immediately start getting readers. Also your site will be in Google right away. You don’t have to do any SEO or any advertising. All blogs and posts are up for the community for display and there is this thing ‘Freshly Pressed’ where they pick eight posts every and highlight them.

    Now what I do is — have a site on and get visitors there and use that site to drive most of my traffic to my self hosted site.

  • Frances

    I “helped” a friend put her website together. When I left for the night she said she was going to bed soon. By the next day she was almost done. It looked like I could do it to. Here go’s my try!

  • Dawn P

    I have my own domain name that I purchased and have a blog on blogger currently that I do not keep up on because I wasn’t getting enough traffic to the blog. I have heard great things about but want to make sure before I decide to go with wordpress I am not wasting my money because I am just starting out and have no idea how to “make money” from a blog. Do you have any guides or information on how to make money from your blog so that hopefully it will pay for itself?

    • WPBeginner Support

      Dawn web is so full of websites claiming to teach people how to make money out of their blogs. WPBeginner’s goal is to help beginners. We do have some articles where we showed users how to make money with iTunes affiliates, or other similar services. May be you will find those useful.

  • sharexact

    I have self hosted blog. I want to know Is there any way to reach audience?

  • Jade

    I have to agree. This is such a great comparison of and because it does what so few articles do – it breaks down the true cost of

    People choose thinking it’s free and just choosing the “cheapest” option – but there is a price to pay, literally and in other ways. If you’re a professional blogger, I recommend all the way. Yes, you’re paying for your domain and host but this is a tiny cost given the huge opportunities and freedom you have to make that money back times many, many times! Not to mention the fact that you truly own your content!

  • Cindy Smith

    I’ve created a couple of sites using GoDaddy and but I don’t like the limitations of columns, how video is used and theme limits. I just downloaded the but now I’m not sure I have the computer geek skills to get me to the next level. I’ve looked at the step by step directions of renaming the files and opening an FTP. I want to take on this challenge but could use some guidance in getting it set up…any suggestions!

    • Mac Gyver

      Cindy, you don’t need to get FTP software when you host with GoDaddy. It’s built into File Manager already, and they have a separate Java based FTP. Manipulating your files etc inside the server is easy, and a live tech guy/girl will walk you through it.

      Call GoDaddy & they’ll explain.

  • Krista hulshof

    I am trying to decide whether I should move to self hosted for my architecture firm. In the cost section you do not say if you need to buy a domain from WordPress or not to transfer it to your self hosted site? I know just enoug to be dangerous ( mostly to myself) when it comes to web design, is there a idiot proof tutorial on how to tranfer and set up your self hosted blog? Do you need to set up a redirect from the original free WordPress blog? Does google search your self hosted WordPress blog the same as if you are hosted by WordPress free? Thanks.

  • Allan

    I agree with the recommendation. I chose for my new site.

    Rant begins …..

    I disagree with the “super easy to use” statement. It isn’t, for a true, real beginner — even a very technical one, but one not having any blogging or website design experience. There is a major hurdle to overcome at the very beginning.

    I have not found a glossary of terms for blogging or website design orientation that is needed before you start.

    I have not found good info on what you need to know ‘before you start’, and was actually expecting “ease of use”.

    I found that very friendly and free support for themes, widgets, hosting companies, etc., etc., do not understand beginners, make broad and incorrect assumptions about what a beginner knows, and skip over the basics very quickly and provide coding tips and examples for PHP and CSS files.

    And I wish the hundreds of references to “ease of use” all over the WordPress community would go away, or be edited to say that I’d you have a few months or years struggling with inferior products and tools, then WordPress is “easy”! And the videos on and YouTube! They jump to detail just as quickly.

    There are thousands of users who have difficulty getting started and many more thousands of WP ‘consultants’ and experts who are kept busy and make a good living selling WP services because frankly, “it ain’t easy”.

    I’m tempted, time permitting, to create a page on my website describing my stumbling journey on the first few steps.

    Feedback from others would be appreciated.

    • Ester Benjamin Shifren

      I absolutely agree with you. I’m quite computer literate, but have stalled creating a website for a long time because It’s not as easy as they’re saying. This site explains it best so far, and for a long time no one has been able to clearly explain the difference in the two options. My question as well, is, who reads the blog when it’s first sent out? Who is the readership composed of? So, I guess when you pay for a host you get the .org version. That’s really OK with me. I published a book, have already purchased a GoDaddy domain name, and absolutely must create a website and blog ASAP. I’m getting there, thanks to good articles and liks like these.

  • Anita Strawn de Ojeda

    On your info graph you state that the free word press + VIP option allows one to add plug ins and other things for a mere $2500 a month for up to five sites. Seems a bit steep. Is this a type-o, or is it really that expensive?

    • Editorial Staff

      Its really that expensive. VIP hosting is for VIP clients like CNN and others.

  • Kelli

    Thanks for the helpful info!

    In making the decision WPfree vs WPpaid as a totally clueless newbie. I was mostly concerned with my tiny scope of knowledge & ability design & manage independent of support community but, it seems (from comments) that most beginners catch the learning curve as they step into the realm. So, I’m taking the plunge and going with
    I’m already getting frustrated with the design limitations even though I don’t even know what I’m doing!
    Wish me luck!!

  • Dnetsurfer

    If i Just register for custom domain name But still Hosted my wordpress blog in – Can i use plugin feature..

    • Editorial Staff

      No, you cannot use plugins on unless you get the VIP hosting package which costs $X,XXX / month.

  • joanpique

    For webmasters is much better self hosted, for people who don’t know anything of programming or design, or people who don’t care about personalizations, the free hosted is the choice…

    I have my self hosted wordpress with a personalized theme, and from (free hosted) i only envy the comment form with facebook, twitter, openid, avatars support, suscribe to comments/posts and the effects in the form…

    Anyone know any tutorial for making something similar in a theme (without a lot of plugins)?

  • Alfonso Brodsho

    I agree. Self hosting is the way to go.

  • Debra Leigh Wilson

    Nice quick and dirty comparison between the two. I went straight to self-hosted when I first moved to WP simply because I wanted my own domain and was unaware that you could get one through them at the time. Still, I’m glad I did as I love having full control over everything. I don’t know what I would do without the Atahualpa theme. <3

  • Daniel Peiser

    you’re right, I was seeing the old one

  • WPBeginner – WordPress for Beginners

    I think you are still seeing the old version. Please retry. Just cleared all caches.

  • Daniel Peiser

    it’s informative, but I feel that a few icons/images would make it more appealing and linkable. There’s a mistake in the credits at the bottom (WPBeginer with one N)

  • gmw

    “Free is not for your brand. If you want to start a corporate blog, then you need the Self-Hosted WordPress Software.” This part needs to be corrected!

    Nothing kills a theory better than a fact. Go to This is a FREE blog. No VIP upgrade. No domain mapping upgrade. No CSS upgrade. This blog is associated to the following website:

    Those of you who have been watching ABC’s Shark Tank reality show, might recall seeing Jump Forward’s co-founders negotiating for venture capital back in 2009. Clearly not a pair of fools who want to blog about their stamp collection.

    Supporting a blog that has the potential for significant traffic spikes is no small concern. For a startup company who needs a blog in addition to their core web application, offloading those concerns to a cloud hosted service is a VERY LEGITIMATE OPTION. Often times the CEO is also the head of marketing, part-time programmer and system administrator. In this scenario can be a Godsend. @Alex’s comment “Blog it and forget it!” is right on the money.

    Are there trade-offs? Absolutely! You document many of them well but to suggest that a free site cannot fit into a successful corporate business model is both misinformed and misleading.

    • wpbeginner

      @gmw Certainly, if you don’t care about matching your brand identity with a custom theme, look and feel, then go with a free Last I checked, most major companies have matching look and feels for their blogs, so their users don’t feel alienated when they visit the blog pages. However, we are in the works of correcting the statement.

  • wpbeginner

    @photomatt Matt, we would love to correct anything that is wrong. Just shoot an email. Granted, this graphic is pretty outdated now.

  • photomatt

    There’s so much wrong and misleading in this graphic I’m amazed it’s on a site that claims to know about WordPress, no credibility.

  • Jeff Hensiek

    Good article. I’m looking at developing my own personal site (bring in some extra cash) and i was debating whether it would be good to self-host the blog or to have WP do it for me. Thanks for the info.

    The only thing that wasn’t addressed was the SEO capabilities…Does Google penalize a WP hosted (FREE) site?

    thanks for the info.

    • Editorial Staff

      Nope, there are SEO benefits that you can get from plugins in the self-hosted version. Free WP doesn’t allow you to have plugins.

  • jason

    can you start out with then later move everything over to self hosted? how easy is it to do so?

    • Editorial Staff

      Yes you can start out with the free and then move to self-hosted. It is relatively easy. If you use our Free Setup service, then we can move it over for you for FREE.

  • Loreen72

    I see the infographic… where is the full article? Is there a different link? I hate to be dense – but I’m not seeing a way to read the entire article anywhere.

    • Editorial Staff

      Click on the image to see the infographic… That is the whole article.

  • etcwd

    i have my own wordpress blog hosted on a small server. it is very easy to install and to use. i choose self-hosted because i can make mirror changes if i want to

  • Courtney Engle

    Can you also add a 3rd column reviewing paying as their paid host (as TechCrunch does).

    • Editorial Staff

      There is no point in doing that because it is not something that beginners need. Now if you are a company that is at Tech Crunch’s level or Giga Om’s level, and you get millions of users then you would need Paid hosting. Otherwise it is much more suitable and efficient to run a Self-Hosted WordPress site.

  • dave

    One other thing to add is simple credibility. Hosting on your own domain shows you are serious about your blog as a hobby or as an enterprise.

  • michael soriano now offer custom urls for their users (without the “” suffix) – this kinda conflicts with the “branding” section inside your infograph.

    • Editorial Staff

      Do they offer that on Free ??

  • Design+

    thnx for the post, important stats

  • Rob

    In my view, it’s better to start with self hosted platform. The main thing is freedom. You can do whatever you want and whatever you like because it’s your own…and you can learn understand more about it.

  • Imran Hunzai

    I am sharing this article on my Blog (, is it legal?

    • Editorial Staff

      It is legal to share infographs as long as you link to this article for users to view the full infograph. You may not copy the full infograph and host it on your server. In short, simply take a thumbnail of this infograph, paste it on your site and link to our site for the users to view the full infograph.

  • Martin Espericueta

    I would suggest to even peeps that are not intending to go “big” to purchase a domain, and self-host a wordpress install. My main reason is simply that when I support them – I have to manage 301 redirects. Loss of Google PR is one factor (yes, it’ll follow, but NOT 100% all the time!)

    Also, branding.

    • Editorial Staff

      Thanks Martin for your input. Yes it is an important point to consider when starting is that if you do choose to move to self-hosted platform, you might Search Engine Ranking Positions (SERPs) and Google Pagerank (PR).

  • Ben

    The fact that you can use any theme sells it to me.
    Self hosted is best. No doubt about it.


  • Amber Weinberg

    I think if you’re just starting out, and not sure if blogging is going to be your thing – it’s best to save the money and start out at, once you’re sure that it’s something you want to do – spending the money on finding a host and unique design is the way to go :)

  • Name Removed [TOS Violation]

    It’s more wiser to choose Self hosted WordPress than . Even if you are a beginner. it’s never too late move all of your free WP to self hosting WP. The cost of self hosting is more cheaper than upgrade your free WP to the premium.

  • Brad Parler

    I really like the analogy that Matt Mullenweg uses to compare the two service, “It’s the difference of owning a home, and just renting an apartment…” Watch this video it’s the 2nd question.

    He also talks about VIP…

    • Editorial Staff

      Didn’t even know that video existed. Just watched it and it is a great analogy. Thanks for sharing that with us Brad.

  • Vikas Gupta

    On blogs that get more than 50k pageviews per month the user can has the option to get show ads in partnership with WordPress (revenue sharing is 50:50).

    In fact, if you do not want ads on your blog then is just prefect and better than the self-hosted ones. And TOS is everywhere (including in the web host’s policy). It can very successfully be argued that if you do not have commerical/very professional needs, then blogs are actually ahead of in many ways!

  • Alex (Viper007Bond)

    I disagree with the last bullet point. There are tons and tons of corporations that use (both VIP and not). And with the domain mapping upgrade, it’s easy to remove the part of your blog’s URL.

    Anyway, as to which is better — I think it entirely comes down to what you’re looking for. “With great power comes great responsibility.” Not everyone wants that responsibility or to have to deal with upgrades, traffic (what if you get Dugg), and so forth. is blog and forget. :)

    • Editorial Staff

      Alex read the caption below. “Free”

      We are aware that there are numerous corporates that are using the VIP program. Which is ok, but we do not recommend using free to any corporates or any new businesses. It is impossible to have custom themes in the free which is what most corporates want. Now unless they upgrade to the VIP version, they are not going to get that.

      • Alex (Viper007Bond)

        The corporations who use a free tend to use the Sandbox theme and the Custom CSS upgrade to skin the site to their needs.

  • raiderhost

    i like wordpress …

    to manage and get full control i choose self hosting