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Blog Hosting, Domains and Blogging Platforms – What We Wish We Knew

This post is part of the ‘What we wish I knew when I first started Blogging’ Series. In this post I’ll share readers comments on the topic of Blog Hosting, Domains and Platforms as well as some of my own experiences and advice.

There is always a diversity of opinion over which blogging platform and hosting method is best – but there were some recurring themes in the reader discussion on this particular topic. Let me attempt to summarize the main theme:

The most common regrets seem to have been starting out with some of the free blogging platforms (particularly Blogger.com) and using the free subdomain URL that they provide instead of starting out with one’s own domain and hosting.

While there is some real wisdom in getting a taste for blogging using some of the free platforms my advice to anyone who suspects that they might end up blogging on a serious level it is worth securing a good domain name and getting set up on a platform that you think you’ll stick with for the long term.

In terms of blog platforms – there is no right or wrong answer and while my personal preference is for your own self-hosted WordPress.org website (not to be confused with WordPress.com) the blog platform that one chooses needs to match with the blogger’s own preferences. Try a few out and see which you’re most comfortable with – but be aware that the choices you make early can impact your future blogging. There are import features to migrate from many platforms to others – but it’s easier to choose the right one up front.

For a thorough overview of this topic, I’d recommend signing up to my FREE Ultimate Guide to Starting a Blog course which covers, among everything else involved with starting a blog:

  • how to choose a domain name
  • registering and hosting your blog, including a topic on “Why WordPress? (In Case You’re Wondering)” and my web hosting recommendations

My Own Experience with Domains, Platforms and Hosting

I started out on a blogspot.com (blogger.com) domain and platform. While this was a great way to test my passion for blogging (I was hooked within hours of starting) I did quickly move on from this set up to my own blog, with a professional design and a standalone blogging tool (I went to Movable Type initially). When I made this move I noticed a significant increase in traffic and got a lot more respect from other bloggers and readers. Whether this was due to the design, having a blogging platform with more features (Blogger.com was very primitive back in those days – it didn’t even have integrated comments) or being on my own domain I’m not sure – but I suspect it was a combination of all of them.

As I began to start blogging on a more serious level and started attempting to make money from blogs I began to start new blogs. My ‘mistake’ (yet ironically a reason I had some success) was that I started the new blogs on the same domain as my first blog (a domain that had nothing to do with the topics I was blogging about). This was a big mistake in some ways in that it makes branding those blogs difficult and makes selling them almost impossible. On the flipside of this ‘mistake’ is the fact that because they shared the domain of an established and popular blog they did very well in the search engines from their first weeks of existence and as a result they grew readership very quickly.

I learned from my ‘mistake’ in later blogs. For example ProBlogger and Digital Photography School. Of course there are some regrets here also. I couldn’t secure Problogger.com so went with .net (and eventually secured the .com at a significant cost). While I still built a significant blog on the .net version I wish I’d pushed harder to get the .com earlier. With digital-photography-school.com I don’t like having dashes in the URL – however again the owner of the other version of the domain is asking a crazy amount for it – so I make do.

My advice is to set yourself up with the best setup that you can afford to do IF you’re wanting to do blogging on a serious level. Doing it ‘right’ from the early days will cause you less pain later. However – keep in mind that despite my mistakes I’ve managed to build some reasonably successful blogs. The domain name and platform you choose are just two elements of many that go into making a blog successful. They are important – but if you get it wrong you are not dead in the water.

Read more on choosing a blogging platform and selecting a name and domain name for your blog.

If you’re looking for a blog hosting option you might like to read this reader discussion on the topic.

Most recently, you can read about “What I Learned Starting My Newest Blog” and how I’ve really enjoyed using the Ghost blogging platform.


Reader Comments on Blog Hosting, Domains and Blogging Platforms

Here’s what ProBlogger readers said they wish they’d known on the topic of hosting, domains and blog platforms when they started out.

tejvan writes – “Use the best blogging software and try to avoid wasting time messing around with design and getting the blog to function. I learn’t through experience WordPress is the best blogging software”

Leszek Pawlowicz writes – “Sometimes you really do get what you pay for. Blogger was free, some aspects of layout are easy, and it lowered the barrier to start blogging. But ultimately it just wasn’t powerful or flexible enough to do what I wanted. I wish I had bitten the bullet and gone with WordPress from the start.”

Heraldo writes – “I wish I’d started out on WordPress rather than blogspot.”

Mike writes – “I wish I had been smart enough to start the blog using a dedicated blog platform….”

Terra writes – “I wish that I’d skipped over the whole free blogger to wp.com sites and just gone straight to my own domain.”

Trula writes – “I’ve always had my own domain name, but I wish I had started using a blogging program from the start. From 02-05 I hand coded my blog, every single entry on it’s own old-school html page. Ultra duh!”

Antonio writes – “There are about 5-10 very successful blogs that use blogger and other free blogs like for example (seth godin, postsecret, etc). They are not on wordpress and still have tons of readers and subscribers. I think that content is what makes the blog not the platform.”

betshopboy writes – “The one thing I’ll do differently if I could start my blog all over again is to get my own domain name and host the blog on wordpress instead of my current blogspot platform, with subdomain name. Blogging with subdomain will always be a poor cousin to blogs with own domain name, no matter how ‘killer’ your blog posts are.”

What do you wish you knew about hosting, domains and blogging platforms when you first started blogging?

Read more of the What We Wish We Knew Series

About Darren Rowse
Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.
  1. I chose my own domain because I realized that blogspot domains were meaningless. Once I bought a domain, it was also a commitment to myself to blog consistently because I had invested the (small amount of) money.

    I had a redirect domain, but then bought own webspace and put up http://www.cupofchai.net as a real domain. Since then, even traffic has been coming in quite high.

  2. I started on Blogger but bought http://www.rockandrollreport.com immediately and redirected that domain URL to the Blogger site. I always encouraged people to access my blog using that domain. Six months later I moved to Typepad, transfered all my Blogger posts to that platform and used the domain mapping feature to keep a measure of continuity going.

    This spring I finally moved to WordPress and, despite a couple of hiccups, people typing in my domail URL will always get The Rock and Roll Report regardless of the platform it is hosted on. THAT is why buying your own domain name is so important. And at approximately 7 bucks a pop for a year, it really makes no sense not to own it.

  3. I think the biggest mistake in this area is starting with a free subdomain. A domain name and basic web hosting don’t cost much. Then if you decide to change blog platform you can do redirects or whatever else you want. I’m still using blogger but using ftp publishing to my own domain. I have a small blog but I did see an increase in search traffic when I switched to my own domain.

  4. There is some great advice here. I particularly appreciate tejvan’s point on “waisting time messing around with design and function”. As a new blogger I too often find myself falling into this trap. I’m in total agreement… the WordPress platform has helped to significantly reclaim some waisted time.

  5. I guess the more important things after buying a domain name is the hosting. Then I was looking for a hosting plan before looking for a domain name, and of course with a reasonnable price to start my blog. I found one who give me 360 gig quality space, 3600 Gb monthly data transfer, a free domain name and a easy autoinstaller to install my favorite blog’s scripts.

    Now I have more freedom managing my own blog and host my pictures, videos, files.


  6. One reason I love WordPress is because of all the free themes and plugins. I get a lot of compliments on the design of my site — when, from my persective, it was easy. I just had to have the eye to pick out a decent free theme and do a few quick modifications.

  7. I started with my own domain, designed the look and feel of my website, and then later decided to turn it into a blog. With the blog I created good content and good traffic, but I used EasyBlog2 software because my hosting wasn’t compatible with WordPress. Easyblog2 has some limitations that drive me nuts, despite the fact that I had to pay for the software. Imagine, free open source software outperforming what I had to pay cash for.

    This month I a am migrating to wordpress.

    I should have known better.

  8. I started out on blogger.com and I think I made it about 3 weeks. Immediately, I felt the need to customize and have more control over my content and moved to a domain and wordpress. What a difference that was. I’ve never looked back.

    I do maintain my old site at blogger, but more as a link blog of the fun stuff I find that isn’t worth writing about and somewhere to post some PPP posts every once in a while.

  9. I started with a free services and then later decided to pay for it and its the result: http://mp3.rockoladj.com.ar
    Since then, even traffic has been coming in quite high.

  10. I started out blogging on LiveJournal because I got an invite from my then girlfriend. This was back when you could not get on LiveJournal without an invite. I blogged on it for a couple of years but never kept up with it. Besides it was all personal stuff, no real content to sink teeth into.

    When I decided I wanted to blog, I decided to use the mkoby.com domain I had from when I was working on a failed singer/songwriter career. It was having my name on the blog that really got me to put effort into it. Also paying for the hosting and stuff really encourages you to do something with it, because if you do not, it is just a waste of money. Using a free platform is great if you are not going to keep up with it all the time, but if you plan to have substance and really work on your blog, you really should grab some hosting, a domain, and just go all out.

  11. I started on WordPress and couldn’t be happier. You just have so much control of it based on the way it’s built, and if you know any PHP you can basically control it all! I’m glad I started on my own domain because I’m not sure how easy it would be to try and transfer posts between two during a move. *nod*

  12. I started out on blogspot, too, but only briefly. But no one really cares about that, really — so I’ve got a question.

    Is the Leszek Pawlowicz above THE Leszek Pawlowicz of Jeopardy! fame? I have no idea why I remember that name from years ago but when I saw it, I was like, “Whoa! That’s the name of that dude on Jeopardy!”

  13. I don’t regret STARTING out on a blogger blog, but spending 3 months there was too long. I was holding off for the PR update, which looking back is nowhere near worth waiting a month for.

    I wrote an entire post about the blogging mistakes I made and what can be learnt from them (the URL for the post is the one I entered).

  14. Well, I wish I had known that if a competitor tells Google your are spamming with your blogger account that everything goes into supplemental with no hopes of ever getting it out. I had a great amount of traffic at Sarasotaseo.blogspot.com, 217 indexed pages and a lot of subscribers, but had to abandon the blog and move on to hosted WordPress. I am now at SEOAware.com. The name is better, the software is a lot harder, but the results are great. I wish I had knows this all along and I wish I had known that I could have imported everything, as I wrote this morning http://seoaware.com/?p=73.

    Know anything about permalinks? I need help with that too :-)

  15. Judging by these comments – A very strong recommendation for wordpress.

  16. I’d say WordPress and also lots of plugins. The one that I think it is really necessary is All in one SEO. If you have a good text (for humans) with lots of keywords, you can also change the title tag to really mean something. :)

  17. I’m very happy that I started out with my own domain, using wordpress.

    Coming from a visitors standpoint, something that I’ve noticed about the blogger.com blogs is that they don’t always get many comments, and from my own experience with them, they can be difficult to even comment on. Not all are like that, but the ones that are, I just move on.

    I also don’t like the blogging platforms that do not accept trackbacks. I think that is something else that could really hamper your success.

  18. I’ll take a stand and be one of the very few people here to recommend something other than WordPress. My blog runs on ExpressionEngine, and I whole heartedly recommend it for anyone with basic web design knowledge and some time to learn.

    ExpressionEngine is really flexible for people who need a more robust website. My website, for example, has a store and dynamic side blocks and several other things that WordPress doesn’t support.

    If you are not at all fluent with html/design then I’d say go with WordPress.

  19. I actually started with the free wordpress domain before realizing the significance of not being able to advertise or use java script for that matter.

    My website name actually came about as an afterthought, the loco mono is spanish so if i wanted ellocomono or locomono, it was already bought. who cares really? there .com, .net, .info, .us and all that silly variation. I just knew I wanted the .com to get the website to be used in a commercial sense, monetizing it.

    Because I was more interested in keeping TheLocoMono as my alter ego, I simply was able to register it in a way people would remember it. Thus, thelocomonowebsite.com was born.

    It was not really that fustrating after all. Sure everyone wants to go big with one name, but in the end, that’s chasing a pipe dream. I wanted people to ask me “where do I go?”

    This way, I can simply say “go to the loco mono website dot com” we all know there’s no space in domain names, just hyphens so I am not going to say ” go to the hyphen loco hyphen mono hyphen website dot com.”

    the name is really my version of Spanglish, a mix of English and en Espanol. Who knows? Maybe that will be the next wave of the future, mixed language domains?

  20. The true beauty of WordPress, and to my mind, the thing that recommends it above other platforms, is that the code is there for you to change / improve if you need to, have the ability, or are prepared to pay someone to do it.

    With Blogger, Typepad, and many other blogging platforms, you take what you get. Yes, there are themes and plug-ins, and all sorts of tricks to allow you to do non-standard things, but with WordPress, and by WordPress I don’t mean the free wordpress.com accounts, I mean the full, hosted WordPress installation, you have full control over ALL the source code. The WordPress PHP files can be edited by anyone with the ability – there is no proprietary code, no lock in, no reliance on other companies or programmers when it comes to your own blog.

  21. Hi Darren

    I wish I knew that WordPress.com did not give me the level of flexibility and customization I needed . I had to move my blog to wordpress self hosted (from wordpress.org). I love installing useful plugins!

  22. I began my meager little blog on a Typepad platform. Three months later (based on advice delivered from seasoned bloggers), I moved to my own webhosting and domain name. I’m thankful I was given such solid guidance early on since I’m still fairly computer illiterate. It definitely helped to make the transition so early in my website’s development.

  23. I’ve been using Dreamhost for over a year now and I HIGHLY recommend them…they give you a ton of space and bandwidth and let you install wordpress pretty much with one click. I honestly haven’t had a better hosting company and I’ve been with various hosting companies on the net since 1995.

  24. Very nice post.

    I’m still stuck in the subdomains but after this post I’m seriously looking into an immediately domain and / or hosting purchase.

    Darren, would you recommend any wordpress compatible, and affordable, hosting?


  25. I blogged for a few months at first at a communal blog. I’m actually glad I did it to get the feel for blogging before I put out a rookie blog at my own domain. Although my blog ended up being seasoned-rookie.

  26. At least you didn’t start out on AOL…

    Catherine, the redhead

  27. I wish I could get the hang of WordPress…I find it hard for some reason…I am so used to blogger but I would love more control.

  28. hi
    Nice information. Free blogs can be used to learn but they’re zero as long as web traffic is concerned. Your own domain name is must if you want to succeed as a blogger. People learn these things with passage of time.My advice is same go and get your own name.

  29. The flexibility of WordPress is beyond imagination. Blogger is excellent for getting your feet wet. You just don’t want it to reach your knees before you decide to get out of the pool. The serious route is to own your own domain, pay for hosting, and learn your platform. It may seem painful, but so anything worth fighting for.

  30. You must be reading my mind, Darren. I struggled to map the domain name to the TypePad URL for months. My own ignorance and the fact that most respected bloggers use WordPress kept me from doing it well to begin with.

    I have now undergone a redesign with mapping and I feel I am finally back on track with traffic, links, etc. 271 posts later and I can finally get all my metaphorical eggs into one basket.

    What have I learned? Ask questions early on. Ask those who know better. Find communities of practice or people who are experts with a tool and read their advice.

    If I started a new blog today I would learn WordPress and work with a designer for the layout.

  31. Having said nice things about WordPress, let me also say that it sometimes has me screaming in frustration at my computer; it isn’t always the most user-friendly of platforms. You have to be willing to twiddle with the guts of the templates, and the CSS style sheet, to get things laid out exactly the way you want them. For the latter, I highly recommend the Web Developer extension for Firefox, which lets you tweak the loaded CSS stylesheet in a browser subwindow, and see the effects immediately in your Firefox window. But watch out – a layout that looks fine in Firefox can be broken in IE, and require you to set up alternate CSS settings for IE6 and IE7. CSSVista (http://sitevista.com/cssvista/) is a bit clumsier to use, but lets you look at the effects of CSS changes on both IE and Firefox simultaneously.

    Adding capabilities also requires you to learn a bit about template structure, and where to insert things so that they’ll work.

    Recommended WordPress plugins:

    AdSense Deluxe
    Dean’s Permalinks Migration (if you ever change the permalinks structure)
    Google Sitemaps
    In Series
    Instant Upgrade
    Related Posts
    SEO Title Tag
    Subscribe To Comments
    Ultimate Tag Warrior
    WordPress Duplicate Content Cure

  32. I have only started blogging since last June 06, and i have only realised how limited blogger has become for me… it has just dawned on me(about 1 months ago!!!) the amount of things you cando with wordpress is really amazing.

    I only wished i had acted upon advice regarding setting up with wordpress right from day 1. But anwyays, i’m in the process of migrating to wordpress… the move is quite simple but rather astonishingly, the actual thought of moving to wordpress made me re think my whole direction which is in fact excellent..

    So for me… although i learnt much by doing something the wrong way. The best thing is still to host your own domain. wordpress rocks.. i don’t think with the amount of wordpress users around we will ever see the end of the type of applications we can play around with…

  33. Like many bloggers, i started on Blogger and switched to wordpress, and regretted i waited so long. The only good thing about starting with blogger is i learned how to edit a basic HTML template and got familiar with some blogging “best practices”, but when i switched to wordpress a little over a month ago i had to start rebuilding my SEO and backlines from scratch, which has been slow. But it was still well worth the wait. The plugins available on wordpress make my blog a much more powerful tool and resource to my readers.

    My advice to those on blogger: Don’t wait to switch! Do it ASAP. And to those who havea pretty decent following on blogger and already have many posts, don’t worry, the new version of WP allows you to import you blogger posts to WP, which will save you a lot of time. And you can always redirect traffic from your nlogger blog to your new domain.

    Maybe even get your readers involved in helping you choose your new blog’s theme/design. Get them excited for it. Let them know the switch will benifit both you and them.

    But stop pushing it off! Do it now!

  34. I didn’t use free blogger platforms long enough to know that they were so limited. I’m fortunate to have been directed early on to get my own domain and hosting package and put up WordPress.

    It’s much easier than one would expect. I was very new to the internet and had never used domain names, hosting, or even ftp prior to this exercise. I pulled it off with very few glitches.

  35. Hey Darren

    It would be great to see an article from you titled “Great! Now I know what I wish I knew before, I still wish I knew what I want to know now!”

    In other words, now that some of us have gotten the hang of it, some of us may not understand exactly the significance of Unique IPs hits or utilizing Google Analytics to help gain sponsors or subscribers.

  36. Hi Darren, I had been learning from your blog quietly while doing on my blog… And I decided to write a comment in your blog now…

    I had similar kind of experience with you.. I first started on blogger.com, went on to try movable type and then to wordpress.. However, I am still at the initial stage right now… Thank God I found your post..

    I am now experiencing different ways of writing the blog, getting my momentum in writing good articles about doing business.. Just want to do it good…

  37. I lasted about two weeks with a free blogging platform before switching to WordPress. I’m totally sold on WordPress, but I wasted a lot of time playing around with the “look” rather than just focusing on the content. I also regret purchasing a number of books on blogging and CSS when I eventually found much better resources online.

  38. I moved three times in the frist two weeks and I’m glad that I’ve made the decision quick. It’s both time and energy consuming to move around… I’ve tried blogger.com (struggled even at the very basic level for about a week), signed up for typepad (getting a feel but not officially launched), loved wordpress.com and therefore settled down at wordpress.org with a hosting site for greater flexibility. Feeling very contented since.

  39. I guess I was lucky having a friend who had started out blogging and was transferring to his own domain when he told me to not even mess with the subdomain accounts because it would just end up being more of a hassle. I have only had the site going for a couple of days, but I enjoy the flexibility of WordPress. I thought about using other tools like Joomla or Drupal, but my friend was willing to help me get started on WordPress and we all know that having someone dedicated to helping you is pretty substantial.

  40. I wish I knew how cheap a domain was. Instead of starting off with a blogger blog I definetly would’ve created a wordpress one on my own domain for a tiny initial cost.

  41. Hey Mt darren, you are absolutely right. After spending 3 serious months on blogging, I am feeling the heat of blogger. But now I will also make an attempt to move to wordpress, because just now i was searching for right hosting on this site.

  42. I have been blogging for about 1.5 yrs now. It took me many months of reading up stuff before i knew what i had to do :-)
    Sometime back i had written an article “Blog Hosting for Dummies”. Maybe, some will find the info useful!

  43. I am glad I found this blog. There is so much written about blogging platforms and I was just about ready to create some blogger.spot blogs for variety although I have some wordpress blogs already set up on my own domains. It appears that I am doing the right thing with using wordpress.org so now feel no need to change anything.

  44. Hi Darren,
    I love your site and I am reading it now for some time. I just started blogging the other day, although I want to do way much more than only blogging, I am using http://www.joomla.com a CMS – system. So far I spend a looot of time to just set up the template for blogging, however it is a real great CMS-system, if you want to do just more than blogging. Reading that everyone else is mainly using wordpress, I hope I am not using the wrong tool now.

  45. I started out on blogger, experimented with wordpress.com and a few others, and almost moved away from blogger until Google launched the new version.

    Now I have my blogger blog on my own domain (hosted by Google) and I am enjoying it very much!

  46. I am just starting out as a blogger and these posts are a great help. I secured my name as a .com, I feel that if anyone wants to take on the Internet Marketing game on a serious note, you should register your name. Who knows what kind of domain squatter might notice you in the early days, register your name and then ask you stupid money for your name domain. Just like what happened with the Problogger.com domain.

    Blogging on your name domain also makes one think twice about the quality of the information you publish…it has been working really great for me!

    I will have to soon get different domain names for the topics I blog on, but for now, I would just like to earn my first $2000 from my web efforts!

    I do not know if this would be in bad taste, but I wrote a post on the lessons I learned on building a web business:


    Like I said, just edit my comment if the above is not appropriate Darren.

    Thanks for a great resource site!

  47. Nicholas the copywriter says: 07/11/2007 at 3:57 pm

    Sorry about the long link…

  48. Let me toss in another reminder for Drupal. Like Joomla, it’s a popular CMS that’s not going to be as easy to start with as Blogger or WordPress, but has the potential to take the site much farther than a simple blog, should the site (and the user!) want to grow into it.

    For anyone interested in dipping a toe in the waters, I write about Drupal from the newbie and blogger perspective, at http://www.drupalace.com .

    But whatever your choice of tech, going with an established CMS, and getting your own domain, is a great start for any blogger. Get that domain now or you’ll wish you had later!

  49. I also wish I had started out with WordPress and not wasted my time with Blogger. Biggest waste of time ever. Could have used the six months time to build up my blog.

  50. I agree… for a while I started debating if i should more from blogger to wordpress… I like wordpress, but i don’t want to lose the google juice for http://radupg.com

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