When you’re setting up a blog, it can be very tempting to use one of the many free blogging solutions available. If you’re choosing to pay for one, on the other hand, the vast majority of users prefer WordPress. It makes the question easy; do you go with WordPress, or do you go with a free option?
Available Free Options
There are a number of free platforms for blogs, all with different pros and cons. If you’re considering free, consider the options:
Blogger.Blogger is Google’s offering in the free blogging realm, and it’s unsurprisingly easy to set up and get started. It’s also tied to Google, which can be a pro and a con itself. You never know if Google will kill off Blogger like it has so many other properties it absorbs. On the other hand, it’s still a quick and easy free platform to use for basic blogs, arguably the second most popular after WordPress.
Tumblr.A new social blogging platform, Tumblr was acquired by Yahoo and as such has a rocky future ahead. It’s currently a nice, ad-free platform, but it has limitations. You’re not able to advertise on the platform, and your SEO options are limited. It’s also populated primarily by an audience under 25, making it a poor option for some businesses. On the other hand, it’s a great option when considered as a social media network, rather than a blog platform.
Svbtle. This platform might be the new way to go in the near future, but for now it’s strictly limited and invite-only. It also lacks comments; not a great feature for a business blog.
Quora.This particular platform is also used as sort of a social commenting section, and it runs the gamut between professional blogs and content on the same quality level as Yahoo Answers. You also can’t customize the platform at all. It’s more of a place to showcase your knowledge as an industry thought leader than it is a place to create your own personal space.
Google+. Billed by Google as something more than a social network, Google+ integrates some features from Blogger. You’re able to use it as a blog, if you so choose, and it helps automate one aspect of SEO; that of the fast indexing. Chances are you’ll be using Google+ anyway, so perhaps running a blog through it isn’t the worst idea.
WordPress.Yes, WordPress has its own free blogging platform. It’s strictly limited, however, particularly compared to the custom WordPress setup. You use a .wordpress.com URL unless you pay extra for your own. You’re limited in the amount of customization and advertising you’re allowed to implement. Further, you’re limited in the plugins you can use. The primary benefit of a free WordPress.com blog is that you don’t have to worry about setting up or updating the platform.
Using Custom WordPress
WordPress.org is the site for the WordPress software, which you can download and implement on a server of your own. This allows you to have a completely customized blog running on the powerful software of WordPress. How does it differ from the various free options, particularly WordPress’s other offering?
WordPress.org offers an ad-free experience. Any advertising you put on your blog is yours to control, such as through Google AdSense. With WordPress.com, and with many other free platforms, you can’t place your own ads. Ads on some platforms, particularly WordPress.com, are placed – and required – by the platform itself. You can only remove them if you pay for the service.
With WordPress.org, you need to install and configure the backend entirely on your own. You’re not taking advantage of a free, pre-configured platform. You have to set everything up and customize it. This includes installing a theme, or developing a theme of your own. For maximum customization, you will likely have to pay for a theme. There are services that will convert your PSD wireframe into a working theme, for an additional fee.
With WordPress.org, you need to keep the platform up to date. You are responsible for maintaining the security of your platform. If a security update is issued, you will need to implement it, with all of the resulting downtime and potential issues that entails.
WordPress.org is essentially required if you’re selling products through your blog. WordPress.com’s free offering, as well as many other free platforms, limit your ability to sell products. These limitations may be hidden in the Terms of Service, so make sure you read that agreement before you invest in such a platforms.
Most free alternatives limit your storage space. If you focus primarily on photography or multimedia, chances are you’ll eat through your available space in no time at all. You will need your own customized setup to have the storage space you require.
WordPress.org has hundreds of plugins to add features, close security holes, add additional protections and generally enhance the platform. You do not have the benefit of using plugins on sites such as Tumblr or Blogger. Likewise, the WordPress.com hosted solution limits your available selection of plugins.
Additionally, WordPress.org is actually a free option as well. In fact, if you’re paying for ad removal and a custom domain, WordPress.com’s “free” service is more expensive than using your own customized WordPress.org setup. The costs, however, are just deferred. With WordPress.org, you need your own domain name and hosting, both of which cost money. Depending on the hosting you buy, it may be a lot more money than you’re spending on the freemium services. For all of the additional customization features, however, this cost can be very worth it.
Making the Choice
For almost every case, the appropriate choice is going to be WordPress.org. It’s free, particularly if you already have hosting for a website. Developing a custom theme is costly, but it’s a one time expense. Furthermore, you’re given such a wide range of customization options it’s hard to say no. So why would you?
There are a few reasons to opt for one of the free platforms. If you have no desire for ecommerce and are just running a personal blog, a free platform works fine. If you don’t care about a custom URL, a free platform fits the bill. Perhaps the biggest reason to use a free service, however, is the lack of maintenance.You don’t have to stay up all night supporting your site when you discover a bug in the code. You don’t have to worry about implementing changes to your themes manually. You don’t have to worry about the downtime with applying a platform update. All of these maintenance tasks are handled by WordPress themselves.