How do you choose a platform that meets your needs?
Don’t worry because, in this blog post, I got you covered.
Read my simple guide today to learn how to select a user-friendly and popular blogging platform.
Let’s dive in!
Popular Blogging Platforms Comparison
|Free or Paid?||Free||Paid||Both plans||Free||Both plans|
|Hosting Service||Free||Get hosting elsewhere||
|Custom Domain Name||
|Get domain elsewhere||
|Is It Newbie-Friendly?||
|Not really, but there are tons of free resources to help you||Takes you around 20 minutes to get used to the platform||
|Depends on your theme||Depends on your theme||
|Depends on your theme|
|Availability of themes||Yes, but only limited to WordPress.com’s collection||
|Availability of Plugins||
I prepared this comparison chart to give you a quick reference of the top 5 blogging platforms. If you want to explore further what these popular blogging platforms have to offer, as well as their pros and cons, continue reading below.
Best Blogging Platforms
1. WordPress.com (Free)
The reason why I started with WordPress is that, total newbies who are curious to start a blog try this out. All you need to do to get things up and running is to sign-up and answer a few details about the blog you’re building.
WordPress has more than 76.5 million users.
Do not confuse WordPress.com with WordPress.org. Although both are WordPress, WordPress.com gives you free hosting. You don’t have to pay for anything.
Pricing: $0 for life
WordPress.com is a great choice for:
- Bloggers who want to blog at zero cost
- Those who are totally fine with having ads randomly displayed on their blog
- Portfolios (personal art and writing projects)
- Online diary which you’re okay with other people reading
- Very user-friendly for people who want to “test the waters” in blogging
- Does automatic updates
- Choose from free themes
- You can create your blog from your mobile device
- You cannot make money from ads displayed on your blog
- No freedom to display your own ads
- Plugins not available
- WordPress.com can terminate your blog anytime if you don’t follow their terms
➤ Did You Know?
The keyword “WordPress” has an average search volume of 2,739,999 per month. That’s how popular it is.
2. WordPress.org (Self-hosted)
WordPress.org is the self-hosted version which means that you’re going to be the one responsible for finding your own hosting provider.
This is the content management system you seek if growing a blogging business is your goal and not just a blog. Making a small investment by paying for a web hosting service allows you to have complete customization over several things.
Pricing: $0 for life – but you need to get your own web host
WordPress.org is a great choice for:
- More serious bloggers ready for monetization
- Any kind of blog imaginable – portfolio, hobby, e-commerce, mommy blogs, app, and more
- Those who want more flexibility and options in blogging
- Search-engine friendly
- Constant updates in their security and software
Over 53,000 free plugins in its collection (social proof, speed, email marketing, security, etc.)
- Thousands of free themes in its collection + Premium themes from third-party providers
- Not totally newbie-friendly but you can get used to it easily. Refer to my guide on starting a blog.
- If you want to further enhance your blog’s customization, coding is required. However, this should not be a problem if you are content with WordPress.org’s themes and plugins.
Comparison Chart: WordPress.com vs. WordPress.org
|WordPress.com (Free hosting)||WordPress.org (Self-hosted/paid hosting)|
|Totally beginner-friendly||Quite a learning curve but easy to get used to with the platform’s collection of learning resources|
|Your domain reads yourwebsite.wordpress.com||You get a custom domain from your choice of domain and hosting provider|
|For bloggers with no intentions of monetizing their blog||For bloggers who are ready to monetize|
|Limited to personal portfolio, hobby blogging||Create any kind of blog you like|
|Free themes but no plugins||Free/premium themes and plugins|
|Limited analytics (you can only use WordPress.com’s built-in analytics)||Freedom to use more advanced analytics from other companies|
|Limited SEO capabilities (because of the lack of plugins)||More SEO capabilities to boost your search visibility|
One thing that newbie bloggers love about Wix as a website builder is that it has drag and drop capabilities which makes creating a blog easy. People who are just starting out can feel that they are more in control even without coding knowledge.
If you plan to start a small e-commerce online store, Wix can help you do that. Although you should note that you won’t be able to leverage advanced features for a 360-degree management of your store.
Like WordPress.com, Wix has a free version but with limited capabilities for those who’d like to use it for personal blogging. You can increase your capabilities by availing the platform’s paid plans.
Here’s a quick YouTube video that shows an overview of the Wix website builder:
Pricing: Most Basic plan starts at $4 a month
Wix is a great choice for:
- Bloggers who want to build a small e-commerce business (with only a few items in place)
- E-commerce, health, photography, restaurant, fashion, and portfolio blogs
- Easy drag and drop to customize your blog
- Over 510 templates in every niche possible
- Complete support center with tutorials from setting up to optimization
- Comes with a mobile editor where you can customize the mobile version of your blog
- Features Wix SEO Wiz helps you with SEO. It’ll create an SEO plan for you based your needs (location, audience, etc.) and keywords.
- If you change from template to template, you need to re-enter your content which is time-consuming.
- Free version shows random ads you have no control over
Among the recent blogging platforms popping up, you’ll find Medium a platform that will help you gain more publicity. Publicity in the sense that you become part of Medium’s community of writers and journalists.
People who are interested in your topics can follow you and comment on your posts. You can do the same to others.
I think many would agree that Medium has a different feel when it comes to blogging. Somehow it feels more like a combination of a blog, publication, and social media site.
If you are all about writing, have no plans of monetization, and can do without customization, then Medium is for you. As a beginner blogger, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t consider Medium especially that you can follow and learn from industry leaders who joined the platform.
But if you already have a blog on WordPress.org, you can also use Medium to increase your existing blog’s visibility. For marketing reasons, per se.
Here’s what Jeff Goins, an American author, and blogger says about Medium:
— Jeff Goins (@JeffGoins) April 5, 2017
Pricing: $0 for life
Medium is a great choice for:
- Total newbies since setting up is very easy
- People who want to express their point of view
- Bloggers with no plans of monetization
- Freelancers to show their writing portfolio
- Free to use
- Simple set-up process in minutes
- Huge community to interact with
- Potential for driving traffic to your WordPress blog or any landing page
- Typography settings
- Lack of customization
- Limited branding capabilities
- You are unable to display your own ads
Judging by the looks of Squarespace’s homepage, you get the impression that this website builder is for the creative individual. And yes, it’s absolutely true. You can create a blog, no matter what niche you’re in, by simply doing a drag and drop.
As far as competition is concerned, we can safely say that Squarespace is a close competitor of Wix.
Squarespace is comprehensive in that all the essential features you need are within the platform. You can even use it for free to get a feel of it. There’s built-in analytics that immediately shows your blog traffic, search queries, and popular content.
Pricing: Starts at $12 per month (billed annually) or $16 per month (billed monthly)
SquareSpace is a great choice for:
- Small to big business blogs
- Bloggers with no design and coding skills
- Those who plan to host a podcast on the blog
- Support section features guides, videos, and a live chat
- Allows you to accept payments for your e-commerce blog
- Discounts if you avail their yearly services
- Takes care of your website speed
- Wide selection of professional templates to match your brand
- 2 allowable contributors for their personal plan is quite limiting
- Not too many tools you can use
Things to Look for When Choosing a Blogging Platform
Here are the basic and most important aspects to check whether a platform is for you. Make sure to consider these 7 points:
Now let’s discuss each point below.
1. User friendly
Anyone who wants to start a blog doesn’t need to be an expert.
This is the beauty of blogging:
You and I can set off even with little to no experience.
So in order for you to succeed, you need to work with a blogging platform that’s designed with the beginner in mind.
At the same time, make sure that the platform comes with features and functionalities that take your blogging to the next level.
2. Mobile friendly
In today’s mobile world, people expect your blog not only to look great on their desktop screens but also on their smartphones. Google announced that it would rank mobile-friendly blogs higher in search results.
The good news is that a lot of blog sites today automatically adjust according to a user’s screen size.
Once you choose a blogging platform for mobile, pay attention to font size and speed. These aspects affect a mobile user’s experience as well.
You may have heard about this factor the first time.
What I actually mean by “versatility” is the ability of a blogging platform to be used by all kinds of bloggers depending on their niche or interest.
For example, a versatile site builder can be used for business purposes, personal portfolios, and their own hobbies.
It is up to you to decide whether you want free domain hosting or paid one. Maybe you want to start a blog using free hosting until you are able to pay for one.
Here’s the difference between free and paid hosting:
With a free blog, your domain can read like this: yourblog.wordpress.com. On the other hand, paid hosting eliminates the word “wordpress.”
Please take note that “wordpress” in free hosting represents the name of the company that hosted your blog. In the example above, WordPress hosted your blog as opposed to you paying for your own web hosting.
Later in this blog post, I’ll be discussing with you the difference between free and paid hosting. Perhaps this will help you choose which one to go with.
Does your blogging platform of choice protect you from different kinds of attacks? Does it have a spam blocker to prevent comment spam?
Remember that regardless of the platform you go with, you are vulnerable to malicious attacks if you use a public network when accessing your blog.
Also, check that a platform offers free or paid security plugins which you can install anytime.
6. Themes and plugins
How would you like your blog to look like? What functions do you want your blog to perform?
The appearance of your blog can be tweaked with different themes, giving it a certain look and feel. People are visual beings which is why it’s not enough for a blog to be all text. A theme allows your blog to have a personality.
On the other hand, plugins make your blog more functional. The first time you use your blog, you cannot expect it to gather email addresses, speed up itself, or check your content for readability and SEO issues. You need dedicated plugins for those functions.
In selecting themes and plugins to install, read their reviews and ratings. Look at how often they are updated. Regular updates help ensure security and eliminate bugs.
If you ever need assistance with technical aspects or anything that relates to managing your blog, you should be able to get help 24/7.
Support comes in different forms. There are blogging platforms that come with discussion forums, PDF guides, and tutorial videos. Some offer phone support and live chat.
Whichever support is available at your disposal, what matters is that you’re able to find the answer to your concern.
Should You Choose a Free or Self-Hosted Platform?
Before you make your final choice on which platform for blogging to use, you should think thoroughly about whether to go free or self-hosted (paid).
Earlier, I mentioned that a free website lets you end up with a domain that includes the hosting company’s address. While this option seems to be very attractive, especially to beginner bloggers who want to save money, first know how it differs from the paid option.
Let’s explore the differences below.
Presence of ads
One problem with free hosting is that your blog can be crammed with ads. Not only are ads distracting to your audience; you cannot receive revenue from these ads as well.
Paying for your own hosting lets you enjoy the advantage of a clutter-free, ad-free website. If you want to, you can choose to display ads that you can make money from.
Ease of set-up
Between a free blog and paid one, the free version can be easily set up by a newbie in minutes. All you need to do is fill out a few forms. You’ll be asked questions such as your blog name, niche, goal, and more.
Take WordPress.com (free blogging platform) as an example:
After setting up your free website, You’re also offered free themes to tweak your blog’s appearance.
When it comes to paid hosting, you’ll need to go through several steps to get things up and running.
Such steps include:
- Choosing and paying a web hosting service – Note that with blogging platforms like Wix and Squarespace lets you upgrade your free hosted blog to a premium one.
- Installing your content management system to your web hosting.
- Downloading essential plugins and themes to customize your blog.
Would you like to monetize your blog? If your answer is yes, the last thing you would want is people judging you as less credible.
Using a free blogging platform for your domain is bad for business. I might come off as rude, but yes, going the free route makes you look cheap. Create a professional, unique identity that people will come to trust by paying for hosting services.
Support and assistance
What if your free domain gets hacked? What if you need help with an issue but cannot find the answer in the free hosting company’s support articles or forums?
The problem with free web hosting is that it provides very limited support for bloggers. Though you can read their resources in their Support section, you won’t be able to avail of the live chat or phone call assistance unless you go premium.
As you can see, there is so much you can do to build a thriving blog.
Because of the massive wealth of information you can leverage, my recommendations for blogging platforms, tools, and strategies are only the tip of the iceberg.
Nevertheless, I hope this post hasn’t overwhelmed you! Most of all, I hope you learned a lot today.
I suggest you capitalize on a few of the things you read here and do them extremely well. Don’t spread yourself too thin. Good luck!