If you’re starting a new blog, you may be considering whether you want to invest in your website or look into free blogging platforms.
While free blogging platforms offer a financially risk-free way to create your blog, they are not without their limitations.
However, paid blog hosting does require a bit of an investment – but can be highly advantageous.
When I first started blogging, way back in 2001 (yes, the Internet existed then), I used free platforms such as Blogger and Netfirms.
(I don’t have any examples of my old Blogger sites, but check out this jewel I had posted on Netfirms when I had no effing clue what I was doing!)
I was simply creating blogs and websites for kicks and had no real intention of ever making money off of them. Yet, when I did decide to get more serious about my blogging and web design, I switched over to paid hosting.
This was a personal choice, of course, but when I weighed the differences between paid and free blogging platforms it made sense to me.
Before you make a decision and go either way, learn more about the differences between paid and free blogging platforms:
Free Blogging Platforms
So, basically, the only benefit of free blogging platforms is that they are just that: free.
Otherwise, they are not as flexible as paid blogging platforms so you may find yourself up against some limitations:
Free Blog Platforms Require a Subdomain
Web addresses such as www.google.com, www.facebook.com, etc., are all considered to be “domains” – the means that the name of their site is the URL.
When it comes to free blogging platforms, you have to settle for having your blog name incorporated into the domain name of the site hosting it. For example:
- your-site.blogspot.com (Blogger)
- your-site.wordpress.com (WordPress)
- your-site.wix.com (Wix)
- your-site.medium.com (Medium)
Now, that being said, you can always purchase a domain name and point it at this address.
So, say you wanted to buy a .com for your blog – you could then point that .com to the free blogging platform:
http://your-site.com -> redirects to http://your-site.blogspot.com
(FYI, it’s probably near impossible to buy an original .com at a decent price nowadays, so I’m only using that as an example.)
While this may be a clever workaround to using a free blogging platform but also take these points into consideration:
Free Blog Platforms Use Ads
They have to keep it free somehow, right?
Oftentimes, these free blogging services will place ads on your site – and you have no control over where they go or what they advertise.
Oh, and you don’t get the money from them.
For new bloggers, this might not be so bad but if you’re trying to monetize your blog through your own ad placement, it’s going to look messy.
Speaking of looks, that leads me to my next point…
Free Blog Platforms Are Very Limited
Free blogging platforms are notoriously limited.
I remember when I tried to use WordPress.com (which is WP’s free hosting site) I immediately had to bail because I could do virtually nothing to my blog’s look and layout.
I’m all about customization and code-hacking, so I knew this platform wouldn’t work for me.
Not only are you limited in the look and functionality of your blog, but also how much space your given and how much data can be uploaded by visitors to your site (a.k.a. bandwidth).
You are also not likely to get a custom email address that includes your domain name (email@example.com, for example) and there are virtually no options for placing security measures on your site.
To overcome issues such as ads and limitations, you will have to purchase a hosting package – such as these ones at HostGator – to link to your domain name.
Can I Earn Money from a Free Blog?
You can, but is it going to be easy? Probably not.
This is mostly because free platforms and subdomains are not ranked high in search engine results pages, which means that the chances of getting traffic from search engines are slim to none.
Also, people making purchases online tend to trust paid-for platforms (with their own domains) over sites that have a subdomain. It could be that buyers feel these sites may be “scammy” or untrustworthy.
However, if you’re just starting out, there’s no harm in signing up for a free blogging platform and seeing what happens. If you market properly, you could end up with a healthy amount of traffic and an opportunity to monetize your blog.
Paid Blogging Platforms
With paid blogging platforms and hosting, you can create a professional-looking site with none of the limitations of free web hosting.
I feel I need to clarify something here – when I say paid blogging platforms, I really mean “paid hosting”. Full blogging platforms, such as WordPress or Joomla, are available for free when you sign up for a web hosting package.
Paying for an actual domain can be relatively cheap (depending on the suffix you choose).
Paid web hosting sometimes comes off as a huge expense, but the reality is that most packages will only cost you around $3-$7 per month.
HostGator, again, sometimes has introductory rates as low as $3.50 per month.
That all being said, here are the advantages of paying for your blog hosting:
Paid Blog Hosting Creates Brand Recognition
In another post, I talked about what branding is and why it’s important when building up a site – and especially when monetizing it.
Since paid blogging platforms allow you to have your own URL and full control over the look and feel of your site, you can more easily create a unique and recognizable experience for your visitors.
Plus, having your own domain builds trust and makes your brand look more professional. Your audience is likely to take you seriously and feel more comfortable buying what you have to sell – whether this is affiliate products, your own products or simply your information.
Paid Blog Hosting Has Options Galore!
Paid blogging platforms are rife with options such as plugins, security settings, themes, layouts – basically everything that free blogging platforms fail to provide!
Not only will your blog automatically look professional with a domain name, but you can make it look professional as well with customizable themes and features.
Overall, you have more tools to improve the functionality of your site and create a valuable and memorable experience for the reader.
What Paid Blogging Platform Has the Best Value?
Obviously, I’m going to mention Host Gator again (I’ve been with them for years, I can’t help it!) because they have affordable plans and many, many, many cool and wonderful features.
However, if you want an unbiased comparison of different web hosting companies and their prices, you can check out this post here – I don’t mind, I promise.
Overall, most web hosting companies price around the same – sometimes it comes down to finding a good sale or how important customer service is to you.
(Because I’ve been with hosting companies with poor customer service. In all seriousness, HostGator has gotten me out of a few self-inflicted jams with my site quickly and courteously!)
If you’re ready to jump into paid web hosting, do your research and find the best choice that suits your needs and your budget.
Ready to Get Started?
I hope this guide was helpful in helping you decide whether to go with a free blogging platform or a paid one.
Honestly, paid ones are better if you’re serious about blogging, but free ones are perfect when you’re just starting. Don’t forget – I started on free blogging platforms!
And even though I should be embarrassed to show you what that looks like – I’m not.
Anywho, once you figure out which direction you’re going to go, it’s time to start building that blog! Check out my post on how to start a mom blog.
I want to know: Which way have you gone when it comes to blogging platforms? Let us know in the comments!!!