Updated January 6, 2017 – WordPress is still our choice, but Squarespace has been making up ground.
Congratulations, you have decided now is the time to start a blog (see our post about starting a blog)! Now you are trying to get a handle on what is the best blogging platform to use. This isn’t a question you should dismiss as unimportant, in fact, it is a question you should be sure to answer with some real research behind it. Shifting platforms can be problematic, so deciding which blogging platform you are going to use is a decision not to make lightly. Luckily, I am here to help you make the right decision and you should feel confident in your choice by the time you finish this article.
Choosing the Best Blogging Platform
Well, let’s start with the world’s largest, and my personal favorite blogging platform, WordPress. In fact, this site is built on the WordPress platform. We also build our clients’ sites with WordPress. (See more about how we can build your WordPress site.)
Here is a list of blogging platforms along with their costs and some pros & cons on each:
Cost: The software is free. Since this is a self-hosted option, you will need to pay for hosting. See our step-by-step tutorial in setting up your blog with hosting.
You will be using WordPress.org software on a third-party hosting solution (continue reading for more about third-party hosting). This means you will have full control to add plugins, which provide additional functionality to your blog that can otherwise require expensive development costs. (So this option saves you money!) You can also edit your HTML code and how the site looks so you can have a professional site that looks unique. You aren’t locked in to the theme’s design; you have complete control. This is the best strategy if you are planning to use your blog to make money or start a business. It is best for bloggers who want to build a brand and businesses that are looking to sell a product or advertise a service.
- There are literally thousands of themes to choose from, giving you more options to choose something unique for your blog. If you want to look at some professional themes with online support, you can go to ThemeForest.com. There are many free WordPress theme options to choose from as well.
- You can also choose from thousands of free plugins and many paid plugins to give your site functionality you would normally pay hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars for. But be careful, some plugins have been abandoned and aren’t supported and can break your site.
- WordPress is very SEO friendly, providing out-of-the-box options that give your blog a strong foundation for ranking well.
- WordPress is the most popular blogging platform which makes it a target for hackers and security threats. Keep your software up-to-date and look at using security plugins.
- Anytime you host with a third party you will have costs. There may come a time when your host will expect you to have some technical knowledge, but a good host, such as Bluehost (which provides phone support), will offer competent customer support.
- Using free plugins and themes can leave you vulnerable to attacks (when the plugin developers don’t update them regularly) and most have no support in case something breaks.
Who is WordPress.org perfect for?
- Bloggers who want to make money and build a business or a brand
- Professional bloggers who are serious about their time and money being used effectively.
- Hobby bloggers who are looking to take the next step.
WordPress.com (hosted at WordPress.com)
WordPress.com provides hosting for your blog. They store all your files which means they control what themes and plugins you can use. It keeps your site safe, but limits the control you have. This is a low-cost option and you can always upgrade to a self-hosted blog (see above) later. You can get comfortable with the WordPress Content Management System (CMS) without spending money.
- Setup is easy and free.
- Since you are limited to what you can do, it is simple to use. You don’t need to know HTML code or have any development experience.
- There are a lot of themes (designs) to choose from that are decent.
- You have limited functionality (you can’t choose from all those wonderful plugins).
- Without the ability to make changes and your limitations to design your site can appear amateurish, especially since your domain name will have WordPress.com in it (such as myblog.wordpress.com).
- You kind of don’t own your blog, since WordPress.com is hosting, which means you probably won’t be able to make advertising money on it. Some sites can, but this is complicated in who gets the ability to advertise. You should assume you won’t be able to. WordPress.com can also suspend your site if they don’t like what you are writing.
- You won’t rank well in the Search Engine results. It is just a fact. You won’t see many WordPress.com sites ranking, for whatever reason. So your search traffic will be less than if you used third-party hosting.
Who is WordPress.com (hosting with WordPress) perfect for?
- Hobby bloggers who want to see if they can make the commitment without the initial cost.
- Bloggers who want a no-cost option.
- Personal bloggers who enjoy writing for fun.
Blogger is owned by Google, which is a good thing as you will be able to advertise through Google’s AdSense and potentially make money. While not as easy to use as WordPress software, Blogger is a decent blogging platform for those who are looking to get a taste of the blogging life with limited investment of money. As with WordPress.com, you can get acclimated to the software and see how you like it. There is no option to upgrade to third-party hosting as with WordPress. You would need to export your blog posts and import at a later time to start the new hosting.
- Free and simple to use.
- You can make money by using AdSense advertisements (but probably not a lot).
- You can make edits to HTML code, so you can modify somewhat.
- Not a lot of themes. (And not as many as either WordPress option.)
- You won’t be able to self-host, so you will probably be blogging on Blogger for the life of your blog.
- As with WordPress.com, you will have a subdomain (like myblog.blogspot.com).
Who’s Blogger.com perfect for?
- Hobby Bloggers who are looking for no-cost, but the possibility of making advertising revenue.
- Personal bloggers who enjoy writing for fun.
Tumblr (without the “e”) is more of a social platform for bloggers. Most of the posts here are reposts, showing others what things you like and enjoy (which means there isn’t much original content being created and therefore it is more of a microblogging platform for fun). I would avoid this if you really want to write and are looking to reach an audience who will pay for what you have to say and offer.
- They host your blog so you have lots of storage.
- There are many, many themes to choose from (and some you have to pay for).
- You can customize with HTML.
- Limited functionality and only a few plugins to expand your blog’s capabilities.
- No real monetization options.
- Doesn’t look like a professional blog or website.
Who’s Tumblr.com perfect for?
- Hobby bloggers with a passion for their topic.
- Bloggers who want easy posting with content such as quotes, images, videos and so on. Most Tumblr users aren’t writing a lot, but reposting found content. It’s a fun time for sharing, but not for serious, professional blogs.
TypePad tries to create a balance between the professional blogger/business blogger and the hobby blogger who doesn’t mind spending less than $10 per month to get their information to the public. The price provides more features and gives you a blog that has a professional look and feel. I wouldn’t recommend it over a WordPress.com self-hosted blog, but there are a lot of fans and a big online community that use TypePad.
- They provide hosting on their servers, but the good news is your own your blog.
- Simple to use.
- Unlimited storage so you can upload to your heart’s content.
- While $8.95 is cheap you can still self-host a WordPress site for less (with a long-term contract) and get more functionality.
- You can customize, but it is limited.
Wix is another professional blogging platform, like self-hosted WordPress.com, but you don’t have to worry about third-party hosting. Since they provide eCommerce functions, WIX can be ideal for those looking to sell products online and start an eCommerce blog. You don’t get full control over your online shop, but you certainly get enough control to dip your toe into the world of online eCommerce without investing a lot of time or money.
Cost: $4 – $24.92/month
- You can put advertising on your site.
- There is no limit to bandwidth
- Easy to use.
- You get plenty of online storage.
- They have plenty of professional templates/themes to choose from.
- It can be expensive, compared to other options.
- Ecommerce works, but isn’t set up for complicated orders.
- Using a template can limit your customization.
Who is Wix.com perfect for?
- Bloggers who don’t have the time, talent or money to design a site. Wix provides great options.
- Great for hobbyists who want to promote their craft and products. Wix is targeting the artistic market so musicians, photographers, and hobbyists in general can certainly find success at Wix.
- Bloggers looking to sell a product.
To give you a quick snapshot of the information above, I have created a comparison chart of all the blogging platforms on this page. All of them can help you get your voice out on the Web, but some will be a better fit if you want to build a business, create a brand and make money with your blog.
|Price||$0||$0 or $99|
|$4 – $24.92|
|Custom domain included||No, but you can use one you own.||No||No||No||No||No|
|Templates & Themes||1,500+||100+||Not many||1000||100+||100+|
|Plugins and Extensions||20,000+||No||No||No||No||10+|
|Ease of use||6/10||9/10||8/10||9/10||8/10||8/10|
|Hobby / Personal blogs||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||No|