In the second article in this series, I discussed the importance of putting together a plan for your blog. Hopefully, the questions presented helped you think about why you want to blog, who your audience might be, and how you intend to align your blog tactics with your business goals and measure your performance.
In the third article in the series, I’ll tackle the complex task of deciding which platform to select for your blog. There are a lot of different factors that can influence your platform choice, including your technical comfort level, whether you have access to server space, and factors like how many people will be publishing articles to your blog. To get started choosing the platform that would best suit your needs, consider these eight questions and the options that might be best for each answer.
1) Do you have access to hosting space?
One of the key considerations that may influence your decision is whether or not you have access to a server or hosting space where you can install and maintain your blog. If you have access to your own server and hosting space and have an appetite to maintain periodic code updates, WordPress.org offers you one of the most flexible, customizable platforms available to bloggers. Although WordPress is open source and free to download, the cost of hosting space and domain registration are factors that you’ll need to take into account when forecasting your blog budget.
2) Do you want to get up and running quickly or would you prefer to have complete control over the look and functionality of your blog?
If you need to get up and running quickly, WordPress.org may not be your best bet. Although some hosting services do offer quick setup of WordPress, a standard installation of WordPress.org code does require you to first set up a MySQL database, then configure the connection from WordPress to the database, and then configure the blog settings. These time requirements and technical know-how sometimes steer people clear of WordPress.org as an option.
Alternatively, Blogger, Tumblr, TypePad, and WordPress.com all offer hosted solutions that are easy to setup and can have you blogging in a matter of minutes. If you’re looking for a quick solution, check out blogger, Tumblr or WordPress.com and see which might suit your needs.
As I mentioned earlier, there are costs associated with setting up a blog on the WordPress.org platform, due to the hosting costs. TypePad does charge for their blogging services, but Tumblr, Blogger, and WordPress all offer free blogging services, as well as paid options that offer additional features.
If you’re operating on a tight budget, you may be better off getting started with one of the free options and then looking to one of the paid services down the road. The good news is that migration between most of these platforms can be done relatively easily.
4) Do you want to control your search engine optimization (SEO) or do you want the platform to take care of it?
SEO is a critical element to the success of most blogs. While the free services like Blogger and WordPress.com do submit to the search engines, they don’t provide you full control over your SEO strategy. WordPress.org implementations provide you the ability to add SEO optimized plugins that can help increase your chances of being listed by the top search engines. So if you want to have full control over your search strategy, you may need to skip the free, hosted options and install/manage a standalone implementation of WordPress.org.
5) Will you be adding multimedia to your blog?
If your blog is going to be media rich and include large files like videos, podcasts, or high-res graphics, consider that WordPress.com, Tumblr, Blogger, and TypePad are going to limit the filespace you have available. While you can upgrade to larger hosting packages, you’ll need to think about file space needs in determining which platform would be suitable for your needs.
6) Are you a quick blogger or a verbose blogger?
Will your posts generally be long or short? Tumblr is somewhere between a microblogging service like Twitter and a full blogging service like Blogger and TypePad. If you’re going to be sharing short articles or simply sharing links that you find from across the web, you might explore Tumblr and see if it will meet your needs. If you’re planning on typing full articles that are lengthy, Tumblr can still work, but Blogger, TypePad or WordPress might be better suited.
7) Are you looking for a feature-rich platform or just something simple and easy to use?
There’s something to be said for keeping it simple and that’s what the free services offer. Quick, easy, fast to implement. The downside, however, is your blog probably won’t stand out from the crowd since it will be based on one of the out-of-the box templates that are offered by the free, hosted services. While Blogger, Tumblr, and TypePad are continually expanding their service offerings, they can’t compete with the wide variety of plugins that are available for the WordPress.org platform.
For blogs that will have multiple authors, WordPress.org or TypePad would really the best choice, although TypePad will require that you pay for the pro service. Both services offer unique logins for each of your authors and each account can have different access levels such as author, editor, and administrator. So if your plans include having a wide variety of authors, take this into consideration when making your selection.
So there you have it, eight questions that should help you identify which blogging platform might be right for your needs. in addition to working through these questions, you might be interested in this great infographic by Dave Risley titled “How We Are Blogging” and offers a visual representation of which platforms are being chosen.
Stay tuned for the next article in the series, where I’ll discuss the steps for putting together a good content strategy. Also, for those who are choosing a self-hosted platform like WordPress.org, stay tuned for an article on why choosing a good host is so important to your blog success.