Should I Choose a Free Blogging Platform for My Blog?
If you’re thinking about starting a blog, you’re probably wondering “Should I Choose a Free Blogging Platform for my blog?” And in your research, you’ve probably come across the term “self-hosted blog” more than a few times. Most people will tell you that a self-hosted blog is the way to go, especially if you’re looking to create a professional image for your business blog.
But what exactly is a self-hosted blog? And why do you need one if you can just start a blog for free through other services?
I think I’ve probably told you at least two dozen times that I started my own blogging journey with a free blogging platform. I started my very first blog with Blogger. That feels like a lifetime ago, and I’ve since graduated to WordPress for all my blogs.
Below, I’ll explain the details of the free and self-hosted blogging platforms, the pros and cons of each, and which one you should choose for your own blog.
The Free Blogging Platform
What is a “free blogging platform”?
A free blogging platform is one that is exactly that; it’s free to sign up for an account, get a domain (such as www.example.com), and set up your site. You can start your free blog with services like Blogger.com and WordPress.com.
The thing about a free account is that your website’s files are stored – or hosted – on your blogging platform’s servers. While there can be costs involved after the initial set up – which we’ll get to in a moment – this simple fact is what differentiates a free blog from a self-hosted blog.
Pros of a free blog:
- It’s Free. Duh.
- There are no initial start-up costs.
- Free blogging programs like WordPress and Blogger are easy to set up and maintain without any web design knowledge or training.
Cons of a free blog:
- Unless you pay for your own domain, you’ll have the WordPress or Blogger domain tacked onto yours, like www.myblog.blogspot.com.
- Free blogs look a lot less professional than self-hosted ones.
- You have a lot less control over your blog. For example, people who self-host their blogs with the WordPress software (WordPress.Org) can download plugins to expand their website’s capabilities. A free WordPress blog on WordPress.com doesn’t allow this, giving you very few options.
- You have a limited amount of bandwidth, video time, and memory space. This means that as your blog grows, you’ll have to migrate to the self-hosted platform.
- Free platforms usually limit your advertising options, meaning that it’s much more difficult to make money from your free blog.
What types of costs are involved?
A free blog can be completely free if you want it to. But if you’re looking to get rid of the “Blogger” or “WordPress” in your domain name, you’ll have to buy your own custom domain and assign it to it. Getting your own name can be as low as $10 depending on what you choose.
You can also choose to buy stock photos (as opposed to using free ones), hire a designer, or purchase an upgraded theme, which can all add to the cost of your blog.
Who should use free blogs?
Free blogs are best for people who are just getting into the blogging world or are not really serious about blogging. If you’re just blogging for fun, then, by all means, start with a free blog!
The Self-Hosted Blogging Platform
What is a “Self-Hosted” blogging platform?
A self-hosted blog is one that is housed on your own server. Most people, however, pay a third-party to host their blog, which opens them to all the benefits of a self-hosted blog. Sites like Siteground is among some of the popular companies that provide hosting services. Essentially, these companies rent out digital storage space to users to make running a website possible.
Pros of a self-hosted blog:
With a self-hosted blog:
- You have full control over your blog, including its layout, search engine optimization, ad revenue, additional functions, and much more.
- You can install custom themes to brand your blog to your own tastes.
- You have complete access to your backend files, which allows you to make any necessary code changes if you’re so inclined.
- Using a third-party host usually costs only a few dollars per month, which is no biggie.
Cons of a self-hosted blog:
- It requires an initial investment (but it’s a small one…don’t stress).
- It can be extremely intimidating to new bloggers.
What types of costs are involved?
Like with a free blog, any photos, domain names, and themes that you purchase will add to your costs. With self-hosting, you also have to invest in the cost of using a third-party host.
The good news is that hosting usually costs under $5 per month. Certain plugins which are a piece of software that you can install on your site to expand its functionality can cost money too, but I recommend trying out the free version before you go spending money on them.
Who should use self-hosted blogs?
Since self-hosted blogs look more professional and have more functions, they’re best for those who want to get serious about blogging. They’re ideal for the individual who wants to give their audience professional appearance and boost the functions available on his or her website.
WordPress.com vs. WordPress.org
One issue that often comes up when looking at free sites versus self-hosted sites is the difference between WordPress.com and WordPress.org.
Most people get the two confused. Many going with WordPress.Com thinking that they’re the same, but the .com version is ‘easier’ to figure out.
What is WordPress?
WordPress is an open-source platform that was developed by tens of thousands of people. Essentially, WordPress was created by a community of developers, and it’s now a free blogging platform that can be used on a free or self-hosted basis.
To get a free WordPress blog, all you have to do is visit WordPress.com to start designing your site. WordPress.com is run by Automattic, a company created by WordPress’s co-founding developer Matt Mullenweg. Here, you can use a restricted version of the WordPress software, and your site will be hosted on their servers.
WordPress.org, on the other hand, offers the full extent of the WordPress software. In order to use it however, you’ll need somewhere to store your website’s files. That’s where a third-party host comes in handy.
If you’re not sure which one you want to go with, it’s worth starting a blog at WordPress.com, then upgrading to a self-hosted blog while still using the WordPress software.
Once you find a host, follow the instructions to install WordPress on your site, and you’re good to go!