So, you are thinking about starting a blog but don’t know the difference between free and paid blogging platforms.
You’re thinking: where do I start and how much is this going to cost?
I understand your dilemma. Because I was in your shoes, 8 years ago, when I birthed Pickled Plum.
You’ve probably heard that WordPress is king when it comes to blogging platforms – but you have to pay money to use it. Then you have all the free blogging platforms like Blogger, Wix, Tumbler and Medium, and might be wondering what the big difference is.
If you can blog for free then why should you pay money?
Good point! And I completely agree with your thinking. There’s no reason to pay for a blogging platform if you are planning to use it a hobby or a side project.
But this post isn’t about blogging as a hobby. This post is for those that want to make a career out of blogging.
And guess what… all blogging platforms may be equal when it comes to the ability to publish content – but they are not equal when it comes to making money online.
Free blogging platforms are very limited in how you can use them to monetize your blog. And they are also limiting in the amount of traffic your blog can receive.
So if your goal is to make money as a blogger, take a minute to read this post.
I’m about to explain exactly why you should avoid using a free platform. I’ll also show you how you can run a profitable blog for less than $3.00 a month, including hosting and your domain name.
What is a blogging platform?
Before we get started, let me quickly explain what a blogging platform is.
A blogging platform is the foundation of your blog. It’s the software or service you use to publish your content online. Each platform has different, pre-coded templates that dictate the end appearance of your blog.
What is Web Hosting?
Web hosting is where your blog will be living. It’s a company that provides the services needed to view your blog online. For example, when a user views your blog by putting in your website address (domain name), their computer will connect to a server (which is where your blog will be hosted) so your webpages can be seen through the browser.
Which Comes First – Web Hosting Or Blogging Platform?
Well, you need hosting in order to access to your platform. So, in that sense, hosting comes first.
If you choose to go with a paid service like Bluehost or WP Engine, you will have access to various blogging platforms such as WordPress, Joomla, Drupal, Ghost. You can access the platforms through your Cpanel (control panel) – and the set up is as simple clicking the install button for whichever platform you choose.
If you choose to go with a free service like Blogger, Wix and Tumblr, you will have to use their own design which is usually very limited in function.
A Few More Things To Know About Free Blogging Platforms
Before you think I’m completely against free blogging platforms, let me say that’s not the case. I think they are great as long as your goal isn’t to create a brand and make money from it.
Now, one important thing to know about free blogging platforms is they only provide subdomain names. This is bad for many reasons:
- Your site likely won’t be taken seriously. Just look at my old free url -> www.pickledplum.blogspot.com versus the one I currently have -> pickledplum.com (custom domain name). One looks like a hobby blog while the other looks professional. Owning a domain name is crucial for proper branding.
- It’s not search engine friendly. Google doesn’t view free blogs as authorities. This is why you rarely see them showing up in the top 5 search results. This means less traffic, less eyeballs on your content, and less money in the long run.
- They’re bad for social media credibility. Since free platforms are overrun by spammers your url might end up looking questionable in the eyes of the social media community. This means less shares and possibility earning a bad reputation.
Another thing to keep in mind is that you don’t control your blog on a free platform. The company controls 100% of your blog.
That’s pretty scary considering all the effort and time put into creating your blog’s content. For many of us, blogging is not just a way to make a living. It’s also a passion project that took months and years to build.
The possibility of having something that precious taken away at a moment’s notice, forever, gives me chills. Just think… if Tumblr decided to close their doors tomorrow and all the content you created might be gone just like that. Brrr!
Blogging for free also means the company reserves the right to read, access and ban your content if it feels you are in violation of certain rules or regulations – for the safety of its users and the public.
Why It’s Hard To Make Money On A Free Blogging Platform
Alright… so here we are – and I’m going to tell you exactly why it’s a big mistake to start a blog for free if you want to make good money.
1. You cannot run your own advertisements.
Since I make over half of my income from banner advertising (I made over $70,000 from banners alone last year), the thought of not being to use them to make a living seems completely crazy. Some free services will go as far as running their own ads on your pages so they can make the money from your content.
Again… They will make money, not you.
Blogger is the only free platform that allows the use of banner ads – but their designs are very limiting. I started on Blogger and stayed with them for the first two years which was a big mistake. Why? Because I was making pennies.
Now I don’t know exactly why I was making so little compared to what I started making as soon as I switched to paid hosting (I went from making $5-$10 per month to $150-$200 per month almost instantly), but I think it had something to do with website speed.
If visitors come to your blog and your blog takes a long time to load, they will most likely leave before the banners are done fully loading. This equals $0 for you since the banners need to fully be on display in order for you to earn money. And this brings me to my next point.
2. Your blog will take a long time to load.
So as you can see, speed matters immensely if you want your blog to succeed financially.
It’s also critical in the eyes of search engines like Google – since SEO (search engine optimization) matters. Your blog will rank higher in searches if it’s faster, since search engines continuously try to deliver the best and most optimized content to their readers.
Speed can also be the difference between making a sale or losing one. That’s because 47% of users will leave a website if it takes longer than 3 seconds to load. Think of how many sales you could stand to lose if your blog takes 5-6 seconds to load.
The main issue with free blogging platforms is that they put hundreds of free blogs on one server. And because the bandwidth is shared between so many sites, it will slow down loading time dramatically.
3. You are limited in the amount of traffic your blog can receive.
It goes without saying that the more visitors you get to your blog -> the more money and sales you will make.
But, in order to be able to get a lot of traffic, you need access to a lot of bandwidth which is something free platforms don’t offer.
That’s because bandwidth costs money and free platform companies are only willing to give a small amount of it for free, since their end-goal is to get you to eventually upgrade.
I think a lot of people who are on free platforms give up blogging after a while because they don’t see much growth. Traffic remains somewhat low and they get discouraged. But they don’t realize that it’s not the quality of their content that is causing this problem – but most likely the restrictions imposed by their hosting providers.
Switching to a paid hosting service could be the difference between getting 5,000 visitors a month and getting 100,000 visitors!
4. You are also limited in the amount of storage you get for your data.
Another downside to sharing a server with hundreds of other blogs is that you will only be given a certain amount of storage for your data. This means if you decide to keep creating content once your disk storage is full – which happens pretty quickly – you will have to upgrade.
And guess what? The cost for upgrading on what was initially a free service is 3-4 times higher than that of many paid services.
For example, Wix may be free at first but will charge $14/month for their Entrepreneurs & Freelancers plan. That plan includes unlimited bandwidth, 10GB of storage, and a free domain name.
Compare that to Bluehost, which is a paid hosting company, and you can see how expensive Wix is. Bluehost offers unlimited bandwidth, 50GB of storage (5 times more than Wix!) and a free domain name for $3.95/month.
Start with paid hosting and you will end up paying less in the long run. This is 100% true.
If you are thinking about starting a blog of your own, I have an easy to understand tutorial on how to start a WordPress blog on Bluehost for $2.95 per month (this low price is only available for readers of my blog – cheaper than buying straight from Bluehost). You will also get a free website domain (a $15 value) on purchases of 12 months or more.
5. Your blog won’t look professional or convincing.
The designs and functions available on free platforms can be quite restrictive and tend to look cheap.
That alone will cost you sales since it’s harder to sell products when your blog or shop looks poorly made. Also, the fact that it’s hosted on a free platform will naturally make people skeptical about the stuff you sell and recommend because, again, those platforms tend to be overrun with spammers.
The one important thing to take away from this post is that it’s crucial to think about the end goal when you are at the beginning stages of setting up your blog.
Blogging is a long term commitment. So make sure you set yourself up for success from the start. You can prevent future problems before they happen. This will save you a lot of time and money.
WordPress – The Best Blogging Platform For Serious Bloggers
Considering that most top blogs and over 30% of sites on the internet are powered by WordPress, I’d say the numbers speak for themselves.
The reason WordPress is so popular is because it’s extremely versatile, flexible and easy to use once you get the hang of it. (It took me all of two days to master.)
With WordPress you have access to thousands of plugins which are mini programs that allow you to alter the look of your blog. And you can add fun features to your blog as well.
If you look at this post you can see that I have little social icons above the main image so people can easily share it with their friends (a simple step to implement in WP that results in more traffic for me!). That’s a plugin I’m using called Social Warfare. I’m also using plugins in my sidebar to display my most popular posts and another one to collect emails through the signup box.
Plugins are extremely powerful add ons that can also help with managing the back end – as well as improving your blog’s speed.
Why WordPress is the best blogging platform for profitable blogs
- There are no restrictions; your blog is your playground!
- The platform is easy to use. It’s flexible and very powerful.
- You can design your blog exactly the way you pictured it in your mind.
- You can sell your own products (eBook, eCourse, etc.) and have an e-commerce section.
- You can choose which affiliate programs you would like to promote and promote them however you want (banners, posts, eCommerce)
- You can add beautiful landing pages like the one I created for my app which is a must if you are planning to sell your own product.
The most common ways bloggers make money is through advertisements, affiliate marketing, sponsored posts, and selling their own products. You can do all of that on WordPress!
Differentiating between WordPress.org and WordPress.com
Now before you start blogging with WordPress you should know that WordPress.org and WordPress.com are not the same thing.
To keep it as simple as possible (because technology is complicated enough as it is), WordPress.com is a FREE hosting service like Tumblr and Blogger. WordPress.org on the other hand is a software – a CMS (content management system) that needs a hosting provider and domain name.
So when I say that most top blogs use WordPress and that 30% of websites on the web are powered by WordPress, I’m talking about the software -> the .org one, not the free service.
The good news is most paid hosting sites such as Bluehost provide the WordPress software platform as part of their package. And the installation process is as simple as clicking the install button.
To summarize this post, it’s much better to go with paid hosting that includes WordPress.org if you are serious about making money as a blogger. It’s the only way to go.