There are many blogging platforms to choose from — some of the most popular are Blogger, WordPress.com (hosted), WordPress.org (stand-alone), Moveable Type, and TypePad. I have used all three of those, and each has its good and bad points, and your choice of which is best for you depends largely on your purpose in blogging.
Questions to ask yourself before making your selection:
- What is my purpose in blogging?
- Is this something I plan to do long term, or am I starting a blog for a specific short-term purpose (wedding planning, vacation blog, etc.)?
- Am I blogging for business (professional) or pleasure (hobby)?
- What is my blogging budget?
- How tech-savvy am I?
- What do other bloggers in my field use?
- Do I want a hosted service or a stand-alone blog?
We’ve already had several posts on the topic of picking your blog’s purpose, so you likely have a good idea about the “why?” behind your blog. Once you know your purpose, you also will know if your blog is short- or long-term and whether or not it’s for business or pleasure. Before reading further, answer the next few questions. Keep those thoughts in mind as we continue.
Because the main difference in platforms can be divided between hosted and non-hosted (stand-alone) blogs, we’ll do a comparison between those two categories.
A hosted blog is well, hosted. That means the files are stored on the platform’s server, and there are dozens to choose from.
Pros of Hosted Sites
Hosted sites are easy to use. Many use WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) editors, and some allow you to edit the HTML code if you are familiar with HTML tags.
Cons of Hosted Sites
Most hosted sites, especially the free ones, look less professional than stand-alones, which can be more customized. Some have more difficulty archiving, less control of your style sheet (CSS), and many aren’t SEO (Search Engine Optimization) friendly.
Blogger, TypePad, and WordPress.com are all hosted sites. TypePad has been known to have issues with comment and trackback spam. At the time of this post, WordPress.com doesn’t allow bloggers to post ads, so if making money using advertising is part of your blogging plan, you would need to choose a different platform. Blogger blogs, in general, look less professional than the other platforms.
Most hosted sites are sub-domains of the platform and the URL (Uniform Resource Locator — what shows up in the address bar) includes the domain name as well as the sub-domain. This flies a red flag that your blog is on a hosted site, and some bloggers feel this makes a blog amateurish.
Examples of URLs from my old blogs:
WordPress.com and Blogger are free. TypePad offers bloggers several packages at varying prices, starting at less than $5/month. Blogger and TypePad are the easiest to use, but WordPress offers a number of plugins to customize your blog.
A non-hosted, or stand-alone, site’s files are stored on a server other than the blogging platform’s. You can lease server space yourself (often called shared-hosting) or pay a hosting service a fee, usually monthly. Many monthly fees are minimal, and most hosting services provide ample disk space and bandwidth for a typical blog.
Pros of Stand-alone Sites (such as WordPress.org or Moveable Type)
The main advantage of having a non-hosted site is control. When you pay for your hosting, you own the domain, so there is no reference to a platform in the URL. (Example URL from my current blog — http://lindafulkerson.com.) You not only have control over the blog’s URL, but you can change the HTML, CSS, manage the SEO, control the permalinks (you can choose the post name that appears in the address), and a lot of other options.
Cons of Stand-alone Sites
The cons of a stand-alone blog are really the same as the pros — total control. Phrases such as HTML, CSS, PHP, and SEO sound confusing, and using them takes a bit of training, but in the long run, if you plan to use your blog for any professional purpose, it is worth it. The other “con” would be price, although the cost of domain registration is typically about $15 for two years, and most web hosting services have good packages in the $10-or-less/month range. Many excellent themes are available for no cost, so you can operate a non-hosted blog for less than $130/year.
Do you have to learn all those funny code names to run your own blog? No. There are a wide variety of themes that work straight out of the box (so to speak), and when I first started using WordPress.org (my blog platform of choice), I didn’t “mess” with any code. I learned it gradually, and now, after several years of tweaking this or altering that, I’ve learned to navigate my way through the code pages.
Summary of Choices
A recent Technorati poll yielded the following information about CMS (Content Management Systems, a.k.a. — platforms) used by the Top 100 blogs:
According to several professional blogging sites I visited, the order of preference for bloggers is:
- WordPress.org — overall considered the premier blogging platform, especially for professional bloggers and business-related blog sites. (Note: WordPress.org DOES allow ads, because you load it onto your or your hosting service’s server. WordPress.com is the hosted platform that doesn’t allow ads . Yeah, I know — it’s confusing!)
- Moveable Type — for professional and semi-professional blogs.
- TypePad or WordPress.com — excellent choices for personal blogs and used by a few professionals.
- Blogger — best choice for beginning and non-business bloggers.
I hope this post helps you decide which blog platform is best for your blog. If you’re already blogging, share with us which platform you chose and why. Are you happy with it or are you ready to make a change? (Note: I tried several before making my “final” choice.)