The great thing about blogging is that there are several platforms to choose from when you first start. Not only that, but cross-connection now means it’s easier to switch from one platform to another as your needs change.
But what blog platform is best for you? Does one offer more than the other? Do more users prefer a specific blog platform over another, and if so why?
Well, yes and no. Like most things when it comes to blogging, it really boils down to two things – time and goals.
Frequency and Future Goals
The reason blogging is so popular is simple – there are no hard and fast rules as to how you should blog. You choose what you want from blogging and the rest will follow naturally.
- Say you want a personal blog but your time is limited – then you may just want to post once a week, and use a free blog platform.
- Say you want a business blog with frequent news and offers – you’ll need a platform that can grow with you, so a self-hosted blog platform would be better.
- Say you have a design or portfolio blog, or a video or multimedia blog – a dedicated platform suitable for large image or media files or podcasts (audio blogs) would be better.
Choosing the platform comes down to the two reasons listed above. So with that in mind, which blog platforms are better for you? Below you’ll find the pros and cons of several of the most popular platforms – hopefully they’ll help you decide your best option.
Free Blogging Platforms
When you first start blogging, it’s usually best to start off with a free option. While self-hosted (see below) is definitely the preferred option, you just don’t know if blogging is going to be for you. Why waste money on a monthly web host and domain name if you’re going to give it up after a few months or less?
The great news is, there are a ton of free blogging platforms available and each have solid blogging options both built-in and as add-on features. These free platforms are similar, but differ slightly in user-friendliness and upgrading at a later date.
- WordPress.com – One of the most popular blogging platforms around (both from a free and self-hosted angle), WordPress is a great free starting point. There are a ton of design templates to choose from; widgets to help you make your blog more interactive (like Twitter and Flickr boxes, for example); stats to track your blog’s popularity; and many more. It’s also easy to migrate your existing blog over to your new WordPress one.
- Blogger – The blogging platform from Google, Blogger is one of the oldest and still most popular for new bloggers. Much like WordPress, Blogger has a ton of templates to choose from; uses Google Analytics to track your visitor stats; create a team blog for multiple authors; add monetization to your blog easily through Google AdSense; and more.
- Tumblr / Posterous – While many see both Tumblr and Posterous as “mini-blogging” platforms, they’re growing in popularity with both casual bloggers as well as more “professional” bloggers. The reason is simple – you can have a blog running in minutes; you can email posts in and the platform will post for you; you can have simple social sharing options; and there’s a huge growing community of users ready to connect with. Expect to see more features soon.
Pros of free blogs: You don’t need to worry about hosting or domains. You’re not committed to regular blogging. There are a ton of upgrade options. They allow you to see if you like blogging.
Cons of free blogs: You don’t have control over your content. You don’t have as many design options as a self-hosted platform. You may lose your blog if the platform goes out of business.
Self-Hosted Blog Platforms
While free blogging platforms are a great introduction to blogging (and can still be sued even when you start blogging more “seriously”), the preferred option for most bloggers is the self-hosted one.
There are numerous reasons (see the Pros overview below), but the main one is you’re in complete control. For any blogger, this is the biggest plus point of any platform. So, what are your options here?
- WordPress.org – Often confused with the free version, the self-hosted version of WordPress is still free to use – you just need to have a host to run it on. Someone like BlogOnCloud9 (affiliate link) is ideal, as they’re dedicated to WordPress bloggers. The benefits of WordPress include a huge range of premium themes to choose from; plug-ins to add functionality; perfect for personal, business, portfolios and more; great search engine visibility; and the ability to grow with you. This is the preferred platform of For Bloggers By Bloggers.
- Typepad – Hugely popular with professional bloggers, Typepad is used by the likes of Seth Godin and Valeria Maltoni, which speaks volumes for its business use. Typepad also has hosting built-in to its price, so you don’t have to worry about choosing a web host. Its features include widgets to add functionality (much like WordPress plug-ins); domain mapping; and professional support as opposed to community support.
- Squarespace – A platform I’ve dabbled in before moving to WordPress, Squarespace is a pretty cool platform that offers some great options for bloggers. Using a drag-and-drop feature for blog layout, you can get a blog up and running fairly quickly. Like Typepad, its pricing includes hosting; you can import your social network functions into Squarespace; you can track visitors; and there’s a cool built-in form builder to use across your blog.
Pros of self-hosting: Full control over your content. Choice of web hosts (with WordPress). Added layers of design options. Viewed more seriously for business blogging. Unlimited growth. Oodles (yes, oodles!) of functionality.
Cons of self-hosting: Monthly or annual investment financially. Less ready-made features.
Time to Blog
These are just some of the options available to help you either get started blogging, or become a more “serious” blogger. There are many more as well. Drupal and LoudBlog (perfect for media blogs and podcasters) are two, for instance.
As I mention in the post, I believe that self-hosted WordPress is the best blog platform around. Which option you choose is up to you and your needs. If you think it’ll just be a hobby, maybe one of the free platforms is better. If you’re looking to invest time and use a blog to build your brand, then self-hosted is ideal.
The best thing to do? Look at your favourite bloggers and see what they’re using/recommending. Chances are, their reasons won’t be too different from the ones you need to decide with.
How about you? What’s your favourite blog platform, and why? Which ones aren’t covered here that you prefer? Share your experience in the comments.