Blogging Platforms - Paid or Free?
by Jo Shaer, on September 13, 2012
I'm always very pleased with that type of initiative because it is so vital to show Google that you are regularly updating your website's content and a blog is the ideal way to do this.
However, there is more than one way to set up a blog - one which brings you traffic and helps you to rank for a variety of keywords that are related to your niche and another which... doesn't!
The client had set the blog up on a free service that was completely independent of their main website. Any traffic that was finding the site was, therefore, showing up against the free blogging platform's account, not their main website.
Sure, they could have a link on the blog going back to the main website but, without a clear strong call to action, the chances of anyone clicking it were slim. And, worse, if they mentioned the blog on the main domain or had it as a tab along the top navigation bar, they were actually sending traffic AWAY from the main site.
Paid Blogging Platforms
If you cannot make changes to your regular website without having to pay someone, then it is crucial to get a blog set up as a sub-domain of that website. But - and this is a big but - you need to do it using your own hosting.
Wordpress.org is a free content management system that you can upload onto a sub-domain of your website called blog.mainwebsiteaddress. So, for example, if I had not built my entire site on Wordpress already, I would have had the blog as a sub-domain called blog.lollipoplocal.co.uk.
Free Blogging Platforms
It gets confusing because there is a free stand-alone version of Wordpress called wordpress.com. You have to apply to join and set up an account with them. The other main drawback - after the traffic issue - is that you cannot use the many plugins that are available with wordpress.org. These plugins and widgets are like little pieces of code which help with SEO or give you links back to your social media platforms or link you to your Analytics page.
So, it's hard to do effective SEO and, with no access to an FTP client, you are limited in what you can upload in terms of images and content and changes to the theme.
The other famous version of free blogging platforms is Blogspot.com, a part of Google now. There was some concern that their ownership of this site would mean that there might be some favouritism towards blogger sites over other sites but most SEO experts agree that such a bias on the blogging platforms would not be in Google's best interests in the long run so it is unlikely.
Another issue with using free blogging platforms rather than Wordpress.org is that you don't actually own your own content. If someone in authority at the hosting site disagrees with something you have written or advertised, then they can close you down without warning. You have no control. It is always much better to have full ownership of your site and its content.
Many free sites may also embed adverts on your blog for their own monetary gain. You don't ever get anything for free - there is always a payback somewhere.
The best way to use a blog is to set it up on Wordpress.org as a subdomain of your main site - then all the visitors count against your main website and you can SEO it to its full potential, secure in the knowledge that you have full control over the content.
Here's a great infographic about blogging platforms.