How to Start a Blog: Part 2 (Choosing the Best Blog Platform)
This is part 2 of the How to Start a Blog Series and it may be the most overwhelming; choosing the best blogging platform FOR YOU. If you’re new to blogging then you’re probably asking yourself, “What even is a platform”? A blogging platform is the software or service that you will use to publish your content onto the internet in the form of a blog / website. It is simply a content management system.
Please note, I've seen people get really sensitive + defensive about their respective blogging platform. At the end of the day, you need to choose what fits best for YOU! Do your research if you're not 110% confident on which platform to use! The opinions in this article are just that...my opinions + experiences.
A little history on the Rad Maverix website:
Rad Maverix originally started on the (free) Wordpress.com platform. Wordpress.com is great for beginner bloggers who don’t want the commitment of the monthly / annual fee of having a website but still would like to add a SMALL bit of customization to their blog. I emphasis SMALL BIT because you are pretty limited on the customization's available on the free software.
After a few months on Wordpress.com I felt a bit restricted on the design/customization side of things so I switched over to the self-hosted software, Wordpress.org. Both versions of WP, the .com and .org’s have essentially the same dashboard. So there was not a huge learning curve besides stepping into the shark pool I like to call the “Hosting biz”. When using the Wordpress.org software you have to provide your own hosting. Which means you have to do all of the maintaining on the back-end or contract it out. EW. I was on the .org for a couple of years and eventually got so tired of the maintaining / fixing / 'site not found' / 'bandwidth exceeded' bull that I didn’t even want to look at my website. I was spending SO much time maintaining and working on the back-end of Radmaverix.com that I felt discouraged and didn’t even have the time or energy to work on providing actual blog content! I have to add this disclosure, it may have been partially my chosen hosting company's fault that left such a bad taste in my mouth in regards to WP.org. Although the customer service was incredible I kept "exceeding bandwidth" and my site kept "going down" even though my traffic was not super high.
Not to mention, while my blog was on Wordpress.org my actual Rad Maverix Shop was being hosted on Shopify. So I was losing A LOT of SEO optimization / google rank because I was sending my blog readers and shoppers to 2 different websites! YUCK! I only suggest Shopify to retailers / shop owners who don't plan to blog or don't really care to have a lot of customization on their blog. Shopify is an EXCELLENT software for shop owners and I 100,000% support it!
Fast forward to Jan 2016 and I finally made the leap to Squarespace. The only thing I can say, is I wish I had done it sooner. Now, my blog + shop is housed under one really pretty + polished tin roof. The only thing that stopped me from moving to SS sooner was the fact that (at the time) SS did not integrate with Paypal and a lot of my customers used Paypal at checkout when buying tees + tanks. I was scared to death that I could potentially lose a lot of customers because Paypal would no longer be an option at checkout. THEN, SS decided to jump on the bandwagon and integrate with Paypal late 2016. YAY!
I've been on Squarespace for over a year now and it is still one of the best decisions I've made in my business to date.
I’m only going to compare a few of the platforms I have had experience with but will provide you with a more extensive list of possible platforms if you’d like to do further research.
pros / cons
The software is free and super easy to use ONCE you learn how to maneuver the Wordpress dashboard
- You are in complete control + essentially own your data
- You can upload and use plugins (more plugins = more customization's)
- You can buy and install REALLY cute themes (ETSY!) and modify theme files
- You can make money from it by using your own ads!
- Custom Analytics and Tracking
- Web hosting. This bit will cost you money somewhere from around $3 – $11 per month (as your site grows, your hosting costs will too as you are limited on traffic / space on your website).
- You are responsible for updates / backups and preventing SPAM. There are, however, plugins to help with these tasks.
- It’s free for up to 3GB of space. After that you will have to pay for space ($19.95 per year for 5GB) or ($289.97 per year for 100GB).
- They make regular backups of your site.
- They place ads on all free websites.
- You cannot sell ads on your site unless you have over 25k page views / month
- Cannot use plugins
- Cannot use custom themes
- Your site can be deleted at any time if they think it violates their Terms + Services
- Analytics are limited.
- Flexible pricing plans with a 14 day free trial period
- Self-hosted (you don't need to pay for hosting)
- Beautiful themes that are responsive to mobile devices.
- Drag + drop web design / extensive styling options
- SEO optimized
- All plans are AD-FREE
- No bandwidth or storage limit
- There is not a free option
- Harder to learn how to use other than other web builders
Integrations are limited to a select few services and tools
The Personal plan limits you on # of pages, 1 blog + 2 contributors
Points to consider before choosing a platform:
What exactly do you need your blog / website for?
Will you have a shop? or blog only?
Do you want to sell ads?
How much control do you want?
How much customization do you want?
Does your brain hurt yet? I hope not! Although, it can feel a bit scary and overwhelming try not to worry too much about which platform to start out with. You can always test it out and move to a different platform at a later date. There are gobs of resources on the WWW that will help you move your content from one platform to another if you decided to ever change service providers (literally step-by-step guides!).
Here is a list of other blogging platforms to look into:
What is your preferred platform?