7 Characteristics to Look for in a Blogging Platform
With so many blogging sites on the market, it can be a bit of a jumble to figure out which essential features you need before forking over your money. Even if you opt for a free blogging platform, you should still be discerning when choosing the right blogging platform for you.
- Ease of use. It does not matter how feature-packed a blog site may be. If it doesn’t come with a user-friendly interface and easy setup, you’ll likely never find their other blogging tools useful. If a company’s blogging software doesn’t feel intuitive to you, move on. (Note, of course, that any piece of software comes with some sort of learning curve. So compare the product to other software programs.)
- Built-in web hosting. In today’s online blogging market, blogging software frequently comes bundled with a website builder and the option for web hosting. If those don’t come bundled with the package, perhaps the blogging site is asking for unpaid work that they should be handling for you.
- No coding skills required. You are a blogger, not a coder. You deal with words, phrases, and sentences, not HTML5 or binary code. A worthy blogging platform will handle all the under-the-hood coding and free you up to get creative.
- Customizable. Your blog is a reflection of your brand or your personality. This means you should be allowed to customize the colors, fonts, and layouts on your blog in a way that accurately represents your chosen image. If your blogging platform insists on displaying every post in a single font, it is hogging design control that really belongs to you. They should also allow you to use a custom domain name that routes to your blogging site. The best website to start a blog will be one that lets you be yourself (and show off your brand) at all times.
- Audience-building tools. A brilliant blog does you little good if no one actually sees it. Choose a blogging platform that offers search engine optimization (SEO) and easy social networking connections that will get your blog posts in front of more eyes. There are billions of people on the internet, and the best blogging software will help you reach them.
- Ample customer support. In the world of web-based software, adequate customer support is hardly a given. While you might not get tons of easy customer service from a free blogging platform, you should certainly seek robust support from a paid plan. Which leads to the final crucial characteristic.
- Reasonable pricing. Many of the leading choices for web hosting and blogging support operate on a paid model. Expect to pay a monthly or yearly fee to receive a top-tier experience. Still, the rate you pay should fit the scope of what you aim to achieve through blogging. Be sure to shop around — rates in this sector are competitive — and make sure your blogging platform doesn’t become a money pit. If you’re looking to blog for free, you can do it, but your publishing choices will be limited.
7 Blogging Platforms to Meet Your Needs
No two bloggers have quite the same needs, and no two blogging sites have quite the same suite of features and prices. Use this comparison guide to help you choose the best blogging software for your own needs as a creator.
WordPress ranks as one of the most used blog sites on the internet, and has for years. This is due in no small part to the platform’s immense flexibility.
- It offers two platforms. WordPress.org is a free blogging platform, but it does not include web hosting. WordPress.com offers all-in-one website building and web hosting.
- Wide range of prices. The cheapest paid WordPress plan (other than the free version) runs for $4 per month, and the most expensive is $45 per month (as of Jan. 2022). Each tier of the service adds different features like integrated Google Analytics, advanced SEO tools, and automated site backups. Higher tiers also add storage capacity, which tops out at 200 GB for the Business and eCommerce tiers.
- Remarkably customizable. WordPress blogs take on all sorts of aesthetic forms. There is a good chance that you have viewed many a WordPress blog without even realizing what platform it was built on. Conversely, if you’re particular about format, WordPress has plenty of built-in templates that are likely to suit your needs.
- Ample support for plugins. Many third-party software developers offer WordPress plugins that expand the functionality of the platform. Think of the plugin market like an App Store for the core operating system that is WordPress. Anything you might want to add to your blogging site — SEO, photos, videos, surveys, HTML games — there’s probably a WordPress plugin for it.
In recent years, Squarespace has become an aggressive competitor in the blogging space — advertising heavily and targeting specifically the creative industries.
- Emphasis on creative arts. Squarespace is great for creatives in the world of video, photography, and graphic design. Its blogging tools tend to reflect that emphasis. For instance, Squarespace offers an image-forward layout option called Portfolios that can make blog entries look like an elegant art installation.
- Somewhat pricier than WordPress. The cheapest Squarespace plan starts at $12 per month, but it comes with more core features — like SEO tools and website metrics — than the base WordPress plan. The priciest plan runs $40 per month. (Prices accurate as of Jan. 2022)
- Relatively easy to use. Squarespace doesn’t have the simplest learning curve among today’s leading website builders. That honor might go to Weebly with its drag-and-drop interface or Blogger with its bare-bones layout. This isn’t to say mastering Squarespace is particularly difficult. If you mainly plan to use your Squarespace site for blogging, you will find it quite easy to navigate.
- Strong for eCommerce. Squarespace offers users the ability to sell products using its sites, and it provides useful tools like dedicated customer accounts and fully integrated eCommerce with no need for third-party plugins. This lets your customers shop with you and never have to navigate to a third party.
Previously an independent platform, Weebly was purchased by Square, the payment platform (now called Block, Inc. and not related to Squarespace). Thus far, the new owner has kept Weebly’s functionality largely intact while adding more sales tools based around the parent company’s intrinsic interest in eCommerce.
- Notably intuitive. Compared to many other website builders, Weebly is remarkably easy to use. Its drag-and-drop interface lets you add modules at any place on a webpage. It comes with various native plugins, some of which can only be unlocked with higher-tier subscriptions.
- Free plan available. Weebly offers a free tier with basic functionality, but if you opt for a paid plan, they run from $6 per month to $26 per month (as of Jan. 2022).
- Emphasis on eCommerce. Since its purchase by Square, Weebly has rolled out many more tools for eCommerce sellers such as Quick Shop checkout and an automatic tax calculator. It also has many SEO tools for tweaking page titles and metadata. These help your blog or website get noticed in the broader sea of the internet.
The Wix platform combines many of the best traits of its competitors including ease of use, flexibility, and SEO tools. Its prices have crept up, however, making it a bit more expensive than the competition.
- Template-based design. Wix makes it easy to build a website or blogging platform by steering users toward templates. Each of these template designs has targeted functions. Whether you’re aiming for a broad readership, lots of embedded videos, or hefty online sales, Wix probably has a template that fits your needs.
- Somewhat pricier than most competitors. Wix’s entry-level pricing starts at $14 per month, but users who need to do some heavy content hosting will be steered toward plans ranging from $18 to $39 per month (prices accurate as of Jan. 2022).
- Very strong for SEO. If your goal is showing up in search engines, it’s hard to top Wix’s platform. It offers industry-leading optimization tools and plenty of visitor analytics that help you identify your target audience and reach them on the web.
If your main goal is blogging, with no designs on slick style or eCommerce sales, it’s hard to beat Blogger, a free blogging platform from Google. Blogger was launched all the way back in 1999 by a company called Pyra Labs (later acquired by Google) and is considered one of the very first websites expressly dedicated to blogging.
- Made by Google. Blogger is a Google product, which means it takes great advantage of Google Analytics tools. Using these tools, you can learn a lot about who is reading your blog. (Hint: It will be people who don’t care about fancy formatting, as Blogger is one of the least customizable platforms out there.)
- Great for pure blogging, but little else. You can’t beat Blogger when it comes to drafting and publishing simple entries, and it's easy to insert graphics, YouTube clips, and hyperlinks. If you need more complex functionality, look elsewhere.
- Free. Blogger is free, and it’s hard to argue with that.
- Google AdSense integration. You can make money with a really popular Blogger site, thanks to Google AdSense integration, which places relevant ads on your page. You get a cut of the money Google makes when people click on these ads. (Note: Never click on your own page’s ads, or Google will suspend your account.)
Compared to other blogging platforms, Medium fills an interesting niche — it comes with a built-in community that makes your posts more visible to strangers. This is because it acts as a publisher and makes its user’s posts available to an audience of paid subscribers.
- A wide array of people publish on Medium. Medium has been used by both the world’s biggest celebrities and obscure writers alike. Having a piece published on Medium will not make it prestigious in and of itself, but the platform is a place where important exchanges occasionally take place.
- Free to post, but subscribers pay to read. You don’t have to pay money to blog on Medium. However, readers may hit a paywall to see your work (after they go through a monthly quota of free articles). This means you might not be going viral on Medium as you might with blogging outlets, but you will reach people who care about interesting content.
- Chances to get paid. Medium has what is known as the Medium Partner Program, which gives its writers money when their posts generate a lot of online engagement. You might not make as much money as you would from ads that Google plants onto a viral Blogger post, but you can still get paid for your work.
- Very little customization. When you blog on Medium, your work appears in the house format. You can disguise a WordPress site to look like anything you want, but on Medium, you’re part of the overall brand established by the publisher. On the flip side, you may get reader engagement that you’d never have if you were out in the wilds of the internet all by yourself.