Thursday, May 28, 2015

Choosing a Blogging Platform: Hosted

Pros and Cons of Stand Alone Blogging Platforms
  • Full Control of Design – Depending upon your ability with web design standalone blogs generally are very adaptable. I am not strong in this area personally but am constantly amazed by some of my colleague’s abilities to create incredibly diverse and clever designs. Of course those bloggers with little ability in this area may either need to use default templates (with the same limitations as default templates of hosted blogs) or get others to help with this.
  • Adaptability – One of the things I enjoy about WordPress is the vast array of developers who are coming up with all manner of ‘plugins’ which extend the ability of the basic WP installation. Similarly many of the other standalone platforms have communities of developers producing similar arrays of plugins
  • Free Platforms – while you end up paying for your domain name and hosting systems like these are usually free to run. Some do have license fees if you’re having multiple blogs or using them for commercial purposes – but many are open source.
  • URL – Having your own domain name is great for many reasons. For one it’s easier to remember, secondly it’s more professional and hirdly it is more easily brand-able.
  • Complicated Set Up – once again this depends upon your technical abilities and web savvy but when you move into stand alone platforms the complexity of set up tends to increase. It often involves arranging hosting, setting up databases and then downloading the platform onto you own computer and then uploading it via ftp onto your web hosting server. There are good tutorials around for most of the platforms to help with this process but for many it is a daunting thing. Once again it’s not my strength so I generally get by blogs set up and designed by a professional designer (although recently have been learning to do it a little more myself). NB: one way around this is to find a web host that will install your blog platform for you. This is becoming increasingly popular. Some platforms even recommend hosts that will do it for you 
  • Cost – While the blog platform itself might be free you need to factor in the ongoing costs of having your own domain name (a yearly fee plus a one off registration fee) and hosting fees (again yearly). There are many great deals out on these so it need not cost the world – although if your blog gets a lot of traffic the costs do go up and you might want to consider going onto a more professional and expensive plan.
  • Updates – Most blog platforms go through different and versions over time. Updating from one to another can be complicated if you don’t know what you’re doing.
  • Hosting Issues – I mentioned in the cons of the hosted platforms that you have ‘less control’ over your blog and are at the whims of your platform’s hosting being up or down. Of course this is also true for any hosting as from time to time different hosting solutions can have their own problems. Whether you use a hosted solution or a stand alone solution it’s important to back up and be aware that from time to time things do go down. Choose a reputable host if you go the stand alone route to ensure maximum uptime.

Blogging Platorms: Hosted vs Stand Alone in 2015

When it comes to choosing a blogging platform, there are options like Blogger or Wordpress or Typepad. And then there is the decision as to whether you want to host the blog yourself on your own domain, point your domain to a free solution, or some other option. Here is what you should consider when making the choice:

Budget: If you don't want to put any money into your blog, go with a free blog hosted at or The advantage of this is that in the future, you can easily purchase any domain of your choice and point it in the direction of the free blog.

When it comes to costs, there are three main expenses to keep in mind:
  • The blog platform itself
  • Hosting for your blog
  • Domain Name
Technical skill: If you have little or no technical skills in terms of design, purchasing a domain, etc. you'll either need to buy a book, do a lot of research, or hire someone to do it for you. That may also mean something like Blogger is better since it is quite a bit more intuitive than Wordpress. 

Goals: Try to answer the following questions to the best of your ability:
  • Is blogging something I see myself doing long term?
  • What will the main purpose of my blog be?
  • Is my blogging more of a hobby or does it have some professional application?
  • Do I foresee putting ads on my blog?

Blogging Platorms: Pros and Cons of Hosted Blogs

Pros and Cons of Hosted Blog Platforms
  • Cheap or Free to run – most hosted options are free (of the four I mentioned above, only TypePad charges).
  • Relatively easy to set up – most of these types of blogs can be set up with a basic default template within minutes. The set up is usually just a matter of filling in a few fields with your options and choosing a template design.They are ideal if you know nothing or very little about the technological side of blogging.
  • Simple to Run – Once you’re through the easy set up process hosted blogs are usually pretty simple to run. You will obviously need to learn some basics, but these days most blog platforms come with very user friendly features. Posting is as simple as filling in a few fields and hitting publish.
  • Updated Automatically – if the blog platform updates it will automatically do so for you. Instead of having to upload new software onto a server, these updates happen much more seamlessly.
  • Indexed in Search Engines Quickly – one of the advantages of many hosted blog platforms is that they are put onto domains that have good page ranks already. While your blog won’t be indexed in search engines when you start, most bloggers notice that their blogs get picked up and ranked pretty quickly. In the long run they probably don’t rank much higher than other blogs on stand alone hosting – but they are a quick way to get into SE’s.
  • Less Configurable – My first blog was on a blog – the reason I moved from it within months was that it was so limited in terms of features and ability to design a professional running blog. Of course this was 3 years ago and has improved significantly – but one of the biggest frustrations with hosted blog owners are their limited options for customization. This does vary from platform to platform within the hosted options. For example has quite limited design options (for instance you can’t ad ads to templates making it a poor choice to make money with), doesn’t give the option for categories and TypePad has different options depending upon which level you buy in at.
  • Default Design Limitations – While this can be true for standalone blogging systems also I find that many hosted blogs end up looking very similar to one another. This is because the default templates get used over and over again and if you’re a beginner they can be difficult to adapt. For instance with to make changes (and you can make your blog look quite unique) you need to know CSS and HTML to edit your templates (something you need to know with other platforms also it’s worth mentioning).
  • Less Control – Another common complaint I hear regularly from hosted blog owners is that they are frustrated by not having ultimate control over their blog. While they do own the content, the URL is not technically their own and they are somewhat at the mercy of their platform in terms of whether their blog is working or not. For example there have been times in the last few months when TypePad bloggers have been frustrated by their blogs being down for periods of time (something struggles with from time to time also). To be fair on TypePad – they did compensate their bloggers for this down time.
  • Generic URL – having your own URL can give a sense of professionalism and memorability to a blog that hosted options might well go without. While there are some very successful blogs on hosted platforms some bloggers believe that having your own URL is much more professional if you are using your blog in a professional way.
  • Upgrading to Standalone can be Tricky – Probably the question worth asking before you go with a hosted option is what you’ll do if your blog gets big or you get the blogging bug in a way that won’t let you go? One of the issues of starting out with a hosted platform is that if there comes a day when you want to go with a standalone one that you have some work cut out for you in retaining any traffic that you’ve built up. I’m not saying it’s impossible to do (I’ve done it myself) but there are implications of changing domains later in terms of taking regular readers with you, having to climb the search engine rankings all over again and redirecting traffic from one blog to another.

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