This blogging guide focuses on the top free blogging platforms—Blogger, Tumblr, and WordPress. Each has a huge network with millions of bloggers, as well as a number of pros and cons.
Since the early 2000s the popularity of blogs has exploded, resulting in an increased number of hosts (or platforms) to choose from. Selecting which one to unleash your thoughts and observations on can overwhelm—but hopefully not anymore.
“Publish your passions, your way
Create a unique and beautiful blog. It’s easy and free.”
- If you have a Gmail address, you can open multiple blogs to tie into your blog account (should you, say, want to write about food and cars but not talk about them both on the same blog).
- Blogger has an extensive Help Center that will walk you through setting up your blog and assist you with issues that may come up down the road.
- Like Tumblr, the dashboard aggregates all the new posts created by people you follow, which you can also import to your Google Reader should you prefer that format.
- Your latest metrics about followers and page views show up on your dashboard right under each of the blogs you’ve created.
- The platform allows for ‘group blogs,’ meaning you can easily set up multiple authors for one blog (the limit is 100 people).
- There aren’t very many design templates though you can change most via HTML and CSS coding.
- Posting anything other than text can intimidate, especially if one’s not already familiar with icons for images, how to add links to text, etc.
- Beware of the size limitations of Blogger, which is 1MB for a page, 250KB for a photo loaded by a mobile device, and 2000 for the number of individual tags per blog.
- Blogger websites have been blocked in countries such as China, Pakistan, Cuba, and Syria.
“Tumblr is where your interests connect you with your people.”
- The Dashboard aggregates the content of people you follow, making it easy to discover new posts by Tumblr bloggers and prominent magazines and newspapers that also now use the service including The Atlantic, The Daily and The New Yorker.
- Posting a link, photo, video, chat, or quote is a click away! Tumblr breaks out these different types of posts for you and automatically formats whatever you choose to post so that it’s easy to create/modify/read.
- Re-blogging is incredibly easy, in turn making it also easy for your own work to be shared with others.
- There are a lot of free designs to choose from and for a nominal fee even more are available for your use.
- A nonexistent search function, meaning that should you #tag a post #Giants, for example, don’t expect to be able to find it again if typing Giants into the search bar.
- Traffic is high on the site (as of Feb. 27th, there are 46.2 million Tumblr bloggers) so the server sometimes crashes. This seems to be happening less frequently over the past year.
- If you should run into an issue, Tumblr’s Help Center is pretty limited.
- In order to allow for “commenting” on one’s blog you’ll have to take the extra step of installing Disqus, which is supported on a limited number of Tumblr’s “themes” (aka designs).
“WordPress is software designed for everyone, emphasizing accessibility, performance, security, and ease of use. We believe great software should work with minimum set up, so you can focus on sharing your story, product, or services freely. “
- Unlike Tumblr and Blogger, which require you to manually add tracking software to your blog, WordPress offers its own stats system that provides real-time metrics.
- WordPress uses Akismet to block spammers from leaving comments on your blog.
- After adding relevant tags to your post, WordPress adds them to their “global tag system and tag surfer,” which helps other people with similar interests to find your post (Tumblr has a version of this, too).
- You can add “widgets” for Twitter, del.icio.us, and Flickr to your blog’s sidebar easily, without having to modify any HTML code on your own.
- If you don’t want to share everything to everyone, WordPress offers a variety of privacy options and the ability to create members-only blogs.
- Had a blog a while ago on another platform? No problem. You can easily import your content from Blogger, LiveJournal, Movable Type, TypePad, or an existing WordPress blog.
- There are 160+ free themes which you can modify, but custom themes aren’t supported.
- Unfortunately the .com site is not compatible with the plug-ins WordPress.org offers.
- To support their advertising arm, WordPress will occasionally show ads on your blog, although they claim to do so rarely. You can remove ads for a low yearly fee.
When exploring WordPress, keep in mind that there is WordPress.org and WordPress.com. The pros and cons mentioned below pertain to .com, the free blogging site, and not .org, which is a self-hosted Content Management System. While there is more flexibility with WordPress.org, including the ability to upload your own theme, have complete control of your blog’s coding, and use the thousands of available plug-ins, there are drawbacks, too. You’ll need to pay a monthly fee to a web host, control spammers on your own, and handle all WordPress software upgrades and backups. In short, one should be pretty tech savvy before setting up and running a self-hosted site.
Now that our blogging guide has covered some platform options, think long and hard about your needs. Will you be blogging on the go? If so, research the mobile apps for Blogger, Tumblr, and WordPress. Peruse other writers’ blogs you like most, or least, and take notes on their content, ease of social media integration, or even colors and font. Learn from their successes and missteps, but most of all, get ready to open yourself up to a whole new community.
Now You Have to write
While the blank page can be intimidating, to face a blog post shouldn’t be. You’re responsible for shortish pieces on whatever strikes your fancy and, unlike in a novel – which requires believable dialog, a plot arc and a story – a good blog post needs mostly personality.
Whether you’re sticking to one niche (e.g. the road to publication or writing tips for authors) or a number of subjects, the material you present must reveal you in some way. Without this your text will be bland, making it harder to forge a personal connection with your readers.
Connections. Who needs ’em?
Everyone. The Internet is a vast world and there are plenty of places for people to turn so here are 10 blog prompts to get you and your followers thinking:
- Look at what’s trending on Twitter (by hashtag) and write an opinion piece about the topic at hand. Remember to use your researching skills to back up your argument.
- Come up with a weekly feature. For example, maybe every Wednesday you interview an author about writing or his/her process. Or on Tuesdays you post a photo of your work area and write about your progress. Whatever it is, be consistent.
- Talk shop, er, books and articles. What have you read recently that you loved or hated? What is your favorite book of all time? Why do you prefer one specific genre over another? Or do you no longer read at all, and why?
- What challenges or fears have you faced in life and overcome? Inspirational writing is always popular.
- Make a top 10 list. From nail colors to the best advice on book cover concepts; do your research and show off what you’ve found.
- Thoughtfully reply to a blog post by someone else in your niche and kick off a back-and-forth conversation about a controversial (or just plain important) topic.
- Can’t think of anything nice to say? Don’t say anything at all, then. Instead sum up your feelings by posting a meaningful quote by your favorite philosopher, writer, actor, or musician.
- As writers, we love words, but appreciate the other fine arts, too. Don’t shy away from putting up a video you found on YouTube or a photo of your favorite coffee shop, carnival ride or pet. These small glimpses into your life will be appreciated by your readers.
- What do you want to accomplish over the next year and how will you get there? Tell your readers so they can root for you. And remember to talk about your progress now and again.
- 10. Still not inspired? Check out these interactive prompts that will get your mind churning.
Promoting your work
- Send an e-mail to friends and family letting them know you’re joining the blogging ranks and ask them to send your URL on to others who may be interested
- Reach out to other bloggers you know, or don’t, and introduce yourself. Perhaps you’ll want to feature one of their posts one day, or vice versa
- Post a link to each of your blog posts on Facebook and on Twitter so your fans and followers can keep up with what you’re up to
- Tag your posts so that they’ll be found by others with similar interests
Are you ready to take your blog to the next level? Then it’s time to dive into our complete guide to blogging for author success.
In the comment section, share with our other readers what do’s and don’ts you’ve learned about blogging.
Paul is the Content Marketing Manager at Lulu. When he's not entrenched in the publishing and print-on-demand world, he likes to hike the scenic North Carolina landscape, read, sample the fanciest micro-brewed beer, and collect fountain pens. Paul is a dog person but considers himself cat tolerant.