If you are marketing your business online but don’t have a blog, then you are missing out on a golden opportunity to position yourself as an expert and promote your products and services.
Blogs may have started out as online journals but 15 years on, they have evolved into marketing powerhouses that can generate sales, build authority and increase engagement for your small business.
Blogging is perfect for every entrepreneur. It doesn’t matter if you are a start-up business or running a growing concern, or whether you have a bricks-and-mortar store or operate solely online. The bottom line is that blogging can help drive traffic to your website, build authority and create community.
Many traditional websites only have 5-6 pages so the maximum number of times they will ever get indexed by search engines is 5 or 6 times. However, when you create a blog, every single post you publish has its own URL. Suddenly you can go from 5-6 pages to 20, 50, or 100+.
Having such a large body of content increases your website’s visibility, making it easier for people to find you. The search engines also love fresh content so regular updates will help you rank better as well.
Another benefit of having a blog is that you can build a community and connect with website visitors through comments and social sharing. This is the first step to converting your readers into customers.
I hope I’ve convinced you that every small business owner and entrepreneur needs to blog.
The next step is to get clear on your reasons for blogging as they will help you decide which blogging format to choose. Don’t skip this step because you want to be sure that whatever platform you go for is fit for purpose.
Blogger v WordPress – Pros And Cons
Once you’re clear on why you want to blog, the next thing you need to think about is which blogging platform to use.
You have two options – either to use one of the many free formats like Blogger, Weebly or WordPress.com or to host your blog yourself.
This is called a self-hosted blog.
The two most popular blogging platforms are Blogger and WordPress – WordPress actually comes with a free and a paid version – which I go into more detail below.
Some people say that Blogger is better than WordPress, others argue that WordPress is the best blogging platform. There are advantages and disadvantages to both formats so let’s dive in deeper to help you choose the right blogging platform.
The Advantages of Using Blogger
#1 It’s Free And Easy
Perhaps the biggest advantage of using Blogger.com is that it is free, quick and easy to use.
If you are cash-strapped, just starting out or not really sure if the blogging game is for you, Blogger.com may be the perfect solution. It allows you to get some experience under your belt before investing time and expense into self-hosting your blog.
With Blogger.com, you don’t need to purchase a domain name or hosting. It also has a very user-friendly interface that doesn’t require any tech skills – just a few clicks and you are ready to go.
#2 The Google Advantage
Blogger is owned by Google and there are many in-built features and services that can be useful for a new blogger.
- Robust Hosting – Blogger sites are hosted on Google’s servers so you’ll rarely experience down times and your site should run smoothly most of the time.
- Better Security – Security breaches are far less likely on Blogger blogs than WordPress. Unless your Google account password is stolen, it’s virtually hacker-proof.
In contrast, WordPress has known vulnerabilities and tends to get more spam attacks than Blogger.
- Fast Indexing – With the mighty Google behind your blog, you won’t have to wait around for your blogger site to get indexed. Google dominates the web so your posts will appear in the search engines far more quickly than if they were published on your own self-hosted blog.
- Google’s Web Properties – Social sharing is a breeze on Blogger because it integrates seamlessly with Google’s other web properties like Gmail, YouTube, and Google+. It even has native support for Adsense allowing you to place ads and monetize your free site.
The Downsides to Blogger
Although Blogger is a good place for the newbie to start, if you plan on scaling your business or developing your own brand you will be disappointed.
Blogger lacks many important plugins that can improve the functionality of your site and the limited design features makes your blog look like “me-too versions” of every other Blogger blog.
You also need to be aware that when you host your blog on Blogger you don’t actually own it. Ultimately it belongs to Google and one wrong step can result in it being removed and with it your entire business.
The Advantages Of Using WordPress
WordPress is widely regarded as the best blogging software around, a reputation that is well-deserved.
The key thing to know about WordPress is that there are two versions – a free one at WordPress.com and a paid one at WordPress.org.
I love WordPress and always advise clients to go for a self-hosted WordPress blog rather than the free version even if they’re new to blogging.
I explain why below but for the purposes of this post I want to give you a clear and unbiased overview so you can make the right choice. Ultimately, it comes down to your blogging goals.
Reasons To Choose WordPress.com
#1 Ease Of Use
Similar to Blogger, WordPress.com is quick and easy to set up. You can sign up for a free account and be blogging within minutes.
#2 Free Hosting
WordPress.com is hosted and managed by Automattic so you don’t need to worry about paying for hosting because it’s included. You also get a domain name in this format
For an extra $15 you can get your own domain name. It’s worth doing this if you choose WordPress.com because it makes things much easier if you want to self-host your blog in future.
#3 Customize Your Blog
Unlike Blogger, you can control the look and feel of your new WordPress.com blog to a certain extent by selecting from one of their free WordPress themes. Themes control the colours, layout and fonts on your site so this is useful if you want your blog to look different to others.
Whilst WordPress.com does permit some customizations to get you going, it has to be said that these changes are pretty basic.
The Downsides To WordPress.com
Ever heard the saying, there’s no such thing as a free lunch?
Well, it is definitely true for WordPress.com. I’ve listed some of the catches below.
WordPress.com is pretty strict when it comes to monetization.
Many of the most common revenue strategies that bloggers depend on such as Google Adsense or affiliate marketing are not allowed, although you can promote your own products.
Advertising is also a gray area. In their terms of service, WordPress.com say they may show Google ads on your site, not ideal if you want your blog to be an ad-free zone.
Another WordPress.com restriction relates to plugins.
You are not allowed to install any plugins to extend the functionality of your blog so basically, you are stuck with what they give you unless you pay for fancy extras.
Overall, WordPress.com should be regarded as a training ground for WordPress.org.
It’s a decent option for a personal blog or as a hobby where making money is not a primary objective. But if you want to build a custom website for your business and develop your brand then you need to use WordPress.org.
Reasons To Choose WordPress.org
This is the self-hosted version of WordPress and it gives you the freedom to choose your own domain name, host with whichever company you like and install any themes or plugins to make your WordPress blog completely unique.
While it may seem daunting to a new blogger and is the more expensive option initially, having a self-hosted WordPress blog is the best way to go if you want complete ownership over your blog.
Here are the 3 steps you need to take to set up a self-hosted WordPress blog:
- You’ll need to invest is a domain name which costs around $10 for a year. I recommend you use a reputable service like Namecheap which I use for all my domain names as they provide one year’s free WHOIS protection as standard with every purchase.
- You’ll also need hosting which costs around $120 a year. To save costs, you could buy your hosting from the same company where you purchase your domain name, but I strongly recommend that you keep the two things separate for security and ownership reasons.
- When it comes to hosting, seek out a provider that gives you unlimited storage and bandwidth, unlimited accounts and most importantly one-click WordPress installation. The 1-click installation is a godsend because it will automatically install and configure a new WordPress blog in minutes!
Self-Hosting Your WordPress Blog
Although WordPress is not a difficult platform to learn it can be daunting for a beginner.
You will be on a learning curve and should be prepared to make some key decisions for yourself like; which WordPress theme should you use; how to optimize your WordPress blog for the search engines; and how to carry out regular backups of your website.
Fortunately there are many free themes and plugins that can do much of the work for you but if you need help installing WordPress or someone to do it all for you, please get in touch.
Which blogging platform do you use and why? What helped you choose between Blogger and WordPress? Do you have a self-hosted blog? Please let me know in the comments below.