Blogging Guide, Part 1: Which Platform is Right…

(Click here for Blogging Guide, Part 2: Ready, Set, Write!)

Since the early 2000s the popularity of blogs has exploded, resulting in an increased number of hosts (or platforms) to choose from. Selecting which one to unleash your thoughts and observations on can be overwhelming—but hopefully not anymore.

This piece focuses on the top free blogging platforms—Blogger, Tumblr, and WordPress. Each has a huge network with millions of bloggers, as well as a number of pros and cons, outlined below:

Blogger

Pros:

  • If you have a Gmail address you can open multiple blogs to tie into your blog account (should you, say, want to write about food and cars but not talk about them both on the same blog).
  • Blogger has an extensive Help Center that will walk you through setting up your blog and assist you with issues that may come up down the road.
  • Like Tumblr, the dashboard aggregates all of the new posts created by people you follow, which you can also import to your Google Reader should you prefer that format.
  • Your latest metrics about followers and page views show up on your dashboard right under each of the blogs you’ve created.
  • The platform allows for ‘group blogs,’ meaning you can easily set up multiple authors for one blog (the limit is 100 people).

Cons:

  • There aren’t very many design templates though you can modify most via HTML and CSS coding.
  • Posting anything other than text can be intimidating, especially if one’s not already familiar with icons for images, how to add links to text, etc.
  • Beware of the size limitations of Blogger, which is 1MB for a page, 250KB for a photo loaded by a mobile device, and 2000 for the number of individual tags per blog.
  • Blogger websites have at times been blocked in countries such as China, Pakistan, Cuba, and Syria.

Tumblr

Pros:

  • The Dashboard aggregates the content of people you follow, making it easy to discover new posts by Tumblr bloggers and prominent magazines and newspapers that also now use the service including The Atlantic, The Daily and The New Yorker.
  • Posting a link, photo, video, chat, or quote is a click away! Tumblr breaks out these different types of posts for you and automatically formats whatever you choose to post so that it’s easy to create/modify/read.
  • Reblogging is incredibly easy, in turn making it also easy for your own work to be shared with others.
  • There are a lot of free designs to choose from and for a nominal fee even more are available for your use.

Cons:

  • A nonexistent search function, meaning that should you #tag a post #Giants, for example, don’t expect to be able to find it again if typing Giants into the search bar.
  • Traffic is high on the site (as of Feb. 27th, there are 46.2 million Tumblr bloggers) so the server sometimes crashes. This seems to be happening less frequently over the past year.
  • If you should run into an issue, Tumblr’s Help Center is pretty limited.
  • In order to allow for “commenting” on one’s blog you’ll have to take the extra step of installing Disqus, which is supported on a limited number of Tumblr’s “themes” (aka designs).

WordPress

Pros:

  • Unlike Tumblr and Blogger, which require you to manually add tracking software to your blog, WordPress offers its own stats system that provides real-time metrics.
  • WordPress uses Akismet to block spammers from leaving comments on your blog.
  • After adding relevant tags to your post, WordPress adds them to their “global tag system and tag surfer,” which helps other people with similar interests to find your post (Tumblr has a version of this, too).
  • You can add “widgets” for Twitter, del.icio.us, and Flickr to your blog’s sidebar easily, without having to modify any HTML code on your own.
  • If you don’t want to share everything to everyone, WordPress offers a variety of privacy options and the ability to create members-only blogs.
  • Had a blog a while ago on another platform? No problem. You can easily import your content from Blogger, LiveJournal, Movable Type, TypePad, or an existing WordPress blog.

Cons:

  • There are 160+ free themes which you can modify, but custom themes aren’t supported.
  • Unfortunately the .com site is not compatible with the plug-ins WordPress.org offers.
  • To support their advertising arm, WordPress will occasionally show ads on your blog, although they claim to do so rarely. You can remove ads for a low yearly fee.

When exploring WordPress, keep in mind that there is WordPress.org and WordPress.com. The pros and cons mentioned below pertain to .com, the free blogging site, and not .org, which is a self-hosted Content Management System. While there is more flexibility with WordPress.org, including the ability to upload your own theme, have complete control of your blog’s coding, and use the thousands of available plug-ins, there are drawbacks, too. You’ll need to pay a monthly fee to a web host, control spammers on your own, and handle all WordPress software upgrades and backups. In short, one should be pretty tech savvy before setting up and running a self-hosted site.

Now that you have this information, think long and hard about your needs now and down the road. Will you be blogging on the go? If so, research the mobile apps for Blogger, Tumblr, and WordPress. Additionally, peruse other writers’ blogs you like most, or least, and take notes on their content, ease of social media integration, or even colors and font. Learn from their successes and missteps, but most of all, get ready to open yourself up to a whole new community.

Part 2 of this guide will include ways to kick off your blog including writing prompts, advice on how often to post, and much more: “Blogging Guide, Part 2: Ready, Set, Write!”

In the comment section, share with our other readers what do’s and don’ts you’ve learned about blogging.

(Click here for Blogging Guide, Part 2: Ready, Set, Write!)

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26 Comments

  1. Re-blogging is easy but tumblr doesn’t maintain credit to your photos. They’ll save it to their own database and all future traffic from your photo will direct to the copy they save to their database as opposed to your blog.

    If you photo went viral, nobody would know where it came from, it would just be out there in tumblr-land and I don’t believe this is fair. Tumblr should be avoided if you’re a serious bloggers wanting to share content and get noticed.

    I wrote a blog post using wordpress about avoiding tumblr here: http://travelapprentice.com/one-good-reason-to-avoid-tumblr-blogs/

  2. I have certainly had tremendous success using WordPress and although custom themes are not supported, one may easily personalize a particular theme in numerous aspects.

    I especially like their tagging system, which I’ve received a great portion of my views from. It’s fairly easy to start building up a decent size following if you take the time to create quality content.

  3. Weebly all the way for me, I am a weekly fan and wonder why those others are always being pushed.

  4. Jae

    Yea I don’t like Tumblr, it’s too spammy and all over the place, real junky. WordPress I never get to use but I love my Blogger(I have two).

    I’m about to try out Weebly, it looks promising.

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