Over the years there have been a wide variety of platforms developed to make the process of blogging extremely easy, to the point where just about anybody can publish their own regularly updated website. There are both self hosted blogging software and hosted blogging services that you can use. Both have their pros and cons, and a variety of services are available for each – some free, and some which will cost you money to use. So which blog platform should you choose?
Self Hosted Blogging Software (You’ll Need A Hosting Account)
Using a self hosted option means that you’ll need to purchase a web hosting package, update your own software when updates come out, and that you’ll have more flexibility when it comes to choosing a design, adding advertising to your site, etc. It also means more hassle sometimes because you’ll need to maintain your own software and hosting package.
- WordPress.org: This is the one that I use, and it is quickly becoming the industry standard for those who take their blogging seriously. It is a free software, but it does require that you have a web host, and some basic know how or help to setup. Thousands of custom themes and plugins are available for the software.
- Movable Type: Another self hosted option and free download. I haven’t used it but by all accounts it is relatively easy to setup as well.
- Drupal: Another free content management system and blogging tool that has tons of add-on modules. More difficult to use by some accounts.
Hosted Blogging Service (You’re Hosted On Their Server)
Using a hosted blogging service means that the software, updates and hosting are all taken care of by a third party service. This means that there will be less maintenance tasks, less need to know details about hosting accounts/etc and less cost as many of the services are free. Unfortunately using a hosted blogging service also will limit your options when it comes to making changes to your site, adding ads, and in some instances can mean you don’t completely own the content.
- WordPress.com: This is similar to the WordPress.org self hosted software. The difference is that it’s hosted on the WordPress servers, and your options when using it are much more limited. If you’re looking to make money from your blog, advertising options on WordPress.com are extremely limited and restricted.
- Blogger.com: A free blogging service that I actually started out blogging on when I started blogging seriously in 2008. Great to try if you’re just getting your feet wet and not sure if you’re in it for the long run. I have however heard horror stories of people’s blogs getting shut off for little or no reason by Google – with no explanation. For that reason alone i might steer clear.
- TypePad: A paid blogging service starting at $8.95/month and that allows customization via themes. No experience with it, but some seem to like it.
- Tumblr.com: Another free blogging software that is easy to setup and use, but will limit your options if you’re serious about making money from your blog. It’s more of a micro-blogging software for shorter posts.
(for a more exhaustive list of blogging software, click here)
Which Blogging Platform Is The Best?
If you’re really serious about making money blogging, I’d suggest starting out with a WordPress.org self hosted blog as it will give you the most options when it comes to design, functionality and monetization. Not only that, it is one of the most widely used blogging platforms. Consider this post from Royal Pingdom talking about the most popular choice of blogging platforms among the top 100 blogs:
We found that WordPress is the most-used platform among self-hosted blogs, which perhaps isn’t a huge surprise. It has more than twice as many blogs in the top 100 as Movable Type, the blog platform that came in second place.
- WordPress is used by 27 blogs in the top 100.
- Movable Type is used by 12 blogs in the top 100.
- Only 8 of the top 100 blogs use a custom-made blog platform.
- Drupal is the only general-purpose CMS with any presence worth mentioning, with 4 blogs in the top 100.
That’s not to say that the hosted blog options aren’t popular, because they are. Many of the top 100 sites use hosted blogging services for their blogs and do quite well with it. Personally I prefer using a self hosted option because the pros outweight the cons.
Pros And Cons Of Blogging Services
- Pro – Cheap, affordable or free: Most hosted blogging services are going to be either free or very affordable. Blogger and WordPress.com are among the most popular, and are both free.
- Pro – Ease of setup and use: Using a hosted blogging services is usually pretty easy, and there isn’t a lot you need to do to set it up and keep it running.
- Pro – Updated automatically: To me this is one of the selling points of blogging services – that they’re updated automatically and there is no need to maintain your site on a regular basis.
- Con – Less configurable: In general hosted blogging services have more limitations and are less configurable when it comes to plugins, add-ons and making the software do something beyond the basics.
- Con – Less control: In general when you’re hosting your site with a 3rd party service, you have less control over your site. You’ll have to abide by their terms and conditions – and if you don’t – you can have your site turned off or deleted!
- Con – Generic subdomains: Having your site at a subdomain off of a blogging service looks amateurish at best, and isn’t the best option if you want to make money from your site.
- Con – Moving to self hosted later can be difficult: One thing I regretted was starting my site at blogger.com because it made moving to a self hosted version of WordPress later on a difficult chore. I had to export hundreds of posts, images, and a ton of other stuff. Do yourself a favor and start where you wont’ have to move.
Pros And Cons Of Self Hosted Platforms
- Pro – Full control of design: You can put up whatever theme you’d like on your site, make changes to themes, add ads, etc. You can basically do whatever you want – and you’re only limited by your skills and creativity.
- Pro – adaptability and extensibility: WordPress has a huge community that has developed hundreds of plugins and additions for the software, making it extremely flexible.
- Pro – free platform with free upgrades: The software is free, as are all the updates!
- Pro – Your own URL: While you can get your own URL at a hosted blogging service, you really HAVE to with a self hosted blog. And you SHOULD have your own domain name.
- Con – Complicated setup: Setup of your blog and custom themes aren’t going to be as simple as with a blogging service, especially if you want to do something a little different.
- Con – Cost: I spend several hundred dollars every year on hosting my sites, domain names and other miscellaneous costs associated with having a self hosted blog. On the flip side, I make thousands.
- Con – Maintenance: With a self hosted platform you have to deal with updating the software every time a critical security update comes out, or update your plugins when they get updated. And heaven forbid if something go wrong with one of your updates!
- Con – Learning curve: When first starting out with a new blogging platform there is a lot of stuff to learn. That’s why blogs like this one exist!
So there you have it, for me the pros of a self hosted platform – control, flexibility and extensibility – outweigh the cons of having a learning curve, cost and maintenance issues.
Darren from Problogger.net said it best I think, and sums up how I feel about which platform works the best for a money making blog.
If you’re wanting to develop serious blog and have aspirations for it to be used on a professional sort of level (whether as a business or corporate blog, as a blog to build your own profile or a blog to earn income from advertising) I’d recommend you go in the direction of a stand alone blog. Even if you are not highly skilled in this area it’s worth spending a little money to get it set up with a designer or even better still, to learn how to do it yourself.
So my suggestion? WordPress.org self hosted blog software. You’ll be glad you did.
So now I’d like to open it up to your thoughts a bit on the topic.
What content management system or blogging software do you use? Are you happy with it? Have you switched at any point? If so, why?