If you’re thinking about starting a blog, one of the first things you have to decide when you actually start is, “What blogging platform should I use?”. There are a lot of options out there now! I’ve been blogging since 2013, and I’ve changed platforms since I started, and I’ve gone from hobby blogger to professional blogger. So I know a lot about different blogging platforms, as well as hosting.
In this post, I’m going to use my expertise to explain what a blogging platform is, share 5 different platform options, and discuss why I use self-hosted WordPress as well as my experience with it. Whether you’re a newbie blogger or looking to take your blog to the next level, I hope that this blog post helps you!
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What “Blogging Platforms” Means
A blogging platform is the place where you do your blogging.
It is probably the place where you will spend most of your blogging time. That is where you write your blog posts, unless you are writing your posts in Word and copying and pasting them into your platform.
Your platform is not your domain name. It is not your blog’s host (although theoretically it could be).
The platform is so basic to the blog that it is difficult to explain.
Essentially, it is where everything happens.
My blogging platform is self-hosted WordPress. WordPress is available in two versions: free (.com) and self-hosted (.org). Free WordPress is, well, free. In that case, WordPress is your host. Self-hosted WordPress means that I use WordPress as my platform, but it is hosted somewhere else: Webhostinghub.com for me. Most important, self-hosted means that I am the owner of my content.
When I started blogging, it was a simple creative outlet. I was a public school teacher right out of college – aka, completely and totally broke. Initially, all I cared about was having a place to put my thoughts.
Then it started to become a bit more than that: it was a way to educate people about the illness(es) I have. Yes, it was – and still is, honestly – a creative outlet, but that wasn’t all it was. It had a purpose beyond getting my thoughts out in the world.
And then I had to quit my teaching job because those illnesses were running rampant and teachers work ridiculous hours. I needed joint surgery and to fix my life. So this blog became an actual source of money in addition to being a creative exercise and a way to help other patients.
Somewhere in that time period, before I started grad school, this blog brought me regular, actual money and I started writing serious posts. And I wanted to own this content.
Because somewhere along the way, I learned that if your blog is not self-hosted, you do not own your content.
If your blog is on Blogger, Google owns your content.
If your blog is on WordPress.com (and not .org), WordPress owns your content.
It does not matter that you are the one who created it; you do not own it if you’re not self-hosted. (That’s what the “self” in “self-hosted” stands for.)
Self-hosting costs money. It is not cheap, which is why I didn’t do it at first. Or for the first few years. In fact, I waited until I won a contest where the prize was getting set up with self-hosting and having all of your content transferred from Blogger to self-hosted WordPress. Because in addition to the price, it is complicated to switch.
But I am so glad that I did. At the very least, I actually owned my content. And then, my blog traffic started to increase, and it quickly paid off.
Getting used to WordPress.org was definitely difficult, but I haven’t looked back. Maybe you would feel the same about self-hosted WordPress and maybe you would feel the same about a different blogging platform. The purpose of this post is not to convince you to use self-hosted WordPress but to help you to use the platform that is best for you and your blog.
So let’s talk about that.
Blogging Platform Options
Now that I’ve talked about what exactly blogging platforms are, let’s talk about the most popular platforms out there. To be clear, these are not the only ones available, but these are the most frequently-used ones.
To reiterate, this is the free version of WordPress when they (WordPress) are the hosting site. On the dot-com info site, WordPress says, “Open source WordPress is the most popular online publishing platform, currently powering more than a third of the web. We wanted to bring the WordPress experience to an even larger audience, so in 2005 we created WordPress.com. We’re a hosted version of the open source software. Here, you can start a blog or build a website in seconds without any technical knowledge” (x).
As they say, the point of dot-com is to provide their great site but without the user needing to have tons of technical knowledge. When they mention “Open source WordPress,” they’re referring to WordPress.org. And to be perfectly clear, I personally don’t have a lot of technical knowledge or familiarity, which is why adjusting to dot-org was so difficult.
WordPress-dot-com is an awesome platform for people getting used to blogging and figuring out if it’s something you want to do. Blogging is not cheap – it’s very hard to do it entirely for free. So I really think that it’s good to start with a free site like WordPress-dot-com or Blogger before you know 100% that you want to spend the money on hosting.
If you want to own your content, to customize your blog down to the smallest thing, and you want to use WordPress, dot-org is for you. The dot-org site says, “WordPress is software designed for everyone, emphasizing accessibility, performance, security, and ease of use. We believe great software should work with minimum set up, so you can focus on sharing your story, product, or services freely. The basic WordPress software is simple and predictable so you can easily get started. It also offers powerful features for growth and success” (x).
This is extremely true! On the back-end, your dot-org WordPress site can be as simple or complex as you want. This is something that I love about WordPress. I’m going to talk about my experience with WordPress in a bit, so I’ll move onto other platforms now.5 different blog platforms that you could use whether you're new to blogging or you're thinking about changing your platform. Click To Tweet
Blogger is a platform owned by Google. This is the platform that I used when I started blogging! The host is Google, and as such Google itself owns all blogs published with Blogger. The Blogger Wikipedia page says, “Blogger is a blog-publishing service that allows multi-user blogs with time-stamped entries” (x).
You can use your own domain for Blogger or you can use yoururl.blogspot.com (aka katethealmostgreat.blogspot.com). If you don’t want to use the blogspot.com addition to your URL, you need to set up your own domain and DNS redirection. But even if you use your own URL, you still won’t own your content through Blogger because Google is the host in those cases.
To be perfectly clear, I don’t have experience with a Wix blog, so I’m going off of what I’ve heard and what I know from our friend Google. Just to be 100% transparent!
Wix’s About page says, “We provide a world-class platform to over 150 million users in 190 countries, empowering everyone to express themselves and build their online presence. Whether you’re an entrepreneur, designer, developer, musician, photographer or restaurant owner, you’ll find specialized features to create a professional website and manage your business” (x).
From what I’ve seen of Wix, it feels like a more creative platform than Blogger or WordPress. This seems to be confirmed from their website, as they say, “Promote your business, showcase your art, set up an online shop or just test out new ideas. The Wix website builder has everything you need to create a fully personalized, high-quality free website” (x).
Their Wikipedia page says, “Users can add social plug-ins, e-commerce, online marketing, contact forms, e-mail marketing, and community forums to their web sites using a variety of Wix-developed and third-party applications” (x).
From what I can tell, Wix has a similar set-up to Blogger and WordPress in that if you want to use it for free, you can, but you won’t get to use your own domain for it. They have a great chart comparing their free plan to the premium plans which seems to confirm this. However, it does seem like you can’t self-host your Wix site, which means that Wix would own your content.Blogging 101: what a blog platform is Click To Tweet
Like with Wix, I don’t have personal experience with a Squarespace blog. But it’s a popular platform, so I’ve done some research to help write this post!
Squarespace “empowers millions of people — from individuals and local artists to entrepreneurs shaping the world’s most iconic businesses — to share their stories and create an impactful, stylish, and easy-to-manage online presence” (x). Their website talks a lot about empowering users so that users can do things on their own, without needing help from Squarepsace themselves.
As a heads up, there isn’t a free plan, but all Squarespace plans include 1 year of a free custom domain, and domains can be bought through them. All plans come with one custom domain, but you can buy other domains (x).
Additionally, there isn’t a self-hosting option. Squarespace is owned by Amazon. I’m not sure if that means that Amazon would own your website or not; the FAQ on Squarespace’s website says you don’t need to use another website for yours, and “all Squarespace plans include our fully-managed cloud hosting, ensuring your website remains available at all times” (x).
How I Chose WordPress
A question I see in a lot of blogging Facebook groups is, “What’s the best blogging platform?” I don’t think that there is an absolute, definite answer; the answer is going to depend on the person and the purpose for the blog.
But I’ve been with self-hosted WordPress since 2015 and I haven’t looked back. I love it. If I were to make the choice to switch from Blogger again, I would choose self-hosted WordPress every day. If someone told me today that I could switch to any other platform and they would take care of the technical stuff of switching and it would be free to switch, I wouldn’t leave WordPress.
Why do I love WordPress?
First and foremost, I love that I own my content. Have I mentioned that enough in this post? As you can tell from my frequent emphasis of owning your content, it’s super important to me. Did you know that I have published over 1,000 blog posts? I have, and I love that they are all mine.
Once I found out that Google owns your content if your blog is on Blogger, I was upset. It made sense, as it was free to use Blogger, so someone had to be covering the cost of the servers, etc. But it still bothered me.
Like I said, I switched to WordPress in 2015. Once I switched, my blog traffic grew by 71%. You read that right; it’s not a typo. I’m not 100% certain why that is, but I think that it’s because you can customize the back-end of your website a lot more than with Blogger because it’s self-hosted.
One way that you can customize your site is through plugins. There are so many plugins out there. I got a bunch when I started in 2015, but then once I was a lot more familiar with them and what I like and didn’t like, I narrowed down my usage a lot. I now only use plugins I like, and if I don’t like one, I remove it completely from my site so it doesn’t take up space.
Right when I switched, it was a steep learning curve. But I haven’t had any problems with self-hosted WordPress. Just the struggle of getting used to new technology.
This summer, it will be 6 years since I switched, which is 3 years longer than I was with Blogger. What was holding me back from doing it sooner was not wanting to pay for someone to do it for me, and not feeling comfortable with doing it myself.
But I have never second-guessed my decision to switch to WordPress.
There are always going to be struggles with adjusting to new or new-to-you technology. If that’s what’s holding you back from trying a new platform, know that that’s going to be true no matter what platform you choose. So if you want to do it, figure out which platform aligns most with what you want out of your blog and take the plunge.
How did you decide on your blogging platform?
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