There are dozens of blogging platforms, and keeping track of them is a little like NASA keeping track of all the space junk in orbit. And like space junk, every now and then one of them falls out of orbit. (Can you identify the companies in the picture above that no longer exist?)
As a result, the most important question you should be asking is: “Is this platform going to be around in 2 years or 5 years?“.
Do You Host It Or Do They?
Blogging platforms generally fall into two categories:
- Your blog is hosted on their server. WordPress.com, TypePad, and Blogger are good examples.
- Your blog is hosted on your own server using software installed there by you are someone you direct to do so. The free open-source WordPress.org software is the best-known example.
The advantage of the former is that it relieves you of the burden of administration. If your blog is on TypePad, for example, you never have to worry about whether or not your blog is running on the latest version of TypePad. That’s TypePad’s job.
The advantage of the second choice is that you have a lot more flexibility, freedom, and expansion capability.
Don’t Get Wrapped Up In The Tool
You have a business, meaning you provide some product or service. When you discover all the things you can do with your blog, it’s easy to get distracted doing things like trying out different plugins.
As much as possible, you want your blog’s learning curve to be as short and shallow as possible so you can get on with your real business. For example, while it is almost impossible to get away from learning a tiny bit of HTML, you should not have to manually construct HTML is every blog post.
Customizing the Appearance
This blog is for your business, and as a result you want it to fit in. If you already have a website then it should remind you of your website. If you have sales literature then your blog should resemble it.
What this means is that you need to be able to customize the appearance of your blog. Most blogging platforms allow you to customize colors to some degree. Some allow you to do just about anything you want.
Does your blogging platform allow you to install your own custom ‘skin’ (usually called a theme or template)? This is crucial.
Custom themes become even more critical when your blog is an integral part of your sales or marketing process. For example, Your goal might be to get as many of your blog’s readers to sign up for your newsletter. In that case you need to be able to place the newsletter opt-in form where it is visible and readily available, preferable adjacent to every blog post. As a result, the ‘skin’ you choose must allow you to do that.
Most blogging platforms and themes provide for a horizontal menubar above or below the banner or masthead. This allows your visitors to easily navigate your blog. It’s important that your blog not only be able to display a menubar, that menubar should be able to display drop-down submenus.
Make sure that you can put items on the menubar that are not necessarily in your blog. For example, You’ll probably want a link on the menubar to your company’s main website.
I know the urge is strong to take the road less travelled, but when it comes to your blogging platform you don’t want to do that. Sooner or later the person you hired to set up your blog is going to accidentally step in front of a bus or move away or retire. If you picked an obscure platform for your blog you are going to have some difficulty finding a replacement.This is one of the strongest arguments for choosing WordPRess as your blogging platform.
You may enjoy trying out new things. I know people who switch to a completely different brand of car every year. When it comes to your blog however, that is a situation you want to avoid. Believe me, it is complicated, time-consuming, and costly to move a blog to a different platform. (I have a great deal of experience moving blogs from TypePad to WordPress, for example, and I get paid very well for doing it.)
When you are evaluating blog platforms, don’t just look at your current needs. Think about where you might be in five years and what you might want to be doing with your blog. Make sure your blogging platform will support those plans.
OK, we do this for a living, right? Plus, we have dozens of our own blogs. Whatever you might run up against, I can almost guarantee that we’ve seen it. Been There. Done That.
As a result, we recommend self-hosted WordPress in pretty strong terms. Most of the top-tier web hosting companies give you the ability on their control panel to install WordPress without knowing anything about MySQL or ftp.