There are so many things to think about when starting a new blog and what you choose really probably depends on who you last talked to. If a friend recommended to you that you should start a free blog on Blogger.com, then that is probably what you will end up doing. But hold on a second, if you plan on really working on this new blog of yours and you truly believe that it could be something special, then you owe it to yourself (and your blog) to look at all your options and see what really will be the best solution for you.
I’m going to explain to you the difference between free blogging platforms versus self-hosted (or paid) blogging platforms, pros and cons of each, growth potential and finally ease. So let’s take a look.
What Is A Free Blog?
A free blog or blogging platform is blogging software that is hosted, run and managed by a business (such as Google), usually for profit on their end. Free blogs are incredibly easy to set up. They usually involve signing up with a sign-up form, choosing a basic template, choosing an URL, uploading a couple of pictures and begin typing. The company that provides the blog free of charge to you typically makes their money by placing an ad at the end of every one of your posts. These ads usually aren’t too intrusive and are a more than fair trade-off.
Most free blogging platforms offer paid upgrades to eliminate ads on your site. They also offer a slew of other upgrades such as premium themes (the look of your website), custom URLs (from yoursite.blogspot.com to www.yoursite.com) and more.
What free blogs typically lack is the ability to customize to your heart’s desire. They usually offer an amount of customization but it is limited. Also, once you start paying for multiple upgrades the free blogs can end up costing more than a self-hosted blog. These blogs also lack the functionality that a self-hosted blog can provide.
- Free (at least for basic blogs).
- Easy to use.
- Quick to set up.
- Require little maintenance.
- Limited customization.
- Ads on your site.
- Limited functionality.
- Limited growth potential.
The Most Popular Free Blogging Platforms
WordPress.com is truly the king when it comes to blogging. They’ve got it figured out like no one else. This is a great place to start your first blogging project. At WordPress.com you can purchase your own custom domain name for $13 per year as well as premium templates and more. They also offer a ton of great add-ons. WordPress.com is perfect for any personal blogger or anyone blogging as a hobby.
Blogger is a free blogging platform owned by Google. Blogger is very easy to use, especially if you already use other Google tools such as Gmail and Youtube. You will use your same user and password for these other Google services. Blogger is also incredibly reliable and almost un-hackable.
Tumblr is a microblogging platform, in my opinion, I would call it a cross between Twitter and a normal blog. It is great for individuals who want to share tidbits, photos, and other fun stuff.
What Is A Self Hosted Blog?
When referring to a self-hosted blog, this means to purchase web hosting space at a hosting provider such as BlueHost and run your own blogging software such as WordPress (not their hosted service, but software). Typically hosting starts at roughly $4-5 per month and set up is not much more complicated than free hosting.
Pros vs Cons of Self Hosting
A self-hosted WordPress blog provides many benefits over any free blogging service such as:
- Use any of thousands of free themes.
- Purchase any of thousands of premium themes that offer incredible amounts of functionality.
- Ability to create your own personal theme.
- Choose from thousands of free and premium plugins to add functionality to your website.
- Get your own custom email such as firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Ability to grow with your blog and handle any amount of traffic and customization.
- Not free. Higher cost than free blogs.
- Requires a bit more technical knowledge and maintenance than free blogs (although still very easy).
Personally, I believe that if you have never blogged before and are unfamiliar with any of the blogging platforms mentioned above, WordPress.com is a great solution to start with. It is absolutely necessary to purchase your own domain name though. This will ensure that you own your own address instead of using WordPress’s. They also make it easy for you to transfer your blog over to your own server if you ever feel the need to.
But, if you can handle it, starting with your own self-hosted WordPress install is easily your best choice. The pros are just too many and the ability to grow and own your site 100% is worth the little extra effort.
Need A Host?
I host all of my websites (over 20 now!) with BlueHost hosting company. They are a business class hosting provider and they make everything incredibly easy as well as provide awesome support (live online chat or on the phone). InMotion offers one-click installs of WordPress, start at just $5.99/month and are incredibly reliable.
Read more: An Intro To WordPress Themes