Which Blog Software is right for me? How do I get started? Who can help me?
These are all valid questions! And there are no easy answers.
Most of the time your decision will depend on a few variables you will need to consider. And, sometimes, after writing (blogging) for a year or so you may decide your original assumptions are out of date or have changed.
What does one do then? Start over? Shell out more money to convert your original site?
Our team deals with a variety of different software writing/blogging packages – and we’ve tried many more. Each has its advantages and disadvantages. The world of Internet communication is filled with trade-offs.
So let’s get started…
My number one software for about 3 years is WordPress. It lets you start out as a small site, get up and running fast and keep growing. With the help of the community of this open-source platform, you are able to grow and increase the features set and sophistication of your web presence.
In 2012, there are 60 million websites built on top of WordPress. Fifteen percent the new domain names (URLs) set up last year use WordPress. It’s an easy choice when you have a new business and need a website: build it on top of WordPress, self-hosted.
But what if you have had a website and don’t have the time or funds to convert the site? Using a subdomain (blog.yourdomain.com) with any of the free services will get you started. When the time and circumstances are right, you can migrate the whole site into one content management system.
WordPress.com & WordPress self-hosted (WordPress.org
We published last week an info graphic by WPBeginners that illustrated the main differences between a WordPress.com and a self-hosted instance of WordPress for your website. Read more here:
So the two top spots, in our view, are taken by WordPress self-hosted (WordPress.org) and WordPress.com.
There are two more free services that have a long history as well as a lot of users. One is Blogger, the blog engine run by Google, which just recently received a total overhaul and is now equipped with small business level features, like integration of AdSense and site analytics as well as some great layouts.
Blogger was, a long time ago, the distant cousin in Google’s software family. It’s one of the oldest blog engines and has had a large following, especially among individuals and personal blogs. Only recently with the arrival of Google+ has it experienced a major feature upgrade and was integrated with other Google services. Various themes are available but, of course, not as vast as for WordPress.com or Tumblr. Whoever stuck it out on blogspot.com has been rewarded with an interesting upgrade. For serious businesses, connecting it with a domain should be obligatory.
The other free Blog service that made it onto this list is Tumblr which had its greatest year in 2011 when it went from 11 million users to 90 million users. Tumblr is a blog engine with a restricted set of features but what it lacks in options or integration it makes up for with social network integration, ease of use, mobile integration for visitors and contributors and search engine visibility. The themes are mostly customizable with a few clicks and settings. The range of out-of-the box features allows for a fast set-up and wide distribution over the social webs. It also has a great array of social features called “like” and “reblog” to spread the work.
Yes, you can integrate it with your own domain name or subdomain of your exisiting website. Our Social Media Bootcamp blog is built on Tumblr and helped us assess the blog engine in a real life setting that requires rapid updating from various locations.
Compare 17 individual features to find the right solutions for you.
All four blog engines allow you to update and post via mobile applications, be it from your smartphone or tablet. That feature is important these days and, for us, is a serious qualifier for this list.
Below, you will find a list of features, an overall comparison of the four engines. We have the three onsite free services stacked up against the WordPress self-hosted installation.
A comparison table features/ advantages and disadvantages for Blogger, WordPress, Tumblr. If you see the symbols, (++) ,next to a feature, it means you shouldn’t start a blog without it, even if you work with your web developer, who might have a different preference. When you see this link, (How?), the link will take you to a page that explains how to implement a particular feature on the blog platform. I didn’t research all features for their ease of implementation but I was curious about a few and checked them out. Underneath the feature matrix you’ll find brief explanations for each feature listed.
Compare Features across Blog Engines
|Feature||WP.com||Self-Hosted WP (WP.org)||Blogger||Tumblr|
|Account Costs||free||hosting fees $8 – $35month (or higher)||free||free|
| RSS feed/|
Category feeds (++)
|yes/ yes (How?)||yes/ yes (How?)||yes/yes (How?)||yes/no|
|Own Domain (++)||$12 – 24/year||~10 – $40 per year||10 p.year + GoogleApps||yes (How?)|
|Subdomain Existing Domain||$12-24/year||n/A||Y-Integration of GoDaddy free of charge||yes, no mention of cost. (How?)|
|Multi-author||w/ WP.com profile||yes w/ un/pw from WP instance||yes /w google account||yes/w.tumblr.com account|
|Multi-Blogs||w/ WP.com Profile||no||w/ google account||yes/ w/tumblr account.|
|Post via email (++)||yes||yes||yes (How?)||yes|
|Mobile Version (++)||Yes||Yes/via plugin & theme||yes||yes|
|Export/Move content||yes||yes||no/yes via customized import/export scripts||no|
|Adsense/Adserver integration||no, you will see other people’s advertising with your content||yes on any network, with selection of theme||Google Adsense account||yes, via customized Theme.|
|Social Features on site||yes||no||yes||yes|
|Share Buttons(++)||yes||yes, plugins available||yes,||yes|
|Spam Filter for Comment (++)||Yes||Via plugin (Akismet)||Auto-system||yes|
|Allow 3rd Party comment system||no||yes, via plugin||no||yes, w/ Theme|
|Import blog||yes, WP from Tumblr (How?)||yes, other WP||yes, Blogger blogs only.|
|from Blogger (How?)|
| Post via Mobile Apps|
|yes/yes/yes/ (How?)||yes/yes/yes/ (How?)||3rd party apps||yes/yes/nomore..|
What do the features listed entail and why they are important?
The costs mentioned here are the initial set-up fees. Depending on your level of comfort with configuring your own account settings and the settings of your blog, you still might need to hire a professional for the initial set-up. The costs referred to here are only the initial costs to have an account and start a blog. Some of the other features mentioned in this comparison chart will incur additional charges.
Are essential and needed to reach widest possible spread of your posts around the internet. Either your integration service set-up will use them or your readers will use them. Around this blog and on Above the Noise we have a whole series of RSS related posts. On your blog you will need to have categories in smaller groups to help your readers find relevant content. (++)
As a business owner, you need to make sure that all your online activities support your brand and market your domain. Even if you use one of the free systems, you should invest in your own domain and connect it to your blog on WordPress, Blogger and Tumblr. (++)
A Blog becomes much richer if you include others from your staff and or associates as authors on your blog. The burden of coming up with new content can be spread around and for your readers the experience is so much richer when they can hear multiple sides of an issues or different ways for problem solution or just different opinions. All blog software allows for multi-author set-up. All you need is an account, either on the service or on your self-hosted WP, for example.
Most people won’t have a need for multiple blogs. It’s hard enough to fill one blog with good, relevant and engaging content. But, sometimes as a business owner in a niche market it might be useful to team up with strategic partners and create a multi-topic blog and be great resources to each other’s customers. It also is helpful when you are part of a networking group with a decent online presence that you can guest post on the networks site, i.e., also on the same system.
Post via Email:
Sometimes it’s just easier to think about writing an e-mail than posting to the web where you have to login, get accustomed to a new interface, when technology distracts from the thought you want to jot down. WordPress programmers recognized this very early on and built in a way to post to our blog via e-mail. (++)
In order to make posting to social media less of a chore after you posted to your blog, you might be able to add your twitter account and your Facebook account to the settings page and authorize your site to post as you to the social networks.
By the end of 2012, it’s estimated over 50% of mobile subscribers will have smartphones, it’s imperative that your website/blog is recognizes when a mobile device is used to access your site and presents a different view of the site, optimized for mobile viewing. (++)
The big advantage of using free and low cost services is the feature set includes provisions to pack-up and leave when you find a more viable system or when you reach the point that you move on. In our 10 year experience as web consultants, the biggest hurdle to successfully moving on is the difficulty clients have in untangling content from the stronghold of hosting services or web developers. Setting up initially on WordPress.com and, later, moving to WordPress/self-hosted (WP.org) is definitely the easiest transition path. The export from the Tumblr,or Blogger will have its challenges.
At first it might not be all that interesting for small business to have ads on their website. But it might prove beneficial if you participate in affiliate marketing or for a publishing company that decides to monetize parts of the site.
As a user on the networks of WordPress.com, Tumblr.com and Blogger.com you can follow other users, like their posts and re-blog their posts with a few easy steps. You will not be able to recreate easily this kind of on-site connectivity with a stand-alone self-hosted wordpress site or other content management systems.
A row of icons on the bottom of each article that allows for on-click sharing on the most popular social networks like Facebook, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn and also some of the lesser known ones like StumbleUpon, Reddit or Delicious. (++)
Spam Filter for Comments:
Your blog won’t be able to survive long without enabled comment spam filter. This can be accomplished with a built-in feature or by allowing a third-party service to monitor your comment section or prevent spam from being posted. (++)
Allow third-party comment system:
For a richer comment administration, you can consider using an external service for your site. Disqus.com, Livefyre, IntenseDebate are the most popular systems, and provide their own community of people engaging on different kind of sites.
It’s the opposite side of moving between the worlds. One part is the export of existing content and then you need the new software to have mechanism to import your content from another system
Post via Mobile Apps:
Your site might benefit from real-time posting while you are on the road or at an event. Mobile apps on the smartphone or tablet platforms will make it possible to post photographs right from your camera to your website/blog.
Please make sure to post your questions and thoughts in the comment section and what your experience is using any of the mentioned systems. Are features missing? What else would you need to know?