If you’re looking to start a blog, you might be overwhelmed by all the options out there. That said, the most common platforms are undoubtedly Blogger and WordPress. Within WordPress though, there are two different types: WordPress.com and WordPress.org (man, not another option!). In this post, I’ll be going over the pros and cons of all three, to help you make your decision.
There are other platforms out there, like Tumblr, Wix, and Squarespace, but I’m not going to cover them as they’re not as popular for blogging, and I actually wouldn’t recommend anything other than Blogger or WordPress.
Before I begin, just a quick rundown of some blogging lingo I’ll be using:
Custom domain: this is a custom website address that doesn’t end in your blogging platform’s address. For example, thisismywebsite.blogspot.com wouldn’t be a custom domain, but thisismywebsite.com is. Custom domains don’t have to end in .com, but it’s most common for blogs, and it’s easiest to remember.
SEO (search engine optimization): this is how you get your site ranking on Google. Countless factors impact SEO, from URL structure to targeted keywords (what people are searching) to site age.
Blog theme: this is what controls the appearance of your blog (from fonts to layout). You can get themes for free, but you’ll need to pay for the most aesthetic and optimized ones.
Best Blogging Platform: Blogger vs. WordPress
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Blogger: best for beginners (and it’s free!)
Blogger is underrated, in my opinion. It gets a lot of hate, but I think it’s a much better free platform for beginners than its contenders. I was actually on Blogger up until January 2020, when I switched to self-hosted WordPress. My reader-submitted romantic tragedy memoir website is still on Blogger though.
Most bloggers’ “How to Start a Blog” guides will dissuade you from going with a free platform. They say it’s because paid platforms have more benefits, but I don’t think the cost is worth it if you’re not trying to make your blog a business and gain a wider audience.
Here’s why I like Blogger:
- Super easy to set up. It’s owned by Google, so if you have a Gmail, you can just use that account to create a Blogger blog.
- The interface is pretty intuitive, and it won’t be long before you know your way around.
- It’s easy to make your blog look professional: you can get a nice theme/layout for $10-15 (or for free), get a custom domain (usually $15), and remove all the Blogger branding (for free), and no one will even know your blog is on Blogger. You can run a pretty nice-looking blog for only $15/year, and make money on it. My first posts started ranking on Google when I was still on Blogger, and I made $400 in the first 6 months of monetizing my blog while still on Blogger (not anywhere near a full-time income, but I’m pretty proud of this!).
- If you want to use ads, Google AdSense is integrated into the platform (it’s a Google product, after all).
Here are the cons of Blogger:
- Not as much control over SEO. For example, you can set custom paths on Blogspot (the stuff after the backslash—the path for this post is “blogger-vs-wordpress”), but they must have the month and year in them, making your URLs less SEO-friendly. You also can’t control the image that pops up when people share your link on social—it’s always the first image of your post.
- Formatting of posts can get randomly messed up while you’re writing or copying & pasting from another doc, and it can take quite some time to wrestle with.
- No automatic backups of posts and photos.
- Not really any support—Blogger is a free product, so Google isn’t going to be there to answer your questions if something goes wrong. There are a decent number of blog articles and tutorials on common issues though.
- Google can remove your blog at any time if it violates its terms of service (this is highly unlikely to happen, but it has happened to people before).
WordPress.com: just don’t use this one
I haven’t ever had a blog on WordPress.com, but I did try to set up a site once, and I didn’t like what I saw. Here’s why:
- You can’t have a custom domain unless you pay at least $4/month to WordPress, on top of the $10-15/year for the custom domain itself. This adds up (already it’s more expensive than Blogger to run a nice-looking site). If you don’t want to pay, you have to have a .wordpress.com URL.
- There’s no way to remove WordPress branding, unless you pay (the “powered by WordPress” at the bottom). This is another domain where Blogger beats WordPress.
- You can’t use any plugins or themes that aren’t already on the platform (unless you’re on the $25-40 monthly plan), so there are fewer ways to personalize your blog. (Plugins are tools that help you do something specific without special code, like install your Instagram feed on your blog).
- There’s a limited amount of space (3GB) on the free plan. You might eventually run out if you write enough articles or upload enough photos.
- You can’t install ads to make money.
So, I wouldn’t recommend WordPress.com at all, especially if you want a professional or business site for cheap. Of course, it does have some pros over Blogger: automatic anti-spam for comments, and an image gallery, which makes it easy to reuse photos. That said, the cons greatly outweigh the pros.
If you just want a simple blog and don’t care about the WordPress branding, don’t want a custom domain, and are already familiar with WordPress, then I could understand going with WordPress.com. I just wouldn’t recommend it because if you were to want these things later on, you’d have to pay or migrate.
WordPress.org: best for professional sites
WordPress.org is the most popular blogging platform for people who want a truly optimized and professional site. You might be a little confused, as I just ragged on WordPress.com—what’s the difference between WordPress.com and WordPress.org?
WordPress.org is self-hosted, meaning that you need to need to first sign up for a website host. Website hosts have the storage and servers to keep your site running (the way I see it, it’s kind of like renting space on the internet for your site). For Blogger and WordPress.com, your host is the blogging platform. In the case of WordPress.org, you have a different website host from the blogging platform.
I personally use SiteGround as a host since it was the most highly recommended in my research (it has better performance, less downtime, and super quick support). I paid $6/month upfront for 3 years to lock in the introductory price, but the plans start at $4, and you can pay anywhere from 1-3 years upfront. After your introductory rate ends, bloggers recommend negotiating with SiteGround to get a discount on the regular price.
Bluehost is also very popular, as it’s cheaper than SiteGround in the long run (the regular rates are lower). They used to have cheaper intro rates too, but they recently raised their prices.
Why would I pay this much to run a website when I used to do it for almost free? Here are the pros of WordPress.org:
- WordPress allows you to truly streamline the SEO of your site, from the URL structure to the featured image on social media. There are also SEO plugins that can help you target certain keywords.
- Speaking of plugins, there’s a huge library of them for WordPress.org users. These can range from table of contents to image compression to contact forms.
- Your host can offer really useful features, such as website backup, speed optimization, and overall support. I personally love the automatic backup feature, as I don’t have to worry about losing my post if my internet freezes and I didn’t get the chance to save my draft. If something were to happen to my posts, I can also have a peace of mind knowing that SiteGround is backing them up.
- There are endless ways to customize your site, and a large variety of aesthetic themes (either for free, or for sale). Here are my favorite WordPress themes under $50.
Here are the cons of WordPress.org:
- It’s an investment, as it’s definitely more expensive. You have to pay for hosting (at least $50/year), and you need a custom domain (at least $10/year). WordPress.org themes are also more expensive (at least $40).
- There’s more of a learning curve, as the interface isn’t as intuitive.
- No automatic spam protection: if you use Disqus, the problem is solved. I opted for the native commenting system this time though, and just paid $6/year for spam protection through CleanTalk.
The Bottom Line
Honestly, the main factors are price, the time you’re willing to put into your blog, and whether you want it to be a business. If you want to make money with your blog and grow your pageviews, WordPress.org is the way to go. If you want a more casual blog, then I’d recommend Blogger.
You can always migrate, like I did, but it can be a huge pain depending on how many posts you have. I migrated ~60 posts, and it took me 30+ hours to complete everything (and time is money!). I don’t regret starting on Blogger since I was only blogging casually then, but if I were to start over today with my current blog/business goals, I’d start on WordPress.org.
I hope you found this breakdown helpful! As always, feel free to ask any questions. You might also find my comprehensive guide on how to start a blog helpful. It covers topics like choosing a successful niche, writing posts people will actually read, growing your audience, and making money with your blog.