Free Blogging Platforms: A Few Pros and Cons

To start blogging

For first time bloggers, a free blogging platform is a great way to get started in the blogosphere in the sense that, popular free blogging platforms like Live Journal, Blogger or Eponym allow users to set up and host a blog without paying any fees at all. This encourages people to start blogging, because the fact that one of these sites can provide you with all of the tools you’ll need to get your blog up and running without spending any money means that you have nothing to lose by starting a blog. The fact that it is so easy to find a way to blog for free is one of the reasons why so many people who have never had any other kind of web presence before find themselves drawn to blogging.

By signing up with a free blogging platform, you may find it easier to get listed in search engines than you would if you were starting your own blog from scratch. For example, Google runs a free blog hosting site known as Blogspot and crawls its pages on a regular basis looking for updates; so if you have your blog hosted by Blogspot you are almost guaranteed to be listed on Google’s blog search engine. This easy access to search engines can take some of the work out of promoting your blog, and can help you gain a following with a minimum of marketing effort.

So utilizing the tools and resources provided by established free blogging platform to do your personal blogging will provide plenty of advantages; for the blogging newcomers as well as some seasoned bloggers who started with such a platform and find no reason to move. Keep in mind also, that platforms which host many different blogs often provide very useful tutorials about building and updating a typical blog, and most newcomers to blogging will likely encounter very user-friendly software interfaces at most of the established blogging platforms like those mentioned above. In addition, these platforms provide a kind of instant community of fellow bloggers who are capable of providing advice, insight, and feedback.

Advantages and challenges

Furthermore, some of these free platforms often keep directories of their members, a practice which can be of great benefit for your traffic logs since it means that other bloggers on the platform will find out about your pages and probably take steps to learn more about your topic (or niche), your writing style and your personal views, among other things. In short, users of that particular blogging platform will want to get acquainted with each other and improve relationships, thereby strengthening common bonds and making the platform stronger and better while supporting each other as well as the overall platform.

That having been said, it is important to understand that participation in one of these blogging platforms, while advantageous in most instances, can also present some challenges which often come with linking up with any large blogging platform. One example of such challenges is, posting within existing templates of a platform like Blogger, would likely result in an individual blogger – presumably like you if you are an active blogger – running the risk of having your blog look and feel like that of every other blogger on the platform, so that we lose some of the uniqueness and individuality which would otherwise identify your specific brand on a platform of our own creation if we possessed the skills and resources to create it.

Deciding when to move

In other words, if your blog attracts a large readership, you may want to consider moving your site. In fact, you might agree with those who feel that being hosted by a free blogging platform gives a blog kind of an amateur flavor that is fine for a new member of the blogosphere, but is not appropriate for a high-profile blog, and if so that maybe even more incentive to move. Having your own domain can help you make your blog sound, look and feel professional, and finding a company that will host your domain is not difficult or expensive. Once your blog takes off, you will probably be able to sell enough advertising space to be able to financially afford a domain and pay for a hosting package, and still have money left over. However, it does not make sense, in most cases, to invest in these glossy luxuries before you have a sizable readership.

It is no secret that the blogging movement is very much about the creation of distinctive sites which feature, represent and promote the development of individual voices, so it makes plenty of sense that many bloggers would shy away from so-called “cookie-cutter” look and feel that blogging platforms like Live Journal, Blogger or even WordPress (the non-self-hosted variety) often promote. Many bloggers feel that the content of a blog is what makes it distinctive, not the look of the blog, but many members of the blogging community feel that the visual impact of a blog should match the originality of the writing and individuality of the writer.

The fact remains

Nevertheless, starting your blog on a free blogging web site is a great way to build a following before you spend any money on your blog; but if and when your blog becomes popular and you are ready to take the next step and purchase your own domain, your readers will follow you to your new home. The fact that it is possible to use a free blog host like any of those mentioned above, or one of the many o0ther platforms available on today’s Web, as a kind of incubator for your blog is great news for bloggers everywhere.

Selection of a Blogging Platform to Fit YOU

For your unique blog

The selection of a blogging platform will probably be one of the most important decisions you will have to make as a blogger; because the right platform can make blogging such a smooth and enjoyable writing experience, while the wrong platform can surely make this popular online activity more of a puzzling and frustrating chore. And since the program used to blog with is such a powerful part of an individual’s blogging prowess, it is well worth an investment of whatever time it takes to find a platform that provides the most ideal balance between a user-friendly interface and a flexible framework that allows you, the blogger, to make your blog look and feel unique.

That having been said, it is also true that finding the right platform isn’t always easy, even though a little contemplation coupled with a bit of research could put you on your way to finding the perfect blogging platform for your purposes. Let’s use video blogging, for example, as a blogging type that might best demonstrate the importance of a blogging platform; especially since video blogging is a relatively new and popular technology. Video blogging has a lot of advantages over text-based blogging, can very effectively grab the attention of web surfers, and can make people much more likely to become excited about the blog’s content because of its dynamic nature; but only when it’s presented properly.

Ease-of-use versus customization

But, the wrong blogging platform can make a video blog look terrible, fail to play and get stuck in frames just like the old malfunctioning TVs used work (or not work) when their antennas broke. It is true that video blogs require a lot of digital tools and resources in order to get the best results; including a considerable amount of server space, more time to process and upload a video file, and more time to load. So already there are a number of issues inherent with video blogs which place even more importance on making sure that the blogging platform you choose is supportive of all types of blogging, from text blogging to photo and video blogging.

Deciding what your priorities are as they pertain to ease-of-use versus customization, it is important to point out that the blogging platforms most adaptable to high customization, like Movable Type, are a bit more difficult to use than very automated platforms like WordPress. So if you are new to blogs and to internet technology, you might want to sacrifice the ability to create a custom background design, or to integrate a unique font into your template, in order to find a program that will be easy for you to use. On the other hand, if you are a veteran web designer with knowledge of HTML or JavaScript, you will probably find the limitations of a user-friendly platform to be frustrating.

Read between the (reviewer’s) lines

Keep in mind that there is really not such a thing as a platform that is objectively the best blogging platform, because every blogger has unique needs, and the blogging movement is more about individuality than anything else, so it makes plenty of sense that there would be many different platforms available that are designed to meet the needs of different kinds of individuals undertaking different kinds of projects. But this diversity is a good thing because it means that you will almost certainly be able to find a program that suits your level of technical aptitude.

However, the fact that no two bloggers require the same things from a blogging platform can certainly make your search for the right platform a bit tricky; so when you are reading reviews of different platforms, try to keep your priorities in mind and do your best to take the reviewer’s viewpoint into consideration. In other words, a negative review written by an accomplished software designer who complains that a popular platform is too limited may tell you that the platform in question is ideal for a beginning blogger.

What’s your UBR?

Simply put, there is no such thing as “one size fits all” where blogging platforms are concerned, so instead of looking for the “best” platform, look for the best platform for your specific criteria. It’s similar to many of the conversations me and my buddy, Douglas, has had over the years about why he finds Joomla so easy, smooth and straightforward to work with, but do not like WordPress and can’t do the things with WP that he often does with Joomla; while I, on the other hand, prefer WP to Joomla for all the same reasons. So take the time to look for the blogging platform you’ll most comfortable with, which simultaneously meets your unique blogging requirements (UBRs). Good luck!