WordPress.com versus WordPress.org: Would the Real WordPress Please Stand UP
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Maybe you didn’t even know that there are two different WordPress platforms, or perhaps you thought the .com and the .org versions were just two addresses for the same thing. Well, it turns out that they are two distinct platforms, and although they resemble one another, they’re more like step siblings (or “identical cousins”?) than twins. When you need to build a website, you want to use the best platform for you needs, so here’s what you need to know about the WordPress clan.
The “dot com” version is an open-source platform where users can create a website with up to 3GB (read: “not very much”) of space. To double your storage will cost you $48 a year, and you can grab up to 200GB of storage for $300 annually. Basically, WordPress.com is free to use; it’s the storage that will cost you.
When you build your site on WordPress.com, the site is hosted by WordPress, which includes two benefits. One, you don’t have to pay a hosting company to store your site and link it to the internet. Also, because the hosting is baked in, you don’t have to worry about updating the back-end tech of the site, and WordPress handles the site maintenance, such as updating plugins, and data back-ups on your behalf.
So, it’s an inexpensive website solution, but it has more than a few drawbacks – where the overarching theme is lack of control. For example, your site will include a link that says, “powered by WordPress,” you can’t add custom themes, and you can’t upload plugins, which would also allow you to customize certain aspects of your site.
What’s more, WordPress.com not only restricts you from selling ad space on your site, they sell ad space on every one of their .com sites. So, you’re basically promoting other businesses, as well as your own – not to even mention that WordPress get the ad money!
Potentially, the worse drawback is that WordPress.com has the power to delete your site completely if they decide you are violating their terms of service. Not good!
Therefore, we don’t recommend establishing your web presence using a WordPress.com site, although it might be the ideal solution for individuals who blog as a hobby.
“The real WordPress” – in our humble opinion – is WordPress.org. The software is easy to use and, like its .com counterpart, it’s open source (that is, free).
All of the lack of control “bad news” listed above does not apply to sites powered by WordPress.org. You own all the data, so WordPress can’t shut it down. (Though other organizations have the power to do that, so don’t do anything illegal!) Plus, you can customize everything as you see fit with custom themes and plugins.
In addition, it’s way easier to make money from a WordPress.org site, as there are plugins for setting up digital products (e.g., online courses and member sites) and creating online stores. Plus, you can sell some ad space, if you wish. Finally, WordPress.org allows you to access more data about site performance because you can connect up tools like Google Analytics on your site, whereas you’re restricted to WordPress’ data on WordPress.com.
On the flip side, WordPress.org does have its cons, but the drawbacks aren’t deal breakers in our book. Because hosting isn’t included, you’ll have to buy hosting from a company like Blue Host, GoDaddy, or Raney Day Design. (Yep! Did you even know hosting with a small business was an option?) Depending on the company you buy from and their payment options (e.g., monthly v. annual payments), it’s likely to cost you maybe $5-10 a month. But if you are using your site to sell physical or digital products – or to drive traffic to your brick-and-mortar location – that’s a tiny marketing expense.
The only other drawback is that “you” are responsible for updates and backups. That is, just as you certainly can learn to change the oil in your car own your own, you can also learn how to go into the backend of your site and do the maintenance. But you probably want to outsource that to professionals with the expertise to do it the right way, at the right time, to ensure your website doesn’t break down. (HINT: Unless you’re really the kind of person who likes to get your hands dirty – rather than just pop into the quick-service place – let pros like us handle the maintenance for you!)
The Final Analysis
If the purpose of your website is to do business online – attracting leads, promoting brand awareness, selling goods and services – get a WordPress.org site. It’s 100% worth the tiny bit of extra trouble to get the site hosted and keep it from breaking down with routine maintenance. Unless your website is just a playground for you to host content related to a hobby or some other recreational purpose, be savvy and use “the real WordPress” – WordPress.org.