How to Choose a Blogging Platform That’s Right for You

How to choose the blogging platform that's right for you

Let the Blogger vs WordPress war begin! 😈

Seriously though. Choosing the right platform is hard. And while I’m a ridiculously strong advocate of WordPress, I accept that it might not be the right choice for everyone. So today we’re going to figure out which platform is best for you.

Keep in mind that choosing a platform isn’t a decision you have to make for life. Sometimes it makes most sense to start out on one platform and transition to another somewhere down the line. But we’ll get into that!

Free platforms: Blogger and WordPress.com

There are two free platforms that I recommend:

  1. Blogger
  2. WordPress.com

I usually recommend Blogger over WordPress.com because Blogger has fewer restrictions, especially when it comes to custom themes. But ultimately, both platforms are fine choices.

Paid platform: WordPress.org

The paid platform we’ll be discussing is WordPress.org. This is when you rent your own hosting space and install WordPress on your own server, instead of being hosted for free by WordPress.com.

There are other paid platforms like Squarespace, but I’m not going to cover them in this post since it’s not something I’d personally recommend over WordPress.

What’s the difference between these platforms?

Feature Blogger WordPress.com WordPress.org
Free or paid Free Free – paid upgrades available Paid
Ability to create custom themes Yes No – you can only modify existing ones Yes
Extensions & add-ons No Some – paid Many – free and paid
Freedom & control No No Yes
Easy to take a break Yes Yes If you take a break, you still have to keep paying. If you stop paying, your data can be deleted.
Advertising Allowed Not allowed Allowed
Ease of set up Very easy Very easy A bit more complex; you have to install WordPress

What’s the difference between WordPress.com and WordPress.org?

A lot of people ask me what the difference is between these platforms, because it’s confusing! They’re both WordPress, but what’s the difference between .com and .org?

WordPress.com and WordPress.org both use the same core functionality: the WordPress platform. The difference is that when you use WordPress.com, your blog lives on Automattic’s servers (the company behind WordPress.com) for free. In order to create a safer environment, they disable certain features on the WordPress platform. You cannot upload custom themes or plugins and you cannot use JavaScript.

When you use WordPress.org, you pay to rent your own server and install WordPress there. Since you’re paying to host WordPress yourself, you do not get the “stripped down” version. There are no restrictions. You can upload custom plugins and themes and you can use JavaScript.

Let’s find out which is best!

Now that we have an idea of what the differences are, let’s dig a little deeper and figure out which platform is best for you.

Is this a business? INVEST in yourself!

If your website is your business and you make money from it, you should always go with WordPress.org. Self-hosted WordPress has the most options and the most flexibility. It will give you the most room for expansion.

But most importantly, if you won’t invest in your business, why should other people? Self-hosted WordPress is the most professional platform. If you’re taking the cheapest route possible, how will that look to your clients? If you want them to invest in you, you have to invest in yourself.

Can you pay your bills?

If you’re having any trouble paying your bills, do not use a paid platform! Adding another expense will add more stress in your life. And if you miss payments, you can lose your whole site. As soon as you stop paying for hosting, your web host has the right to delete all your content.

Having a self-hosted site is fantastic, but it’s not worth it if you’re struggling to make other payments.

How important is content ownership to you?

The difference between a free platform and a paid platform is freedom.

Free platforms have full control over your content

When you use a free platform, you’re putting that content on a server that someone else owns. Since someone else owns it, they have full rights to delete or change that content whenever they want.

  • They can decide your blog is inappropriate and delete it.
  • They can decide your blog is spammy because it has too many affiliate links or promo posts and delete it.
  • They can decide that your blog isn’t in line with their terms of service and delete it.

There are MANY stories about people on the Blogger platform having their blogs removed for no reason or for vague “spam” reasons. Most of the time their blogs are eventually restored, but not always. And the fact is, Google (or WordPress.com) is fully within their rights to delete a blog for any reason. They do not have to restore it if they don’t want to.

You own your content on a paid platform

When you actually rent your own server space, that space is YOURS. Sure, there are still terms and conditions you have to follow, but they’re a lot less restricting.

For example, the WordPress.com Types of Blogs page says that “book tour blogs” are not allowed. These are blogs that often post “release day blitzes”, promotional posts, and giveaways. They’re not allowed because WordPress.com views them as advertisements, which are not allowed.

However, if you rent your own hosting space, the terms of service allow you a lot more freedom. In most cases, you can do anything on your site provided that it’s not illegal (hacking, illegal marketplace, child porn, etc.). Your content will not be deleted for vague reasons like “it’s spam” or “it’s too much advertising”.

And let’s face it, when you’re a paying customer, the company is more likely to do everything they can to keep your business. πŸ˜‰

Where do you see your blog in two years?

How long will you be blogging for? Is this something you’re “just trying out for a while” or are you seriously committed to making this blog work in the long term? These questions will help you decide whether or not it’s worth it to go the paid route.

If you’re not sure if you’ll be sticking with blogging and you just want to try it out for a while, going the free route at first is the better option. This will give you time to get your toes wet and see if this is something you want to commit to.

But if you’re launching a business or starting a blog that you know you’ll stick with for years to come, then consider going for self-hosted WordPress. Most long-time bloggers find themselves wanting to upgrade to WordPress.org eventually, because objectively speaking, WP.org is the best platform. So if you see yourself heading in that direction eventually, why not do it now?

Do you want all the shiny buttons?

Blogger and WordPress.com are limited because they’re free platforms. When you go with a free platform, you only get so much. You get what you pay for.

WordPress.org has the most features. There are repositories full of thousands of free themes and plugins, and even more paid options outside of that. There are plugins for security, email opt-ins, anti-spam, comment platforms, content templates, e-commerce shops, and more.

If you like tons of features to help you optimize your workflow and organize your site, check out WordPress.org.

If you want a simple, minimalistic interface, consider Blogger. Blogger has fewer features, which objectively makes it less powerful. But there are some people who value super simple platforms because it makes them easier to navigate.

Which do you prefer? Features galore or simplicity?

Everyone has their own choice here, and it’s up to you to decide which you like most.

If in doubt, start out free!

If you’re feeling conflicted, I would encourage you to try a free option first. There’s nothing to lose! You could even sign up for a free Blogger blog, play around, and if you decide you want more you can switch to self-hosted WordPress straight away. But starting out free will allow you to play around and see if blogging is something you will stick with. If the time comes, you can always migrate from Blogger to WordPress—it’s not as hard as it seems!

Which platform will/did you choose? Blogger, WordPress.com, or WordPress.org? Why?

Coming up next in the how to start a blog series: how to find a good pre-made design.

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I'm a 27 year old California girl living in England (I fell in love with a Brit!). I like to inject a little #girlpower into the WordPress development community by teaching women how to be coding badasses. more »

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38 comments

  1. Very helpful post! I wish I’d had info this consise when I first started blogging! I had to do lots of investigating and trying to later settle for WordPress.org. At first my blog was hosted in WordPress.com, and yup, it sucked. At the time I didn’t understand why the twitter timeline widget I’d read about wouldn’t work, or the GR ones. I was so confused. And when I finally understood there were two sides of WordPress, I didn’t hesitate to go with the .org option. XD

    Pamela recently posted: The Book Hangover Effect: Sequels
    1. Yeah the difference between .com and .org is very confusing. A lot of people move to WordPress.com, thinking they’re going “self hosted”. Then they’re in for quite a disappointment when they find out otherwise. πŸ™

  2. I started in Blogger and moved to WP.com (and BookHost) about a year ago. I moved because I wanted the flexibility of plug-ins (specially the UBB), the ease to install and modify themes, the simplicity of keeping up with comments, and I could afford to. I had been blogging for over two years already, so I knew I would continue for years to come. Best decision EVER!

    Liza @ Reading with ABC recently posted: Cover Reveal {Days Like This by Danielle Ellison}
    1. Yeah I do think Blogger is a good starting point. πŸ™‚ A lot of people decide to move eventually, but I think it’s a good place to start out and get used to blogging. Then if the time comes when you decide you’re ready to pay for more features, that’s always a possibility!

  3. THIS! This is what I have been looking for. lol While I love WP, it can be frustrating how much time one can invest in getting up to speed and learning about plug-ins, SEO, etc.. BUT, I get that it is necessary to grow and establish ones blog.

    I will be honest, I make no money off my blog and time I spend on it can be too much. I have to put family first, but I also would like to grow the blog and maybe (if I am luckily) get a couple of sponsors. I have struggled with this dilemma for a while. I have no idea how people manage a blog full time and have a family; especially if they homeschool AND they do not make any money off their blog. I know I am a different genre of blog, but trying to create content (building projects, homeschool stuff), take amazing photos, write the post, publish and market the post (link parties, social media, etc.) then repeat, all while trying to make sure family time and sleep, do not suffer. Obviously, I am doing it all wrong. πŸ™

    Okay, done ranting. Overall I AM glad I’m on WP, because that means ownership of my content. πŸ™‚ Besides, it seems like Google has not really paid much attention to Blogger (upgrades, etc.) Maybe I am incorrect?

    Julie - Being Home recently posted: Sinus Infection and Vampire Eyes
    1. Yes there is a lot to learn with WordPress. There are tons of options and features (which is great) but that means you have to learn about all those things, which can take some time.

      I think the important thing is to blog in a way that makes you happy. I think it would be nice to make money from blogging, but that shouldn’t be something you try to force out of it. Making money from a blog is HARD, and if I’m being honest, it’s only going to happen if you treat blogging like a full time job. With your family, it doesn’t seem like that’s going to be a possibility for you. And that’s okay, it just might mean that you won’t make money from blogging.

      But I think the most important thing is not to blog for money, but to blog because you want to—because you LOVE it.

      I personally see blogging as more of an outlet for me than a money maker. Yes, my blog does contribute to my business, but I don’t treat blogging like my business. I treat it like a fun hobby/escape, because that’s what it is to me.

      I just think it sounds like you’re putting a lot of pressure on yourself to move forward and make money from your blog, but that much pressure can be stressful! Maybe you need to take a step back and just have fun for a while? πŸ™‚

      And you’re right about Blogger—it’s not being actively developed. WordPress has regular new releases, patches, and upgrades. Blogger doesn’t really have any maintenance or new features AT ALL.

    1. I have read a lot of stories about people being frustrated with Blogger or encountering annoying glitches!

      I’m glad you found WordPress. πŸ™‚

  4. I just have a book blog. Not making money and I’m not trying to. I moved to WP.org because I wanted all the bells and whistles of book blogging. In particular the UBB Plugin. I couldn’t get that on Blogger so I moved. I’m not rich and can’t really afford to be spending money on blogging but to me personally it was worth it. I don’t smoke, I drink very rarely, we don’t eat out a lot, I stopped buying coffee at coffee shops in the morning and to me this is my treat to myself. It’s really not a lot. Stopping my coffee runs in the morning more then pays for my new blog.

    If I was a business, that’s a whole other ball game. It wouldn’t even be a discussion as to which blog to go with…. WP.org all the way. Again, you get what you pay for. If you’re promoting a business it is of the utmost importance to put money into it.

    Great post, Ashley!

    1. I love your take on this, Carrie! I think it’s great how you’ve made a few small changes to make this work for you.

      And I completely agree with you regarding businesses. It honestly makes me a bit sad when I see a business hosted on a free platform. It really does make me less inclined to hire/use their business because they’re not investing in themselves. If it’s not “worth it” to them to invest in a good website for their business, why should I invest in them?

    1. Same here. I never even considered Blogger for my blog. I just set up self-hosted WordPress straight away. πŸ™‚

  5. I’ve tried both and it’s ALWAYS been WordPress for me. Always, always, always. There’s no competition. I can’t stand Blogger. It’s too fussy, too hard to make it look unique, and it just drove me to the edge of insanity when I used it. WordPress is far better. I’m currently on the free platform, but advocate .org all the way!

    Great post, definitely a must-read for those wondering what blogging platform to use!

  6. I’m currently on WordPress.com but have tried Blogger and, honestly, prefer WordPress.com. I know the major argument is that Blogger allows more customization, but I experienced so much frustration just trying to format a simple post on Blogger that I would never use it again.

    And if a main assumption in this post is that people who aren’t sure whether they’ll be blogging in two years are the ones who should go for free platforms, I would still recommend WordPress.com. If you’re “not that serious” about blogging, I don’t know that customization would be a huge draw for you. It seems like ease of use would be more beneficial.

    Briana @ Pages Unbound recently posted: Snow White Lucks Out by Joan Holub and Suzanne Williams
    1. I definitely agree with you that WordPress.com is the better platform/interface. The only reason I often suggest Blogger over it is because Blogger does have more flexibility. But WordPress.com is definitely a better platform and is updated CONSTANTLY, which is fantastic. Blogger is pretty dead in the water.

  7. Great post! I wish i had found this when I just staretd blogging as it explains the differences so well. And that table with the features for each platform is really neat.

    I started at blogger with my own blog, I did like blogger, but I am glad I eventually switched. I made the mistake to start on wordpress.com with my business as I didn’t realize there was a difference between wordpress.org and wordpress.com so I paid for the premium function instead of self hosted. After I figured that out it took me a while before I actually switched to self hosted, still happy I made the switch.
    Even though I had trouble paying the bills I am still happy I invested in self hosted wordpress back then, now I just put aside the costs for hosting as soon as possible, so I don’t have to worry about that. And it just looks better to have a business website self hosted.

    Lola recently posted: Sunday Post #121
    1. There is so much confusion about WordPress.com vs .org, I should probably do a post all about that! I feel so bad for people who make that mistake. I completely get why they make it, because it’s confusing as hell, but my heart just breaks a little when I see someone who thinks they’ve gone to “self hosted WordPress” but really they’re on WordPress.com. I want to give them a little hug and quietly explain the difference.

      I think you made a great decision going self-hosted!

  8. Thanks for your wonderful post and your great website! I wish I would have found you and your site much sooner – would have saved me probably a lot of headach, frustration and mistakes! When I decided to become a blogger myself (a decision that grew many months inside my head before it became reality) I wanted to go by instinct to WordPress.com on a free blog to see how things would go. But then I stumbled over the website of a Canadian template designer and she has a post on her website that is quite similar to your post here. After IΒ΄ve read that one, saw all the pros and cons and what a self-hosted WordPress blog (she was/is only referring to that) requires I changed my decision and started my blog at Blogger. At first, I was very happy there although I made many mistakes (google and Blogger arenΒ΄t always that helpful as a blogger might wish). But to see how things were changing in real time that I did in the dashboard in the customize section, was for a total newbie like me quite something. And when I managed to get my bought template into it – I was happy. But it didnΒ΄t take long to make me realize that I canΒ΄t do everything I wanna have on my blog the way I like it (like a dropdown menu for example, something WordPress does automatically, but with Blogger I had to find a more complicated way to still have it on my blog and I have to do it now by hand which is very time consuming). So what was meant to be pleassure (as my reviewing work for a German website is since 8 years) and a way for my english speaking friends to be able to still read my reviews without being a GR member, has become a very frustrating thing. Guess it is time for a change.

    So your website is a huge help even I wished IΒ΄d found it sooner *smile*

    Vi @ Gone With The Books recently posted: Review – All In (The Heiress #1) by Simona Ahrnstedt
  9. hi there, i want to ask you something. so i have a wordpress.com book blog but i just realised that i couldnt be so ‘free’ about owning it. i really want to make my blog self-hosted ONLY because of the pretty themes i can use for my blog. the existing themes on wordpress just dont fit to me πŸ™ im still 16 and dont have a credit card to pay things yet, so.. how do i make my blog pretty and clean without having to upgrade my wordpress? is this even possible..

    1. Sorry, Zara, but on WordPress.com you only have access to the themes they give you. You cannot build your own or install third party themes.

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