So you want to start a blog? Awesome! Choosing a platform is not an easy decision, but it’s not rocket science either (although sometimes it feels like it, amiright?).
Fun internet quiz to the rescue! Just answer a few quick questions about what kind of blog you’ve got in mind and your budget and I’ll help you figure out which platform is best to get started on.
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More about the results:
WordPress.org (Self-Hosted WordPress)
- Full ownership and full control of your blog
- Unlimited monetization potential
- Must purchase a domain ($1-15/yr) and hosting ($36+/yr) to get started
Self-hosted WordPress (WordPress.org) is the best of the best when it comes to blogging and building your own website, and it’s the only platform that gives you full ownership and control of how your blog looks, runs and operates. This is essential when blogging is going to be your business!
It’s also not as expensive as you might think. Downright affordable as blogging platforms go — options start at $3-4/mo.
If you’re ready to dive in signing up for self-hosted WordPress is pretty simple: choose a hosting company (see my recommendations next paragraph), select a plan, and click through prompts to get set up. They’ll walk you through the steps and take care of everything. And you can do everything in one spot with your hosting company — you don’t need to go to WordPress.org or WordPress.com to set anything up separately (just choose a hosting company, log in to hosting, click “install WordPress” from inside hosting).
Hosting recommendations: I personally use and recommend WPX for all of my websites. My loading speed increased by almost 3 seconds on this site when I moved to them from Siteground last year! Plus their customer service is amazing — I just jump on chat or send in an email ticket and my issue or question is resolved within minutes (not days).
Namehero is my next top recommendation, and it’s possibly the best choice for new bloggers if only because it’s prices are so friendly starting at about $3/mo. They also have a reputation for blazing fast loading speeds (an important SEO ranking factor) and I personally know a lot of bloggers who use them and are very happy. I would be with them if I wasn’t already happy where I am.
I started out on Siteground and, at the time, was very happy. They’ve made some changes recently and have, in my opinion, gone a bit downhill. They aren’t bad persay, just not who I recommend anymore because other options have surpassed them in pretty much all areas.
Bluehost is a giant in the industry and definitely affordable, but they get a lot of complaints in blogging groups for blog downtime/glitches/failures and poor customer service. They also pay the highest affiliate commission of all of these, so I think that keeps some bloggers recommending them despite their issues.
Definitely avoid Godaddy and Hostgator as they are subpar in almost every way (and while they seem cheap to start they add upcharges for simple basics that all the other hosts include for free).
Don’t stress your host choice too much — give yourself an hour or so to research, ask in a few Facebook blogger groups maybe, and then choose one! You can always move somewhere else down the line, without too much hassle.
- Easy and quick to set up
- Limited monetization potential (and most require paid plans)
- Free to start, upgrade options include purchasing custom domain and unlocking WordPress features
If you just want to write, without any out of pocket expenses or worrying about making money with it then WordPress.com is the best blogging platform for you! With WordPress.com you get a free platform on the web’s most popular blogging software with fast and easy setup.
WordPress is awesomer than other free platforms because:
• It powers more than 26% of the internet — that’s huge! And they didn’t get that big by being low quality or hard to use.
• Because it is the biggest, it also has the most themes and customization options available so you can build a site you really love.
• Because it’s so widely used it’s much easier to find support online should you run into issues (which we all do at some point). Ask other bloggers and there’s a good chance most of them are using it too (and maybe even have gone through what you’re going through!).
• Should you ever decide you want to own and/or monetize your blog, the software necessary for that is also WordPress. So if that ever comes up it will be easier to migrate over and you won’t have to learn a whole new program on top of everything else (saving time and brain power for the win!).
Please note: WordPress.com offers a place where you can start and run a blog for free, which is awesome! But of course “free” does come with limitations (this is the case with all free and “hosted for you” platforms online, not just wordpress.com). Limitations include the fact that you will not fully own your blog and will not have full control over how it runs and operates — you are essentially borrowing or renting space for your blog, vs owning it. You will also not be able to monetize in any meaningful way on WordPress.com, with any of their plans, so please do not pay for their upgrades, ever! If/when you’re ready to upgrade, even a little, carefully consider a move to self-hosted WordPress.org instead. You can get more info on self-hosted WordPress here.
Not sure which to choose?
Option #1. Start your blog for free on WordPress.com. This option is not a money maker (you actually cannot monetize on WordPress.com) but more of a “see if I even like blogging” toe-dip into the water. It’s also a good way to start learning some basic blogging concepts and your way around WordPress while you save up the $ to migrate to the self-hosted version (do not pay for upgrades on WordPress.com if you want to monetize! It is not the same). Please note that while migrating a blog from WordPress.com to self-hosted Worpdress.org is a viable option and something bloggers do every day, it is an extra step that takes a bit of work.
Option #2. Invest in self-hosted WordPress.org from the start. This requires buying a domain and hosting (not as complicated as it sounds!) which will run you about $65 for the first year, or if you want to pay monthly about $10/mo. Going this route gives you full ownership over your blog and everything in it. Full control to learn and grow and monetize from day 1 if you want to, without any of the limitations of the free platforms. And no messing around with migrating platforms right when you’re getting into the swing of things. 😉
So which is best for you?
It has to be one of those two choices. There is no middle ground where you can monetize like crazy on a blog that doesn’t cost a dime.
If you look at the options above and still aren’t sure what to do I recommend a default of starting for free on WordPress.com (option #1), as things will become clearer once you dive into the thick of it. Normally I’m a big believer in owning your own website and setting up for full monetization from the start (option #2), but if your wallet isn’t cooperating or your heart isn’t fully in it yet then the monetary investment can wait. With WordPress.com you can try out blogging in a risk-free environment and get comfortable with some of the basics before you decide to take the next step towards earning with it. There is a lot of value in that!
Note about other platforms: Yes, there are other options besides just WordPress! I firmly believe that WordPress is the way to go, for a few reasons:
- Growing a blog is hard enough without working around limitations set by your platform. Self-hosted WordPress (wordpress.org, see above) is the only platform where you fully own it all and can, essentially, do whatever you want. Once you’re getting big and the small details like loading speed and custom functions really start to matter, you’re going to want as much freedom as possible. Plus starting on WordPress is cheaper than other options, like Squarespace. So I don’t see any reason to recommend anything else.
- Blogger is also a good free option for many bloggers, but a great majority of bloggers who begin as a hobby only decide they want to monetize later. This means moving to WordPress, and there is no easy port to get from Blogger to WordPress. It’s all copy/paste. Going from WordPress.com to WordPress.org is much easier.
My thoughts on other platforms:
Squarespace: This one is popular, and very nice, albeit a bit pricey to start compared to WordPress (even self-hosted is cheaper). They are known for their beautiful, easy-to-set-up templates. You will however feel limited as your blog grows, due to being unable to access and fine tune certain elements and functions (for SEO, etc) and it’s not an easy move to WordPress if you change your mind down the line.
Blogger: Viable option for bloggers who want something free and aren’t interested in making a lot of money. Monetization is limited (similar to WordPress.com) and if you ever “get serious” and want to move to self-hosted WordPress you’ll be starting from ground zero.
Wix: Pretty templates, but this one doesn’t have much else going for it. Expensive, and less features than Squarespace. Also not an easy port to WordPress if you want to move later.
Facebook, Instagram, other social media: Great for building an audience! But so, so fickle. Set up shop exclusively on social media and you risk losing your entire life’s work (blogging, anyway) in the blink of an eye due to an algorithm glitch, accidental shut down, hack attempt, or simple technology failure. Instagram doesn’t care if your account is suddenly gone, and they don’t owe you anything if your business is gone with it. At least with a website you aren’t at the mercy of some other company’s policies and procedures (and mistakes!) and will have backups and email lists and domains all separate from each other. Rarely if ever is an entire website completely lost. Not so uncommon with social media accounts though. Use social as an addition to a website-based blog. Not the whole blog itself.