This currently stands as the longest post I’ve ever written. Hey, it’s not easy to do an overview of all these great options, and I wanted to provide this all in one stop. So feel free to scan for what you want to know and then ask for any specifics in the comments! I’d love to help you strategize and get going in a direction that suits your needs! Also… I’ll keep updating this post as needed.
I’m rather known for being a “blogging evangelist”. No, not the “I share my faith through my blog” kind of thing (though that’s kinda inevitable), but the “you should blog” kind. Yep, I try to convert people into bloggers!
I think anyone can benefit from blogging, and especially if you’re in ministry! Because I believe this so strongly, I’ll soon be posting some top benefits of blogging. In fact, I’ll be doing a whole series for beginner bloggers. However, I want to discuss something I’ve been asked many times already, “Which blogging service should I use?”
Recently, my lead pastor was telling the many campus pastors they should consider blogging even if only for an archive of their answers and counseling they have to give often. I thought, “he sounds like me now.” Then one asked, “Well which platform would you recommend?” and I realized it was time I finish this post.
With so many options out there (literally hundreds) it is hard to know which one is worth your time and fits your needs best. There’s no “front porch” for deciding which of these doors to enter. I’ve blogged for over a decade in one form or another, so with that experience, I can give an objective view on some major platforms as well as tell why you might choose one and not another. Let’s do this!
The Major Platforms, Their Perks, Differences, and Why You or Your Organization Might Choose One
Again, I’ve used a few of these in this last decade and know many people who have used even the ones I haven’t. I’m no fanatic about any specific one, so I’ll give you a pretty fair view of these. However, these are simply my view, and not a thorough rundown of every capability these have. You can probably find those elsewhere on the web. Here’s my view:
Blogger / Blogspot.com
After my first blog on Myspace saw success (no joke), I decided it was time to step it up a notch, and I used Blogger regularly for about 8 years. I begin with this one on my list, because I often tell people to begin with this one for themselves. Here’s a few pros for it and reasons why you might like it:
- Free. Enough said there. Unless you’d like to buy your own domain (like rileyadamvoth.com). You can though, and that’s a good thing as well.
- Blogger is very simple and fun to use. There’s not much learning curve with Blogger. If you’re new to blogging and it seems like a scary task to you, Blogger will make it quick and easy to jump right in and catch a groove. They even have multi-author features and lots of good things like that, in a super simple set-up.
- It’s still very customizable. Blogger provides a large choice of templates which you can customize pretty quick and easy to your taste, be it clean and simple or lots of widgets and gadgets for different features. They even have a new selection of super snazzy, “modern”, templates that have multiple clean functions to them and look great on any device. If you get really into it, like I did, you can access your HTML template and design it yourself with bits and pieces from things you find all over the internet. There are even communities and people who create entire themes you can purchase or get free that are pretty awesome.
- It’s owned by Google! Ok, we all know Google owns the web, so this is a huge perk actually. With the creation of Google+ and the integration of all Google’s products, you will have a huge head start on others in being ranked (found in results) if you produce quality content. I can’t get into it all, but this is a big point for Blogger – they do a ton of the heavy lifting for you in terms of search results. Also, you can bet that Google will continue to update and innovate with this product as time goes on and enjoy the usability.
A few CONS though, would actually be that just as it can be good you can customize it, this could also be bad. If you see yourself really getting into blogging for the long haul and doing this as a consistent hobby, job, or want more functions for your ministry, you’ll be very limited on how much you can expand your blog without a great deal of educating yourself.
Blogger also limits the amount of stand alone pages you can create last I knew. No bueno! This is ultimately why I transferred my blog – which is always a future option (though not a ton of fun).
To sum it up, I typically say, “If you don’t dream of being a super-blog one day, and you are okay with a very simple blog but want a really easy to use, good system, use Blogger.” Feel free to ask questions in the comments for specifics.
I know, why the dot-com, right? There’s actually two versions of WordPress. One is hosted for you like Google does with Blogger, and one you host yourself (.org). So let’s look at the freely hosted .com first.
- Also free (most of the time)! Again you can set up your own domain, choose from tons of free themes, and you can also purchase premium themes to really snazzy stuff up.
- Fairly simple, but not as simple. WP.com has a bit more of a learning curve than, say, Blogger – not by much, but still it’s true. You’ll be doing more of the search engine optimization (ranking and being found) yourself, though there’s some pretty good features baked into this as well.
- Community developed and oriented. WordPressers are a loyal bunch. Both versions of this platform are more-or-less created by a community of peeps (as opposed to giant company). This means that you can actually get a lot more help, advice, and even expect faster, better development. Seriously, what’s up with that Google?
- Easy to change customizations. Like, really easy. Though it’s easy with Google, there’s no big depository to go shop through like there is with WordPress.com. That’s a pleasant feature.
- I believe it’s easier to transfer to a self-hosted WordPress if you want to really take off with blogging later. ???
Again, and I’d say even more than with Blogger, you’ll be limited on your expansion with this platform. While you can choose from many, many looks, WP.com doesn’t have plugins and ways to give your blog more abilities. You be thinking, “who cares?” but many people do care once you get into it. You’d be surprised. Feel free to ask questions in the comments.
To sum it up, I typically say, “If you’re not as big of Google fan, you may need to just flip a coin between WP.com and Blogger. However, my greatest advice would be to go just browse through Blogger sites and WordPress sites and get a feel for them because they do “feel” very different somehow. See which you like. If it’s up to me, I lean towards the Google integration and the new Blogger templates still, but only barely.” Can you say, “One of us… One of us… One of us…”? :S Haha.
I’ve honestly never used Tumblr for a blog of my own though I know tons of people who have. So this would be a great opportunity for someone to lend some value in the comments, but here are my thoughts. Pros:
- Also free. I do think you can purchase fancy themes and your own domain though just like the above two platforms as well.
- Quick, easy, and simple to take off at a high rate of speed. Tumblr is kinda known as a rapid fire community. Yet, you can take off fast, and in some cases that’s a really good thing. You can save stuff from all over the web and other Tumblr sites to your stream and just fill it up like crazy with your posts or even other’s. Even their mobile app for posting is pretty great.
- Highly customizable …to an extent. What I mean is that there seems to be no shortage of really cool themes for Tumblr. Many look and function in really cool ways. However, if it’s not baked into the theme, and not much can be, then you can’t do it – unless you can write the code yourself! Basically, the looks can be awesome, the functions and abilities can’t – no plugins, widgets, etc.
- Great for logging things. Tumblr might be the best for just quick posts of events, things you like, stuff you did, someone said, and so on. It’s common for most themes to indicate a photo post, quote post, long-form text post, video post, and other types and look great doing it. It makes for a personal archive of favorites that’s pretty sweet.
However, this one gets it’s own set of “cons” as well.
- Limited interaction. One of the greatest limitations in my opinion, is that unless someone is in the Tumblr network, they can’t interact much with your post. Even then it’s only shares and likes. Some themes do give the ability to enable the Disqus commenting system (which is good), but not most. Limited interaction – who wants that!?
- Again, known for being a one-and-done, never see that post again, kind of platform. It’s so prevalent, that the term Tumblog is now common usage for quick short publishing of random stuff you see and like everywhere. It does have decent archiving of infinitely scrolling thumbnails and search-ability, but still not ideal. Some quality sites with seriously awesome content do exist, but they’re the minority by a long shot on Tumblr.
- Ok, ministries and such take note: One second a person is on your site looking at something funny, and three clicks later they’re viewing porn. Tumblr isn’t the safest place for kids, or any eyes for that matter.
To sum it up, I typically say, “If you’re just wanting a running log of your marriage, photo-blog your trips, keep your weekly worship set-lists on there (I know a guy who does that), then it’s super for that. If you’d prefer that interaction around your posts is possible, and your platform’s community matters, this isn’t the thing. If you’re a creative type though, you might really enjoy it.
Ok we’re stepping up to some more serious stuff here with the last two on my list. By serious, I mean, you pay for them, and you blog seriously. I’ll start with WordPress.org because I know it well, but also because it will help you understand some perks of Typepad.
WordPress.org software is what I use for this blog. When I decided a year ago to get serious and consistent with my blogging for once, I realized quickly that I desired more options. I have many visions for future uses of this that needed these. I put if off for a long while and tried hard to stay with Blogger, but alas, I caved and migrated the whole show to a self-hosted WordPress site.
Being self-hosted is the part that one pays for. The software is free, but you pay someone to host your blog on their web servers and you buy your own domain. Costs vary drastically, but expect to drop at $150/yr or more at a minimum.
So the points for this platform:
- Nearly limitless expansion. WordPress.org isn’t just a blogging platform anymore. It is an entire “content management system” or CMS as they call it. You could build a website and have no blog at all even, but that’d be no fun would it? If you can dream it up, someone has done it or is working on it, and you can likely do it to with varying amounts of effort.
- Plugins galore! Plugins are in large part what gives this platform its limitless …ness. They can turn your whole site into a membership site, e-commerce shop,
- Customizations are endless… incase you didn’t catch that from the above two points already. However you want it to look, someone can make that happen. Either build a theme yourself or buy a premium one custom-made already. Theme makers and options seem infinite.
- The community is amazing. Like I mentioned with the .com version, the community is full of die-hard WP fanatics, and that’s who makes this software. So you can always find help and new ideas everywhere you look. Plus, this means the tech is always cutting edge.
- Always updating. The people want their stuff to be the best. It’s people helping people and they get it done.
In actuality, if you don’t buy a premium theme with a team always updating it, then WordPress updates will leave you and your theme in the dust before long and it will show. Updating is not as easy as you’d wish and neither is knowing which plugins to use and how.
To sum it up, I typically say, “It may seem all grand and glorious, but if you’re not into putting in the work or hiring someone to do it for ya, and paying for hosting, then don’t do this. If you see yourself being a pretty serious blogger and have a job to foot the bill or have an idea to generate revenue from your site, then do this. If you’re a business or organization, do this! *begin rant* I’m so tired of ministries that think a Facebook page is a website! *rant over*
With TypePad, I can’t say as much cause I’ve never used it and don’t know many who have. It’s a fairly popular service, but nothing compared to WordPress.org. However it does have some points that make it unique and appealing.
- Pay one fee and they do all the rest. They’re like those mega-convenient stores that have gas, store, trinket shop, TacoBell, Subway, showers, ice-cream and coffee bar all in one. That’s an appeal to some for sure. I’ve heard claims that they get ya in search results super quick.
- Different themes, and the ability to customize things yourself. If you want plugins and things in your sidebar, you get them automatically. No “shop, download, activate, place, customize, go” process.
- Always updated. This is a really, really, really significant draw for some – and rightly so. When the platform software is updated, the engineers just push it all to you and you get the latest and greatest in a rather seamless, nothing is broken, fashion. As opposed to WordPress where you gotta put in some time to turn on an update sometimes.
- Seems to be one of the very best for managing multiple sites – though really all of these make that possible.
From what I’ve seen, most TypePad sites look kinda dated and not too aesthetically pleasing. Not sure why this is. They seem a Tumblog and typical blog mix as far as style presentation in many cases. Hope someone can speak more to TypePad.
To sum it up, I typically say, “It’s kinda uncharted territory in my circles. I never recommend anyone here simply cause I’ve not known anyone who loves it personally. Again, it’s important to browse through some TypePad sites and see if you like the “feel” and then if the ‘they handle the work for ya if you pay’ idea appeals to you. Go for it and let me know!”
Many Others and Honorable Mentions
There are literally 20 some others out there and that’s not even counting other full-fledge content management systems! Livejournal.com was a popular one at one point – might still be. Some require that you’re already well established, like Medium.com (I’ve been watching this one with interest). MovableType.com is a tad popular in the business realm.
Quora is also one I find interesting. Quora is a blog site that I believe is for following very specific things you want to know by people who have specific credentials on this stuff you want to know. If you use it, do share your experience, please?
You Can Do It!
Like I’ve mentioned, all of these have their own “feel” to them and one of the best ways to know what you like is to simply browse through sites and feel em out!
Also, I didn’t get into someone who might think of having multiple blogs for separate things. I’ll simply just say, all of them have this capability now and can make this fairly easy, but you’ll like it best if you can keep all of them on the same platform. I once was running 5 blogs on Blogger and it was super easy. I currently own many domains now that are in the works. Ha! Call me crazy.
Again though, Facebook notes is not a blog! Your content is not easily searchable or retrievable even by you. Plus Facebook owns it! Don’t fall for that mindset.
It’s not hard to get a blog going, and certainly worth it. Every single one of these you can have set up in an hour or less, easily. Let me know if you do!
Do you use a different platform than one listed? Have any points that should be added in or any questions! I love to help and often need it myself – there are no dumb questions here! Can’t wait to see you blogging!