You’ve decided that you want to start a blog, and you know that you need a blogging platform.
But there are a TON of blogging platforms out there. So how do you decide which one to choose?
If you’re like most people, you probably Google it.
Or, if you’re big into Facebook, then you hop into your favorite blogging group and ask your fellow bloggers what they recommend.
And that’s where the confusion starts. Because everyone seems to have an opinion. And a lot of those opinions differ.
One of the things you’ll notice is that the opinions seem to fall into two camps.
Free vs Paid.
Now everyone loves free, especially if money is tight. But in this case, free isn’t the best choice. In this post, we’ll talk about why.
Free Vs Paid Blogging Platforms
There are a ton of different blogging platforms out there. But you can basically group them into three main categories.
The first category is 100% free blogging platforms.
The second category is blogging platforms that have both a free AND a paid plan.
Finally, there are the 100% paid blogging platforms.
A lot of bloggers (particularly the new ones) tell you that free is the way to go. That could mean choosing a blogging platform that’s 100% free. Or, starting with a free plan on a blogging platform and then upgrading to the paid plan later on down the road.
Their biggest reason for this advice is because it gives you a chance to test the waters.
If you decide that you don’t like blogging after all, you don’t lose anything except the time you put into it.
Which sounds like a good reason, except there’s a downside to it.
That downside is this:
When you choose a free blogging platform your blog doesn’t actually belong to you. It belongs to the company who’s blogging platform you are using.
The other major downside happens if you do decide that you’re all in with this “blogging thing.” And that you want to make money blogging.
Because suddenly you’re on a platform where you won’t be able to hit your goals. Your only option is switching. And let me tell you THAT is a huge hassle.
It takes a lot of work and a lot of time. Plus it can cost you a lot of money.
Which usually ends up leaving you wishing you’d started with the right blogging platform in the first place.
I’m getting ahead of myself.
We’ll talk about some of the other cons later on in this post.
For now, let’s take a look a look at some of the most popular options in each category of blogging platform.
100% Free Blogging Platforms
As I mentioned earlier, this category contains platforms that are 100%, forever free. Even if you wanted to upgrade to a paid version you couldn’t because they don’t offer one.
Blogger is a free blogging platform owned by Google.
It’s one of the earliest blogging platforms in existence. It was first launched in 1999 by Pyra Labs. Later in 2003, Google acquired Blogger and revamped it into the platform we see today.
All you need to start a free blog on Blogger is a Google account.
Medium is a very easy-to-use blogging platform that also has some limited social networking features. Launched in 2012, it has become a community of writers, bloggers, journalists, and experts.
Medium is a lot like a social networking site. You create an account and start publishing your articles.
Tumblr is a little different than the other blogging platforms we’ll be talking about.
It’s actually considered part microblogging platform and part social community.
With traditional blogs, you create long-form content. With Tumblr, you create short posts which can be text, images, quotes, links, video, audio and chats. Hence the term “microblogging.”
You can find out more about Tumblr in this great article by Lifewire.
There are other social media platforms that are considered by some to be microblogging platforms as well. These include Linkedin, Instagram and Facebook. Although really, I wouldn’t consider them to be an actual blogging platform.
Paid Blogging Platforms With A Free Plan
Our next category of blogging platforms is those that offer a free plan, while also offering paid upgrade options.
Wait…what? There are TWO WordPress’?
Yep. WordPress.com and WordPress.org. And there is a VERY big difference between them.
WordPress.com is a hosted blogging platform. That means that your blog belongs to Automattic (the company that owns WordPress.com).
WordPress.org is blogging software. It’s free to use. But you need a “place” to use it. Which means that you have to find a web host. You then pay for online space from that web host for your WordPress blog.
That’s why you’ll hear WordPress.org blogs referred to as self-hosted blogs. We’ll talk about self-hosted WordPress blogs later on in this post.
So going back to WordPress.com. All you have to do to get your blog up and running is create an account on WordPress.com. You can then set up your free blog.
Now WordPress.com does offer paid plans as well. But it’s important to know that getting a paid plan on WordPress.com is still NOT the same thing as having a self-hosted WordPress blog.
Plus, in the long run, it’s actually more expensive.
Wix is not strictly a blogging platform. It’s actually a platform for building websites. However, it allows you to add a blog to your website with the Wix Blog app.
Wix was founded in 2006. It was intended to be a platform where anyone could create their own “stunning website with no coding skills required.”
Wix has a free plan that you can use for as long as you want. But if you require professional features like your own domain name and you want your site to be ad-free (their ads, not yours), you have to upgrade to a paid plan.
The cheapest ad-free plan with a custom domain name costs $11 US per month.
Wix is also a hosted service (they own the platform).
You can read more about Wix in this review by WebsiteToolTester.
As with Wix, Weebly is not actually a blogging platform, although you can blog on it. It is a hosted drag and drop website builder that also allows you to build beautiful looking websites quickly and easily.
Paid Blogging Platforms
So now we get to paid blogging platforms. The platforms below do not have a free plan.
Typepad is a paid blogging platform owned by Endurance International Group. They claim to provide an interface that’s easy for beginners and experienced bloggers to use.
It’s actually a pretty popular blogging platform, even though it only offers paid plans.
Squarespace also is not specifically a blogging platform. However, it’s become quite popular among many bloggers.
As with Wix and Weebly, it’s a hosted website building service that allows you to create beautiful websites using easy drag and drop tools. So your site belongs to Squarespace.
Squarespace focuses primarily on small business owners who want to quickly and easily create an online presence for themselves.
You can read an in-depth review of Squarespace on WebsiteToolTester.
Which brings us to WordPress.org
WordPress.Org Blogging Platform
So you may have noticed that I didn’t stick WordPress.org into any of the 3 main categories of blogging platforms.
That’s because WordPress.org is really in a category of its own.
Technically, WordPress.org is not a blogging platform. Rather it’s blogging software.
So what’s the difference?
Well, every single one of the blogging platforms that I listed above – in all 3 categories – are owned by the blog hosting company. That’s why they are called hosted services.
If you build your blog on any of the above platforms, your blog is technically owned by the platform. It’s not yours.
You can think of it kinda like taking a taxi vs owning a car.
When you take a taxi, it’s owned by the taxi company. They are responsible for driving it and maintaining it.
When you own a car – it’s yours. YOU are responsible for driving it and maintaining it.
Of all the blogging platforms that are out there – the only one that you really own, is a WordPress.org blog.
That’s why it’s called self-hosted.
YOU are responsible for finding a web hosting company to rent “land” from. From there, you use the free WordPress.org software to build your blog. Or, if you really don’t want to touch the tech – you hire someone to do it for you.
If at any time you are not happy with your web host – you can find another web host and migrate your blog over to them.
You have 100% control over your blog.
And THAT is the biggest reason that my #1 recommended choice for bloggers is a self-hosted WordPress blog.
Now there are other reasons as well. So let’s go through them quickly.
Why My #1 Choice Is A Self-Hosted WordPress Blog
Beyond the fact that you own your self-hosted WordPress blog (which is huge), there are a lot of other advantages as well.
You can choose your own custom domain
In other words yourblogname.com (or whatever domain extension you choose). With free blogging platforms and the free plan on other blogging platforms, you can’t. Your blog name ends with yourblogname.bloggingplatform.com.
Now that’s not exclusive to WordPress.org. With the other paid blogging platforms you do have the option of a custom domain. But it’s an advantage a self-hosted WordPress blog has over free blogs.
You don’t have to worry about ads
With all free sites and free plans, the blogging platform puts ads on your site. You have zero control over those ads.
With the paid blogging platforms, as long as you pay for one of their plans, you don’t have to worry about ads.
With a self-hosted WordPress blog, the only ads you’ll ever see are the ones you put there if you choose to monetize with ads.
You have 100% control over customization
So this is where the real power of a self-hosted WordPress blog starts. It’s by far, the most customizable of all the blogging platforms out there.
There are literally thousands of themes available allowing you to make your blog look exactly how you want. And if you can’t find a theme you like you have the ability to customize it if you’re comfortable with code. Or you can hire someone to customize it.
There are also thousands of plugins that you can use to add additional features to your blog.
Free platforms and free plans allow minimal customization. The other paid blogging platforms, while customizable, are very limited compared to a self-hosted WordPress blog.
You have 100% control over monetization
This is the BIGGIE.
With a self-hosted WordPress blog, you have 100% control over how you choose to monetize your site.
With the 100% free and free plans, your ability to monetize is super limited.
WordPress Is Used By The Experts
Big names making big money online, and big companies are using self-hosted WordPress.
Why? Because it’s powerful, affordable, customizable, and easy to use once you get the hang of it.
Check out this article showcasing 40+ well known, big name brands, using self-hosted WordPress.
If WordPress is their go-to choice, don’t you think that’s a pretty good indication that there’s something to it?
There Is A Ton Of Support If You Get Stuck
From blog posts to entire blogs, podcasts, YouTube tutorials, Facebook groups, WordPress forums – if you need help, you’ll find it.
The Challenge of A Self-Hosted WordPress Blog
So I have to end this post by talking about the biggest challenge most new bloggers have when it comes to a self-hosted WordPress blog.
It’s the reason so many bloggers get scared away from going this route.
Can you guess?
Yep! It’s the tech.
The price of having so much power and customizability is that there is a learning curve.
Setting up a self-hosted WordPress blog is not intuitive.
That’s why a lot of bloggers opt for places like Wix, Weebly or Squarespace. There is no doubt that their drag and drop builders make it easy for the tech-challenged to build their site.
But, as you’ve heard me mention several times – you don’t own that site.
If you ever get to a point where you’re not happy with your blogging service, you don’t have a ton of options.
In most cases – you can’t just take your site with you.
If you decide down the road that you want the power of WordPress in your biz, you pretty much have to start over. Or, hire someone to move your content. Which can be super expensive.
My suggestion? Bite the bullet, and start your blog and biz off on the right foot.
With a self-hosted WordPress blog.
And the learning curve?
Don’t sweat it. Over the next few weeks, I’ll be putting together a series of posts that will walk you through all the tech of getting a self-hosted WordPress blog started and built.
In other words, I’ll take be taking the challenge out of the learning for ya!
Okay, it’s your turn.
Even though this post has only given you a brief overview of each blogging platform, I’ve linked to great articles that go into great depth.
So if you don’t just want to take my word for it, I encourage you to check them out.
Otherwise, keep your eye on my blog, as you’ll see the rest of the posts in this series being published over the next few weeks.
I’d also love if you’d leave me your questions in the comments below about anything WordPress so I can be sure to include it in my series.