Best Blogging Platform 2020: Top 8 Free & Paid Blog Options

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Crazy fact: Did you know that there are more than 440 million blogs in the world today?

And almost everyone reads blogs. (Yes, including you and I).

But if you’re here reading this post right now, you’re probably not here reading for pleasure, you are looking for a comparison of paid and free blogging platforms so you can set up a blog for yourself right?

Best blogging platforms list
Best blogging platforms list

You are of course in just in the right place as today, I’ll be taking a deep dive into 8 of the paid and free blogging platforms for beginners and the experienced alike.

You should know, that although most of the options below are free platforms, WordPress.org does require you to get your own domain name and hosting. You don’t pay for the software, you pay for the hosting, but…

That does have massive advantages as you will find out.

OK, let’s go through the pros and cons of each and find out which of the platforms will work for your specific needs.

Platform Hosting included? Custom domain included? Designs available Plugins & extensions Ease of use Learn more
WP.org

Yes using this link

1000+
1000+
10/10
WP.com

**

100+
9/10
Squarespace
10+
100+
9/10
Wix
100+
10+
8/10
Tumblr

**

100+
10/10
Medium
10/10
Ghost

/*

**

100+
6/10
Blogger

**

Almost none
8/10

* Hosting included for pro; no hosting for open source
** You get a subdomain but you can hook up your custom domain as well

Here are the 8 best blogging platforms

best blogging platform
  • WordPress.org (Choose this to own your site)
  • WordPress.com
  • Squarespace
  • Wix
  • Tumblr
  • Medium
  • Ghost
  • Blogger

1. WordPress.org (best blogging platform overall)

In a sentence: The most popular blogging platform in the world, easy to use and you are allowed to make money unlike most options.

Could I have started with anything else? Did you know that WordPress is currently powering more than 25 percent of the entire web? Yep, one in every four websites is built using WordPress.org. Just wow!

For a step by step guide, you can look at my guide on how to create a blog to find out how to get going with WordPress.org in the next 30 minutes.

  • Price: Couldn’t be better – it’s $0 for the software itself.
  • Do you get your own domain? No. A custom domain name is something you have to buy separately. Then you can hook it up to your hosting account.

I highly recommend HOSTGATOR for hosting. I’ll tell you why later…

  • Any prior skills required? Self-hosted WordPress certainly isn’t a no-learning-curve kind of thing. Installing it and then configuring it properly will take 20 minutes to an hour if you haven’t done this before. However, after that, using this blogging platform on a daily basis to publish your posts is very fast and straightforward. Plus, you can find great guides online that make the whole thing even easier.
  • Designs available? A ton! There’s more than enough free themes in the official directory at WordPress.org. Plus, there are literally hundreds of theme stores/theme houses that offer myriads of custom designs.
  • Plugins and extensions: WordPress offers extreme extensibility. Again, there are more than 42,000 free plugins in the official directory, and who knows how many more available throughout the web.
  • Hosting included? No. The software you get from WordPress.org is a downloadable package, which you then have to upload/install on a web server you already manage. [For people who are just starting their blogging journey I recommend that they use HostGator as they offer an easy WordPress installation process.] More on this in a bit…

Who's WordPress.org perfect for?

WordPress is a good choice for…

  • Bloggers who want to make money from their blogging.
  • Bloggers who want to make the blog a part of their business.
  • Professional bloggers.
  • Hobby bloggers who want to actually own their site instead of being at the mercy of a large company.
  • Beginners who don’t want to deal with a steep learning curve.

On top of this, because of the extreme WordPress customization possibilities, it’s one of the best blogging platforms if you want to build a professional blog that’s going to play an important role in your business.

With self-hosted WordPress, you retain full control over your website, what is shown on it, and the way it looks and performs.

Pros & Cons

Pros

  • The most popular blog platform in the world.
  • A massive number of designs available.
  • A massive number of plugins available.
  • Great community – you will always find someone to help you out with a challenge.

Cons

  • No hosting included.
  • A little bit of a learning curve if you’re just getting started.
  • Setting up your site to suit your needs perfectly can a few hours.
WordPress.com vs WordPress.org

I know it’s easy to confuse WordPress.org with WordPress.com, which is a blog hosting service next on this list. 

To make it easier for you, the difference between them is that WordPress.org is free and you install it on your own paid hosting, while WordPress.com is also free, but you can also set up your own site for free there (this has huge disadvantages of course).

HostGator logo

Our #1 web hosting pick:
Get top rated hosting for as little as
$2.64 per Month

StartBloggingOnline.com approved hosting
Normally this would cost you $6.95 per month, so jump on this deal now while it’s still available!

Why buy hosting instead of using free blogging platforms?

If you want to make money off your blog or gain a serious following, then you need to pay for web hosting (if you want to get a better understanding of what that is, see our “what is web hosting?” article from the search box).

Self-hosted WordPress.ORG blogs allow you to easily monetize the blog with Adsense advertisements, Amazon ads, or sell your own products. This really isn’t possible with the .COM version of WordPress or any of the other free options.

Here’s the truth: WordPress.com (and any other free platform) will own all of your blog posts and will show their OWN ads for random companies on YOUR blog.

They will make money off of your hard work!

Plus you won’t be taken seriously if your domain name is something like Startbloggingonline.wordpress.com versus self-hosted like mine: startbloggingonline.com.

So, if you don’t care about who advertises on your blog, being taken seriously, or making money, then go with WordPress.COM but if you want to earn a part-time/full-time income or be taken seriously as a blogger then go with WordPress.ORG and host it yourself.

It’s a small investment, but less than one cup of coffee at Starbucks a month!

The bottom line: Self-hosted WordPress.org is better than WordPress.com because you get a custom domain and own all of your content. The majority of blogs use WordPress.org for these reasons. That also means you place advertisements on it as you please, customize the theme, and install powerful plugins.

While it does come with a learning curve, we have a great free tutorial on how to set up a blog to help you along the way.

Remember, for serious bloggers or anybody looking to make a little bit of money from their blog you need to get a reliable hosting package to go with it…

2. WordPress.com (best choice for hobby bloggers)

WordPress.com logoIn a sentence: Hosted blogging platform built with the WordPress software that is NOT owned by you.

WordPress.com is a hosted version of WordPress. This means that instead of having to download the software and install it yourself, all you need to do is sign up for an account at WordPress.com, and you can start blogging in a matter of minutes. Used by many influencers, such as Tim Ferriss or even Jay-Z (LifeandTimes.com).

  • Price: Three plans available: $0 – great for basic blogging, $99 / year – great for professional blogging, $299 / year – great for advanced business solutions.
  • Hosting included? Yes, you get your site hosted for no additional payments.
  • Do you get your own domain? By default, you get a subdomain like example.wordpress.com. You can add a custom domain as well (doing so on the free plan costs $18/year. For paid plans a custom domain is included).
  • Any prior skills required? A bit easier to use than the self-hosted version of WordPress, due to the fact that you get much of the heavy lifting taken care of (hosting, site setup, basic configuration). You still need to go through the on-screen wizard, but it’s relatively simple. Plus, there’s the official getting started guide. After the setup phase, using this blogging platform on a daily basis to publish your posts is extra easy.
  • Designs available? There’s a couple of hundreds of themes to choose from, and if you opt for one of the premium plans, you also get the opportunity to customize the design you’re using. Overall, WordPress.com keeps things simple and doesn’t deliver as many design options as self-hosted WordPress.
  • Plugins and extensions: Popular features like sharing, stats, comments, and polls are included, but there’s no option to install third-party plugins.

Who's WordPress.com good for?

  • This is the best blogging platform for hobby bloggers.
  • Anyone who wants to start a blog with no investment at all.
  • Professional bloggers.

Overall, WordPress.com is a simplified version of self-hosted WordPress. It delivers all of the most essential features but also leaves a big chunk of them out. If you care only about blogging and don’t want to experiment with your site’s custom features then WordPress.com is going to be sufficient for you.

Pros & Cons

Pros

  • Get started in minutes.
  • Hosting and subdomain included.
  • You can use it for $0.

Cons

  • No possibility to install custom themes.
  • No plugins.
  • WordPress.com can pull the plug on your blog at any time if they find your actions, not in tune with their rules.
  • Can be blocked in some countries, thus requiring a VPN from a neighboring country to log in and publish.

3. Squarespace

SquareSpace logoIn a sentence: User-friendly online website builder and website hosting service.

Squarespace is a really good all-in-one website building solution. You can use it to launch blogs, businesses, e-commerce stores, and much more. Fun fact, Squarespace is the only platform on this list that invested in a Super Bowl ad (twice).

  • Price: Subscription-based, $8-$24/month.
  • Hosting included? Yes.
  • Do you get your own domain? Yes, you get a custom domain with your subscription.
  • Any prior skills required? No. Squarespace is ultra easy to use, even if it’s your first time building a website or blog. The interface is clear, intuitive, and powerful. Publishing new content is simple as well, and their custom LayoutEngine lets you arrange your blog content however you like through drag-and-drop.
  • Designs available? A number of great-looking and modern designs to choose from. Squarespace makes it a goal of theirs to always go with the trends and stay on top of what’s popular design-wise.
  • Plugins and extensions: A range of the most important features built-in from the get-go, plus there are external plugins available through another site.

Who's Squarespace perfect for?

  • Business owners who need a great-looking and optimized website, and a blog to go alongside.
  • Artists, musicians, photographers, creatives in general who want to blog and also showcase their work in an effective way.
  • Restaurants, cafes, etc, running a company blog.
  • Users with no design skills who want to be able to build a blog from scratch on their own using website builders.

Overall, it’s potentially the best platform for anyone who wants to build a professional looking website or blog all on their own. No design skills are required, and the whole process is very straightforward.

That being said, if all you need is a blog – without the additional stuff – then there are more suitable solutions out there.

Pros & Cons

Pros

  • Great customization capabilities and easy to use interface.
  • Hosting and custom domain included.
  • No design or development skills required.
  • Drag-and-drop content building.
  • 24/7 customer support.

Cons

  • Can get expensive over time when we add up the monthly subscription costs.
  • (This will sound strange) Too feature-rich if all you need is a simple blog.

4. Wix website builder

Wix logoIn a sentence: User-friendly online website builder and website hosting service.

To say this simply, Wix is basically like Squarespace, but different. It offers similar features in terms of its website-building and blog-building ability, but the execution is of a slightly different style.

  • Price: Subscription-based, $0-$18/month.
  • Hosting included? Yes.
  • Do you get your own domain? By default, you get a subdomain like example.wix.com. You can also add a custom domain that you already own.
  • Any prior skills required? Wix is very easy to use when it comes to launching a new website. However, you do need to go through a couple of additional steps to add the blog module. Nothing too difficult but still. Overall, Wix gives you a step-by-step wizard to get through the whole process.
  • Designs available? More than 500 designs available.
  • Plugins and extensions: There’s a number of essential site management features built-in, and apart from that, you can also extend your site through the Wix App Market.

Who's Wix perfect for?

  • Quite similarly to Squarespace, business owners who need a great-looking and optimized website, and a blog to go alongside.
  • Users with no design skills who want to be able to build a blog from scratch on their own.
  • Artists, musicians, photographers, creatives in general who want to blog and also showcase their work in an effective manner.

Wix Website Builder is an interesting alternative blogging platform to Squarespace, especially for users who don’t have a budget to invest and would like to keep things cheap. That being said, the blog module isn’t that configurable. So if what you want most of all is a blog, you’re better off with another platform.

Pros & Cons

Pros

  • More than 500 designs to choose from.
  • Free plan available.
  • Drag-and-drop content building.
  • Great support, plus an online knowledge base.

Cons

  • Limited blog customization possibilities, especially compared to other solutions on the list.
  • Not a dedicated blogging platform.

5. Tumblr

Tumblr logoIn a sentence: A hip microblogging hosted blog platform with a social network aspect.

Tumblr is a great free blog site optimized specifically for bloggers who want to publish short-form content, such as micro-blogs, quotes, images, videos, and animated GIFs. Tumblr is also a community of users, ready to promote and comment on each other’s work.

  • Price: Free.
  • Hosting included? Yes, Tumblr hosts your blog for no additional cost.
  • Do you get your own domain? By default, you get a subdomain like example.tumblr.com. Hooking up your own custom domain is possible too (you need to get the domain elsewhere)
  • Any prior skills required? Absolutely no skills at all required to start and run a Tumblr blog. The interface is the most user-friendly one of the 8 blogging platforms we’re reviewing here. Tumblr blogs are easy to set up and easy to run afterward.
  • Designs available? There’s a lot of designs you can choose from, although many of them paid.
  • Plugins and extensions: None.

Who's Tumblr perfect for?

  • Hobby bloggers.
  • One-topic blogs.
  • Probably the best blogging platform for microblogs.
  • Blogs publishing different types of content (quotes, posts, images, videos, etc.)

Tumblr is the blogging platform for you if you’re not planning to turn your blog into a business project, or if you don’t care about advanced features and extensions. A great solution for small blogs with not a lot of content and an irregular posting schedule.

Pros & Cons

Pros

  • Community aspect: Tumblr is a social network as much as it is a blogging platform.
  • Free.
  • Hosting and subdomain included.
  • A user interface that’s ultra easy to use.
  • Built-in styles for various types of content.

Cons

  • No extensions or plugins.
  • Limited features compared to the other platforms on this list.

6. Medium

Medium logoIn a sentence: A publishing blog platform for your stories and articles.

Medium has grown in popularity a lot during the last couple of years (more than a million people have joined Medium). In short, it’s a community of writers and bloggers, all using the same looking site design to share their opinions and stories on various topics.

  • Price: Free.
  • Hosting included? Yes, Medium handles it completely.
  • Do you get your own domain? Not included. Everybody gets to publish under their profile (e.g. medium.com/@name/). However, quite recently Medium enabled its users to hook up their own custom domains to individual stories on Medium. Again, this means that individual stories can now use custom domains, not individual user profiles.
  • Any prior skills required? Not at all. Medium is extremely easy to use. All you need to do is sign up, and you can start publishing your stories/posts right away. No learning curve at all.
  • Designs available? None. Everybody gets the same design.
  • Plugins and extensions: None. Although Medium has some great publishing and typography features built-in.

Who's Medium perfect for?

  • Writers looking to build their brand. Medium is great to get instant readership for your stories.
  • Hobby bloggers.
  • Company blogs hosted outside of the company’s website.

In the end, Medium is great if you want to publish individual stories that aren’t necessarily related. Medium helps spread your content by using custom algorithms as well as editorial curation. If you just want to “experiment with this blogging thing,” Medium is the way to do it.

Pros & Cons

Pros

  • Very easy-to-use interface.
  • Other users can help you work on your content.
  • Free.
  • Great typography settings.


Cons

  • No custom designs. Everyone’s profile looks the same.
  • Medium has control over your publications.

7. Ghost

Ghost hostingIn a sentence: Downloadable blogging software, and a hosted blogging platform.

The main idea behind Ghost was to make it a simpler version of WordPress … something that would be just a blogging platform, without all the advanced content management features that have been introduced in WordPress recently.

  • Price: The downloadable version is free. The hosted – pro – version stands at $8-$200 depending on the number of blogs you want to run and the traffic volume you’re expecting.
  • Hosting included? If you get the downloadable version, it’s up to you to find a web host and install the software there. For Ghost Pro, hosting is included.
  • Do you get your own domain? No, you don’t get a domain with your plan, but you can hook up an external domain easily.
    Any prior skills required? The answer’s two-fold here. If you’re getting the downloadable version then setting up your site will take some time and skill around web servers and such. For Ghost Pro, the setup is quite simple. Using the platform on a daily basis is very easy to grasp too, although the interface is a bit “geeky” – with the Markdown split-screen support and all.
  • Designs available? Nice library of themes to choose from, many of them paid though. There are also premium themes available on the web.
    Plugins and extensions: Things like SEO, social media, comments, etc. are already built-in. Apart from that, no external plugins for Ghost.

For running a blog on Ghost (downloadable version) you will require web hosting, again, I recommend HostGator for this.

Who's Ghost perfect for?

  • Bloggers who want to use the newest and freshest technical solutions available.
  • Hobby bloggers who are passionate about web development.
  • Bloggers who like to experiment with new platforms.

With all of Ghost’s awesomeness, it’s still not the best choices of blogging platforms if you want to build a pro-blog or a business blog. It lacks some important features and is more of a beta project overall.

Pros & Cons

Pros

  • Designed as a blogging site above all else.
  • Very clear writing and publishing interface.
  • Fast, and optimized for SEO.

Cons

  • Not as customizable as WordPress.
  • No plugins or extensibility is available.

8. Blogger

Blogger logoIn a sentence: An old-school free blogging site that used to be the best blogging platform if free was what you were after.

Blogger is one of the oldest blogging platforms out there. Currently, it’s run by Google, so all you need to sign up is your standard Google account. Similarly to WordPress.com, Blogger takes care of all the technical heavy lifting, allowing you to just focus on creating content.

  • Blogger pricing: Free.
  • Hosting included? Yes, Blogger takes care of hosting your blog for no additional payment.
  • Do you get your own domain? By default, you get a subdomain like example.blogspot.com. You can hook up your custom domain too, but you have to acquire it separately.
  • Any prior skills required? Blogger is easy to use, albeit a little outdated compared to some more modern solutions like WordPress.com or Medium. Setting up your blog is still very easy and quick. No skills required to start blogging under Blogger.
  • Designs available? Just a standard layout editor (content/sidebar). Apart from that, there’s not much you can do in terms of the design of your blog.
  • Plugins and extensions: No external plugins available.

Who's Blogger great for?

  • Hobby bloggers and personal blogs.

Maybe 12 years ago Blogger could have been considered a huge hit, but right now it’s not really the best blogging platform for anyone. I don’t advise using it for anything other than personal blogs.

Pros & Cons

Pros

  • You can get a blog started in under a minute.
  • Simple interface for content creation.
  • Hosting and subdomain included.

Cons

  • Everything else.

Top pick from the best blog platforms

If you want a paid, self hosted blogging option that you own yourself, can make money on, or want to choose from the blog platforms for business, use then I (and an overwhelming amount of others) believe WordPress.org outperforms all other platforms.

If you haven’t decided on a what the best blogging platform for you is yet I would say you should consider HostGator to get your web hosting (along with a free domain name) now.

For free blog platforms WordPress wins out again with WordPress.com.

It is powerful, has an easy to use dashboard, it’s affordable, and the most flexible of all available blogging platforms. If you search around the site you’ll find my review listing all the reasons you should use WordPress.com.

This concludes our review, but what do you think? Did you make a decision on any of the blogging platforms described here? Feel free to share in the guest comments below.

What is the best blogging platform? Final thoughts

In my opinion, most blogging platforms on this list have their place on the market. Please pick the persona that describes you best to see the perfect solution for you:

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Our #1 web hosting pick:
Get top rated hosting for as little as
$2.64 per Month

StartBloggingOnline.com approved hosting

Related articles:

FAQs

WordPress if you intend to make money. It is the most popular platform, powering over 30% of the web! If you just need a free blogging option for personal blogging, have a look at the list above to see which is right for you.
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