When starting a blog, one of the first decisions you need to make is which blogging platform or content management system (CMS) to use. There are many options out there, but three of the most popular and widely-used ones are WordPress.com, Blogger, and other self-hosted solutions like WordPress.org. Choosing the right platform can impact everything from your blog’s capabilities, customization options, ease of use, and cost.
In this comprehensive guide, we’ll compare and contrast WordPress.com vs Blogger vs other self-hosted CMS options to help you determine the best blogging platform for your needs. We’ll look at factors like features, customization, ease of use, SEO, monetization options, support, and pricing. By the end, you’ll have a clear understanding of the pros and cons of each platform so you can make an informed decision.
WordPress.com is a popular free blogging platform created by Automattic, the company behind the open-source WordPress software. With WordPress.com, your blog is hosted on WordPress.com servers, so you don’t have to worry about web hosting, domain registration, updates, or security. Here are some of the key features and pros of using WordPress.com:
- Intuitive drag-and-drop editor – Easy to create and format posts with formatting options and media embedding.
- SEO-friendly – Comes optimized for search engines with support for XML sitemaps and search engine indexing.
- Media management – Upload images, videos, docs with galleries and slideshows.
- Design customization – Choose free themes and customize colors, fonts, layout with CSS. More options with premium plan.
- Reader engagement – Comments, social sharing buttons, newsletter sign-up widgets.
- Performance and security – Fast loading speed with content delivery network (CDN). Regular security updates.
- Built-in ecommerce – Sell products/services with integrated store options and payment processing.
- Mobile friendly – Responsive design adapts to phones and tablets. Mobile app available.
Ease of Use
- Quick setup – Sign up for a free account and your blog is live within minutes. Easy domain mapping.
- Intuitive backend – Dashboard provides stats at a glance. Menus and layout are user-friendly.
- Excellent documentation – Detailed support articles and tutorials readily available.
- Active community – Large community forum to get help from other users.
- Automatic sitemap creation
- Optimized platform for search engine crawling
- Ability to customize meta titles and descriptions
- Integrates with SEO plugins like Yoast (premium plan only)
- 100s of free themes – Varying degrees of customization offered. Ability to modify CSS.
- Some plugins supported – Extend functionality with integrations (premium plans have more).
- Limited custom CSS – Make limited styling tweaks to free themes.
- No custom code – Cannot add custom HTML or scripts to pages.
- Built-in ads – Monetize with WordAds program on free plan after getting approved.
- Affiliate links – Earn commissions promoting other products/services.
- Premium upgrades – Upgrade to sell products/services directly or access other features.
- Detailed help center – Extensive docs and tutorials available 24/7.
- Active forums – Large support forums to get help from community.
- Limited support tickets – Only premium plans get 1-on-1 email support.
- Free – Limited features but enough for simple blog. With ads.
- Premium plans – More features, customization, support, and monetization for $4-$45/month.
Blogger is another popular free blogging platform, created by Google in 1999. It offers an easy way to get started, but gives you less design flexibility than WordPress.com. Here’s an overview of Blogger’s features:
- WYSIWIG editor – Edit posts visually with formatting options and media embeds.
- Basic design templates – Choose from a selection of templates to change site design.
- Media and image hosting – Upload images and docs to content. Limited storage space.
- SEO options – Meta tags can be customized. Sitemaps and webmaster tools available.
- Ad management – Run Google AdSense to monetize your blog with ads.
- Mobile friendly – Switch to mobile template for responsive design. No custom app.
Ease of Use
- Quick setup – Create a Google account and launch blog in minutes.
- Intuitive interface – Post editor and dashboard menus clearly laid out.
- Limited documentation – Some basic help articles available.
- User forums – Get help and advice from the Blogger community.
- Editable meta tags
- XML sitemaps
- Google webmaster tools integration
- URL structures optimized for SEO
- Template themes – Some customization of fonts, colors etc within templates.
- Layouts – No ability to modify site layout or structure.
- CSS tweaks – Very limited CSS editing possible.
- No plugins – Cannot extend functionality with plugins.
- No custom code – HTML/scripts cannot be added.
- Google AdSense – Show Google ads on blog to earn revenue.
- Affiliate links – Limited affiliate/referral link options.
- No built-in store – Cannot directly sell own products/services.
- Help center resources – Limited docs and tutorials.
- Forums – Get help from Blogger user community.
- No 1-on-1 support – No email or chat support offered.
- Free – Full-featured free offering. Includes ads.
- No paid plans – No premium options for added features/customization.
Other Self-Hosted CMS Options
Instead of using a hosted platform like WordPress.com or Blogger, you can install open-source CMS software on your own web hosting server. Popular options like WordPress.org and Ghost give you more flexibility and ownership. Here’s an overview:
- Open source WordPress – Freely downloadable software to run yourself.
- Unlimited customization – Edit code, CSS, add plugins/themes.
- More complex setup – Requires web hosting account and domain.
- Higher cost – Must pay for hosting, possible premium software.
- Open source software – Download and install on own hosting.
- Built for publishing – Clean, distraction-free writing experience.
- Developer-focused – APIs and integrations for developers.
- Limited plugins/themes – Smaller ecosystem than WordPress currently.
- Powerful CMS – More complex than a blog-focused platform.
- Open source – Download and install on web server.
- Steep learning curve – Not as beginner friendly as WordPress.
- Extensive features – For larger, more complex websites.
- Sophisticated CMS – Made for large enterprise sites.
- Open source – Free download and self-hosted.
- Difficult for beginners – Better for developers/tech pros.
- Scalable – Can power complex, high-traffic websites.
Key Factors in Deciding Between Platforms
When choosing the best blogging platform, there are a few key factors to consider:
Ease of use
If you’re not tech-savvy, WordPress.com and Blogger will be easier to manage than self-hosted options. But WordPress.org has extensive docs to help overcome the learning curve.
WordPress.com offers more customization and design options than Blogger. Self-hosted WordPress/Ghost provide full control over code and CSS.
Features and integrations
WordPress.com and self-hosted WordPress have the most feature-rich ecosystems with plugins and integrations. Blogger is more limited.
Ownership and control
With WordPress.com and Blogger, you don’t own your content. Self-hosted options give you full ownership and control.
Blogger is free. WordPress.com has free plans but premium adds more features. Self-hosted options require paying for hosting and domains.
Conclusions and Recommendations
- WordPress.com is the best turnkey blogging platform for beginners who want an easy, user-friendly experience. The free plan is very capable, and premium plans provide good value for money.
- Blogger is fine for very simple blogs, but limited customization and lack of monetization make WordPress.com a better option for most users.
- Self-hosted WordPress offers the ultimate in ownership and flexibility, but requires more technical skill. Good for established blogs looking for advanced features.
- Other self-hosted CMS options like Ghost, Joomla, and Drupal cater to specific audiences, but have smaller user bases than WordPress currently.
- Evaluate your technical skill level, desire for customization, and need for specific features/integrations when choosing a platform.
- Try WordPress.com first – it’s easy to get started. If you outgrow its capabilities, self-hosted WordPress is a natural next step.
No matter which platform you choose, the most important thing is to focus on creating great content. The software should support your blogging goals rather than get in the way. With the right platform for your needs, you’ll be able to grow a successful blog that engages readers.