If you’re looking to start a blog and you’ve done a bit of research, you probably know that there are a few options for platforms and hosts. What does that mean? Basically this refers to a few options out there for managing blogs and then who/where all your website/blog information is stored and backed up. That sounds a lot more complicated than it really is. Assuming you’re new to blogging, I really think there are two platforms to look at – Blogger and WordPress. They are both (initially) free and I’ve hosted my site (and others) on both platforms. Here’s what I think about each platform. Additionally, if you go with wordpress, you’ll want to read about how to pick the best website host for your new site!
Blogger or “blogspot” is a google product. When I first started blogging, I had no idea what I was doing. I opened up an account on both WordPress and Blogger to see what I liked. At the time, WordPress was really overwhelming to me. I had no idea of formatting, styling, coding, or much of anything. I was looking for something straightforward on which to publish my first post. Blogger was perfect for me at the time. With Blogger, you can easily create your blog, change a few details, and start posting! Easy.
A few perks to using Blogger…
When you first create your site, you’ll have blogspot.com at the end of your url. When you want to ditch the blogspot, all you do is buy your domain name. I bought mine from NameCheap. It’s a very simple process and they give you the directions for setting up your blog to use the .com instead of the .blogspot.com. It’s also VERY cheap – hence the name! That’s it, you’re done. With Blogger, Google is the host of your site, so they hold all the information about your site and your site will pretty much never go down. Meaning, your site will always load for everyone. If your site is down, Google is down, Gmail in down, and the world is momentarily falling apart (that’s how it feels anyway). In my four years with Blogger, I only experienced this one time, so it’s really not anything to worry about.
Another thing I liked about Blogger was that as I became more familiar with coding, I could easily search for how to change something on my site. There are so many online forums with step-by-step tutorials and photos for Blogger. It was nice to have the ability to handle smaller things on my own and not need to hire anyone.
As you’ll see below, WordPress and WordPress plugins offer you a lot that is very difficult for Blogger. Additionally, many companies (like affiliate programs I work with) don’t offer coding help for Blogger, which was frustrating for those more complicated things.
If you’re super creative or design oriented, the initial design offerings on Blogger are limiting. You can design and code an entire site on Blogger, but that requires a heck of a lot of work and knowledge on your behalf.
A big complaint about Blogger is that technically Google owns your work. That is to say, Google has the right to take down your site if you’re violating their rules. So, in a way, you don’t own your site and its content. This never bothered me as I wasn’t subject to breaking the rules, but it’s something to think about .
Who should use Blogger? I think if you’re really experimenting with the whole blogging thing OR if you just want to create an online presence (a straightforward website for a company with a page or two), then go with Blogger. It’s simple, straightforward, and a fine place to start out. But if you want anything more, then you’ll want to keep reading…
After four years with Blogger, I switched over to WordPress (an undertaking to say the least with over 1,000 pieces of content). Why the switch? I’d heard a lot about how much the plugins could do to help you with google ranking (SEO – Search Engine Optimization), but what really did it was that the companies I was working with only offered in-house help with WordPress. It was reason enough for me to switch and at least give it a shot. I spent a hefty chunk of change on the transfer and spent a crazy amount of time reconfiguring every single one of my posts with the direction of my website designer/guru – Lauren at Bixa Media.
The perks to WordPress…
WordPress is a bit tricky at the beginning, but it really has so very much to offer. The dashboard is quite sleek and all very well integrated. The big perk to WordPress is the plugins. What is a plugin? It’s like an add-on and there are so, so many options out there. Probably the most exciting of plugins are those that help with your SEO (Google Search Ranking). I also love plugins that help me with getting email subscribers, suggesting related posts for readers, and my recipes plugin (I use Cookbook from Feast Design Co.). It’s also great that once you add a plugin, it’s usually easily accessed on every necessary page! A word of warning. While there are TONS of plugins, you don’t want to overdo it as they’ll start to slow down your site speed and make the user experience deteriorate.
The design aspect of WordPress is wonderful because you can buy a theme which gives you the basic setup to your site (they’re quite sleek). Somebody has already done the coding for you and you can make changes to make it work for your style and needs. This leaves the design coding behind and there are TONS of options. I should note that similar ‘themes’ exist for Blogger, but then you are stuck with coding every part of the site.
WordPress is also fairly straightforward once you’re used to it and you have an understanding what it can do for you. One of my favorite things is being able to link to another page on my site without having to leave the blog post draft page – it’ll pop up in the link box right there.
WordPress allows for a lot of design freedom, but you have to have some coding knowledge, which I didn’t have. You’ll need to buy a theme (mine is also from Feast Design Co.) and from there you can change a lot of things to make your site your own. The thing is, you REALLY NEED TO DO YOUR RESEARCH before picking a theme because it’s not easy to switch and you’ll want something that does what you need it to do. Lauren did this for me. She listened to what I wanted and suggested a few for me to choose from.
A real tricky thing about WordPress is that there are tons of plugins that help you with anything and everything you want to do and so much more (more below), but they all need to be periodically updated. In fact, WordPress itself updates periodically and you’ll have to keep up. If you’re doing a lot of coding and design features, updates may temporarily screw you over. Sometimes updates don’t get along and something might stop working. You’ll need to figure that out. Again, I have Bixa Media check this all out for me each month. I don’t want to deal with coding.
The final “downside” to WordPress is that it isn’t as cheap once it isn’t free. You’ll have to buy the domain name (same as above), but then you also have to find a host. What does that mean? You need a service that stores all the information about your site so that it exists. So, how do you choose the best website host? Website hosts come in all different levels of quality and with all sorts of price tags. You’ll want to think about your normal traffic and your peak traffic, if you have tons of content on your site or just a few pages, and how much you can afford. Bixa Media highly recommended wpengine and I couldn’t be happier with them as my host.
Before I get into all the nitty-gritty of why wpengine is a great host for websites, I have to talk about their customer service. Each time I have a question, I login to my account, start a live chat, and usually have an answer or solution within minutes. Their “help desk” is fast and helpful. As someone who isn’t familiar with coding, hosting, or much about the backend of a website, I’ve found them to be amazing! I’m big on customer service and they offer it!
Ok. So, yes, they rock at customer service, but what about their job of hosting your site. A few perks that we can all understand. Their site speed and dependability for keeping your site live is wonderful. If you’ve ever visited a site that takes forever to load and you leave before it’s done because you don’t want to wait anymore, then you know exactly what I’m talking about. Site speed is crucial! Another great thing, if you miraculously get bombarded with traffic, your site won’t slow or disappear. wpengine offers constant hosting, regardless of traffic – not the case with every host.
Next, your wpengine subscription includes daily backups, which means if you accidentally change something or, heaven forbid, mess something up, they have a recent backup of your site so you can go back to where you were when the day started!
Finally, wpengine offers staging. What does this mean? If you want to make a change to your site (even changing to a new theme or another complete redesign), you can host a “staged site” through wpengine, meaning you can work on a new site without affecting your website. This is really great for a long-term project or even just something you’re really experimenting with. You have a “play area” if you will while you figure it out!!
So, you’re wondering WHAT DOES IT COST? It’s actually not that much. Personal plans for one website are $29 per month and you can get 2 month free if you prepay for the whole year!! Awesome, right? I’m a big fan of wpengine and can’t recommend it enough.
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Thank you to wpengine for sponsoring this post. I reached out to them about working together on this post after 12 months of my great experience with them. Thank you for supporting all Luci’s Morsels collaborations.