Which kind of WordPress do you need? There’s two kinds as you have discovered and they are very different. One is called Hosted WordPress or “WordPress.com” and the second is called Self Hosted WordPress or “WordPress.org”.
Here’s the difference:
This version starts out as free except for the cost of a custom domain (i.e. yoursite.com). you can upgrade this version as needed. This approach provides an economical web presence where you do have enough control to present a feature-rich blog / website to you visitors for 0$ out of the box.
Good For Hobbies, Students, Blogs, Sharing Content On Social Media
This option is a good one for you if you plan to promote your site via social media or you can easily target your market. Example: Great for hobbyists where the site isn’t so much a source of revenue and customers but more of a resource for your friends. Good for students producing a common presence for article/tech reference.
WordPress.com does offer upgrades that are billed monthly or annually. Options include live chat support, Ad-free, advanced custom design and e-commerce. Fees can add up to over $25.00 per month for a managed WordPress experience offering live how-to courses. A really good option for a sort term, do-it-yourself venture.
WordPress.com hosted sites restrict what plugins are available and it’s almost impossible to edit a theme so you can truly customize and brand your visitor experience. Integrating your site with Instagram and other social venues can be a bit buggy because wp.com won’t allow you/a developer to integrate an API.
The upside of WordPress.com is it’s very secure and really does give you the ability to create an elegant presentation of your service, hobby, ideas and new fledgling business. They are a solid option if you are considering Shopify. I’d recommend WordPress.com over Shopify because you can easily migrate to a self-hosted version when expansion demands it. Shopify can be tough and expensive. Your WordPres.com site is easy to maintain and set up. I think the hosted version is ideal for those who need to create a knowledge base where students can access information and search engine optimization isn’t a #1 priority.
It hasn’t been proven, but from an SEO perspective it is widely believed Google will favor a self hosted version of WordPress over a “free” site at WordPress.com. It may be very difficult to achieve a respectable trust value with a “free” wp.com site .vs a WordPress website hosted at Godaddy or here at steelbridge.io
WordPress.com offers SEO tools for it’s paid Business version in addition to third-party plugins, custom plugins, and themes. Hosted through Pressable, I believe this is a solid option for some, but expensive and maybe not in your budget. The business version is an awesome approach if you need WordPress support and are willing to pay the 25.00 per month for hosting. And that’s where it starts! Need e-commerce? Expect to pay more depending on product volume and delivery.
Full Service, Hosting For $25.00 A Month
If server management, full-service support, product delivery and you are never going to manage your website in-house is your option, then I’d consider going with a managed WordPress.com option.
Are you a do-it-yourself kinda person? Maybe you need to dominate the SEO vertical in your niche, but your budget won’t allow for high-end hosting. You want to control the types of plugins uploaded to your WordPress driven site in addition to on-site SEO content but are okay starting out in a shared hosting environment that will cost less than $80.00 a year. Maybe you don’t mind staying on top of your own website updates. Or maybe you will handle moving your WordPress driven site to another hosting environment once traffic, sales, and profits allow you to make that move.
100% Control For Free Plus Hosting & Domain
A self-hosted version of WordPress is hands down the way to go for the webmaster who demands control over budget, flexibility and can either hire out web development to a contractor on an as-needed basis or has developers and WordPress implementors working in-house. Or, you do it all because you are a WordPress wizard.
WordPress.org is the best way to go because you have all the options to do whatever you want.
You can install it yourself or have your hosting company install it. I handle the installs for my clients and then they handle the installation of there own themes and plugins, hiring me to do some of the more complicated development work as needed.
As Little As $54.00 A Year
The upside is the self-hosted version of WordPress is free software. Costs include hosting which can be a little as $43.00 a year for a cPanel/Linux shared-hosting environment plus $11.00 a year for your domain. Domain emails can be free! So, for as little as $54.00 a year, you have a website where adding content is as easy as using the WordPress dashboard user interface, you can add as many email addresses as you wish and scale your website and associated resources as needed. Literally, go from a website that can handle a few visitors or transactions to one that handles thousands of visitors and transactions. All on one installation of WordPress.
A self-hosted version of WordPress offers the ultimate in SEO integration. We can control how your tracking software is integrated, what pages are tracked, goal conversion tracking and special scripts on a per page basis.
Need to run specific, automated tasks (Chron Jobs)? Self-hosted WordPress is the best option.
Need to control what version of PHP your WordPress site runs on? Self-hosted is the way to go.
Access The WordPress REST API
My #1 reason for going self-hosted. For scalability, the option to pull content from WordPress into your external application could be the biggest advantage of going self-hosted.
In closing, per comments below, it is for complete control of the data that one selects a self hosted version of WordPress.