Blogging has soared in popularity over the last ten years, and consequently the choice of blogging platform has also expanded. Whether your blog is for personal purposes or you’re going to use it to promote your business, choosing the right blogging platform is a crucial part of setting up your blog. The success of your blog won’t hinge on what platform you use – the content you post and your promotional skills are more important – but it could make a difference to how much time and energy you spend working on your new site.
Most of the major blogging platforms are free, which is useful if you’re starting a website you want to monetize, and the choice will depend on the kind of features and customization you want. Before you choose a platform, it’s helpful to think about what you want from a blog provider, and to do some thorough research. Platform comparison charts, such as this one created by professional blogger Denise Wakeman, can help you make sense of the differences. After all, it’s much easier to switch to a different blog provider in the early days of your website than it is to export your content to a different platform later.
Before comparing the different blogging platforms available, it’s helpful to think about your ideal blog and what you want from a platform.
One consideration to think about is the cost : although most platforms are free, some popular platforms charge a subscription. You need to decide whether you can afford this outgoing, especially if you’re starting a business or website and it’s difficult for you to predict how much incoming cash flow you might have.
ProBlogger author Darren Rowse breaks down the cost of setting up and running a blog into three main parts:
- Web hosting, and
- A domain name.
He also points out that you might choose to pay for a professional design too. Therefore, when you’re budgeting how much you can spend on your new blog, you need to take hosting, domains, and designs into account. Generally, a self-hosted or paid account with a blogging platform will come with more features, so decide whether you need these features now and, if so, how much you can afford to pay for them.
The second consideration is how much space you’re going to need on the platform’s server – or whether you’d rather host your own blog but use the platform’s CMS (content management system). Text pages don’t take up much space, but pages containing images, video or audio clips will. If your blogging platform caps the amount of space available to each user, you could find yourself in trouble as your blog or website grows.
You also need to think about which features you want to add to your blog , now and in the future. This includes advertising and extra functionality, such as forums. Some platforms are compatible with online advertising companies like Google AdWords, and other platforms don’t allow you to host adverts on your blog or website. This is especially important to establish and research if you are intending to use your blog to make money, as you could spend a lot of time setting up your blog, only to discover you have to export it to another platform.
Another important consideration is how much you want to customize your blog. Some platforms provide ready-made templates that can totally change the appearance of your website, and allow you to enter your own HTML and CSS code. Others aren’t so customizable, and you might find the ability to customize the appearance of your blog is limited. You should also think realistically about your technical skills. If you want a blog you can customize but don’t know any HTML or CSS, you might want to choose a platform like WordPress, which come with thousands of free and paid website templates. Some platforms are also easier to use and update than others.
The final aspect to consider is whether you want the blog to be hosted by the platform, or whether you’re going to host it yourself . Some blog platforms, such as Blogger, offer hosted blogs, while others, like WordPress and TypePad, give you the option to host your blog on an external server, while still using the platform. Hosted blogs are usually free, and simple to set up, however they do have limitations that stand-alone blog platforms don’t have.
As well as thinking about these points yourself, it’s helpful to ask other bloggers for feedback about which platforms they use, and what their experience is like with each platform.
Major Blogging Platforms
WordPress (WordPress.com / WordPress.org) is one of the most popular blogging platforms available, and users can choose between WordPress.com, which offers hosted blogs, or WordPress.org, which provides a platform for self-hosted blogs. As well as hosting options, WordPress.com and WordPress.org have several key differences. For example, you can’t upload plug-ins to a WordPress.com site, however you can to a WordPress.org site. You also need more technical knowledge to run a website using WordPress.org, and are responsible for maintaining back-ups and installing any software updates.
You should also choose carefully between the two WordPress options if you want to monetize your site. As online marketing consultant Matt Hooper advises, only established websites with “moderate to high traffic and appropriate content” are eligible to sign up to WordPress’ advertising program, WordAds. If you install WordPress.org, however, you can run ads on your website from day one.
Founded in 2007, Tumblr is a free blogging platform, and one of the most intuitive blogging systems available. You can’t self-host using Tumblr – every blog is hosted on Tumblr.com, however you can purchase your own domain name instead of using the .tumblr.com subdomain. Tumblr places a strong emphasis on sharing, and makes it easy to connect with other Tumblr users, and share your best content on the Tumblr network. You can customize your website’s design, however the customization features aren’t as flexible as they are with other blogging platforms.
Blogger is a free blogging platform from Google, and YFS Magazine recommend it as a starting point for people who have never created or managed their own blog before. Setting up a blog through Blogger is a quick and easy process, and you can use your own customized domain name. The platform also allows advertising.
You can sign up to two different versions of TypePad: Micro, which is free, and Pro, which starts at $8.95 per month. Although it is the most expensive blogging platform from this list, it’s easy to use and allows you to customize your blog without having a lot of technical knowledge.
Squarespace provides a comprehensive service, offering you the ability to create and host your website, purchase a domain, and get analytics information about traffic, all from one place. The Squarespace service starts at $8 per month, and lets you build a fully-customizable blog or website without having experience, or a lot of technical know-how.
Setting up your site is just one step involved in starting a blog from scratch, but it’s an important decision, so it’s worth taking the time to research your options carefully and ensure you’re making the right decision.
Once you’ve chosen a blogging platform, you can get busy creating your blog or website, and take the first steps towards developing and monetizing your online business.