Battle of the WordPress Platforms. WordPress.com vs WordPress.org vs Rainmaker

Photo of sumo wrestlers representative of a battle of WordPress Platforms
Hakkeyoi (はっけよい)!

Let the CMS Battle Royale begin

Do you ever feel like being in business is a fight for your life? We both know the marketplace is an arena for competition. And to win this battle you need to be at the top of your game. Having better marketing than your opponents is essential to success.

A well thought out, and strategic marketing plan gives you an advantage and makes you the favorite to win. This content strategy is the game plan you need to stick to to bring home the prize.

Your website and blog are two of your most precious business assets. In fact, with a well-designed integration, they are the most valuable marketing asset you own.  And they should be the home and heart of your content marketing efforts. They are where you execute most of your content marketing strategy.

In my opinion, you should only trust them with WordPress.

This substantial post (2500 words) will compare the WordPress.com, WordPress.org and Rainmaker WordPress platforms. Read on to see which is just right for your business or personal blog. If you don’t have time now, bookmark it and read it later. And I would recommend doing so on your desktop, laptop or tablet. This decision is crucial for your business.

Let’s start with a quick point about WordPress as a site and blogging platform.

As I said in a previous post about WordPress:

It is the best CMS (Content Management System) for small business.

More than 25 percent of the world’s websites are built and run on WordPress. And that percentage is increasing every day. WordPress itself says, “over 409 million people view more than 15.8 billion pages each month” on the platform. Matt Mullenweg started it in 2003.

It is open-source software. That means the software is free, and it is a database driven platform. A worldwide network of developers, designers, and companies like Mobile Atom Media support WordPress. Many of these dedicated souls are continually building website themes for WordPress. And even more developers build “plugins” to add functionality to it.

WordCamps occur yearly in cities across the globe. They are where bloggers, developers, and designers can learn even more about it. WordPress.tv has hundreds of videos covering almost every aspect of it. The site, codex.wordpress.org, has everything there is possible to know about it.

There are several versions of a WordPress website or blog. They include WordPress.org sites, WordPress.com sites, and customized versions of WordPress. The Rainmaker platform is one of the later.

I have clients on all three platforms and which one is best for you will depend on your unique business needs. This post aims to help you make that decision.

No matter which platform you use, it is best to have a professional assist you with setting it up. Theme selection, plugin selection, widget choice and placement, typography, search optimization, hosting, speed, security and your site’s aesthetics are all things that can benefit from the attention of a pro. Hint, this is what we do at Mobile Atom Media. 😉

So what are the differences in the three platforms?

WordPress.com – the Makushita (幕下) division of WordPress CMSs

To paraphrase from my previous post:

Matt Mullenweg’s company, Automattic, hosts WordPress.com sites. The hosting is free. … Your web address (also known as your URL) would be your website domain.wordpress.com. There are around two hundred themes to choose from, but you can’t customize them for free.

You will only have the functionality Automattic provides. And you cannot add any plugins developed by third-party developers. It also has a limited amount of storage capacity for your content. And if Automattic wants to, they can run ads of their choosing on your site.

You can pay Automattic for extra functionality. Showing your website domain.com rather than your website domain.wordpress.com is an example. You can pay to have a customizable theme, extra storage space, email support, and as of August 2017 third-party plugins and themes.

At this point, it is going to cost you what a basic WordPress.org site would. But, you will not have the complete control of a WordPress.org self-hosted site.

The advantage is that you do not have to maintain the site by updating the operating software and themes. If you are a small service-oriented business, a WordPress.com site can work well for you.

If you only want a personal blog, it is perfect for you. It can also work well for small service oriented businesses.

WordPress.org – the Jūryō (十両) division of WordPress CMSs

Again, to paraphrase my previous post:

A WordPress.org site uses the free WordPress software that the site owner downloads, sets up and pays a service to host. You have complete control over it. Choose from thousands of customizable themes and plugins to get the exact look and functionality you want.

You select your hosting service and can integrate it with your email provider. You will have to maintain the site by updating the operating software, theme, and plugins. It is the content marketing home you own. It is your house and can be as big as you want it to be.

WordPress.org is what most businesses use, including ones in the Fortune 100.

Rainmaker – the Makuuchi (幕内) division of WordPress CMSs

Rainmaker is a WordPress platform that lets you:

get more power from WordPress with less hassle. Build powerful content-driven websites, start a sophisticated membership program, sell digital goods the smarter way, and much more. Even better, never waste valuable time with plugins, complicated code, hosting, maintenance, or upgrades.

With these descriptions in mind, let’s jump into the details and differences. If you need to, select the screenshots to see a larger version in a new browser tab. We will be looking at WordPress dashboards as well as page and post editors.

The Dashboards

The WordPress dashboard is what you see when you first log into your site’s backend. It lets you see a quick overview of what has recently and is currently happening on your site. Like every page on the WordPress back-end, there is a uniform menu. From here you can control your settings, theme, plugins, widgets and more.

I will not go into the details here. There are mountains of books available that can teach you how to use WordPress. Smashing Magazine’s eBook Library has some great ones.


WordPress.com

WordPress.com sites have less functionality than a typical WordPress.org site. Hence, they have a smaller menu. You get what they give you. (It was updated in April of 2021 to be very similar to the WordPress.org admin.) One advantage is that if you have many WordPress.com sites, you can manage them from the same dashboard. You don’t have to log in and out of each website.

The WordPress.com platform is relatively easy to learn. It has useful resources to get you started.


Image of wordpress.org dashboard

WordPress.org

A self-hosted WordPress.org menu can have fifty plus options. This abundance of choice is particularly the case if you overuse plugins for non-essential functionality. Unlike WordPress.com and Rainmaker (that automate updates for you) the WordPress.org menu provides notifications. It lets you know when you need to update the software itself, your theme, and plugins. Updates are required almost daily.

The .org dashboard can be complicated and prone to feature bloat. It is the hardest platform to use, and its dashboard reflects that. There are hundreds of sources on the web that can help you get a handle on it. The WordPress Codex is a great place to start the journey to mastery.


Rainmaker

Rainmaker’s menu is simpler and has an entirely different look from the WordPress.org back-end it sits on. Its functionality is also different. So if you are a current WordPress user, it takes some time to get used to the Rainmaker interface.

Fortunately, it includes resources to help you master the platform. Hence, it doesn’t take a WordPress veteran long to get up to speed. And if you are just starting with WordPress this simple user interface is an advantage. The team at Copyblogger designed it for writers, not techies.


Pages

Your site’s pages are its architecture and the most important method of telling prospects what you are all about. Once you start editing a page, all three of the WordPress options covered here have similar functionality. All three have a distraction-free writing mode. This feature keeps you from being overwhelmed with controls and options while writing.

You can also use the visual or text (for inserting code) editor on each. Both wordpress.com and wordpress.org site now use the new Gutenberg block editor.

Options for categorizing, tagging, saving, scheduling, and publishing your pages are on the right-hand side of all three editors. You also choose your page’s layout option in the editor.

Image of wordpress.com page

WordPress.com

Since WordPress.com has limited functionality, it has the simplest page editor. That can be is good or bad depending on what you want to do with your site.

A weakness of the WordPress.com page editor (and the platform, in general) is that it does not have customizable search optimization capabilities for the free version. There are some baked in ones.


Image of wordpress.org page

WordPress.org

Since WordPress.org has unlimited functionality, it has the most sophisticated page editor. Again, whether that is beneficial or a bane, depends on what you want to do with your site.

Plugins add functionality to your pages like search optimization, keyword research, more font selections, CSS editing, email sign up forms, website forms and hundreds of other options.


Image of Rainmaker page

Rainmaker

Rainmaker has curated the functionality of its page editor. By that I mean they have integrated the functionality of plugins (produced for WordPress.org sites) that are essential for using content marketing to promote your business.

A strength of the Rainmaker page editor is that it has search optimization (near the bottom), and keyword research (right-hand side) tools built into the platform. It also has a tool that grades your page’s readability and suggests tags.


Posts

Posts are the heart of your content marketing and the most important content on your site for attracting visitors. Your site’s posts are where you increase traffic, build authority and trust, educate end-users, overcome objections and move visitors from being prospects to customers.

Again, once you start editing a post, all three options have similar functionality and function nearly identically to the page editors.

Like the page editor, you can categorize, tag, save, schedule, and publish your post, from the right-hand side. You control your post’s layout here as well.

Image of wordpress.com page

WordPress.com

The WordPress.com post editor, like the page editor, does not have extensive search optimization capabilities. All your SEO comes from how you use keyword search phrases in your title, headings, and content. Learn more about what you should put into your posts here. Note the block settings on the right versus the document settings shown in the WordPress.com page editor shown above.

*The SEO metadata section of the linked post will not apply to WordPress.com sites.


Image of wordpress.org post

WordPress.org

The WordPress.org post editor, unlike the WordPress.com or Rainmaker editors, can be as complex as you want. You control its functionality. Again note the block and document settings tabs on the right of the editor.


Image of Rainmaker page

Rainmaker

Like their page editor, Rainmaker has curated the functionality of their post editor. They built search optimization and keyword research tools into the editor. It too has a tool that grades your post’s readability and suggests tags.


Additional functionality

WordPress.com

This one will be quick. There is not any. UPDATE August 2017: WordPress.com Business and e-commerce plans now supports plugins and third-party themes. The free, personal, and professional plans still do not have this functionality.

WordPress.Org

Again, quick. It is unlimited. There are thousands of themes and thousands of plugins to add functionality to your site. It is what you make of it, based on the free or paid theme and plugins you use. You are in total control. And now with the Gutenberg Block Editor you have even more control and options.

Plus, you can build a custom theme and plugins. Or you can have them coded for you by a developer. Your site’s software can be free or cost thousands of dollars.

You can also add HTML and CSS to customize your pages and posts for layout, aesthetics, and functionality.

Rainmaker

Rainmaker has lots of built-in functions that WordPress.com does not. However, it does not have the flexibility of a WordPress.org site. What it does have is selected and implemented in a strategic manner. It aims to make the essential functionality of a WordPress site easier and simpler to use.

Besides basic WordPress capabilities, Rainmaker has:

  • a vast knowledge library to help you learn how to use the platform. It also has resources for making the most of your content marketing.
  • all of StudioPress’s themes built on the WordPress “Genesis” framework. StudioPress sells these for $49.95 to $99.95 individually.
  • email marketing providers integration
  • hosting as part of the package
  • landing page templates and a landing page builder
  • CSS customization of select StudioPress themes
  • membership group components
  • e-commerce capability for selling online products to your members
  • built-in analytics to track your traffic and e-commerce conversion
  • online payments integration
  • integrated podcasting functionality
  • a strong emphasis on your site’s speed
  • automated updates
  • podcasting integration
  • an online learning management system
  • and reliable security

Plus, much more is on the way.

You can add some functionality via HTML in your widgets, pages, and posts. And you can add more esthetic functionality with custom CSS.


To sum(o) it up

Determine the WordPress platform you will use based on your business needs and content marketing strategy. What business “division” are you in?

Here is how I use the platforms with my clients:

  • I use WordPress.com for local, small service providers and personal bloggers. Ones that are looking to invest $0 to $9 a month for hosting. Also, those looking for ease of use and automated software updating. The user interface is much simpler than the one for WordPress.org sites.
  • I use WordPress.org for any size client that needs complete control of every aspect of its site and can invest $15 to $30 a month for hosting.
  • I use the Rainmaker platform for businesses that sell online products, those that want simple podcasting or learning management system capabilities, and any that can invest around $95 a month for a fast and secure site. This back-end is simpler, easier to use, and focused on content marketing. It is also much easier on the eyes. That’s important because you are going to be looking at your WordPress back-end for hours and hours.

I built this website and wrote this post with the WordPress.org platform.

I will repeat, no matter what platform you use, it is best to have a professional help you with setting it up. Theme selection, plugin selection, widget choice and placement, typography, search optimization, hosting, speed, security and your site’s esthetics are all things that can benefit from the attention of a pro. Hint, this is what we do at Mobile Atom Media. 😉

I congratulate you on making it to the end of this mammoth post. You have the endurance and mental strength of a real sumo champion combined with the great sages’ love of knowledge. WordPress is a complicated if essential beast. However, it’s the mastiff you want in your fight. If you have any questions, please contact us today.

Sumo Wrestling image courtesy of A.Davey via creative commons.

Reuben Walker

Author Image

Reuben is Ringmaster of Mobile Atom Media and its division Mobile Atom Code. In addition to his content specialties, he is also a full-stack developer.

An ABJ graduate of the University of Georgia and MA graduate of Georgia State University he lives in Orlando, FL with his wife and English labrador. He received his full-stack certification from the University of Central Florida.

For great curated and original content on entrepreneurship, content, design, and code follow him on the social media platform of your choice via the icons in this site’s footer. Or join the 42,318+ followers of his Flipboard Magazines.