Individuals and businesses alike have turned to blogging as the #1 form of online content marketing. Whether you’re a non-profit leader looking to build a social movement, or a small business trying to grow a customer base in a tough market, blogging is a key tool that nobody should ignore.
But what if you’re just starting to get your online presence up and running and you don’t have the resources to buy robust content marketing software? Should you refrain from blogging? No. You need to find alternative resources that still help you grow your customer base! You need a free blogging service like WordPress or Blogger.
Building a Strong Blog Presence for Free
People all over the web are building amazing blogs using nothing more than free tools and their personal computer. Just recently, I encountered a young religious blogger on Facebook who’d built a following of over 6,000 simply by opening up a Blogger account, buying a $12 domain, and writing intelligent, thoughtful posts. He wasn’t even looking to make a profit, but was certainly determined to market himself. Amateur bloggers like him demonstrate exactly what it takes to make a great blog: effort. Money has very little to do with it.
No matter how fancy a blog you have, if you don’t write consistently and with a focused mindset, there’s no way anybody will pay attention. With this in mind, let’s think about the free options out there that provide a stable basis for promoting your thoughts and stories. The big two are WordPress.com and Blogger.com.
Blogger is the older of the two; it goes all the way back to 1999. Eventually, Blogger was bought by Google, and has since risen as one of the top choices among current bloggers.
In contrast, WordPress.com has a somewhat shorter history, with its beginnings in 2005. WordPress is a name you’ll hear used in two distinctly different contexts. First, WordPress.org is a blogging and web content management system that is used all over for free, advanced blogging and web design. It’s completely open source, and for users with coding skills and a ready host, it’s a great choice. However, forget WordPress.org today. The free blog service I’m referring to is WordPress.com. Like Blogger, WordPress.com offers a free blogging service that any broke college student could use. It’s a very popular choice, and I’d argue that in recent years, it’s gained a reputation as more trendy and professional than Blogger, because of its well-known, easy-to-use interface.
But let’s not generalize about which service might be better. This post is about examining which service has more potential for creating a robust content marketing presence.
A Complete Comparison of Blogger and WordPress
To get started, I want to point out the major differences between these two massively used and free blogging options. I think a side-by-side comparison is most useful. When you sign up for each without paying anything, here’s exactly what you get.
A free WordPress.com account offers
A Blogger.com account offers
- A blog. You can also make the blog into a completely static site (no blog entries) or a site with some static areas (blank pages or HTML areas).
- 3 GB of storage for posts and media (uploaded images, videos, or other files). Media is easily added to blog posts, and is saved within file management viewer.
- A free subdomain on WordPress.com. Everything is automatically hosted.
- Access to Publicize, a tool for connecting the blog with social networks.
- Statistics for tracking visitors.
- Mobile apps for iPhone, iPad, Android, and Blackberry, as well as blogging via SMS service or email.
WordPress.com features that require payment:
- Custom design — adding custom CSS and fonts. ($30 per year per blog) Templates cannot be edited beyond customizations.
- Custom domain names (i.e. amazingconstructionskillz.com), which can be bought through WordPress.com, cost $13 per domain use per year.
- Removing the possibility that WordPress.com will place advertisements on your blog. ($30 per year per blog)
- Premium themes—really nice designs—with a great selection. (priced per blog for the lifetime of the blog)
- VideoPress for uploading hosting and embedding your own videos on your WordPress.com blog.
- A blog. Plus you have the option to add plenty of static areas (blank pages or HTML areas).
- Unlimited storage space for posts and media (uploaded images, videos, or other files). Media is easily added to blog posts, and is saved within a file management viewer.
- A free subdomain on blogspot.com. Everything is automatically hosted.
- Easy access to Google’s advertising schemes and gadgets for social sharing.
- Access to the Blogger analytics panel with statistics and visualizations.
- Mobile access via iPhone and Android apps, as well as blogging via SMS service or e-mail.
All Blogger services are free…
- Custom design — full access to underlying HTML with Code Editor. CSS can also be added within templates and Google Fonts are readily available.
- Custom domain names with easy mapping services with GoDaddy.com and other major domain services.
- No advertising will ever appear on Blogger blogs without the user choosing to monetize the blog with Google Ads.
- All templates on Blogger are completely free, but there is not a wealth of templates to choose from. Instead, customization is encouraged. Users can share designs, and third-party sites offer designs for a price.
- Your Blogger account and your YouTube account are one in the same, which means that your videos will be hosted on the same service and will be natively embeddable.
As our side-by-side analysis shows, Google’s Blogger certainly offers a lot more for free than WordPress.com. Beyond the basic requirements of an amateur blogger, WordPress really starts to make the user pay if he/she wants to have more control. From first glance, these constraints can be extremely limiting, especially for business bloggers. However, free doesn’t always mean better either, so there are reasons to be cautious of Blogger. The question then is: Is there a qualitative difference between Blogger’s fully free feature set and WordPress’ somewhat free options? Do free features equal cut corners?
New Bloggers Experience the Biggest Difference
After reviewing both processes, my perspective is that the differences between WordPress and Blogger are most apparent when thinking about the user experience of a new blogger. If you really are just getting started, then you’ll understand what I am talking about as soon as you get started.
When you register for Blogger, you’ll immediately see that Blogger is definitely a Google service, through and through. You must register for a Google account, just like you would if you were to open up a YouTube or Gmail account. However, for good marketers, this really should not be seen as a downside. If you’re serious about making smart digital marketing decisions, then you are likely looking to invest in Google products anyway. To be strong in SEO today is to invest in a Google+ account. Similarly, to be a good content marketer, you need a YouTube account. So, if you’re well-prepared, all of these services will be organized by one central Google account. You can even set up these services using your own domain’s email by using Google Apps for Business (yet another one of Google’s extremely popular services). So, in a nutshell, to use Blogger, you have to use Google, but more likely than not, you already are, so don’t sweat!
On the other hand, WordPress.com doesn’t really care what your account is like. In just one easy step, you can receive a free account with just an email, username and password. You’ll immediately get to pick your free WordPress subdomain for your blog, and you’ll be up and running. In the next few steps, WordPress users can start customizing their templates and choosing themes. Especially in the design phase, WordPress.com has become famously known as user-friendly. All the templates follow the most recent design standards, and I think most marketers would agree that WordPress.com knows how to make novice users look good in very little time. To the casual user, the simplicity in these early steps makes WordPress.com much more easy to handle. But, consider that point for a second. If you’re trying to engage in strong marketing, are you going to be casual about your blogging efforts? No. Businesses need to invest in their work, regardless of whether the service is free or not.
Once Blogger users find their way to the Template Designer and begin putting together their blog, the user experience of the design tools is not grossly different from WordPress. Both are well-designed and offer users many pick-and-click options. The most noticeable difference with Blogger is the level of control. Users will see almost immediately that they can customize every single element of their blog, and the more adventurous users can even add CSS and change the base HTML if they wish. These options are just not available in WordPress.
So, for businesses looking to get started, I think Blogger really is the better investment. On Day 1, you’ll be happier with WordPress; it offers immediate gratification. But in terms of marketing potential, the full integration of all Google accounts with Blogger is something most marketers will not want to forgo.
Blog Success Can Be Determined by Effective Management
While Blogger wins in terms of being a better investment for strong content marketing, users may have very good reasons for giving up the ease of Google integration for better content management with WordPress.
Overall, WordPress (.org and .com) has become known for being extremely effective content management systems. The reason for this is because the back-end is extremely easy to navigate. Both WordPress and Blogger have central dashboards from which you can manage multiple blogs and optimize any of your settings. However, one of the main reasons people stay away from Blogger is because its back-end is still more confusing than WordPress. There’s simply too much hunting users have to do. Often, the best option is simply to search Google for an answer about where to find a specific Blogger preference.
Don’t get me wrong. Blogger’s dashboard is not bad. In fact, if I didn’t know WordPress’ setup then I would be perfectly happy with Blogger. The problem is that WordPress has just really out done itself in making blog settings easy to handle.
Strong, Easy Design vs. Custom Control
As I said earlier, Blogger certainly has a leg up on WordPress in terms of letting users edit all aspects of the design. However, here I must offer a caveat. Yes, in Blogger, you can pretty much change anything because you have access to both CSS and HTML. However, that requires a specific level of web-code literacy. If you don’t have that, you will absolutely find yourself limited to Blogger’s pre-designed templates.
Here is where WordPress shows a good middle-range advantage. For the vast number of users—including businesses—a blog needs to be an area where a CSS illiterate person can easily and actively operate a good-looking, customized blog. With WordPress, users can create an instantly good-looking blog because the site has many more ready-to-use templates than Blogger. More specifically, WordPress’ designs look better and more up-to-date, with a wide variety of design types. Blogger’s templates exist in extremes, with 2-3 dynamic themes on one end and older, fixed-width blogs on the other.
Yes, with Blogger, you can change nearly everything to make your Blogger blog look beautiful, but you’ll need the skills to do that. If you just want to be able to customize an already-strong theme, go with WordPress.com.
Integrating a Free Blog With Your Website
After noting the advantages of each site in terms of design, the next step for a business is to really think about how this free blog will work with your site. Looking back at the side-by-side comparison, remember that both WordPress and Blogger are hosted options that can’t be connected to an actual site—at least not technically. One great option for businesses on a budget is to connect your blog to your site by putting the blog on a subdomain, such as blog.mybusiness.com. Then, you can create any static site you wish with a blog that, if designed appropriately, fits in as a separate but visually integrated page.
It’s easier to do this on Blogger than WordPress simply because WordPress makes you pay to put your blog on a domain or subdomain separate from WordPress.com. Blogger gladly will direct the blog to a subdomain or domain for free. Here, Blogger obviously wins the comparison.
However, the success of integration isn’t just limited to the technical details of domains. It all comes down to design, yet again. If your WordPress or Blogger blog looks vastly different from your website, it will likely feel very odd, and it will be obvious to your visitors that they left your site. Many businesses will likely find that they need more customization in order to match the UX of their site to the UX of their free blog. For this reason, many people will find that Blogger’s deeper customizability will offer branding advantages for total site integration.
Which Service is More Sharable on Social Media?
The answer to this question is easy: WordPress. There’s no doubt that the Publicize feature on WordPress will beat Blogger for easy-to-use social sharing options. The most Blogger provides is Like, Tweet, and +1 buttons on each post, while Publicize really makes WordPress a natural extension of the social media sphere. In terms of marketing your content, this is certainly a big hit against Blogger.
However, there are a number of third-party options and Blogger widgets that can be used to fill in the gaps here. While Publicize is a huge strength for WordPress, Blogger users should not feel worried that their content will not get shared. Maximum sharing is simply more straightforward with WordPress.
Video and Multimedia Blogging
The last area that’s crucial to discuss is how WordPress and Blogger each interact with multimedia like video and audio. More and more, companies are benefiting by using blogs to offer more than just regular writing. The best blogs are embedded video and/or audio, including podcasts, vlogs, or even video infographics. Even if you’re using free blog services, no burgeoning marketing effort should leave out multimedia.
Here, Blogger’s integration with YouTube probably beats out WordPress’ VideoPress feature. There is simply no more powerful social video site than YouTube because its ability to make small marketing efforts into viral campaigns remains unmatched. As YouTube and Blogger have both been fully integrated with Google+, the possibilities for sharing and visibility are only increased.
VideoPress is certainly a great option, but because it doesn’t have the force that is available with natural YouTube integration, I think most marketers would regret relying on it completely.
If you think that WordPress is the hip, most up-to-date service for free blogging, you’re probably right. For the amateur individual blogger, this is definitely true. But for businesses, the comparison between WordPress and Blogger swings heavily toward Blogger for two main reasons.
#1. Blogger is a key component of the Google empire. Using it along with other tools like Google+, YouTube, and Google Apps for Business will put your company in a very positive (and free!) situation. By integrating with Google, your SEO position is almost certainly improved, and your content will be more easily found. At the same time being integrated with Google products does not limit your position in sharing on other social media—there’s not a downside here.
#2. Blogger offers more complete design capabilities. Non-profit organizations and young businesses will never have to pay to go a step further in making their blog design more creative. The only limit is your business’ level of skill with web design. Bloggers’ flexibility carries over into integration with your company site because of free use of your own domain and easy-to-use domain pointing tools.
Now, overall, both WordPress and Blogger are limited for one big reason: you’ll never be able to draw in leads as fluidly or efficiently as you would if you built your blog as part of a comprehensive inbound marketing website scheme. However, that’s really not the point. If you commit to solid content marketing now and build a popular blog with high-quality effort, creating a more complete marketing setup will be a piece of cake in the future. The key is to just start blogging.
Here’s where we can help. If you need some help building a core of strong blog topics, check out Weidert’s free blog writing worksheet. This is your best bet for preventing blog stagnation.
Read more: 6 Steps to Launch a Guest Blogging Program