A number of people have asked us recently which is the best way to start up a blog or a website? In fact if you’ve never had a blog or website before, it’s very easy these days to set one up for free…
What is a free blog or website?
If you want a free blog or website, you can go onto one of the various sites that will allow this and within minutes – by simply inputting your name and email address – you can set up your blog. There is no cost but with a few clicks you can select your own theme (pictures and layout). As you get more experienced, you can easily add links to your Twitter and Facebook page, and upload your own photos. Free blogs are fully supported. So you don’t have to worry about updates, they usually come with spam protection and they also come with seo boxes. Here you can write your keywords (words people who might want to read your blog will put into a search to find you.)
Free blogs and websites make their money by putting adverts of their choice on your blog or website – or in some cases you can pay some money not to have them on (so they make their money that way.) Most also have ‘upgrades’ which you can purchase. These might be special designs or having your own domain name (your own website address rather than one made by them.)
In contrast, if you decide to have your own blog or website, you will have to find someone to host it (you pay per month for this service). Unless you understand coding of websites you will have to find a website designer. You will then also have to take care of updates in the future. Some extras that might be provided by a free blogging site (such as protection from spam comments on your blog) you will have to source and pay for yourself.
Here’s an example of some free blogs and websites…
Which is best?
All of them are straightforward to use, although in our opinion Moonfruit is a little more fiddly and less straightforward. We would probably recommend WordPress.com. This is because should you wish your site not to be free and want to host it yourself, it is easier to convert to WordPress.org – the software commonly used to build many paid blogs and websites. The others could be more fiddly and therefore more expensive to configure.
It’s a good idea to buy your own domain name from the start. For example sellyourstoryuk.com is the domain name owned by us. If we were to put it on WordPress.com it would look like this: sellyourstoryuk.wordpress.com
When you start your website or blog it’s best to get it known by your domain name or ‘brand’ from the beginning. Once you have built up a following to your site, you don’t want to have to change the name of it again. Luckily most free blogs and websites give you the option of buying your own domain name straightaway – although this is an outlay for the small cost, it is worth it.
Pros and cons
* With a free blog, there is clearly no monetary outlay for you. If you decide blogging isn’t for you after all, or your new website idea is a disaster, all you have wasted is your time.
* A free blog is a great way to practice your website and blogging skills. If you get used to wordpress.com and want to eventually convert to your own self-hosted website, you’ll find it’s not that different behind the scenes.
* Free blogs can come up very well in Google searches. This might be because Google knows (usually) a genuine person is behind the blog.
* However, there is a limit to what you can put on a free blog. You might not be able to have Google adwords on your website. You also often can’t have other paid advertising – even doing a review might not be acceptable if it’s paid in any way. Ultimately too, you don’t own the space so the free blogging and website platforms reserve the right to remove your blog completely if they chose to do so – this would be if you were in breach of any of the terms and conditions you signed up to.
* Costs can add up with ‘free’ blogs. For example, there might be a cost for a better layout ‘theme’, for getting rid of ads you don’t like on your posts or even for taking something off the footer such as ‘website made by Weebly’.
* There might be design limits with a free blog. For example you might want to add a shopping cart or Paypal to your blog or website. Or you might want to create a ‘member’s only’ part to your site. This is when a free blog or website will no longer be enough and you will need to move to a self-paid and self-hosted website that belongs to you.
* If you are a business, it can look more professional to self-host your blog or website than be a freebie.
* If you eventually decide to move your blog to self-host it, it could prove costly. By then you might have created hundreds of posts and pages, with lots of photos (and you might also need to purchase more space on a free blog to accommodate this.) It can then be a big job to redesign a site like that whereas if you have sorted your own site from the beginning, it will grow with you – and you won’t need to move it.
Read More: How to avoid a website nightmare
Which free blogging or website platform have you used? And do you intend to transfer your blog to a self-hosted paid one in future? Let us know your experiences below…