According to a recent study by Hubspot, almost 80% of companies who use blogs as a part of their marketing tactics, report having acquired new customers through their blogging efforts.
Another 82% of companies responded that maintaining an educative and informative blog is crucial to promoting their business. It’s a fact that no matter what line of business you’re in, if you’ve got an online store, you should definitely have a blog along with it.
Fortunately for us, with the availability of tools out there, anybody can get started with an online blog.
It really doesn’t matter how much technical knowledge you have.
Suppose you’re a stay-at-home mom who’s recently got some time on her hands, especially when the kids are asleep. You want to contribute to the household and you think your hobbies might actually make for good business ideas.
Suppose you like baking and you started selling cakes online. You’ve uploaded a few juicy recipes and you think they will sell well.
Now that you’ve built it, you’re waiting for orders to come in. But you don’t want to keep waiting, you want to get more orders, right?
This is where having a blog comes in – for example, you can write about baking, cakes, sugar, spice and everything nice.
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So How Will The Blog Help Your Business?
1. IT HELPS YOUR SEO
If you have good SEO, your website is sure to show up among the first few search results. Blogs are a perfect way of targeting keywords relevant to your industry, and over time, the more relevant content you have on your website, the better its SEO rankings are going to get.
Better SEO means more visibility means more traffic means more potential customers. Therefore if you write a blog post like “How To Make a Blueberry Cake”, you’ll be targeting a lot of people who want to learn how to make or buy blueberry cakes.
They’ll land on that article of yours and then maybe they’ll buy a cake (or a recipe book!).
2. IT ESTABLISHES YOU AS AN AUTHORITY FIGURE
If you regularly churn out informative and educational blogs, people will start to understand that you know what you’re talking about. For example, if you can write in detail about what goes into making a cake, people are more likely to believe that your cakes will taste good.
Gradually people start to really value your opinions and start thinking of you as an expert on the topic. At this point, you’ll be known as a reliable source of information, which will further boost your popularity on the web.
3. HELPS WITH CUSTOMER RELATIONSHIPS
Most guides and other informative articles are free content that you’re providing your customers. In many ways, it’s a great way to build relationships with new customers.
It’s an excellent way to gain your audience’s trust and keep your leads warm.
How To Choose The Best Blogging Platform
There’s plenty of services out there with varying learning curves. If you’re a beginner without a technical background, you’ll want to start off with something straightforward.
As your blog matures, you’ll also want the freedom to add in more features and customizations to better monetize your blog.
It all boils down to how serious you are about running your blog and how much time you’re willing to put in to design it. In this guide, we’ll go through the pros and cons of each platform so that you can find just the right one for your needs.
So here is our list of the best blogging platforms for a beginner.
1. Self-hosted WordPress (WordPress.org)
WordPress is by far, the most popular tool on this list, as more than 32% of websites online are using WordPress – not just blogs; all websites.
There are two versions of WordPress. In this case we’ll be focusing on WordPress.org. WordPress.org is the self-hosted, open source version. And all you need to do is download the WordPress software and then install it on a server. Here is a nifty checklist on how you can get started in creating your WordPress site!
It’s a self-hosted service, which means WordPress won’t provide you a server or a domain. Thus, even though the service is free, you’ll still have to pay for a web server and domain name.
However, there are plenty of hosting plans available on the internet (some of which start as low as $6 per month), and a domain name will cost you about $15 a year.
Apart from that, WordPress also has a lot of themes and plugins which need to be paid for. None of these are absolutely essential, but purchasing them can help give that extra polish on your website to make it substantially more legitimate.
WordPress is popular because it’s super easy to start with, completely customizable, and you’ll have complete control over your website. Let’s take a closer look at the pros and cons.
FINAL THOUGHTS ON WORDPRESS.ORG
WordPress is the clear leader of the pack with a majority of websites being designed with it. WordPress is our pick for the best blogging platform.
However, just because it’s the best doesn’t mean it’s the easiest. There’s a learning curve to figure things out on WordPress, and you’ll need to spend some time to fiddle around some settings to get WordPress to look exactly like you want.
You’ll likely have seen an ad for Wix?on YouTube. Wix is primarily intended for building websites, however, it does have a blogging module. Wix hosts your website for you, and you don’t need to purchase a domain or a server.
They started up back in 2006 and has a user base of 110 million worldwide. The reason for its popularity is simple – it’s super easy to use. It has simple drag and drop tools which let you add items to your website, or you can select any item and customize it how you want.
This saves you the trouble and money of hiring a web designer. As far as ease-of-use is concerned, Wix is even easier than WordPress. WordPress has a visual editor, but no drag-and-drop functionality.
On top of that, Wix has about 500 pre-made templates for you to choose from. These templates are categorized into eCommerce, hobbies like arts & crafts, personal, etc. You can further customize the designs using built-in tools.
The only problem is, once you choose a template, you can’t change it easily.
Wix gives you the option of having a free account, but it comes with several caveats. First of all, your website domain name will show up like this:
Your website will also have the Wix branding on it, and it will show ads for Wix. Also, if you want to make money out of your blog or website, you will have to upgrade to a paid plan.
There are plenty of plans starting from $11 and going up to $35 per month. The most popular though is the $25/month Business Unlimited Plan. It gives you unlimited bandwidth, a free domain, and Wix’s marketing tool called Wix Ascend.
But most importantly, it provides you eCommerce features that let you create your own online store.
FINAL THOUGHTS ON WIX.COM
Wix is great if you want to jump into the game as fast as possible. But it’s worth remembering, Wix is primarily a website building platform and blogs are not the major focus here.
If you want to get your website up and running ASAP, definitely go with WIX since it’s by far the easiest to use, while still giving you room to grow your blog.
3. Blogger by Google
Blogger is probably the oldest blogging platform, which was launched way back in 1999. In 2003, Google acquired it and made it their own.
As a result, anyone with a Google account can use Blogger to make a blog which will have a URL like this: yourname.blogspot.com. It is totally free, and you can get started in a matter of minutes!
By logging onto Blogger, you get access to a dashboard which performs analytics of your blog and tracks the number of visitors, what posts are most popular, etc.
You don’t need a domain, a server, or a hosting plan – which makes it a 100% free solution. But that’s because you don’t truly own the content you’re writing – it’s on Google’s servers.
What this also means if you can’t use the blog to sell anything online, it’s simply a medium for posting content. You can, however, enable Google Adsense and make money off ads.
FINAL THOUGHTS ON BLOGGER
The primary problem with Blogger is that even though it’s a great platform to get started, you can’t really build on it too much because of the lack of features and functionalities.
Ultimately, as you become more popular, or you want to monetize your blog, you’ll have to move on to other blogging platforms which allow for more customizations and add-ons.
4. Gator by HostGator
Hostgator is a popular web hosting company which also has a website builder. You can even just use the hosting service to host a WordPress Blog.
But if you want, you can also go the whole 10 yards with Gator itself.
The Gator tool is another drag-and-drop function which you can use to create any type of website – business, or blogs. On top of that, you get specific templates for many different types of websites, making it a pretty good option if you want full control but without the learning curve of WordPress.
However, the best bit is that they have their own inbuilt analytics and optimization software! Social sharing tools and G-suite productivity tools are also part of the bargain. You don’t need any separate plugins for that.
They have 3 plans – the starter ($3.84/mo), the premium ($5.99/mo) and eCommerce ($9.22/mo). All of them provide free domain name registration for 12 months, unmetered bandwidth, and access to analytics.
FINAL THOUGHTS ON HOSTGATOR
HostGator has a lot of useful features in it, and if you want a simple blog which you can also use for eCommerce, it’s a pretty good choice. However, if you want a lot of customization and plugin support, you’re better off with WordPress.
Medium has also emerged as a platform of expression for a lot of talented writers, bloggers, journalists, and subject matter experts. It was launched in 2012 by Evan Williams, who also started up Blogger before it later got acquired by Google.
In many ways, Medium resembles social media as you will have a page with a URL like https://medium.com/@yourpagename. You cannot have a domain of your own.
On Medium, the focus is on content – hence you can publish stories about your brand but not build the brand itself. You have two options: either write and publish posts associated with your username or produce a publication, in which case you can customize the layout.
As far as the customization goes, you can add your brand’s logo, brand colors, or image to the header. For the layout, you can choose either a grid or a stream based layout. That’s the limit of how much you can personalize your posts.
If you want to reach out to similar minded people or people who are in the same industry as yours, Medium is an excellent place to be on. It has no ads, no distractions, and attracts serious readers who care about the quality of your writing.
Medium is absolutely free to use if you’re a publisher! Readers have a subscription model though, where you pay $50 a year, to get personalized, and well-reviewed content.
How Do You Make Money Off Medium?
You need to sign up for the partner program. Once you do and you start writing quality posts which are well-reviewed by Medium’s editors, then your posts will get recommended to subscribed members of Medium.
Whenever these members read or applaud your work, you will get paid. This payment comes from the readers themselves, not through ads or social shares.
FINAL THOUGHTS ON MEDIUM
Medium is the best platform online for reading high-quality content, no doubt about it. However, its features are limited and so are its money-making capabilities. You don’t have your own audience nor your own domain.
Thus, it’s okay to use Medium for once-in-a-while posts. Your main purpose with Medium should be tapping into the audience which is already there. If you write a well-informed piece about something they’re interested in, they’ll want to know who wrote it and eventually find themselves on your website.
6. WordPress.com by Automattic
WordPress.com is the commercial version of WordPress. In essence, it’s a blog hosting service based on the WordPress engine. This service is offered by Automattic, which is a company co-founded by WordPress.org founder, Matt Mullenweg.
It was started in 2005 with an aim to bring WordPress to a broader audience – an audience who didn’t want to bother with the advanced features of WordPress.org like hosting your own domain and server and setting up your website.
It was pitched as an all-in-one solution where you simply go, follow the steps, and you’ll be able to create your own website or blog.
The significant difference is that all the major aspects of your website – security, backup, performance are all handled by the WordPress.com team.
As far as customization goes, it’s also much more limited than WordPress.org as you can only choose from the themes and templates they have on offer. You can also add widgets and menus.
The best thing about WordPress.com is that they let you build and host a blog or a website completely free of cost.
However, your URL will look like this: yoursite.wordpress.com. It will also bear the WordPress watermark and will show ads for WordPress. But the worst bit is that your storage will only be limited to 3GB.
If you want more space, and you want to remove the ads and you want to use more advanced features, you’ll have to get one of the paid versions – the Personal at $4/month, the Premium version at $8/month, and the Business version at $25/ month.
If you’re running an eCommerce store or you’re selling a service, you would definitely need to utilize third-party plugins for lead generation forms, SEO, etc. That functionality is available only in the $25 per month plan.
FINAL THOUGHTS ON WORDPRESS.COM
WordPress.com is perfect if you don’t have a lot of experience with website building. In my opinion, it’s okay to start off with as a personal project or a small-time store, but you can’t make it permanent because you don’t have ownership of your website.
In my opinion, if you’re just looking for a side hustle which you’ll continue for a couple of years, WordPress.com is a good choice. If you like your side hustle so much that you want to stick with it, even later on, then you should move on over to the self-hosted WordPress because of its customizability and because you get full freedom and possession over your blog.
Ghost is a minimalist blogging platform created by a former WordPress developer in 2013. It aims to provide a clean and slick writing and publishing experience without all the added clutter.
Because of its open-source nature, you have the freedom to customize the look and feel of your blog any way you want – you can even add custom code to your website for advertisements.
It’s notoriously hard to find a working link to download the ghost software, and your only option is via this GitHub link.
However, the simplified user interface means you don’t have much variety when it comes to downloading pre-made themes and plugins.
Ghost is available in two formats – the self-hosted version where you download the software on to your server and get a domain of your own. That would cost you about $15/year and $7.99/month for the web-hosting.
Or you also have the option of getting the commercially hosted version which is priced at $29/month. However, you’ll end up getting a domain which ends with ghost.io.
FINAL THOUGHTS ON GHOST
Ghost was made for the express purpose of blogging, and it’s a good platform if that’s all you want to do. If you value simplicity over versatility and you don’t want to use your blog or websites for selling any products or services, Ghost is a good choice.
What Shoud You Choose?
We have reviewed quite a few blogging platforms today. However, when choosing the best blogging platform, you need to keep in mind what your end goal is.
The most popular and most versatile choice is by far, the self-hosted WordPress.org software. No matter what the purpose of your blog is, you can set it up with WordPress, and the innumerable themes and plugins will help you with customization.
However, it does have a bit of a learning curve, and if you want to get it done easier, I would suggest using Wix or Gator. Wix is a particularly good choice if your blog is a small part of a larger and more complex website.
If you’re just looking to get your voice heard and your views across, you could go old school and set up an account on Blogger. This won’t fetch you a lot of money though. Blogger or Ghost is more like a pastime than a business.
If your topic of blog is more industry-oriented, and you want to tap into an already established audience base, then Medium is a perfect choice. Both of these are also absolutely free.
Now that you’re fully aware of the best blogging platform to use, learn how to actually build your blog from start to finish with our FREE email course!