In this in-depth comparaison of Bluehost vs WordPress, we’re going to start things off by clarifying exactly which two platforms we’re comparing, because it can be a little confusing, since “WordPress” can be referring to two slightly different things. First things first, before we dig in any deeper, let’s clarify the difference between WordPress.org and WordPress.com.
- WordPress.org: This is the site of the actual WordPress open-source content management system software, the platform used to build websites. You can download the WordPress software from here, and install it on your own website using Bluehost or practically any other hosting company. Most hosting companies offer 1-click-installers, or even servers that already have WordPress setup and ready to go.
- WordPress.com: This is a hosting company in and of itself, that runs websites on a more-restrictive version of WordPress. Rather than buying hosting and setting up WordPress however you want, you’re more restrained in terms of what you can edit and customize. Also, you have less control over the hosting than you would with a normal server running the software from WordPress.org.
Generally speaking, when you hear someone refer to “WordPress”, most of the time they’re referring to the open-source software from WordPress.org, that you can install on a variety of different servers or find pre-installed. However, when we’re talking about Bluehost vs WordPress today, that is in reference to WordPress.com, which offers hosting services to compete with Bluehost.
WordPress.com was meant as a way for the company behind WordPress to capitalize on the need for simple and easy hosting that anyone can setup and use, however Bluehost also offers incredibly simple WordPress hosting and the advantage is that you’re using the open version, not WordPress.com’s locked-up version of the software. That means you can easily switch hosts from Bluehost to anywhere else, anytime you want, and you have total control over your site and your site’s code. You aren’t building your castle on someone else’s land, you can take your WordPress installation anywhere you’d like.
Bluehost’s Relationship with WordPress.org
Before we compare hosting your WordPress site with Bluehost vs. hosting it with WordPress.com, there’s some info worth pointing out in regards to Bluehost and their work with, and on, WordPress.org.
Bluehost is super dedicated to the open-source software community, and have invested a lot of resources into helping develop the WordPress platform. They even have full-time staff members contributing to the WordPress open-source project.
Also, even though WordPress offers their own paid hosting solutions, they STILL recommend Bluehost as one of their top-rated choices for hosting a WordPress site – so that says a lot!
Like we were saying, WordPress.com came along to make things super dead-simple and easy for anyone to use. Back in the day, it was harder to install WordPress on a server, but with Bluehost you can now get it pre-installed when you setup your server, so we’re at a point where even if you’re brand-new to setting up a website, it still makes more sense to go with Bluehost since you end up with a lot more control over everything, and it’s less expensive.
Comparing Their Offerings: Bluehost vs WordPress.com
Now, the prices look like they’re in the same ballpark, but that’s only until you dig a little bit below the surface. Remember we talked about how WordPress.com’s offerings were very restrictive? They hold back some common and essential features, some of the very features that make the WordPress platform so powerful to begin with, unless you get their very expensive business plan.
This used to make sense, since hiding these features means there’s less room for user-error, and it makes life easier for the WordPress.com support staff, however it also means anyone who wants anything beyond the absolute most basic website, is more or less gong to be out of luck unless they upgrade to a plan that costs about 10x the normal amount for shared hosting. So, as we compare options here, just remember that it’s apples to oranges, as Bluehost offers infinitely more control over everything that you can do with your site.
Bluehost Hosting Plans
Bluehost’s shared and WordPress hosting plans are a great place to start. It’s super simple to setup (it only takes a few minutes), and so you can get right down to business as effortlessly, and fast, as possible.
When you create your Bluehost account, everything is already setup for you and ready to go. You’ll have to enter a few options, answer a couple questions, choose how you want your site to look, and then all that’s left to do is fill it up with content!
Bluehost’s BASIC plan is enough for one website, but if you plan on having multiple sites, you should go with PLUS or PRIME.
Prime has a few extra features, but it also renews at a higher price. You can use free WordPress plugins to make up for any of the features you’re missing out on, making PLUS the best value for anyone who has 2+ websites that they want to host. Just one site? Go with Basic for now, because you can always upgrade. It will be a long, long time before you’re anywhere close to filling up those 50 GBs that you get with Basic.
Now, you don’t HAVE to use WordPress, either. Bluehost has quick-installers for a number of different programs, scripts, and applications. They have a variety of different shopping carts you can try out for running an online store on your site, they have software for running forums or message boards, software for creating a social network, and a lot more. Beyond that, obviously, you have the power and the control to install just about any other software on your server. You can even create and install your own apps if you’re a power-user. So, the nice thing here is that beginners are covered with the easiest setup process we’ve ever seen, but there’s also the flexability for advanced users to take things to the next level. With the WordPress.com plans we’re about to look at, you don’t have that same control.
WordPress.com Hosting Plans
Next up, let’s take a look at what WordPress.com offers. It’s different from the standard fare you’d come to expect from a shared hosting company, because they do things differently, quite frankly. Obviously, the only software you’ll be able to run on this server is WordPress, and remember, it’s a slightly different version of WordPress that prevents you from moving your site to another hosting company, and prevents you from making any major changes, and even blocks some pretty common minor changes.
With WordPress.com’s free plan, you are forced to display their advertisements on your site. Even with their $5 plan, you aren’t allowed to monetize your site or have ads on it. It’s not until the $10 plan that you can even display ads on your site, and you have to do it through their program. This isn’t even the most egregious example of WordPress.com giving very little control to their paying customers, because you need to spend around $30 per month, billed annually, before you can even install your own themes or plugins. With their first 3 plans, you’re even forced to display WordPress.com branding on your site.
If you aren’t familiar with WordPress yet, themes and plugins are two huge aspects of the entire platform. Plugins allow you to easily add new functionality, for things like performance, security, earning money, and countless other features on a site. Themes are templates that allow you to instantly change and refresh the entire style of your site, while still preserving all of the content, and not having to write a single line of code.
Compared to Bluehost, you’ll also notice that WordPress.com offers considerably less storage space. The “Basic” and “Advanced” customization is part of what we’re talking about when we mention how restrictive WordPress.com is. Even with the “advanced” customization from their premium plans, it’s still not the same as the FULL customization and control that you get from Bluehost and most other hosts.
Comparing Their Tech Support
WordPress.com has two options available for tech support, which are email and live chat. Their entry-level plan, however, only has community support which means you have access to post your question on a forum and hope that somebody answers, and when you do, you have to hope their answer is correct. It’s not ideal, but it’s free, so we can’t really complain. Unfortunately, WordPress.com also offers plans that aren’t free, so we do feel entitled to call them out when their premium offerings aren’t up to par.
Email and live chat are good, but it really matters how fast you hear back from them, a lot more than the method of communication. None the less, what’s even better is being able to pick up the telephone and to talk to someone right away. It’s understandable that not every company is going to have a huge call center filled with trained experts, it’s a costly endeavor. Most of the time when you have a small little issue with your hosting, a quick live chat is the perfect way to solve it, but what about more serious issues? Sometimes, you just want to be speaking to a person who you can contact on the phone right away.
Bluehost gets the nod here in terms of offering more comprehensive customer support, especially considering that their offerings have a lot more potential, meaning there’s a lot more that they need to provide support for than a simple sandboxed version of WordPress.
Other Things to Consider
With WordPress.com, you’ve got to prepay for the entire year. With Bluehost, it’s also beneficial to pay upfront, because you can lock in their lower prices.
The thing to keep in mind is that you can add websites to your Bluehost account, upgrade your account to a VPS or a dedicated server as your site grows bigger, and you just have a ton more control over everything, whether you’re running the WordPress.org software, or anything else. With WordPress.com’s hosting plans, you’re paying a huge premium price, and you’re getting considerably less features and less ability to customize it. Normal stuff, like being able to install any theme you want, comes with a drastic increase in price, and it’s just not worth the money.
We fail to see any pros to using WordPress.com, and there are numerous cons. Remember, we’re not talking about the WordPress CMS platform as a whole, just the specific version that they’re selling you at WordPress.com. We strongly recommending using WordPress, but use Bluehost or just about any other shared hosting company instead of buying hosting directly from WordPress themselves. It’s the type of thing that you don’t always realize when you’re new to hosting, so you’re better off starting off on the right track, instead of starting off with a version that’s going to really prohibit what you’re able to get done down the road.
Which one is BETTER OVERALL?
If you can’t tell by now, Bluehost is the clear Winner here.
WordPress.com offered free blogs, and then introduced paid versions, but without key features for people who need a website that’s more professional than a simple blogging platform. If you want to use your own domain name, you’ll need to upgrade beyond the free tier, but it’s not until the business tier for over $30 per month that you can even use any of the countless third party plugins that make WordPress so powerful, not to mention that help make it more secure, faster and better optimized, and even help with things like building a mailing list or earning money with your site.
We understand why WordPress.com exists, and the specific void that it aims to fill, but these days there are simply better options available. WordPress.com gets by on name recognition and people being locked into their eco-system after creating a free site and not wanting to start again from scratch with a better host. Also, in a somewhat misleading move, their homepage brags about what a large % of the internet’s websites are built on WordPress, but neglects to mention that it is largely in reference to the open source version that you can install on Bluehost or any other hosting company, and not the specific version offered by WordPress.com. Yes, a huge chunk of websites are built using WordPress, but most of them are hosted used Bluehost, or a number of other hosts that give you far superior control over your site, and your business.
Because of these reasons, and everything else we’ve covered, we strongly recommend Bluehost if you’re looking to setup a website for personal stuff, for business, or anything in between.
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