Blogger or WordPress ~ Blogging 101 Tutorial Domain + Hosting Tips


Blogging 101 Blogger Tutorial WordPress

Blogger or WordPress {PLUS} Domain + Hosting Options  

So, you wanna start a blog? You are confused and don’t know if you should go with Blogger or WordPress, self-hosted or free? You’ve considered the negative effects of joining the Blogosphere, weighed the pros and cons against your sanity, and think it’ll be a good idea to start a blog of your own. Congratulations! I say that with the utmost sincerity. I love seeing new bloggers pop up and blossom (no sarcasm, seriously!). If you can tolerate and laugh (or chuckle) at the blogging jokes I have supplied here on MamaNYC, I welcome you into the outrageously tiring and exciting world of blogging!

Where will you put your blog?  Is your blog going to need a lot of space, or will you keep it small enough to remain on a free service, such as Blogger or WordPress? Did you know there are two types of WordPress? 

Past Blogging 101 tutorials have skimmed some of these issues and topics, but today I want to dig deeper into the pros and cons of the available blogging platforms. We’ll also discuss your  hosting package options, which will be an important decision to make once you take a leap into self-hosted WordPress. 

If you are yet to begin your blog, I would also suggest checking out my Blogging 101 post discussing the domain buying process, hosting account options, and how to create a blog name. The post discusses each of these issues briefly and not as extensively as THIS particular post, but both offer something that the other doesn’t! 

The first decision that you have to make is which platform you will go with. Although there are other options available, I find that the most popular options are WordPress.com (free), WordPress.org (self-hosted), and Blogger. These three options are the most commonly used and likely going to offer the best support from your web host, fellow bloggers, and tutorials found on the Internet. The other platforms are great options, too, but seemingly less popular or preferred by advanced users. 

Which platform is MamaNYC using?

While I started out on Blogger, MamaNYC moved to self-hosted WordPress many moons ago. I made this decision when I realized I had hit a wall; I could not expand and felt limited. If I wanted MamaNYC to continue to grow, I had to make the move and invest in a hosting plan.

MamaNYC is currently on a VPS (virtual private server) hosted on Hostgator. My domain is also registered through Hostgator, which has been byfar the most reliable and helpful host provider yet. I have tried them all (I am fairly certain), but nothing compares to their customer service. I would highly recommend them! 

Looking for a HostGator Coupon Code?!

* Use coupon code MamaNYC25OFF and receive $25.00 OFF your next purchase! 


MamaNYC November 2010 Screenshot Blog

MamaNYC on Blogger; November 2010

The screenshot above shows a view of MamaNYC in November 2010. Although this was a cute and decent design, I was forced to do what I was able to do, which drove me bananas. I want to do what I am able to do because I know how to do it. Know what I mean? So many restrictions on MY blog were limiting growth, and that haunting feeling over the fact that Blogger owned MY blog! 


Blogger Blogspot Effects Logo

Blogger/Blogspot

Did you know that MamaNYC started out as mamanyc.blogspot.com? I made this decision at the time because I did not know if blogging was going to be something that I would stick with and become serious about. Sure, I suppose this was a great starting point for my blog, but the limitations and restrictions made it difficult to broaden my horizons as a blogger. I was held back and would not grow until I made the move onto WordPress.

If I had to do it all again, would I do it all the same?

No. I likely would begin on WordPress.com (free) if I wanted to start a blog with NO initial investment. 

There are many things that I do not like about Blogger, such as the ability for Blogger (which is owned and operated by Google) to tear away your content without cause and never again give it back to you. Blogger will essentially own your content. If I had known this the day that I started MamaNYC, I would have ran for the hills.

Should Bloggers’ "system" mark your blog as SPAM, your content and everything else you have worked so hard to create on your blog will be LOST. Without any warning, Blogger has yanked blogs away from their rightful owners.

Blogger/Blogspot (free) PROS & CONS:

PROS CONS
You can edit template layouts, styles, and colors. Third party customized themes are also available for install. Image store is limited and you must use Picasa or another image storage option. There is also no easy interface to browse through your images and media files. 
You can include third party tracker scripts to gather visitor stats, such as Google Analytics. Static pages are not available.
Submitting posts by email for publishing (you can also receive new posts by email, too, which is helpful for team blogs) Visitor comments cannot be edited. The comment is either allowed or deleted. 
You can restrict access to invited Google account holders only. This is great for bloggers seeking privacy. No available options to host on a local system. 
Widgets available w/ brief descriptions to help you decide which one to install. Removal is also easy.  Frequent outages and downtime. 
Ownership: Google technically owns your blog and has the right to remove all content, comments, images, and the entire blog as a whole without warning.  Plugins are not available to enhance your visitor experience. 
Drag and drop widgets; HTML knowledge not necessary.   SEO Optimization is not ideal on Blogger. Lacks heading options and other tagging tools used for SEO.
 It’s… FREE? HTML code must be done manually; Lacking shortcut codes.  

 *LEARN MORE: Simply Stacie has a great post listing several reasons why she chose to switch from Blogger to WordPress! Check it out and find out why you may want to skip over this platform and choose an alternative!


WordPress.com Logo

WordPress.com (Free)

I remember the day that I decided to move from Blogger to WordPress quite vividly. It was a warm and colorful Autumn day, but I was stuck inside trying to align images on Blogger!

Blog Dice Bloggers

Do you see how I have that image to the left that says "BLOG"? That is an aligned images, whereas the WordPress.com logo (above) is simply centered. Bloggers platform would not align images properly throughout my blog posts, so I sat there for nearly 6.5 hours on the same post. Yes, I did go crazy, which is why I am now self-hosted WordPress!

Before I decided to make the plunge directly into self-hosted, I browsed around and considered WordPress.com, which is another free platform. All I was set out to do was leave Blogger, so if I was able to switch onto another free platform, why not? Well, I had some good and valid reasons to go straight into self-hosted. However, I do think WordPress.com is another great starting point for new blogs.

Would I migrate from Blogger > WordPress.com (free) > WordPress.org (self-hosted)? 

No. It is an acceptable and fine solution, but I believe WordPress.com (free) and Blogger stand on the same playing field. Choose one or the other as a starter blog, but switching or transferring from one to the other doesn’t seem – "right". If you are going to start off on Blogger or WordPress (free), your next move should be self-hosted WordPress.

Why and Why Not?

Well, I think you’ll find the pros and cons below match up for good reasoning behind my advice. There are features on Blogger that you won’t (or will) find on WordPress (free) and vice versa. Switching from Blogger to WordPress.com (free) is like buying a new bike to remove your training wheels, but putting them on another bike. Once you are ready to make the plunge, I think its best to remove the limitations and go with WordPress (self-hosted).

 WordPress.com (free) PROS & CONS:

PROS CONS
It’s… FREE!  Although you will be able to choose a theme out of a collection (100+ design options), you cannot run a custom designed theme. (Personally, I could not find one theme that would work for my taste!; Again, limiting!)
Doesn’t require an understanding of scripts, html, or other coding. You cannot use plugins. 
Maintenance is included and happens automatically i.e., setup, upgrades, spam, backups, security, etc.   You immediately have “yourblogname.wordpress.org” available to you to use, though you can also register a domain name (yourblogname.com/net/org/info) and point it at your free hosted site. We’ll be covering more about domain names in the next Blogging 101 post.
You can’t modify the PHP code behind your blog.  Advertising is NOT allowed. If you plan to monetize your blog, WorddPress.com is not going to work out. You cannot use advertisements on a WordPress (free) blog. Furthermore, WordPress can (and will) display advertisement on your blog if they want, but you can pay a small yearly fee of around $30 to make sure there are no ads on your blog. Wouldn’t you be better off paying $30/year to MAKE money instead of spend? 

WordPress Logo Chrome

WordPress.org (Self-Hosted, but FREE*)

*Don’t get confused when I say "FREE" and "SELF-HOSTED". Both of these platforms are free available software, but WordPress.com provides the ‘hosting space’ for free whereas WordPress.com self-hosted means that you need to pay the bill for your own host. 

If you have made it this far, great. I think that means you are fairly seriously about blogging and want to know how to take the step from start to pro. The investment is not going to break the bank (common misconception), but it is the first time you will have to spend a fairly decent amount of money. If you already purchased your domain, I assume you are already spending around $5-10, right? You are off to a great start, but your next jump is going to require a hosting plan.

Starter hosting plans that will contain more than you will need to launch your new self-hosted WordPress blog run from $7-15 per month, but this may be higher (or increase) depending on your traffic. You should also expect to upgrade your hosting package in the future once your blog traffic increases. 

PROS CONS
WordPress.org can be customized to suit almost any design, style and scheme you have in mind. It’s a blank slate, but it does require coding skills to get a customized look. Requires software download, but this isn’t a big deal really! Installation is a cinch, and many web hosts install for their clients! 
Plugin and widget friendly, which means a (huge) variety of engagement, monetization, and design options for your blog!  Requires paid hosting (most hosting services start between $7-15 a month, but depending on the level of your traffic, you may be required to upgrade down the line.)
Active WordPress support community forum; obtain help and advice from real users You are responsible for handling spam, updates, backups, etc.
Easy to set up a forum or ‘members only’ along with the blog. You must register a domain name and point it at your site on your host.
Supports tags, which means more traffic for your blog! WordPress is a much more SEO-friendly option over Blogger.   
You can download your WordPress blog onto a local server for testing purposes.  

Once your blog is setup and ready to go on your brand new self-hosted WordPress site, I suggest diving right in and installing plugins to enhance your reader experience. You can checkout my list of popular WordPress plugins (part 1), or the second part that I just HAD to write (Hey! There’s a LOT of plugins that I love): Best FREE WordPress plugins


Web Hosting Logo

Web Hosting Types

Once you are ready to take a leap of faith and start investing some money into your blog, what is next? There are three components you will need to put this all together, and although this may all seem quite confusing and scary – it is actually quite simple!

Here’s what you need:

[1] Domain [unless you have purchased one already while your blog was on Blogger or WordPress (free)]

[2] Web Hosting

[3] Custom WordPress template, but we’ll cover that another day! 

Misconceptions & Truths:

There are a lot of confusions over how this all works, so I will try to explain it and hopefully you can avoid getting trapped into an investment that is not necessary.

[1] You must buy your domain and web hosting from the same place: FALSE! I have seen clients insist on using the same company time and time again. What you may not realize is that although Company A might have the best price for a hosting package to suit your needs, domain registration is going to cost an arm and a leg! Your domain can be purchased wherever your heart desires! Seek out the best price available, hunt down coupon codes, and find the best deal for your .COM! Next, you will find the best HOST, but these are not required from the same company. 

[2] Your host is giving you a deal with 5 Email Address accounts: FALSE! This may have been true in 1998, but nowadays everything is UNLIMITED. Certain restrictions will apply depending on the size of your benefits and features, but there is no reason you should think 5 or even 10 email accounts is adequate. 

But I don’t NEED anything greater! Hey, you never know what will happen! While I mention email accounts, I actually mean everything. If your host is restrictive on email accounts, what else will they be cheap about? {Just my opinion!}

[3] I’ll hire someone to buy a hosting package and do the work for me! This is okay, and it is also NOT. If you are hiring a designer or a friend to do the work for you, I strongly (STRONGLY) recommend drawing up a contract. State the terms, designers responsibilities, and (most importantly) – OWNERSHIP. If your designer is using their own credit card for hosting payments, clarify that the registrant, administrative, and technical contact listed for your domain will be YOUR name. Include specifics to protect yourself and ensure your host is only gaining access in order to setup, install, design, and customize your site. Thereafter, ownership will solely belong to the blog owner (you).  

So, which type of hosting package should you get?

There are going to be different names, words, terms, phrases, numbers, and terminology you may not understand. Depending on the size of your blog and the goals you are setting up for yourself, web hosting services and solutions will vary. If your starting out small and plan to grow slowly over time, shared server is going to be a perfect start for any new blog. 

Shared server is the most affordable option, but you will (hopefully!) grow out of it and discover that the time has come to upgrade to your own VPS (Virtual Private Server). VPS is an excellent solution, but it is not necessary the first day you are setting up your blog. Throwing your money out the window in the beginning sounds silly, right? That’s why it is best to begin your blog on a shared server and slowly increase.

If you plan to monetize your blog or receive some sort of income (whether you are selling product, services, or ad space), you will reach a point where your traffic/bandwidth is screaming for an upgrade. So long as you can feel comfortable and worthy of your blog to start spending $80-300 per month, I believe this upgrade to VPS will be a great choice when the time comes. (Is your blog earning more than needed to cover the costs of a VPS so that you can justify spending this much?)

Think of these four types of hosting options are "levels" with Shared Server as Level 1 (beginners). The larger your blog becomes, the higher you will move up the ladder. Your expenses will grow (tremendously), but your blog will hopefully help justify your expenses! 

TIP: Don’t let your hosting company tell you which type of server package YOU need. Check your own stats, bandwidth usage, and site speed. If you are unsure and the terminology/numbers doesn’t make much sense, ask a trusted friend with web host experience. Of course your host is going to suggest a Dedicated Server - they’re a business! 

Shared ServerShared Server Web Host

This is the most affordable and commonly used "starter" option. The shared server consists of many different websites residing on a single web server connected to the Internet. On a shared server many websites reside on one web server connected to the Internet.

The term “shared” not only implies to the resources that will be shared by a group of website owners (you), but the cost as well. Thus, making shared servers the least expensive hosting option and a great choice to start off your blog!

VPS (Virtual Private Server)

VPS stands for Virtual Private Server. VPS is perfect for someone who is looking to obtain more resources than a shared server provides, but cannot afford large monthly hosting bills. VPS will run anywhere from $40-300 monthly depending on the level of resources required to run your blog. VPS essentially means thats a virtual machine/server is being used exclusively for each individual customer.

Virtual Private Server hosting is where you will find yourself as you outgrow Shared Hosting, but unable to spend as much as a Dedicated server (yet). It provides you the option to choose your own software and other aspects of the server the same way you can customize a dedicated hosting but you will have only a partition space of the dedicated server and not the whole. It can provide yoursite with good control and bandwidth and cost less as compared to a dedicated server.

Cloud

Cloud hosting is the newest option available in web hosting. This host option will provide a whole new variety of options such as scalability and reliable hosting.  A cloud server is an isolated operating system installation running on a fully  edundant, scaleable,  self healing, virtual architecture. Cloud hosting is FAST, but with that comes .. expense. 

Cloud hosting can be easily upgraded and downgraded as needed; fees are calculated depending on the use rather than the flat payment method used in other types of hosting. Cloud based hosting offers much mor stability as there will not be any effect on performance when a part of the component goes down since the host option is decentralized. However, Cloud hosting does offer complications as it will give less control over the data and can create serious privacy issues.

Dedicated Server HostGator Promo Code

Dedicated Servers

Dedicated servers are quite a bit more expensive and not the best choice for small or moderately sized blogs (or websites). Clients requiring dedicated hosting lease an entire server that isn’t shared with other websites. Hosting on a Dedicated server offers larger websites and blogs much more flexibility and full control over their own server.

Dedicated hosting allows for full customization of the software and hardware you want to use for your website without the need to worry about maintaining or repairing a physical server in your home or office. However, Dedicated hosting can be quite costly and is mainly used by large websites who need large bandwidths and space and at the same time do not want to compromise their data.


Need more Blogging 101 tutorials from MamaNYC?

Check out MamaNYC’s collection of blogging tutorials, or feel free to submit a blog help request for consideration!

 

  • http://www.LoriTheAuthor.com LoriTheAuthor

    Wow, Nicole! This is a great article… one I wish I’d seen a few years ago when I started my Blogger blog and a separate free Google Site. I recently migrated to WordPress.org and it’s been much better but a lot of work! Hope others enjoy this article–hopefully in foresight rather than hindsight!

  • http://goingcrazywannago.com JanetGoingCrazy

    Oh my!!! This is a post that I may have to read in “chunks”… well, at least bookmark for the Hosting advice. I get all the platform stuff, but the hosting has me baffled and I don’t know how I will know when I need to upgrade, etc. Gahhh!!!

  • http://amedicsworld.blogspot.com/ Tom Shewbridge

    Okay, was messing around today, figured see what I can do, and just keep the blogger one going for now. On GoDaddy set up my wordpress account, everything went fine, found a theme I liked, great, imported over the posts great, links…that is where I got stuck, mostly the rafflecopter forms of contests that I am promoting from others on blogger, how do I get those to work again on wordpress on my own hosting account…I am waiting to swtich my feed request from feedburner too, till I get all this right…

    Thanks for your suggestions, and help…did I open a big can of worms, but I have a feeling I am going to like wordpress better already, wish I had done it first, and I never thought about using it and I even have paid shared hosting. (for now) oh well, I have a feeling its going to be a late night for me…because I will figure it out…

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  • Cheryl Chervitz

    What a great article. I am thinking about starting a blog, but I don’t know anything about it. You have given me some things to check out, and I appreciate all of your hard work. I will be back to read more about blogging and how you did it.

  • http://urcnstarz.blogspot.com/ Dawn Justice

    I’ve only recently started my blog on blogger. I know what you mean about trying for 6.5 hrs to get an image to line up correctly. I’m not sure if or when I may leap into my being my own host. I didn’t know that Google may remove things without even telling me, I should have it being google and all. Now I wish I’d started with wordpress…but ah well now I know lol thanks for all the tips they have helped me out a lot :).

  • MADDIE K

    Great article and I have bookmarked it for future reference. I was getting a bit overwhelmed with all the information (it’s just me) but I have to say that I was wondering if Blogger or WordPress would be a good start. I did start something on WordPress so I think I will stick with it now. Thanks for the info. I really appreciate it.

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