As new bloggers start out one of the first questions they are faced with is where to blog. There are many choices, but there are three that tend to dominate, so what’s the difference?
Blogger.com (aka Blogspot) is the free blogging platform owned by Google.
- It’s owned by Google. Because Blogger/ Blogspot is owned by Google, your posts are likely to get indexed quickly and rank decently on Google.
- It’s Free, so the start-up costs are pretty much non-existent. It’s a great way to get started blogging, it’s even how I started my blog. It’s fairly user-friendly and easy to set up (even my mom set up a blog on Blogger).
- It’s reliable. Because Google is hosting your blog there’s very little likelihood of downtime (those inconvenient moments when no one can access your blog).
- It’s secure. Again, Google owns it and they aren’t likely to allow for any risks in security to their servers. So, the likelihood of your blog getting hacked is pretty low.
- You can monetize your blog. Blogger does allow you to monetize your blog both through using Google Adsense ads (which are very easy to add to your blog) and by advertising other websites through widgets.
- You don’t own your blog. At any time (for pretty much any reason) Google could decide to shut your blog down. You’d lose all your followers, traffic, and posts.
- You don’t have control. You are very limited with blogger on what you can display on your blog, and how things look.
- You don’t have support. Good luck getting a question answered by Google. They are huge and Blogger really isn’t one of their features that they provide much (if any) support for. If something happens, or you have a question, you’ll have a concussion from beating your head against a wall before you get an answer from support.
- It’s owned by Google. If you’ve paid attention to Google over the last few years you’ve seen how many projects they’ve started and killed (or just stopped supporting). Blogger is one of those that really has almost no support and there’s no guarantee that at some point they won’t just shut it down altogether (like they did their feed reader and so many other projects).
- No Java – Java allows you to do some cool things with embedding forms and other things in your website, but you can’t use it with Blogger
- No FTP Access – FTP access allows you to edit files and directly upload them to your server, but this is another feature you don’t get with Blogger
WordPress.com is the free way to host a WordPress blog. There is often a good bit of confusion when people say they have a WordPress website because it can mean that they use the WordPress back-end on a self-hosted website, or it may mean that they have set up a free site/blog on WordPress.com. Despite the name confusion, these are two very different things.
- It’s free. Much like Blogger, WordPress.com is free. This makes it really easy to give blogging a try when you aren’t sure if you are ready for a monetary or time commitment.
- No maintenance. WordPress.com keeps everything tidy and up-to-date for you. So, if you prefer set it and forget it and just want to focus on sharing your daily diary updates, this is probably the way to go.
- Network. One of the best features of WordPress.com is the community. It’s easy to interact with other WordPress blogs, and your blog might just get featured to the millions of WordPress readers on their Blog of the Day.
- You don’t control the ads. If you are on WordPress.com your blog will show ads, but you don’t get to control them.
- You can’t sell ad space on your blog. Well, you can if you have at least 25,000 pageviews, a custom domain name, and you apply for WordPress’s ad program (but then you still don’t get to control the ads and you have to split the revenue with WordPress).
- No ownership. You don’t own your blog. So, if WordPress wants to they can kill your blog at any time forcing you to start over somewhere else.
- No Third Party options – this includes third party plugins, but also third party statistics like Google Analytics. You can’t insert any custom code into your blog.
- No plugins. Plugins are amazing bits of code that allow you to do any number of things on your blog, from control where and how things are displayed to improve search engine optimization (SEO) to create a full social networking site. With plugins your site becomes much more than a blog, it can be anything you want… but not if you are on WordPress.com
- Limited theme support. While there are unlimited numbers of themes (both free and paid) for self-hosted WordPress sites, the number of themes available on WordPress.org are pretty limited (and pretty bland).
- No Java – Java allows you to do some cool things with embedding forms and other things in your website, but you can’t use it with WordPress.com
- No FTP Access – FTP access allows you to edit files and directly upload them to your server, but this is another feature you don’t get with WordPress.com
Tip: If you are setting up your blog on WordPress.com/Blogger/Blogspot go ahead and invest the $10 for a domain name and point it at your blog. That way if you decide down the road that you want to move your blog (or Blogger forces you to) you can still keep your readers.
WordPress.org (Self-hosted) is the back-end service of WordPress. Most hosting plans come with this “click to install” service.
- Full control. Unlike Blogger or WordPress.com, when you are self-hosted you are completely in control. This can be both bad and good. It means more work but it also means more freedom. You can choose any themes or plugins your heart desires.
- More Opportunities. While income opportunities are limited with both Blogger and WordPress.com, when you are self-hosted, there are no limitations (except, of course, legality). You can sell your own books, promote other websites, sell ads, or whatever you choose to do.
- More Money. Not only can choose how you will make money but you get to keep it all. No need to pay WordPress.com 50% or be limited by what ads you can sell.
- You own your blog. This means you control the content, you control how it looks, you control everything. You still have to stay legal but you have a lot more freedom.
- Unlimited Themes and plugins. You can use any of the third-party themes or plugins (free or paid).
- Increased support. Not only can you get support from your hosting company, but there are thousands of WordPress developers and coders available to lend you a hand.
- Freedom isn’t Free. In addition to paying for a domain name, you’ll also have to pay for hosting. This is a monthly or annual fee that can range from $4/mo on up (depending on your traffic and needs).
- More Work. Because you aren’t already part of Google’s or WordPress.com’s networks you’ll have to work a little harder to build traffic. You’ll want to learn some SEO basics regardless of your platform but it’s even more important when you are on your own. You’ll also be responsible for all of your own maintenance, including making sure plugins are up-to-date.
This infographic will further help you break down the differences between WordPress.com and WordPress.org
If you are on a free service and considering making the change, don’t wait. The longer you wait the harder it is to port your existing posts over to a new platform. I was about four years into blogging before I moved off of Blogger to a self-hosted WordPress site. It was a decision I’m glad that I made and wished I’d made sooner.