I’ve been getting a lot of questions lately about starting a blog. The main questions are “Where can they start it?” and “Is it free?”. So I thought of writing about the benefits and limitations of Blogger. If you don’t already know, Blogger is a free blog publishing service and, in my opinion, it is the king of free blog publishing services. It trumps both WordPress.com and Tumblr.
Before I begin sighting any benefits and limitations of Blogger, I’d like to note that it is not the best platform to host a blog. If you use Blogger, you are not hosting your blog; Google is hosting it. That means you do not have full control of your blog and will have a lot of limitations based on Google’s rules. That’s the same when you use WordPress.com and Tumblr. (Note that WordPress.com is different from WordPress.org.)
Self-hosting for blogs is another story. If you’re looking to just try out blogging to know if it’s your thing or maybe just try it out of curiosity, then I recommend Blogger hands down. Blogger is also a great platform to practice blogging and, if you know what you’re doing, you can make some money out of it, too. But if you are looking to create a blog for your business or for other long term purposes, then you should opt for a self-hosted blog, that is of course if you are willing to invest some money in it. I’m not saying you can’t stay with Blogger for the long run, I’m only saying that because of it’s limitations, you might not be able to bring out your blog’s full potential.
So before you start a blog, make sure you know why you want to do it and what you’re going to use it for.
To give you a summary of what this post will be tackling, here’s a quick list of things I find necessary to look into:
1) Template and Layout
3) Storage Space
5) Static Pages
6) Adsense and Adwords
7) Custom Domain
9) Blogger Support
Template and Layout
The look of your blog is one of the biggest things you need to worry about. One of the reasons why you might want to blog is to attract an audience for your business, or to get yourself out there and hope to be discovered with your talents in photography, styling, and other things. Nonetheless, you are going to want to make an impression and your blog template gives that first impression.
Blogger provides free templates but they are limited and chances are, with the thousands of new bloggers using them, you’re blog look is nowhere near unique. However, Blogger also has a feature where you can outsource your template and upload it. There are hundreds of free Blogger templates out there. If you’re going to choose one, make sure to choose a responsive style because Google recently had an update called the Mobilegeddon. It’s an update on Google’s SEO to prioritize sites that are mobile friendly because the world is going virtual. Check out this step by step guide on how you can change your Blogger template.
Another good thing about the template of Blogger is that the HTML and CSS is open for editing, if you know what you’re doing. So you can do your little tweaks to change your free template look a little bit. You can change the color, the background, the fonts, and almost anything. You just have to know a thing or two about HTML and CSS. Here’s a few tricks on editing HTML that you can use and understand easily even if you’re not a developer.
If you’re a beginner you probably won’t feel a couple of the complicated limitation on editing your blog template. I probably won’t be able to explain those to you like a developer would. You’ll just feel those once you get the hang of it and understand what you’re doing.
One limitation that I can sight for you about the template of your blog is that you won’t be able to remove the blogger search bar. You can turn it off so that it doesn’t display on your blog but you can’t fully remove it from the internal layout. It’s an indication that you do not fully own your blog. That means if Google decided to shut down blogger, your site is going down with it. You can still try to migrate your content to a self hosting platform, but it’s going to be a tricky one. Plus to save you all that hassle in the long run, why not just start out on a self hosted blog in the first place?
Search Engine Optimization
SEO or search engine optimization is a way to increase your traffic by getting your blog ranked for Google search results for your content. Since Blogger is owned by Google, you have nothing to worry about that. Plus you have the option to manage your search engine preferences. One of those ways is by customizing your permalink with keywords that are more searchable, or by adding a search description. You can try this out before you publish your first post.
It might be a lot of work to make sure just one post is optimized by doing the manual editings but once you get the hang of it, it’s alright. One limitation about it is that it can’t be automated, but even WordPress.org has these limitations, too.
Another limitation on optimizing your search results on Blogger is that you can’t use popular plugins to get better SEO because they are mostly used for WordPress.org. One of those plugins to look out for is Yoast.
Yes, the internet has limitations when it comes to storage space. Did you know that even Facebook has that limitation? Currently, you can only have at a maximum of 200 albums with uploads of up to 1,000 photos per album. That’s a lot but that’s still a limitation. For Blogger, there’s also a limitation on the storage space. You only get 1GB of space for all your photos and videos on Picasa Web. But if you connect your Blogger to Google+, you get 15GB of storage space and that’s shared with your Gmail account and your Google Drive. If you do run out of space, you can’t avail anymore, unlike for self hosted blog where you can avail of an unlimited storage space. What you can do when you run out of space is to outsource your storage by saving your files on photo/ video sharing sites like flickr or photobucket. But using them on your Blogger post will be hectic as you would have to manually code them into a post by using HTML.
As mentioned a while ago, plugins are more popular with WordPress.org, not just with SEO plugins, but with a lot of others that can help with your blog’s success. Thus, the drawback in using Blogger is that your blog’s growth will be slow because plugins should be able to help accelerate that. But if you can’t use them, then what good are they to you?
Static pages are individual pages. You can create your About page, your Contact page, and other pages you’d want for more important information about your blog, yourself, or your business to be emphasized. By giving them individual pages, your readers can redirect to them and gain more knowledge about you. Unlike posts, your static pages won’t be able to get lost under dozens of blog posts. You can also create as many static pages as you like.
Unlike your homepage, the size of your static page is limited to 1MB only. But I find there’s no need to create longer and larger static pages.
One limit that I find dismaying on Blogger is that you can’t create a landing page from a static page. If you’ve seen Neil Patel’s website, go to NeilPatel.com and the very first thing you see is a landing page. The landing page is an individual page that mostly consists of a brief description of what your blog or your business is all about, it also consists of your opt-in or call-to-action to get your readers to subscribe, or buy what you are selling. That’s the limitation. You can’t turn your blog into a website, which is what all business owners actually need. I personally think that for business owners, a website is better than a blog, that is if you are not the writing type of person. But a blog is always better than a website if you are willing to provide great content and update it regularly.
Although you can create a welcome mat by using Sumome, or an actual landing page Instapage, it’s still totally different from having your domain (example.com) as the actual landing page, and create a different link for your blog, like (example.com/blog/). And using other website such as Sumome and Instapage may cost you in that long run.
As an individual landing page, just to get your business online, Instapage is a great tool, but you can’t really do much with it if you want to expand it to a blog or something else in the long run.
Adsense and Adwords
One basic way to make money out of your job is to place ads all over your pages and your posts. Google makes that easy for you by featuring it on your Blogger dashboard, which means it’s easy to click and apply. That’s the same with Adwords. If you want to advertise your blog to get more traffic, Adwords is right there on your dashboard.
Unfortunately, I will be telling you a sad truth about ads and making money out of them. A lot of old bloggers will tell you that they make a living out of their ads, but ads aren’t something you have full control over even if you do have a gazillion visitors everyday. And recently, ads aren’t paying that much for traffic anymore, I observed this not just with Google Ads but with other online advertising companies. With the thousands and maybe millions of blogs out there, you are in a pool of competition and you can’t simply bank on ads for your income. These advertising companies can simply pull out and your source of bacon can be gone and there will be nothing you can do about it.
What you can do is to create your own online business, create your own products, or your own services. Create something that you will be able to have full control of. That way, even if all the advertising companies die out, you won’t be affected.
What does this mean with Adsense and Adwords being available on your dashboard? The sad truth is if you’re not really getting that much traffic on your blog thru the ads that you display, you’re only making Google richer. The psychology is that it doesn’t really matter how much traffic you’re getting to your blog. If you’re driving 10,000 visits to it everyday, but only 1% of them are interested in your ads, then you won’t get any clicks and just so you know, ad clicks are more expensive than impressions. But if you have 500 visit a day and almost 100% of those are interested on what you’re advertising and will click on it, then the right audience trumps traffic. Still you won’t be getting that much from those clicks.
What I prefer if you want to make some money out of your blog is to campaign for a partner brand which you can sell your ads directly to or become an affiliate. Partnering with a brand means that you can have a contract on how long they’ll be staying with you and they can’t just simply pull out just because they want to, plus you get to control the price of your advertising. For being an affiliate, you can be a part of a company, but again you don’t have any control over it. The good side about it is that if you have the right audience for the rights ads, you’ll get better chances at getting clicks and making sales, which is a bigger offer than CTRs. Some affiliate programs offer up to 50% of commision on sales.
As for Adwords, I personally prefer growing my audience the organic way because I’ve tried growing it the paid way and it didn’t exactly turn out the way I wanted. Although, I won’t lie, I did gain some good audience from it, the growth you get thru advertising your blog is not worth the money you pay unless you are a big company who can afford and invest on ads that much. Again, you’ll just be making Google richer.
Find Clients For Your Blog
A domain is your URL, like example.com. It’s the link where people type in their browsers to find you, and when you create a blog on Blogger, you get a free domain but with the blogspot subdomain connected to it, like example.blogspot.com. When you create your blog, you’ll have this really crazy feeling of joy and a little voice in your head is saying, “This is mine!”
On the first few weeks or months of your blogging, you wouldn’t really mind that URL having an extension of blogspot.com, but when it takes you longer and learn more about blogging, it slowly turns and looks unprofessional. So if you want to have your own domain without that extension, you’re going to buy it from domain registrar websites or web hosting companies. It is still cheaper if you buy just the domain, but once you’ve decided to invest some money in it, no matter how small, I think it’s time you should be thinking of deciding to move it to a self hosted blog.
Blogger also has it’s own reader, which is right on the Blogger dashboard. You can use this tool to bookmark and follow other bloggers that you like via GFC or by adding them directly to your readers.
Blogger only allows you to bookmark up to 300 blogs and since it is a competition of wordpress, you’re not allowed to bookmark wordpress.com blogs. I prefer using an individual reader like Digg, Reddit, or SumbleUpon where I can quietly stalk bloggers that I love, I’m studying, or where I get inspiration from.
The last but not the least thing you’d want to get out of Blogger is a technical support for when you get issues about your blog going down, can’t be accessed, photos can’t be shared on facebook, oh yes, there’s so much more. I find that Blogger support is really great considering that they are giving their services for free. You can’t directly contact or send them a message but you can join the Blogger Help Forum, where you can post your concerns or search other questions or concerns similar to yours that can possibly help you if they are already answered. The Blogger Help Forum is monitored by their staff and a concern is usually answered within 24 hours.
I hope this post was able to help you in your decision of whether you are going to start your blog with Blogger or not. Like I said, in my opinion, when it comes to free blogging services, Blogger is the King, but when you’re in it for the long run for your business, Blogger may not be the right place for you.
PS. I think you might want to learn more about blogging so here’s a couple of posts for you to read, which will help you understand the structure of a blog better and grow your audience, too.