The Best Blogging Platforms (In-Depth Review)
- April 1, 2021
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Do you want to skip the read and get right to my top pick? The best blogging platform for most people is Wix.
I’ve been making a good living as a blogger for more than a decade. This is an area of the internet I know really well.
You’ve got a lot of good options. Some are free and might do the trick. Others are paid and you can do a whole lot more with them.
To help find the best option for your situation, I reviewed the top five blogging platforms on the market today and created a short list of criteria to think about as you search.
By the end of this article, you’ll be well on your way to starting your own blog.
#1 – Wix Review — The Best for Launching a Beautiful Blog Right Now
If you are looking for the shortest distance between you and a functional blog, go with Wix.
There are other great options on my list, but nothing is as easy to get started with as Wix.
It’s an excellent choice for beginners interested in creating a full-fledged website with a blog included.
Wix is highly template-driven, but there are an astonishing range of options available. You’ll be able to find something that fits with your brand. Getting things set up is as simple as using the drag-and-drop editor to design your site—no code necessary.
Alternatively, you can use Wix Artificial Design Intelligence (ADI). Just answer a few questions about who you are and the purpose of your blog, and Wix ADI will create a website for you. I’m not kidding:
And even if you want to design your own site, Wix ADI will help you figure out which layouts work best by letting you preview your content before making a decision.
Everything looks crisp with very little configuration on your end. Your final product is going to make a professional impression, whether visitors are on a laptop or mobile phone.
And if you are an on-the-go person, don’t worry. The Wix mobile app lets you design and blog right from your phone.
For the more technically confident, greater customization is possible in Wix, but most users aren’t going to need to do more than plug and play.
As one of the best website builders available, Wix is more than capable of supporting your entire site, not just your blog. Set up an online store, book appointments, post jobs, and more.
In terms of growing your audience, Wix comes packed with powerful tools to help you increase your reach and engage meaningfully online:
- Industry-leading SEO tools
- Social media tools
- Visitor analytics
- 500 professional design templates
- Post scheduling
- Embed HTML codes
- Categories and hashtags
- Advanced search capabilities
- Easy image editing
From site building to outreach, Wix a lot more than just a blogging platform. You can get started today and use Wix free forever.
The pros of a free Wix account are hands-off maintenance, as Wix hosts everything, and access to the world-class site building tools. Your site will have wixsite.com in the web address, and you’re limited to 500GB bandwidth, which basically means it only works for small sites without too much traffic.
The other drawback are the Wix ads, which enable the company to offer the free version. If you are running your blog as part of your business, do you really want another company’s advertisements?
If you upgrade, Wix removes the ads and gives you a custom domain name free for the first year. Your blog is fully yours, which I think is more than worth it.
Premium Wix plans are broken down into three groups: Websites, Business & eCommerce, and Enterprise.
If you are looking for a straight up blogging platform, the Websites plans will do. Plans start at $14 per month for Combo, which is good for personal use, and range up to $39 per month for the VIP plan, which has a lot more storage space and tools to grow your brand.
Business and ecommerce plans start at $23 per month and allow you to accept payments online. Sell products and services directly from your blog. Even for more complex sites, the Wix set up process will still be very user-friendly.
Wix is an excellent choice for individuals and small businesses trying to get the word out. There’s a 100 page limit for Wix websites (excluding blog posts, of course), and site performance may suffer if you start to hit the upper limit.
If this is a concern, I’d just go with WordPress, which can grow as big as you need. That said, Wix offers custom solutions for enterprise clients that start at $500 per month.
For most users, especially those looking to get their blog up and running without any stress or frustration, Wix is fantastic.
Try Wix Premium today free for 14 days, or blog free as long as you like.
#2 – Squarespace Review — The Best for Bold Branding Without a Web Designer
Squarespace is an all-in-one website builder, like Wix. However, it’s famous for aesthetically pleasing templates, making it perfect for visual-based businesses like photographers, designers, and artists.
For as great as your published work looks on Squarespace, it’s a relatively effortless platform to use.
Looking at the clean, beautiful brand presentation on Squarespace blogs, you might think that everyone hired a designer to get there. That may not be true.
Don’t get me wrong. Graphic design gurus can take Squarespace to amazing places, but I think the draw of the platform is that non-technical folks can spin up an amazing site themselves.
For the entrepreneur or small business looking to build their online presence, Squarespace is a phenomenal choice. They can get the sleek blog they want without having to hire a web designer or developer.
This is huge, because you’re not having to pay anyone to create your site, or having to scramble to find assistance when something breaks.
And if something does go wrong, Squarespace has highly-responsive customer service available 24/7. The relatively small monthly fee for the sitebuilder is probably a lot less than keeping a professional designer on retainer.
Think of Squarespace as a middle-of-the-road option between Wix and WordPress—it’s got a little more freedom to customize than Wix, though not as much as WordPress, but it’s going to be easier to use on day one than WordPress.
Like Wix, you start with templates and customize from there. Squarespace templates are very elegant, and the editor is drag-and-drop, which means no coding to get started.
What you see is what you get in terms of design, so you are not having to preview your page constantly to make sure everything is placed where it needs to go.
Squarespace is not quite as intuitive a design interface as Wix, but it’s not hard to get the hang of it. And once you do, you’ll find that you have more control over what you can do with the color palette and layout.
This freedom is why a lot of artists, designers, and creatives flock to Squarespace.
Not that you need to be a designer to achieve an elegant blog on Squarespace. People without an artistic bone in their body are creating amazing sites on the platform every day.
For a company that wants a beautiful blog, but doesn’t want to hire a designer to babysit it, Squarespace is perfect. Out of the box, you get:
- Free blogging templates to help you get started
- Categories, tags, and featured posts
- Built-in post scheduler
- Contributor permissions
- In-depth analytics
- SEO and social media tools
- Email marketing tools
- Expert customer service
- Mobile app
Now you won’t have total control to customize, as you do with the thousands of plugins offered by WordPress.
That said, all of the add-ons and third-party extensions in Squarespace are built into the platform—this means no maintenance or updates for you. This is going to be less work than managing WordPress plugins and themes.
Adding ecommerce functionality to your Squarespace blog is extremely easy. Launch an online store, book appointments, create and sell member’s only content.
Get these features set up in minutes and drive the right type of traffic to your blog with Squarespace’s excellent marketing and SEO tools. Everything you need for a complete website for your business is just as easy to set up as your blog, and it’s all going to look sharp.
Squarespace plans start at $12 per month for a website, and as low as $18 per month to add ecommerce:
The Personal plan is more than enough to power your website with a very good looking blog. You get the rich design and editing features I’ve described, as well as access to basic website metrics and the Squarespace extensions, which can expand your site with third-party features and content.
The Business plan lets you accept secure online payments and further customize your site with premium integrations. Take reservations, book appointments, or sell products and services. Choose the features you want and leave the maintenance to Squarespace.
I like the Business plan because you get more advanced analytics to understand your audience and fine-tune your marketing strategy. With higher tier plans, you’ll get more tools to understand your web traffic and additional ecommerce functions.
No matter what plan you choose, you get access to Squarespace’s customer service any time of day. For companies looking to get by without a web designer, the always-available assistance is a huge relief.
Squarespace is a fantastic option that keeps improving. The company is constantly adding features and upgrading the interface.
Within a week or two, anyone can become a Squarespace master even if they are starting from scratch. It’s the perfect platform for an individual or small company that wants a professional-looking blog without hiring a professional to get it.
Try Squarespace free for 14 days and give your company the on-brand blog you’ve always wanted.
#3 – WordPress Review — The Best for Creating a Unique Blog
WordPress is the most popular blogging platform in the world. It’s free to use and the potential to create is boundless.
You can blog for free at WordPress.com. The company hosts your site and gives you a subdomain. The downside is that it’s supported by running its own ads unless you upgrade your plan.
Alternatively, you can download the platform for free at WordPress.org and use it on a site you host yourself. Hosting isn’t free, but if you go with an officially recommended WordPress host like Bluehost, the whole thing winds up being less expensive than going with a similar website builder.
The payoff is that you can build whatever you can imagine with your WordPress blog.
The whole WordPress.com vs. WordPress.org concept can be a little confusing, so just know that my review is of the WordPress.com option. When you read WordPress throughout this post, that’s what I am recommending.
It starts with choosing your WordPress theme. Think of it like a template that formats your whole site as opposed to just one page.
There are a ton of amazing free themes to promote your content. These will keep your blog on brand and help you curate posts for your readers.
To add more functionality to your blog, there are tens of thousands of WordPress plugins you can use. These will help with SEO, site security, setting up newsletter subscriptions, and so much more. Lots of useful plugins are free.
There are also premium plugins and themes you can buy to add rich capabilities or custom looks for your site.
Since WordPress is open-source and ridiculously popular, there is an active community that is constantly building new features for today’s challenges. These are just some of the reasons more people choose WordPress for their blog:
- 55,000+ plugins to extend the functionality of your site
- Thousands of free and premium themes
- The Gutenburg block editor
- Advanced user roles and permissions
- Powerful media management
- A massive community of experts
- Infinite design control
You can get plugins and themes to take your site wherever it needs to go, and if you can’t, there is probably someone working on a solution right now.
With Wix and Squarespace, you are paying for an all-in-one platform. With WordPress, the platform is free, and you can purchase what you need à la carte. Choose your own mix of plugins and themes to get exactly what you need.
Turn your blog into a social media forum or host member’s only content behind a paywall. Anything you want is as simple as finding the right plugin.
Wix is going to be easier to use, especially at first, but WordPress is by no means difficult.
If you start building out a really complex site with a lot of plugins, sure, it’s going to be more work to maintain, but you’ll also have a blog that’s much more unique than what you could assemble on Wix.
In terms of day-to-day editing, though, WordPress is a breeze. The Gutenberg editor simplifies that process of arranging and refining your blog. You can work in HTML or edit visually, block by block, and effortlessly add content from your media library.
For the non-technical user, building a custom blog that’s rich with images and videos is incredibly easy. Gutenberg can even help you cut down on the number of plugins you need, which can start to cause conflicts if you are using too many.
Looking at the all-in costs of using WordPress as a blogging platform, it really depends what you are trying to do. If you are looking for the traditional blogging experience, you just need to pay for hosting and a domain name.
From there, you can do a ton with free plugins and themes. Or you can invest more in your site with paid options.
If you are just starting your blog, I’d recommend Bluehost Shared WordPress hosting. It starts at $2.95 per month. They give you a domain name free for the first year, custom themes, and automatic WordPress updates.
The whole process takes minutes instead of hours. It is affordable, easy to set up, and Bluehost takes over some of the maintenance. For all these reasons, I recommend Bluehost as the best way to start a WordPress blog.
#4 – Medium Review — The Best for Reaching Readers with Minimal Effort
One thing most blogging platforms don’t include is a built in audience. Medium does.
In order to read articles on medium, you need to pay a monthly membership fee. Some of that money goes to sustain the site, but some goes to the writers whose stories are being read.
So, if you write on Medium and join the Partner Program (which is free, and you don’t have to be a paying Medium member to join it), there’s a chance you could earn money if people spend time reading your blog posts.
Any topic you can think of, there is a Medium audience waiting to read more. You can share your posts easily, and check out what other bloggers in your space are doing. People who read similar types of posts to yours will see your posts, if you join the Partner Program.
This is a potentially monster avenue for targeted outreach within your niche.
Now it’s not entirely clear just how Medium curates your posts for other readers, which can be a little frustrating for bloggers who can’t find traction on your site. That said, Medium does provide helpful stats about your visitors so you can get a sense of how traffic is arriving.
You also can’t make a million dollars on Medium, like you can with a website builder with more monetization options.
But you also don’t have to worry about hosting or maintenance with Medium. The lack of effort is a huge plus for bloggers looking to write, not write code.
In that sense, Medium makes the initial hurdle to getting paid for blogging as easy as possible.
And if you aren’t worried about turning a profit, Medium is one of the best free blogging platforms available.
There’s a good bit of design freedom, though definitely not as much as you get with website builders like Squarespace. You can play with the layout and fonts to capture your online persona, and you never have to worry about advertisements disrupting your flow.
You don’t have a techie bone in your body to start drafting, editing, and embedding your own pictures or third-party media.
That’s another big draw with Medium: you hardly have any work to get perfectly formatted, mobile responsive blog posts. Everything lands on feed curated beautifully for readers:
For individuals and businesses alike, Medium is the perfect stress-free option for blogging.
Spotlight an ongoing portfolio of work, client success stories, your hottest daily deals, or simply share news and updates.
Medium lets you connect with a curated audience for free, and gives you the ability to share posts across social media with ease.
All of this through your own blog, which you don’t have to pay for or maintain.
Start using Medium today for free, and who knows, maybe you can generate a little cash on the side.
#5 – Blogger Review – The Best for Sharing Your Story
Blogger is a great platform for the casual blogger, individuals advocating for a cause, or potentially companies who want nothing more than a traditional blog.
It’s owned by Google, and offers the same level of dependability and intuitive navigation as Chrome and Gmail. If you can write an email, you can write a post on Blogger.
It’s also entirely free, forever, and includes your own subdomain. Your web address will be at example.blogspot.com. Set up takes minutes, and you never have to worry about hosting, storing your files, or keeping your site speed fast.
Leave that all to Google.
If you are trying to create an on-brand blog, and you want to get rid of the blogspot subdomain, simply purchase your own custom domain through one of the best domain registrars. It’s very easy to set everything up, especially if you use Google Domains.
I like it best for personal use as the platform is limited in some ways that can hamstring a blog built for business purposes. You have options to tweak the blog presentation, but you can’t change too much to make it your own.
There are gadgets to add functionality to your blog, but nothing remotely close to the power and diversity of WordPress plugins. You also have no ecommerce options, as you would with other website builders.
That said, you can monetize your Blogger page very easily using Google Adsense. Fill out a quick form with your payment information, and Blogger will put relevant ads on your site, bringing you income based on how many people visit.
Now this isn’t your ticket to a full time salary, but a little revenue coming in the door from your blog can’t hurt. All of the essentials you need to get started are included, like:
- Image storage with Google Photos
- Integrated ad campaigns
- Simple text editor
- A free SSL certificate and free domain mapping
- Google integrations
Think of Blogger as a low-stress, near-zero maintenance blogging platform. It works well for people that have a story to share, but aren’t willing to invest significant time and resources into their blog.
Your story could be about your life, your product, your community, whatever you want. Blogger gives you a venue to broadcast your message, and Google handles all the technical legwork. You don’t have to worry about backing up your site or getting hacked.
If you aren’t super worried about aesthetics, Blogger is a good choice. The template selection is relatively sparse and you have to know HTML in order to customize beyond the basics.
In other words, you are not going to be able to create a really unique experience for your readers with interactive content and dynamic pages as easily as you can with a website builder like Wix.
The Blogger templates are repeated everywhere on the web. If that doesn’t bother you, Blogger is going to be one of the easiest and cheapest ways to get your blog off the ground.
Choose Blogger if what you want is a traditional blog. With minimal effort and oversight, you’ll be able to get a readable blog off the ground.
Start your blog for free today.
What I Looked at to Find the Best Blogging Platform
Your options break down into two basic categories:
- Traditional blogging platforms
- Website builders with great blogging capability
Depending on what you are trying to do, one of these is going to make a lot more sense than the other.
If you are looking for a low maintenance venue to share stories with the world or advocate for a cause, traditional blogging platforms are perfect. They can also work as a simple portfolio for businesses that want to share wins and finished work.
Website builders can do a whole lot more, though they aren’t free like the traditional platforms.
Let me walk you through the major criteria you need to figure out which type you want, and how to weigh your different options from there.
Cost and Revenue
For some bloggers, turning a profit isn’t the main focus. If they can make a little extra cash on the side, it’s a bonus, but they’re not depending on blog income to live.
If you fall in this group, I strongly suggest checking out Medium and Blogger.
These two traditional blogging platforms are free forever. You don’t have to pay for hosting, web design, or worry about the site staying online. These providers handle all of that.
There are free versions of Wix and WordPress, but I like Medium and Blogger better because you won’t have any vendor ads on your site. In fact, Blogger lets you run ads and keep the money yourself.
Medium has a Partner Program that lets you earn money on your blog posts if people read them. The program is free to join and takes no effort on your part to get your posts in front of new readers who care about your blogging niche.
You can even add affiliate links to your Medium posts to generate your own source of revenue. Some free platforms don’t let you do this.
If you are using the platform for a business or want to make serious money blogging, I’ll steer you toward Wix, Squarespace, and WordPress. These options aren’t free, but there is a ton of value in what they provide.
For instance, you’ll be able to accept payments for products, services, and put content behind a membership paywall. The free platforms don’t support ecommerce, even if you do get a few avenues to monetize.
I’ll say more about the benefits of premium blogging platforms throughout this post, but it really comes down to this simple truth—the more you want your blog to do, the more it’s going to cost.
To decide between the paid platforms, look at how they offer services, as one may have a better pricing set up for your needs.
With Wix, for example, you can purchase all-in-one plans that include literally everything you need to get a site up and running. You can choose plans for simple blogs or plans for ecommerce and you are good to go.
WordPress, on the other hand, is free to download, but you have to pay for hosting. Wix and Squarespace (another solid all-in-one website builder) take care of the hosting and lump the cost in the total package.
What you’ll find, though, is that hosting your own WordPress site often winds up being cheaper than getting everything bundled.
It’s a little more legwork on your part, but you also get a lot more control. Instead of purchasing a package of features and templates, you can add WordPress plugins and themes at your own discretion.
Is your blog going to have videos, plugins, or other resource-intensive features?
Be sure to make sure the plan you’re considering comes with enough resources to support your site. Storage and traffic requirements may disqualify the entry-level plans.
If you are just starting off, this isn’t too much of a concern. But performance can suffer once you start to see a lot of traffic or add a lot of features to your site. No one reads blogs that take a long time to load.
Branding Your Blog Your Way
Is your blog part of your brand? This is important when looking at blogging platforms, as some of your free options are going to limit the branding control you have.
WordPress and Wix support their freemium options by running their own ads on your site. You don’t control what they sell or see any revenue. It’s no big deal for a hobby blog, but far from ideal for a business.
Blogger and Medium, on the other hand, don’t run ads. So if you want a free blog to promote your business, I’d start with one of those two.
You also want to get your own domain name to build your brand. Free blogs give you a subdomain with their company name in your web address. On blogger, your URL would be yourusername.blogspot.com.
It’s easy to buy your own domain name and looks way more professional. It also helps search engines like Google direct the right people to your site.
Wix and Squarespace include a free domain name for the first year, so you can get that custom web address without anyone else’s brand involved.
If you sign up for WordPress hosting via Bluehost, you get a domain name free for the first year as well. Starting at less than 3$ per month, I think this is the best way to start a WordPress blog.
With the website builders, you get a lot more freedom to create your site your way. It’s easier to align your blog with your brand when you have more control.
Blogger and Medium offer simple tools to create, organize, and share posts. There’s not a ton you can do with the layout, but it’s always going to look sharp.
The premium blogging platforms give you a lot more control and design flexibility, allowing you to build a complete website and brand around your blog.
Customize the look and feel of nearly every aspect of your blog instead of having to color inside the lines someone else drew.
For the first time blogger who wants an original site, I highly recommend Wix. There’s virtually no learning curve and you can drag-and-drop your way to a site you love.
Squarespace is very approachable in terms of design. It might take slightly longer for the novice user to build their first site than with Wix, but the tradeoff is greater control over your blog’s layout and design.
It’s one of the reasons that Squarespace is the website builder of choice for many artists, architects, photographers, and the like.
WordPress is at the top of the heap in terms of design freedom. There is little you can’t do, but there is a bit of a learning curve. It’s certainly manageable, just a little harder in the first hours than Wix.
But if you are looking for the freedom to create, a WordPress blog is your ticket to infinite possibility.
How much upkeep does your blog require?
Or put it this way: How much time are you willing to spend making sure your blog is up and running?
Those who want a hands-off blog experience are going to be very happy with Medium and Blogger. You don’t have to worry about hosting, or updates, or really anything besides publishing your posts.
Wix and Squarespace are still fairly hands-off in terms of maintenance. They can host your blog, manage SSL certificates, patch security issues, and all the other backend work that most bloggers aren’t excited about.
With WordPress you’ll need to get web hosting and a domain name to get started. Over time, you’ll have to update WordPress as well as any plugins and themes you use. As the most free-range, customizable platform, it requires the most attention.
This is why I recommend that people starting their first WordPress blog use Bluehost. For less than $3 per month, you can get WordPress hosting that comes with automated WordPress updates and a free domain name for the first year.
Get everything you need in one place and let Bluehost take over some of the basic maintenance.
Tools for Growing Your Audience
One of the big reasons I recommend these particular blogging platforms is that they all include features that make it easier to connect more people.
It could be readers, customers, fellow enthusiasts—whatever your blog audience, you can build it bigger with these solutions.
Even the free platforms. Blogger analyzes traffic on your site and lets you know how visitors arrived. Connect Google Analytics for a deeper picture of what’s happening.
Blogger also integrates with popular email marketing services, which turn your blog into a newsletter.
Medium has a built-in audience of paying readers. Once you join the Partner Program, Medium will curate your content for readers who are interested in the similar blog posts.
Plus, you can easily share your Medium posts across social channels, reaching exponentially more readers with a few clicks.
And those are just the free options. If you go with a premium platform, the quality and variety of your growth features increases tremendously.
Squarespace includes free email campaign tools to help you build your list. You can add on premium email marketing tools as well, to automate tens of thousands of sends each month.
Wix keeps SEO front and center. At a glance, you can monitor blog performance on the dashboard. To get a richer understanding, there are integrations with Google Analytics and Ubersuggest, which could be the best tool you can get for understanding how to improve SEO on your blog.
WordPress lets you broadcast your message and engage your audience along any conceivable vector. Use plugins to turn your website into an SEO powerhouse or double your blog’s traffic. There are thousands of plugins and a giant community of users building new solutions every day.
The bottom line is this: If you want people to read your blog, you can’t just post posts and expect the world to figure it out.
To increase traffic, you’ll want to cast a wider net across social media and other channels. All these products can help, but which one aligns with your audience?
If you are still having trouble deciding about which blogging platform to choose, I suggest checking out the vendors sites and reading their blog.
How does it look? They are using their own platform, likely pushing it to the edge of possibility in order to show off new features.
This will give you a really strong sense of what you can do with each platform. Follow these links to visit my top recommendations:
- Wix – Best for launching a beautiful blog right now
- Squarespace – Best for bold branding without a designer
- WordPress – Best for creating a unique blog
- Medium – Best for reaching readers with minimal effort
- Blogger – Best for sharing your story
Wix will even let you start editing a sample blog right on their site, to get a feel for how the designer works. If you like it, you can begin working on your own Wix blog immediately.
In terms of getting a great looking blog off the ground quickly—with zero web development experience—Wix should be your first choice.
Squarespace is another excellent choice for those without a ton of web design or development resources. It’s not quite as easy as Wix, but it does provide a significant bit more artistic freedom. Along with the top-notch customer service, Squarespace can help you handle all of your website and blogging needs without having to hire someone.
WordPress is my top choice if you are trying to deliver a unique blog experience for your readers. There are no limits to what you can create, and if you pick a reputable cheap web hosting option, it may cost you less than the all-in-one website builders.
In terms of free blogs, I highly recommend Medium to people looking to broaden their audience without investing too much time. The built-in readership is unlike any other platform and offers a great way to connect without spending more money.
And if what you came to this post to find was a free and simple way to share your story with the world, Blogger will suit you just fine. It’s a no frills platform that’s supported by Google. What more could you want?
What’s your go-to blogging platform and why?
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