There are basically TWO ways to blog. Each way is called a platform. One way can come from several different services and is FREE to use. The other platform. Known as self-hosted, will require some effort and will cost you.
Benefits of FREE blogging
It is just a no-brainer. There are numerous services to choose from. Places like Blogger.com (from Google), WordPress.com and more. These offer you a choice of THEMES so you can get your blog to ‘look’ the way you want. You can choose a name for your blog which is a lot like any website you’ve ever seen. An example of a free blog’s name could be “YourName.wordpress.com.” The blog would be associated with YourName. You can do some affiliate advertising if you wish. The service you choose will slip some more ads in small places on the blog. Your blog will most likely be set up to look great on large or small devices.
Not so beneficial for FREE Blogging
Limited customization on the themes. This is a small problem due to the large number of themes to choose from. UNLESS certain colors or appearances are important to you, making the problem much bigger.
Ads from the service that appear with your blog. They will reflect the visitors browser habits along with the topic of your blog. That fit is determined by someone else’s plan or algorithm and may not fit your opinion.
Added tools such as e-commerce or more cloud space will not be included in the FREE option.
Benefits of Self-Hosted Blogging
The benefit that weighs heaviest with most bloggers is the LOOK! I will discuss the WORDPRESS.org (not the same as wordpress.com mentioned above) tools because these are my favorites. You can find many free themes at the WordPress.org website. Several may come with your installation. Other people who like to dig deeper and fully design themes will sell their efforts. I get professional themes from StudioPress.com. I don’t use themes from any other source because of the variety and quality offered here.
There are others which I don’t care for because I want to be blogger/writer more than I want to be more techie with coding and design. You may like them and are welcome to check them out. Two that come to mind are Drupal and Joomla. These systems are called Content Management Systems. While they are used for entire websites, they were first written for blogging (CONTENT).
Another plus is the control you have over the content you publish. Of course, I know you would only publish the purest, sweetest content. That element of control is simply something appealing to the independent personality of a blogger.
You are ready to go with the blog system. A content management system works on the ‘back end’ with WYSIWIG — What You See Is What You Get! You can compose in another place such as WORD, OneNote, EverNote, NotePad++, then copy/paste your article into the space. Or you can compose right in that space.
You can preview your work as you go along before you set it loose in the universe. You can add images, affiliate links.
Plugins, both paid and free versions help you with appearance, tracking tools, SECURITY and more.
Google’s searching process absolutely loves WordPress which is another reason I choose this program over others.
Blogging things that go COST in the night
Not so scary! You will choose a domain (yourname.com is a good place to begin) and register it for at least one year, get it hosted at a service you can trust (ask your blogging friends about their experience with hosting companies) I have used 1and1.com for both theme registration and hosting since 2010. In the past few years, their service has both expanded and improved. I’m not changing. Hosting for a simple blog can be the smallest account size offered
You will next choose the Content Management System (CMS program) you want to use. When you’ve gotten your CMS program installed, you can select the theme you want (here is where you get into the ‘look’.) The WordPress.org CMS program offers many themes. You will receive ‘default themes as part of the package. You can choose from a wide range of themes at the WordPress.org website.
Sometimes a host will include themes with installation. Bloggers who also love to write code and design create their own themes. Sometimes they sell these themes to others like me who only want to do low level customization. I use StudioPress Themes exclusively. There are many to choose from with excellent quality and performance.
On to other blogging concerns with self-hosted blogs besides $$$ upfront
CMS programs are intriguing to legitimate designers. Hackers and mischief writers also are drawn to CMS. Security is a serious concern. The WordPress writers are working constantly to maintain security. Most conscientious bloggers install security firewall and anti-spam plugins on their WordPress blogs. There are also some other small security things the blogger can do to protect their blog.
Content Management Systems can seem so easy that one can be lulled into the ‘I’ll do that later’ spot in the blogging life.
After you’ve chosen your first domain, you find you HATE it. What can you do with the following you’ve built? Your domain problem is not difficult to remedy with a new domain that you see as better related to your blog focus and some simple connections between the domains.