When it comes to choosing the best blogging platform, there are a lot of choices, but I’m going to make it easy and talk about only three: Blogger and WordPress. I know, that looks like only two, but there are actually two options nested in WordPress.
# 1 — Blogger
Blogger.com is owned by Google, and as with so many Google products, it is attractive and relatively easy to use. Many first-timers use Blogger very successfully, however it is not without its limitations.
- Easy to use with lots of templates and design features
- You can easily post to your blog by sending an email
- It is hosted by Google, so you don’t have to worry about spam or hackers (supposedly)
- Because it is owned by Google, your posts are quickly indexed, which means that you can be found easily — though this varies by topic, of course.
- You can map your blog to your own domain. Regularly, a Blogger blog has a domain like this: http://YourBlogName.blogger.com.
- It is hosted by Google, which means that while you retain the copyright to your content, Google maintains the right to use and modify your content to promote their services. You can read about it in their Terms of Service.
- If you violate the Terms of Service, your blog can be shut down with no notice. (You DO read the Terms of Service, don’t you?)
- There is a limited amount of storage capacity for your content.
- You cannot store pictures on your blogsite – you have to put them somewhere else, like Flickr or Picasa, or Panaramio and link to them.
- Plugins are not available to customize the user experience.
# 2 & 3 — WordPress
WordPress as a blogging platform gives you two options:
- WordPress.COM — This is a free platform similar in some respects to Blogger.
- WordPress.ORG — This is sometimes referred to as “self-hosted” WordPress because you must install it on your own domain with your own hosting package.
- It is free and easy to set up. The visual editor is much like using a word processing program like Word, or sending an email.
- There are a ton of themes for you to choose from to get the look and feel you want.
- You can easily add categories and keywords to your posts.
- Automaticc, the creators of WordPress.com, handle all the security issues for you.
- You can import your older blog posts from many other platforms.
- There is more storage than on Blogger.
- You can store images on your blog in the media library.
- While you may still own your content (Terms of Service is not 100% clear), WordPress.com does reserve the right to make use of your content for their purposes and also to remove any content it deems harmful or objectionable.
- You cannot upload your own theme, or change any of the CSS styling. There are certain style elements you have control over, but nothing major.
- You can use a custom domain if you opt for a paid upgrade. Otherwise, you will have a URL that includes wordpress.com in it.
- WordPress.com will add Google Adsense ads to your site to support them financially, but you cannot have your own Adsense ads on your blog.
- You cannot use third-party analytics like Google Analytics.
- The “program” is free. Most hosting companies have some sort of “quick install” utility that will let you install and configure WordPress for your site.
- You own your content. Every bit of it.
- There are a bejillion themes available, from free to premium to custom, to help you make your site look exactly the way you want it to look.
- You can change any design feature that you want, and you can even tweak the code if that’s your cup of tea. Well, maybe you can’t, but you have permission to.
- There are plugins available that will allow you to incorporate almost any functionality you can imagine – and the vast majority of them are free.
- You are not limited to a “blog.” You can create a complete website using WordPress, and have it include a blog. Or not.
- It is easy to learn, and there is a wealth of information at your fingertips to help you do anything on the “inside” — in your dashboard.
- You have about as much storage as you would ever need, and you can store all your own images and documents within your site.
- You are allowed to have FTP access, which means you can get to the file structure “behind” the website if you need to.
- It does take a bit of technical expertise to get up and running. But again, most hosting companies will walk you through getting started, and there is information everywhere about how to do most everything.
- You are responsible for your own hosting and security. There are plugins and help for that, too.
- You may need to hire someone to design/set up your website and make updates to it, but you CAN do everything you need without learning any HTML or PHP coding skills.
- If you do mess with the code, and something breaks, you and your team have to fix it or find somebody who can.
If you have a hobby that you want to blog about, or if you are involved in a homeschooling project, or something like that, then you can successfully use Blogger or WordPress.com. However, you must be aware that there are limits that will severely constrain what you can do — and if you are okay with that, then you may be very happy with those options.
If, on the other hand, you are running a business, your presence on the Web is an asset, and you want as much control over it as you can get. In that case, my unqualified recommendation is for you to use self-hosted WordPress (from WordPress.org).
Buy a domain and a hosting package, and install WordPress (or have someone do it for you). Use one of the themes that come with the installation (they are really pretty versatile), and put yourself out there.
And whether you farm out all of your website work, or do some of it yourself (or all of it), you need to know the basics of what it takes to get your website up on the Internet. To that end, I have a free class of eight videos that walks you through the process of buying a domain, getting hosting, installing WordPress, and getting started on creating your website. You can access those videos at www.VA-Box.com. Just sign up for them in the sidebar.
So, where are you in your process? Let me know in the comments. And if you have any questions about how to choose a blogging platform, just ask and I’ll do my best to answer them.