How do I decide which free blog site I should use: WordPress, Weebly or Blogger? Deciding on a blog platform to use is a daunting task. Are all free blog platforms created equal? The easy answer is no.
My first blog was created on Weebly. I bought a url, at their suggestion. For some reason I thought I needed to buy it for 10 years. This was a mistake since I had no idea what direction the blog was taking. Weebly, however, was easy to use and set up.
At this point, I didn’t have much insight into tags or how to make the site search engine friendly. Of course, I did absolutely no promotion of the site. If Weebly has its own internal promotion capability, I didn’t really know about it at that time. As a result, mainly due to my lack of knowledge, that site went by the wayside.
A year or so later, a friend who knows writing is important in my life challenged me to be blogging on a regular basis. When I said I didn’t quite understand Weebly or how even to get followers there, he suggested Blogger.
At Blogger there is a built-in mechanism for capturing email addresses of followers. Networked blogs also adds followers to the site. Their help sites are good if you know enough to know what to search about.
I learned things like how to add photos to my blog posts, how to add an archive and how to add Google ads. This, for me, was not a good idea because I had no knowledge of what types of ads I even wanted on my site.
In reality, I think for the short time I had ads on my site, I was probably not in compliance with their free site stipulations. Plus none of my ads made any money because I had so few readers.
Hearing that WordPress was actually the place bloggers needed to abide because of the great numbers of bloggers on WordPress and its awesome search engine capabilities, I began searching for information on WordPress. I still was not wanting to spend any money on a site. I wanted to be able to manage it all on my own.
It seemed the WordPress.com community was the perfect fit for me. It requires nothing except for me to sign up and begin the blog. Tutorials talk you through the entire process. The main issue was deciding on which theme I wanted. I started out with a free theme. You can purchase more elaborate themes if you wish.
The theme I used was called Twenty-Eleven. You can see the site here. I don’t use it any more but I still get 5-10 hits a day on that site. Who knew?
It was an easy theme to use and has many more in-depth features if you want to search the tutorials. These include things like how to use categories, inserting widgets (which are various things you can add to your sidebar), how to add your own photo, how to change the header photo, how to change your blog title, and many others. Along the way, I also discovered how to import my blog posts from Blogspot over the WordPress.com so I had everything in one spot.
When I switched to WordPress.com, I did it mainly for search engine optimization. It uses Google’s technology to scan your site thus getting more hits from internet searches. In other words, WordPress is much better at getting you out to the whole world. It’s up to you to say what the world wants to hear.
There is also a large WordPress.com community. Your blog is made known to others in the same community receiving more hits from other like-minded individuals. I quickly built a following that was about 50% those who I knew and 50% those I had never met before. I had followers all over the world, Germany and the Philippines just to name those I remember.
Everything was fine until I found out why WordPress.com is so easy to use. First of all, they do not allow any ads or monetization of your site. Some do these things but, when they are discovered, they are shut down. Second, you must work within the confines of WordPress.com.
With WordPress.org you can change things, add plug-ins, add as many widgets as you wish, etc. It’s your site. With WordPress.com it’s like the difference between renting a house and owning a house. When you rent you can’t change the cabinets or the flooring. When you buy you can change or add whatever you wish. WordPress.com is renting. WordPress.org is buying.
Although WordPress.com is free, it is only free up to 3 gb of space. After that you must purchase additional space. This because WordPress.com is hosting the site for you. As a result WordPress.com is really in control of your website. They can delete at any time for any infraction of their rules.
Enter WordPress.org. I realized if I ever wanted to sell a book I write or run an ad on my site, I needed to have the kind of site that would allow this.
The decision to switch to WordPress.org was a yes-no process, like most major decisions in my life are. Yes, I will write a book and want to promote it on my blog. No, I don’t have a book to sell right now. Yes, the time to build a new following is now. No, I don’t want to lose my current followers. Yes, I probably should move. No, it’s going to be too hard to implement. Yes, I want to be able to have custom analytics, see where my followers come from, how long they stay on the page, etc. No, I don’t want to figure how to understand all of that information. Yes, I might want to run my own advertising. No, I don’t like it that WordPress.com runs their ads on my site but doesn’t allow me to run my ads.
In the end, I decided to pull up my big girl panties, as a friend of mine loves to say, and go to the more professional site.
Making the switch was not as difficult as I thought it would be. I discovered several resources that helped tremendously.
First, arealchange.com is a web site run by entrepreneuer Sandi Krakowski. She highly recommends WordPress.org, the self-hosted WordPress as the only platform for those seriously considering starting a business. In addition, she recommends purchasing the Thesis theme to run on it. WordPress software is free. Thesis costs $87. Click the link on the right if you are interested in learning more. However, there are many themes that are free.
Second, GoDaddy.com is where I searched for and purchased the domain name for my url. I also use them as my host site at about $5-$6 a month. The cost for the domain name was about $10. You can find out more about GoDaddy by clicking the link on the right.
Third, the one-click install process for WordPress.org wasn’t as easy as most people say it is. However, a nice GoDaddy customer service rep helped me install it and the Thesis theme.
I learned there are many plug-ins that make the site sing from SEO, to contact forms and Google analytics. Having someone who knows this from constant use is helpful. There are hundreds of plug-ins and since I didn’t have the time or energy to research them, I turned to pro Sandi Krakowski who offers classes to help a beginner like me know where to start. But if you don’t want to pay for that advice, just start searching for WordPress plug-ins and see if they work for you. There are many free ones. To date I have not paid for a plug-in.
Bottom line recommendation: I’d start with WordPress.org if you have at least $5 a month to invest and about $100 upfront money. One other piece of advice regarding money, don’t bother with insurance and saving your url for your lifetime, just purchase the basic url and use it for awhile.
You are not going to have overnight success and millions flocking to steal your url, at least not right at first. Your host will notify you before your site is ready to expire and give you first dibs on it any way. As with anything there are many additional premiums you can buy. Resist the impulse. Take a test drive for several months before you decide.
If you want to spend no dollars, go the WordPress.com route. It is a viable option especially for someone who just wants to start a blog.
If you have questions, feel free to ask. If I don’t know I’ll try to find out for you. In the meantime, happy blogging. Oh, and leave your url here so I can follow you.