Four places you could start blogging right now.

Four scrabble tiles placed next to each other on a table top to spell the word blog.

Four places you could start blogging right now.

Blogging has been a central part of online communications for a long time, and has continued to be very popular. Part of the reason for this is that it’s a great way to share your expertise on a subject and grow an audience who get to know you better by reading your updates. More recently, it’s also been promoted as a means to support better search engine optimisation, since search algorithms preference sites that are regularly updated with new content.

One of the really good things about bogging and the way it has evolved over time, is that there are so many things you can do with it now – you can share short updates and insights (known as ‘microblogging’), use video to ‘vlog’, or create an image heavy blog (think of things like food or craft bloggers, and the increasing popularity of infographics).

Whatever your motivation, blogging is a great way to communicate online. Which is why I’ve done some research to bring you the key info about four different blogging platforms. And because I know budgets are always tight, all the platforms I’ve listed below are free.

Just to make the freeness extra clear, I mean there is no cost to using the platform and you don’t have to pay for hosting. This is great because it means you’re not tied in to buying (and dealing with!) hosting and a domain and all that bother. But, it is worth mentioning that this does mean that technically they could take your blog down at any point at their discretion, if it was deemed to break their rules. Realistically there is probably not much risk of that, as long as you are not sharing anything inappropriate. But I thought I had better mention it, just so you know.

So, here are (in no particular order) my thoughts on the free blogging platforms I looked at:

Blogger

Blogger is owned by Google meaning, as with all their products, you do need a Google account to use Blogger. So if you’ve already got an account you can get started with this platform straight away.

Features
  • You can use it for free.
  • You can’t get a custom domain (i.e. your website’s address, e.g. www.example.com). But you do get a subdomain (it’s ‘sub’ because your site exists as a part of theirs. So your blog’s website address would be, for example, www.example.blogspot.com). And, if you buy a domain (which you can get through sites like GoDaddy) you can link it to your Blogger account so that you don’t have to use the default subdomain option.
  • You get a choice of designs for your blog. But, there are not many choices available, your options are much more limited on Blogger than on the other sites in this list.
  • It’s not mobile friendly – it looks good if you view the blog on a computer, but it’s not optimised to look good when viewed on a smartphone.
  • Because Blogger is from Google, it links up with other Google products like Analytics (meaning you can track data about your blog as you would with a website, like where people are coming from, which are your most popular blogs, etc.) and Adsense (meaning you can monetise your blog by allowing adverts to be displayed). But you can’t use any third-party plugins, only products from Google.
  • Blogger has an HTML view, allowing you to edit the code on your blog – none of the other sites in this list have this feature.
  • Blogger is very simple to use, making it good for beginners. But, it doesn’t really have any ways to upgrade your blog, so there isn’t much room for it to grow as you become more experienced.

 

A thought

Blogger is the oldest blogging site on this list. Having existed for such a long time shows it has stood the test of time, is reliable, and is easy to use. But, it does also mean that it can be quite dated in terms of design and features.

Good for

Beginners writing personal blogs e.g. on hobbies.

Medium

Medium is great for anyone not quite settled on a clear theme for their blogs or who likes to write on a lot of topics, because each post can be a kind of stand-alone piece, so they don’t necessarily need to be closely related to one another.

Features
  • You can use it for free.
  • You can’t get a custom domain (i.e. your website’s address, e.g. www.example.com), and you don’t get a subdomain either, your blog would be at www.medium.com/example. If you buy a domain (which you can get through sites like GoDaddy) you can link it to individual Medium blogs, but not your whole blog.
  • There are no design options, everyone’s blogs look the same.
  • It’s mobile friendly, so it will look good whether people look at it on a computer, laptop, or smartphone.
  • Medium comes with the ability to share, follow and comment on blogs – and not just comment on the whole blog, but also highlighting a line and commenting on that specifically.
  • You can also embed content from Twitter, YouTube, Vimeo, Instagram, and SoundCloud into blogs (so they will appear there in the blog, rather than you having to include a link that takes people to them) – none of the others in this list have this feature.
  • But, you can’t use any third-party plugins to add additional features.
  • You can get stats about your blogs, including how many people have recommended it to others, reads, and where views came from.
  • Medium is easy to use and probably the most popular/fastest growing right now of the platforms in this list.

 

A thought

As well as being a place to publish articles, users do also read a lot of bogs on the platform too, meaning that if you start using it there is a ready-made audience for your blogs right there. But, this does mean that you might be ‘building your house on someone else’s land’ – ultimately the audience you build on Medium belongs to and lives on Medium, if you move platforms you’ll lose them unless you can convince them to follow you.

Good for

Blogging beginners – the platform is very simple to use, although possibly verging on too simple with no ability to choose different designs. It’s mostly used by bloggers, writers, and journalists, meaning it’s kind of a community of writers, so if you are wanting to develop as a writer and connect with other like-minded writers/bloggers, then Medium is a good place for you.

Tumblr

Although the name may be slightly annoying to some (if you’re not a fan of the recent trend for misspelled company names), Tumblr is an interesting site because it’s a social networking site as much as it is a blogging platform which, depending what your needs are, could be good or bad.

Features
  • You can use it for free.
  • You can’t get a custom domain (i.e. your website’s address, e.g. www.example.com). But you do get a subdomain (it’s ‘sub’ because your site exists as a part of theirs. So your blog’s website address would be, for example, www.example.tumblr.com). And, if you buy a domain (which you can get through sites like GoDaddy) you can link it to your Tumblr account so that you don’t have to use the default subdomain option.
  • You get a choice of design for your blog, and there are a lot of themes to choose from.
  • It’s mobile friendly, so it will look good whether people look at it on a computer, laptop, or smartphone.
  • Blogs can be liked, shared (or ‘re-blogged’ as it’s called on Tumblr), and commented on, and you can follow blogs.
  • You can’t use any third-party plugins to add additional features, including social media – so there is no easy way to have a ‘share this on Twitter’ option on your blogs (but as referenced above, this is unsurprising given that the site is very social itself).
  • Easy to use, especially if you want to share something beyond just text, e.g. if you want to post images, videos, gifs, etc. But, if you do want to share text it’s not so good for that, Tumblr is more of a micro-blogging site – like Twitter, but without restricting character limits.

 

A thought

Tumblr is more popular among younger people than the others in this list. This is likely due to the social nature of the site and the fact that you can post images, videos, and gifs so easily. As a result, like other social networking sites, Tumblr sees a lot of memes. In fact, Tumblr is thought to be one of the weirder social networks (search ‘Tumblr is weird’ on Google if you want to see some examples), and if you don’t believe me, think about the fact that the unicycling frog ‘dat boi’ is commonly acknowledged as becoming popular on Tumblr before being let loose on the rest of the internet (seriously, the weirdness!).

Good for

Short form content e.g. micro-blogs, quotes, etc., and especially if you have different types of content to share e.g. images, video, gifs, etc. It’s also good for social networking, especially if you’re into memes and maybe a little bit of weirdness.

WordPress.com

Not to be confused with wordpress.org which allows you to create full websites (but requires you to have your own hosting and domain), wordpress.com is a free platform for creating blogs.

Features
  • You can use it for free. But, it’s free with WordPress adverts displayed on your blog – to get a version with no ads, you have to pay.
  • You can’t get a custom domain (i.e. your website’s address, e.g. www.example.com). But you do get a subdomain (it’s ‘sub’ because your site exists as a part of theirs. So your blog’s website address would be, for example, www.example.wordpress.com). And, if you buy a domain (which you can get through sites like GoDaddy) you can link it to your wordpress.com account so that you don’t have to use the default subdomain option.
  • You get a choice of designs for your blog. But you can’t use custom themes as you would be able to on a wordpress.org website.
  • It’s mobile friendly, so it will look good whether people look at it on a computer, laptop, or smartphone. But this does partly depend on the design you choose, some of them aren’t mobile friendly – be aware of this when you make your choice.
  • You can use plugins to set up sharing, comments, and polls on your blog. But you can’t use any third-party plugins, only those provided by wordpress.com, which means if they don’t have it, you can’t do it.
  • You can upgrade to get extra storage or extra design tools, etc., meaning your blog can expand as you need it too. But, of course, these extras come with a cost.
  • It’s not difficult to use and if you do have any problems wordpress.com has great technical support, both from WordPress themselves, and from the community of people who use it.
  • com is like a stripped-back version of wordpress.org, so it may make a transition to the latter easier if you wish to expand your blog into a full website later.

 

A thought

Of free blogging platforms, this is the one that most often gets people’s recommendation, which is encouraging. But, this does seem to be partly influenced by the fact that wordpress.org is so popular for building websites, in which case for beginner bloggers just looking for something simple with free hosting, wordpress.com may be more than you need.

Good for

People who want to blog for more professional or organisational purposes.

In conclusion

Which of these sites you should use very much depends on your needs and what kinds of things you’ll want to share, but all of these sites could be a good choice if you’re looking for a free blogging platform.

Have you used any of them already, to blog yourself or read other people’s blogs? Let me know in the comments below!

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