When you’re starting a blog choosing your blogging platform is one of the first decisions you’ll have to make. Deciding what is the best blogging platform for your blog or website isn’t easy.
You may think any platform that allows you to create a blog will be alright but you should choose carefully.
It’s important to select a platform that will meet all your requirements now and in the future if your site grows. Some platforms make it very hard to change later.
There are many different blogging platforms that are suitable for creating different types of blogs or websites from a personal blog, a hobby blog, a portfolio, an e-commerce site or a small business blog.
In this guide, we’ll look at some of the most popular blogging platforms and give our recommendation.
What is a blogging platform?
Before we get started let’s make sure you know what a blogging platform really is. A blogging platform is the software or online service you use to write, format, add media and publish your articles. Blogging platforms also allow interaction between the reader and the blog author.
- If you’re a beginner you will want a platform that’s easy to set up and get started without needing any knowledge of coding.
- You are perhaps new to blogging but you hope to earn money with your blog – make sure your blogging platform allows this.
- In the future, if you want to change the look of your blog verify that it’s possible.
- You may need additional functionality – is this easy to install and will it cost much?
- If you become disenchanted with your chosen blogging platform will you be able to transfer your blog to another platform easily and rapidly?
- How much are you willing to spend on your blog? While it is possible to start a blog for free it’s not recommended. You will have a strange looking domain name, limited features, and functionality. Perhaps adverts on your blog and you may not be able to make money from your website. So you will need to pay something!
- for a self-hosted blog you will pay for hosting and a domain name
- for a hosted blog you will have a monthly fee which varies depending on the requirements of your blog
Definitions Hosted or Self-Hosted
There are 2 types of blogging platforms hosted and self-hosted.
Hosted platforms provide the software to build your blog and also the space to store your blog (hosting). They install all updates to the software which means there is very low maintenance for the user.
Generally very easy to use use the biggest drawbacks are limits on functionality and customization. If you ever become dissatisfied with the platform it is often very hard to transfer your website to another host.
You choose the software of your choice to build your blog and install it on the hosting platform you have selected. You will usually be responsible for updating the software but this is generally very easy and doesn’t take too much time.
The main advantages of having a self-hosted blog are you are able to customize the appearance of your site and add nearly any functionality you require. If you are unhappy with your hosting you can transfer your blog to another host.
Examples of self-hosted blogging platforms are WordPress.org, Joomla or Drupal.
Now you know more about the different types of blogging platforms, let’s compare some of the most popular platforms. This list isn’t extensive but it does include most of the major platforms.
This is the self-hosted version of WordPress and is the most popular blogging platform today. Being used to power 29% of all websites.
The software is free to use but you will need hosting and a domain name.
The popularity of WordPress.org is due to its flexibility and ease of use. It can be used for anything from a simple blog to a large e-commerce or membership website. You have full control over your blog and can monetize it however you like.
There are thousands of both free and premium themes available to get your blog looking exactly how you want.
If you need some extra functionality there are thousands of free and paid plugins.
Depending on your hosting you will be responsible for backing up your blog and for security. This may sound a little worrying but there are plugins that make it quite an easy process.
There is a large community that provides support and many online tutorials.
The software is free, you need will a domain name about $14 per year and hosting anything from $3 to $8 per month for shared hosting.
One of the official recommended WordPress hosting providers, Bluehost, is offering hosting for just $2.95 per month with a free domain name, at the moment. This makes it very affordable for beginners.
Another alternative if you’re just starting and are worried about setting up a blog or website alone, is to follow an online training course.
My #1 recommendation offers some free training to get you used to the WordPress platform and how to get it set up.
Once you’ve gone through the free lessons and you feel confident enough to go it alone, then you can go and get your own hosting and continue by yourself. Alternatively, if you would like to continue with the step by step lessons then you can sign up as a premium member. You will receive lessons on all the different aspects setting up an online business. You get all the tools you need and support.
It’s how I started blogging and I recommend it to all beginners or even people with some experience.
WordPress.org is for bloggers who want complete control over their website. Suitable for beginners and experienced bloggers.
WordPress.com is a hosted service that offers a free blogging platform. The free hosting service is alright for a small personal blog or even if you are a newbie and want to get a little experience with WordPress. You will have a sub-domain something like mydomain.wordpress.com.
It is possible to pay for upgrades that will give you a custom domain name (mydomain.com), more stockage space, no adverts, the chance to monetize your site and integration with Google Analytics.
As it’s a hosted platform your blog is secure with automatic backups. However on the downside, there are many limits, you are only allowed to monetize your site with the Premium or the Business plans.
As with other hosted solutions, you do not own the site, so if you break any of the WordPress.com rules your blog can be suspended without any notice.
There is the free option then prices start at $4 per month (billed yearly) for your own domain. If you want to monetize your blog it will cost $8 or $25 per month. As a business website, you need the $25 per month plan to have unlimited storage, integration with Google Analytics and to remove the WordPress.com branding.
WordPress.com is a good choice if you want to create a free personal blog or get an introduction to blogging. If you’re new to blogging and you want to earn money from your website, I recommend using the WordPress.org software on your own hosting. Don’t be confused by the 2 WordPress platforms!
Joomla is a self-hosted solution, which means you will need a domain name and web hosting. The software is free and the process of installing Joomla on your hosting is similar to the WordPress installation.
The are hundreds of templates or themes to choose from and many extensions that enable you to do almost anything you like with your website.
There is a support section on the Joomla website where you have access to a forum, documentation and they have some training classes with videos to help beginners get started.
The software is free, you will need to pay for a domain name and hosting.
Although Joomla users may say it’s more powerful than WordPress, for a beginner it may be a little overwhelming. A good selection of themes and extensions mean you can build any sort of website you want. More complicated for a newbie to get started than WordPress.
A user-friendly hosted website builder. An easy way for a beginner to build a website using the drag and drop editor. You can add a blog to your website by adding the blog app.
If you stick with the free plan or the cheapest premium plan you will have Wix brand ads on your website. You will also have very limited storage space and bandwidth.
To add functionality to your website you have to add apps which are both free and premium
They have a good selection of about 500 templates, however, one of the big drawbacks with Wix is that once chosen you cannot change your template. Another negative point is that you can’t transfer your website to another web host.
You can have a basic website for free and have a subdomain name (mydomain.wix.com). To have your own domain name will cost you a least $4.50 per month. Other plans go from $8.50 to $24.50 per month.
Very easy for beginners to get started. Good for personal blogs but for a business website you need to be able to change the look of your site when you want. Will get expansive for a business website with lots of apps.
A hosted drag and drop website builder. They have a few dozen themes and it is possible to change themes when you like. To add functionality they have an app center with both free and premium apps.
The free plans will include a subdomain name and you will have Weebly brand ads on your blog.
Weebly has a help center, an online community, live chat and email support. For the most expensive plans, there is also telephone support.
For websites, the price starts at free and goes up to $25 per month if you pay annually ($35 paid monthly). If you want to build an online store the prices start at $8 ($14 paid monthly) and go up to $38 per month paid annually ($46 paid monthly).
Weebly makes it very easy to get started and is great if you want a personal blog. For a business site, it can get expensive and you may not get all the functionality you need.
A hosted site-building platform with an easy to use drag and drop editor. Easy to get started if you’re a beginner with a limited selection of great-looking templates.
Building a beautiful website is quite easy and Squarespace comes with a lot of built-in features. But when adding additional functionality you may need to go to a third party developer to find the functionality you need. This will add to your costs.
Squarespace offers different support channels notably 24/7 support through email or live chat. They have the policy to reply to all messages within 1 hour no matter the hour you post your message.
Squarespace makes it possible to export your website or blog to WordPress. This is an important consideration and perhaps it means Squarespace are confident you will rest with them. However, this is not the easiest process, better to start with the best platform from the beginning.
A personal site with 20 pages $12 per month billed annually. A business website with unlimited pages $18 per month billed annually (paid monthly $26 per month). Squarespace also has separate prices for building an online store. They offer a 14-day free trial.
You can build a great looking website with Squarespace and run a business. Adding the functionality and features you need can get expensive.
Tumblr is a microblogging platform and is a little different from the other blogging platforms mentioned in this post.
From the Tumblr dashboard you can create different types of posts:
To create a blog post you have a minimal editor, the emphasis is on your content not on tools or other features. Tumblr is used mostly for short or visual content and offers an easy way to create your own blog.
Although Tumblr has a nice blogging platform it seems to be more for community, sharing, and interaction within the Tumblr network. If your goal is to build a blog with a regular audience that ranks well in the search engines or build an email list then one of the regular blogging platforms mentioned in this post would be a better choice.
Tumblr is owned by Yahoo, you don’t own your blog which means it can be deleted at any time in the future.
Tumblr is free to use. There are some premium themes and plugins you can buy. Tumblr blogs point to a domain name that looks like myblog.tumblr.com, you can purchase your own domain name for your Tumblr blog.
Tumblr is a blogging platform and not much else. You won’t be able to create a business website or e-commerce store with Tumblr. Can be good if you don’t post much text but lots of images and videos.
Blogger is a blogging platform owned by Google. This is a free hosted solution and as it’s owned by Google it offers AdSense, AdWords, and analytics as built-in features. Your free domain will look like this myblog.blogspot.com.
An easy to use no frills platform with a few free templates, that you can customize and many third-party templates. You are limited in the customizations you can make but if you are experienced it’s possible to change your blog’s design by editing the HTML and CSS. The limitation on the functionalities you can add to your blog can be a cause of frustration.
As the platform is owned by Google, your blog could be suspended at any time if you don’t abide by the content policy or terms of service.
Google has a small help center for Blogger and there is also a Blogger help forum.
Free to use, possible to purchase your own domain name.
Blogger.com is ideal for beginners who just want a simple blog and aren’t interested in adding features and functionality to their blog.
Ghost is a relatively new (founded in 2013) non-profit blogging platform, providing both a hosted platform and also software that you can download and self-host. Here we’ll consider the hosted version which will be a lot easier for someone just starting.
Ghost may be a good choice for bloggers who just want a simple blogging platform and nothing else. The editor is completely different from the other hosted solutions in this post. On the left side of the editor you make changes and on the right side, you see a live preview of the page.
The way you write your blog is also very different from other platforms. Ghost uses Markdown to enable you to write rich content for the web. They say it’s faster than other methods but there is a learning curve, particularly if you’re used to other platforms. If Ghost is your first blogging platform then you would probably get used to Markdown quite quickly.
As with other hosted solutions, you won’t have to worry about maintenance, updates or security.
There is a help center and a website dedicated to support
Although the price may be a little more than other hosted platforms, all the money they make goes back into developing the system. The prices start at $19 per month if you pay annually ($29 paid monthly), this includes your own domain name. No limit on storage but limited to 50,000 page views per month, which is largely sufficient when starting.
There is a 14-day free trial.
An excellent choice for starting just a blog. Things are kept simple but if you’re looking to start a no-frills blog apart from your main website Ghost could be an excellent alternative, although a little expensive.
My Choice of Blogging Platform
Many people don’t choose the best blogging platform when they start and it’s quite understandable. They choose a free solution and one that they’ve heard is easy to use.
Unfortunately, the free solutions don’t provide all you need if you aim to make money from your blog. When deciding on your blogging platform you need to consider cost, features, support, ease of use, design, and more.
If you’re just starting and want a free blogging platform that allows monetization, you could try Blogger. Or if you’re not concerned about monetization but want a free blog that looks good WordPress.com, Weebly or Wix might be better choices.
If you want a blogging platform that allows full customization, any functionality you want and permits you to monetize your blog my recommendation is WordPress.org. In addition, it’s very affordable!
I hope this article has helped you decide what is the best blogging platform for you. If you have any recommendations or experiences to share please let us know below.