Start A Blog: Free or Paid? WordPress or Blogger?

by John Hoff on October 20, 2008

This article is for those of you who want to start a blog but aren’t sure what the best way to start one might be. We’ll look at helping you answer the following questions and end with an open discussion for questions.

  1. Should I go with a free blog OR spend a little money and purchase my own web hosting?
  2. Which program should I use – WordPress or Blogger?
  3. Where should I host my WordPress Blog?
  4. Conclusion and open discussion.

I. Starting A Blog: Free or Paid Web Hosting?

If you’re thinking of starting a blog I can almost guarantee this is what’s going through your head:

I want to start a blog but I’m not sure if I’ll like it or not. Maybe I’ll sign up for a free blog on either WordPress.com or Blogger and see how it goes. Then after about a year or so I’ll decide if I should purchase my own domain name and web hosting.

Sound familiar? If so, here’s what you need to consider.

Free hosting, whether it’s for a blog or a normal website is never a good idea unless maybe you’re a kid just fiddling around on the Internet.

Do Not try to build a business online using free web hosting, that just doesn’t make much sense. Don’t get me wrong, as an experienced entrepreneur I do like to get things for free, but not when the deal ultimately will hurt me.

So how can having a free blog hosted on WordPress.com or Blogger hurt you?

Drawbacks To Free Hosting In General

Awhile back I wrote an article entitled, 8+ Drawbacks to Free Web Hosting (link opens in a new tab) which you might find informative. The article shows how free web hosting is limited by such things as:

  • Bottlenecks – Your hosting/website is shared on 1 server with LOTS of other websites.
  • Low Bandwidth and Limited Disk Space.
  • No Personalized Domain Name.
  • Little Support and more . . .

You’ll Lose All Your Momentum & Lose Backlinks When You Upgrade

If you really feel the need to experience blogging before you purchase a hosting account and are dead set on testing first with a free account, give it no more than two or three weeks tops. If you blog for too long what you’ll find is people will start reading your blog, bookmarking your pages, subscribing to your articles, and linking to your website.

That’s great, right?

Of course! But what happens when you realize you’ve grown beyond a free account? What happens then?

I’ve been blogging for only a year now (update: years now) and have attracted tens of dozens (update: a heck of a lot more) of links and I’m indexed well on Google for a few searches which brings our company business. Could you imagine what would happen if my blog was hosted on a free account and today I decided to move over to a real hosting account with a new web address? I’d lose any search engine traffic I had achieved, dozens (if not hundreds) of websites linking to me would now have broken links, and people who have bookmarked my site may lose touch with me.

Ask any blogger who uses a free account and wants to switch to a paid hosting account what the #1 thing is which holds them back from making the move. I can almost guarantee the above scenario is it!

Free = Bad SEO (Search Engine Optimization)

To better index your website, search engines look at your domain name’s DNS hierarchy. Basically what this means is search engines like Google and Yahoo will look at the web address to your website and translate it into a binary code it can read (0s and 1s).

It then breaks down your web address and assigns an order of importance for the purpose of locating and addressing your website in the search engine. Let’s take a look at this hierarchy.

For this first example, let’s say you decided to pay for your own web hosting and domain name of www.your-blog.com. Here’s how your domain’s DNS hierarchy will be indexed by search engines:

DNS Hierarchy Paid Hosting

Alternatively, if you choose to host your blog on WordPress or Blogger, your web address will look something like www.your-blog.wordpress.com and here’s how it will be indexed:

DNS Hierarchy Free Blog Hosting

This means you’re doing a lot of work to help WordPress index their site better first and then work to help index your website in search engines.

II. Should You Use Blogger or WordPress?

Well if you just read the information above then by default you would go with WordPress as Blogger is only offered free and not bundled with any paid hosting (as far as I know).

But to give you a more adequate answer as to why you should use WordPress vs. Blogger as your blogging platform, I’d like to point out 5 good reasons.

  1. The majority of bloggers use WordPress. It’s ok to be different (in business), but because so many people use WordPress it will be much easier to find help (and you can always email John and ask questions).
  2. Simplicity of commenting on articles. Have you ever tried to comment on a blog using Blogger? It makes me want to pull my hair out! With WordPress your visitor will simply read your article and comment using the form at the bottom. Nice, easy, simple, and promotes comments and community.
  3. You can do a lot of cool things with WordPress. Because of the popularity of WordPress and being that its source code is open, thousands of people constantly write programs called plugins which you can use to make your site truly unique and fun. With Blogger, you’re pretty much stuck with what they give you and a few customized themes.
  4. Your blog can be converted into an actual professional-looking website for a business very easily, not so with Blogger.
  5. When you host a WordPress blog (i.e. you purchase web hosting), you can do some pretty cool things with your .htaccess file, such as setting up redirects.

III. Where To Find WordPress Web Hosting

Well you’re in luck, because Blog Training Classroom provides blog hosting for people just like you. As an added bonus, you’ll also get a ton of free videos I’ve made to help you with WordPress and your blogging endeavors, all using our control panel.

IV. Conclusion & Discussion

I think I’ve made a pretty good case that the best choice for starting a blog in most cases will be to go with a paid web hosting account using WordPress as your blogging platform. Hosting costs what, under $80 per year. If you can’t invest that in something you’re dedicating a huge chunk of your time to then you might want to think twice about starting a blog.

There are other blogging platforms out there which I did not mention in this article, like TypePad, Movable Type, b2evolution, etc.; however, at this time the two most popular are WordPress and Blogger.

If you’re wanting to start a blog and have questions, please comment below. If you’re a current blogger, which blogging platform do you use and do you like it?

{ 21 comments… read them below or add one }

Rita October 21, 2008 at 11:01 am

John,

Sorry to go off-topic, but I loved the line you wrote on Cath Lawson’s blog comment: “A confused mind always says no.”

I thought it was brilliant!

Rita

Rita’s last blog post..Average Children, Mean Parents

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John Hoff October 21, 2008 at 4:24 pm

Hi Rita. Yep, that is something I’ve always gone by and always try to remember in sales.

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Cath Lawson October 22, 2008 at 1:30 pm

Hi John – Anyone who starts a blogspot blog is crackers. I did it to see if I liked it and never again. I barely got any traffic at all. And blogger is so limited in comparison to Wordpress.

But the really big thing is – you have no control. It isn’t really your blog – Google owns it and they can shut it down when they want.

I started my first website on the free bizhosting.com – don’t know if it’s still on the go. It was a huge mistake. I made money from it – as there wasn’t a lot of competition then. But had bizhosting known I was making money, they’d have shut me down.

Plus I had to put up with their hideous clashing, flashing banner ads everywhere. Now, if I’d started that site on a paid for host instead of a free one, it would be a huge business today. Sites that were similar to mine that used paid hosting are getting hundreds of thousands of visitors a month. That should be enough reason for anyone not to consider a free site or blog.

Cath Lawson’s last blog post..You Can Overcome Lack Of Self Confidence

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John Hoff October 22, 2008 at 10:02 pm

Hi Cath. You bring up a great point. If you host your blog on Blogger or WordPress.com you don’t own your blog, Google and WordPress does.

About 6 months ago I created a Blogger account just to see what it was like and let me tell ya, after using WordPress for awhile Blogger clearly wasn’t for me.

Your example of how you tried starting a business with a free account is a common mistake many new entrepreneurs make. I frequent Yahoo Answers and when you type in the search box “web hosting” you’ll see nearly 80% or so are people looking for “the best place to find free web hosting” because they want to start a business.

For some reason they feel starting a “business” with a free web hosting account is ok. I’ve tried showing new entrepreneurs how that’s not the way to go but many don’t want to listen to an experienced professional. All I can do then is wish them luck.

The only time I would build a business on something free is if it came free to me through trade or some special circumstance . . . like a prize I won.

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Barbara Swafford October 27, 2008 at 10:51 pm

Hi John – As you know I’m a blogger who started with WordPress from the beginning. I also went with a web host. I’m extremely happy about my decision and certainly would not want to have to make a major change now considering I have over 300 posts and a page rank of 4.

Barbara Swafford’s last blog post..A.S.K. Darren Rowse of Problogger – When Do We Know Our Blog Is A “Winner”

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John Hoff October 28, 2008 at 4:27 am

That really would be a pain if you had to transfer all that to a web host and lose your PageRank if you were on a free account. Your blog is really taking off, Barbara – congratulations on that. Of all the blogs I frequent, yours and Cath’s comment sections are the most lively and has a great sense of community.

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Matt Santi April 10, 2009 at 3:41 pm

Real simple. Use hostgator.com or any other host that is using linux, not windows, and you can then use fantastico which has the option of installing wordpress on your own server with the click of a button. Very easy to do.

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John Hoff April 12, 2009 at 2:26 am

Hi Matt. Oh how dare you mention that other company! LOL. I like to think we are able to help bloggers get online and learn the ropes better than most other hosts, but then again I might be a little biased ;)

You’re right though, most web hosts have easy installations of WordPress, however, Fantastico is a packaged bundle of software (commercial script library) which some hosts use, but not all. Some hosts use other packages, like the Elefante Scripts.

Also, WordPress is compatible on a Windows server, however Linux is the preferred OS do to the fact it’s easier to work with when using WordPress and there’s a TON more help out there when you need it for those who are running WordPress in the Linux hosting environment.

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John Hoff May 26, 2009 at 10:04 am

Samar, not to highlight your experience, but you’re the perfect real life example of what this article is all about. I hope newbies are listening – and thanks for the comment :)

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Samar May 26, 2009 at 9:39 am

I made the mistake of starting my blog on Blogger when I started freelancing. I always knew I’d migrate to self hosted wordpress eventually. What I didn’t realize was that I’d lose my page rank, links and whatever traffic I had.

I moved to my own .com a few months ago and couldn’t be happier – even with no page rank, low traffic and fewer link backs.

If you make your living online, having a self hosted blog is essential.

Samar’s last blog post..Learning on the job

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K L Jonasson June 29, 2009 at 2:45 pm

Hi John,

Great article here!
I liked the fact that you have pointed out that Wordpress is a very versatile program that can be used not only for blogging, but also a CMS for a full website.

I’m a web designer and I love to work with Wordpress on most of my projects, and your article is a great explanation for anyone looking for a place to start with a well known and well structured platform.

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John Hoff June 29, 2009 at 5:16 pm

Hi K L, I couldn’t agree with you more. WordPress has made it easy in many areas for web developers because of its open source. It also simplifies many of the things we do for websites thanks to plugins – like creating a sitemap.

Non techies can use this to their advantage. The ease and flexibility to extent WordPress alone makes it more desirable than Blogger.

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sanjeeta kk February 24, 2010 at 11:03 pm

Your article re-inforced my thinking on the benefits of paid hosting. I was a bit shaky in trying out the paid hosting as a beginner, but now the confidence level has gone one point up!

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John Hoff February 25, 2010 at 4:26 am

Very cool sanjeeta… glad I could help you figure it out some. Let me know if you need anything. Our hosting services have everything you’d need.

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buddy April 13, 2010 at 4:20 pm

reading this article just put’s out my doubts about Paid Web Hosting for blogging , I’ll think I give it a shot ,Tq for this article.
.-= buddy´s last blog ..A simple guide line for Quitting Smoking =-.

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Kathy June 12, 2010 at 5:40 pm

Hi,
I’m currently with TypePad (paid account) and only went to TypePad because I didn’t quite understand how you would upgrade to a paid wordpress account. when i read the instructions, i got the impression that i would have to host everything on my home computer?

i used to have a free wp acct and loved the themes, easy configuration etc but only went with typepad because getting a paid wp account seemed complicated as i only have a regular imac machine and not heavy-duty hardware or storage to support any hosting. maybe i misunderstood?

can you please explain the process in layman’s terms? if i went with a paid wp account, how would that work regarding storage of content/pictures etc?

i have already purchased a domain and mapped it to my typepad site. how easy would it be to transfer my content to a paid wp site?

many thanks,
kathy

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John Hoff June 12, 2010 at 8:09 pm

Hi Kathy, good questions.

To host your own WordPress blog, you’d need two things:

1. Domain name (which you already have)
2. A web hosting account you purchase

What a hosting plan basically is, is disk space you’re renting which you can create and upload files to and make them visible online. This basically will be all the files for your website. You domain name “points” to your hosting account and that’s what makes your website visible to everyone.

So no worries about hosting anything on your home computer.

Our hosting also includes a WordPress install wizard which installs WordPress for you on your account. Of course if you had any issues, can could either contact support or email me and we’ll help you get it set up.

The transfer process isn’t too difficult. If you want to transfer things over, you’d need to first purchase a hosting account and then message me and I’ll point you to someone who can assist you for a reasonable fee to move everything over.

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Vince@ 3 shelf bookcase September 1, 2010 at 4:09 pm

Thank you for those advice. I’m thankful that I opted for the paid even if I’m just starting. I never thought that I will loose millions of info if I opted for that free.

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Lola April 7, 2011 at 8:57 pm

*sigh* i wish i had known this before. but as an aspiring journalist, hopefully my free blog will help me bag a job when i leave school. i’m certainly not going to make money from the actual blog itself..

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Peter Williamson October 27, 2011 at 4:26 pm

Hi John,

Your article was very moving to me. I am just starting to use WordPress
blog which is hosted on my server.
I have also purchased your ebook WordPress defender and I am very excited
to start reading and using all of your experience. I would also like
to thank everyone for there posts to this article. It has made me feel
that I have made the right choice in using WordPress for my blog.

Reply

John Hoff October 27, 2011 at 5:27 pm

Hi Peter, that’s awesome. I’m glad you found the article informative and thanks for buying my book!

Make sure to stick around because when I launch the Blog Training Classroom members area, I’m sure you won’t be disappointed.

Reply

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