Blogger is the grand old man of Internet publishing. In fact, they arguably started the whole “everyone should have a voice online” ideal. Evan Williams started the company back in the 1990s.
After Evan Williams sold Blogger to Google, he went on to found both Twitter and Medium – both pillars of Internet publishing in their own right. Additionally, it was Matt Mullenweg’s dissatisfaction with Blogger that led him to create the first version of WordPress back in the early 2000s.
All that to say – Blogger is an Internet standby. In fact, it’s such a standby that it gets unfairly disregarded for many web projects simply due to its age.
I recently gave Blogger a try for a small project, along with several other website builders. I tried to approach Blogger not as the platform that had my first blog back in 2004, but as a serious platform that might be a good fit for someone’s web project today, post-2017.
Check out Blogger here.
But first, a bit of an overview on website builders in general. Whether you go drag and drop builder; an installed Content Management System (CMS), or hand-coded HTML files, there’s a lot of considerations that go into an building a website and / or blog.
In the end, you really want someone to type in a website address and see your information, presented well with the right functionality in their browser. Whether you are building a simple personal blog or running a business, the way you build your site determines a lot both long-term and short-term.
In the long-term, the tools you use to set up your website affects your versatility, functionality, and, of course, your brand. In the short term it can add/take away a lot of headaches. In fact, one of the most common headaches is moving a successful blog off Blogger. That said, like choosing a physical house or office, there is no such thing as an absolute “best” or “top” choice. There’s only the right choice relative to your goals, experience, and circumstances.
What Is Blogger?
On the wide spectrum of website building solutions, Blogger lives on the end that is all-inclusive and provides everything you need to get started and grow your website. It’s in contrast to solutions where you buy, install, and manage all the “pieces” of your website separately.
It’s like trading off some control for more convenience.
Using Blogger is like leasing and customizing an apartment in a nice development instead buying and owning your own house. You’re still in control of decor, cleaning, and everything living-wise – but you leave the construction, plumbing, security, and infrastructure to the property owner. That point is key because there’s usually a direct tradeoff between convenience and control.
All the functionality and design that are included with Blogger work seamlessly together as a platform. That’s what allows them to have drag and drop design, layout and content.
One note about Blogger is that it focuses 100% on blogging – ie, reverse-chronological publishing of posts. It has very little in terms of content management (as I’ll mention in the cons section.
As far as competition, Blogger competes directly with all-inclusive website builders like Weebly and WordPress.com in addition to pure-play blog / social networks platforms like Medium and Tumblr.
Website builders as a group compete with options like WordPress.org (which provides the free software to build a website that you own & control – see my WordPress setup guide here) all the way to options like typing actual HTML code into a text file. Make sense? Awesome, let’s dive in to the Blogger review.
One other quick aside – a disclosure – I receive referral fees from all the companies mentioned in this post. My opinions & research are based on my experiences as either a paying customer or consultant to a paying customer.
Pros of Using Blogger
Blogger has a ton going for it. There’s a reason that millions of people start their first blogs on Blogger. It’s in the name. I know that I used Blogger for my first blog back in the day mainly because it is and still is the established blogging platform.
Here are some specific advantages that I’ve found while using Blogger for different projects.
Blogger is free for a website on a *.blogspot.com subdomain. You get essentially unlimited resources to run your blog. You even get a free SSL certificate that comes preinstalled.
You can even buy a custom domain (e.g., yournameblog.com) and point it to your blog for free. This service, called “domain mapping”, is usually a paid feature on Blogger’s direct hosted blog competitors like WordPress.com.
There’s no setup fees or upgrade costs. There are no ads on your blog unless you opt-in.
In fact, you probably already have a Blogger account since it’s bundled with your Google account.
There’s a small ecosystem of 3rd party Blogger customization services, but those are all optional and outside of Blogger’s platform.
So how does Blogger make money?
Google bundles Blogger with your Google account. Blogger is one of the myriad of services that Google provides for free to keep you logged in and engaged with the Google products that do make money (ie, ads). This is a downside, which I’ll cover in the cons section, but the massive upside is that Blogger is a legitimately free, maintained, service that competes head on with paid competitors.
Google does, of course, encourage you to place Google-brokered ads on your blog.
Either way, Blogger’s big upside is pricing. It’s hard to beat free.
Blogger is also seriously simple to use. If you use Gmail or YouTube or any of Google’s other projects, you don’t even have to sign up. You go to Blogger and sign in with your Google username and password.
You can run a single blog or dozens of blogs. The interface is minimalist and largely self-explanatory. As I’ll touch on in the next section, Blogger is 100% focused on blogging (ie., posting content in reverse chronological order with very little focus on other content types).
Blogger handles all the speed, security and technical hosting issues. It is SEO friendly with a simple approach to design and functionality. The whole platform works.
In fact, there’s a mini-movement of pure-play bloggers moving personal (ie, non-commercial) blogs back to Blogger simply for the minimalist parameters.
There’s very little jargon to learn or odd steps to navigate* to get started.
* pointing a custom domain is a little tricky unless you are using Google Domains.
But a lot of this simplicity relates to the fact that Blogger is 100% focused on blogging.
There are a ton of publishing products on the Internet that try to be everything to everyone…and end up being nothing to no one.
For worse, but mostly for better, Blogger has not chased the latest feature. It hasn’t tried to become a social network like Tumblr or Medium. It hasn’t tried to become a full website management system like WordPress. It hasn’t tried to become a “platform” of any kind. It hasn’t even moved to real-time data and messaging like Twitter.
Blogger has stuck to old-school blogging.
It still supports RSS. It defaults to comments. It focused on the latest posts. Blogger has focused on allowing anyone to quickly publish a full, rich piece of content to the Web for anyone to access.
This approach leads to some downsides, but there is something refreshing about using a product that knows what it is – and doesn’t try to become something that it’s not.
Google owns Blogger. And while Blogger is not Google’s marquee or sexiest product, Blogger is firmly within the whole “Google ecosystem.”
If you use any Google product, then you already have a Blogger account. And this integration makes so many little things easier.
Google Photos stores your images. You can quickly and simply monetize with the largest ad broker on the Internet (aka Google AdSense) or promote your blog via the largest search network.
It’s all seamless and it simply works.
Speed & Performance
Blogger is a “hosted blog platform” – which means that it bundles hosting with the entire blogging service.
Google takes care of speed & security. You don’t even have to worry about it. Your focus can be 100% on content and promotion.
Cons of Using Blogger
Now, even though Blogger has a lot going for it, it also has a lot of disadvantages – nearly all having to do with the ability to grow as your blog grows. Blogger can (and does) host some of the highest-traffic blogs on the Internet, but it is deliberately limited in many ways.
Nearly every Blogger complaint that you see online will usually come down to the fact their blog has outgrown Blogger in some way (ie, in customization needs, support, etc).
With that said, let’s look at some of the specific disadvantages of Blogger.
As with all Google products, Blogger does not have customer support per se. They have a forum where other users and an occasional Google staffer will answer questions.
The product is built to have as few potential questions as possible, but as with any product, there will be issues. Unlike other website builders – or even self-hosted software at a hosting company – there’s no single support contact at Blogger.
Any issues that you might have have to be solved via Google search, DIY troubleshooting and support forums.
Blogger’s total focus on blogging is a strength and a serious weakness. The product sticks to traditional blogging even now that many blogs have evolved into regularly updated websites that promote content via social feeds.
For example, most “blogs” nowadays have a homepage or landing page rather than a feed of posts in reverse-chronological order. And yet, without some awkward homepage redirects, there is no real way to have a “homepage” on Blogger. Here’s the extent of the redirect manager –
There is also no way to dictate the display order of your content or create different types of content (ie, portfolio pages). There’s no way to radically change the layout for different content or opt-in scripts.
Blogger is for blogging and nothing else. There are plenty of workarounds, but lack of versatility is the main reason most bloggers leave Blogger and move to a self-hosted WordPress solution.
This point leads to a related but separate issue of design & customization.
Design & Customization
For a hosted blogging platform, Blogger allows for a good bit of customization…but there’s usually a catch.
You can edit the HTML and CSS, but only if you can navigate the thousands of conditional statements in Blogger code editor.
You can change your design layout with Blogger’s built-in elements.
You can customize individual elements of your theme and arrange elements…if they are available within Blogger’s theme editor.
And again, with content types, you have limited freedom to transform your content into something unique. You cannot add many 3rd party apps or integrations. And you can’t turn your blog into a fully managed website.
If you plan on starting and sticking with a traditional blog, this is a non-issue. There’s always a tradeoff between convenience and customization. But if you want to grow into a bigger website with interesting functionality, you are likely to hit a ceiling with Blogger.
On-going Investment & Features
Blogger is moves along, doing its thing as an old school blogging service. That’s a good thing (as mentioned in the pros) but it can also be a bad thing if you want all the bells and whistles available to modern day web publishers.
Google Promise / Content Policy
The last con of using Blogger as your blogging software is Google itself. Blogger has been a Google product for a long time. And Blogger, while not a large part of Google’s product portfolio, still serves Google’s core goal of bringing as many people as possible into its network of services. There is no immediate reason that it will go away.
Google has also killed off plenty of established products with dedicated users. Google killed Google Reader, iGoogle, Google Apps for Teams and Google Glass.
Google has gone through countless changes with their local business product (aka Google Places, Google+ Local, Google MyBusiness, etc). Google has started and killed more messaging apps than I can keep track of. They’ve killed off Orkut.
And who can forget Google+ – their highest profile side project ever. Google+ is still around, but Google decidedly killed off what it originally was.
In other words, even though Blogger has a lot of benefits with Google, blogging is not and never will be Google’s priority. Blogger will always be under threat of shutting down – even if it’s doing well. If they did shut down – you wouldn’t lose your content, but would have to transition your blog on Google’s timeline – not yours.
Weebly, WordPress.com and ideally, your own site on your own server – only do websites. That is their reason for existence. They might go out of business, but as long as they are making money, they will never be unceremoniously shuttered.
Additionally, it pays to remember that as a hosted blog platform, you are subject to Google’s content policy. While the policy is very liberal, it also has a notorious reputation for arbitrary enforcement. If you have a blog that touches on controversial topics, you will not want to invest your time & energy into a platform that you don’t have 100% control over.
The Google SEO Advantage / Disadvantage
Before looking at next steps, I have to touch on one bit of SEO (search engine optimization) mythology. In the SEO world, there are 3 camps on Google products.
The first camp says that Google is inherently untrustworthy. They say you should never use their products because they just spy on you and are out to punish you. It’s all about tricking and outsmarting Google.
The second camp says that Google is SEO. They say you should use all their products and do everything they say. Google will always prefer their own products and will reward everyone that uses them. It’s all about cooperating and sucking up to Google.
The third camp says that neither of the first two camps rely on evidence or testing. The answer to all things SEO is “it depends.” Use Google products that suit your business; don’t use Google products that don’t work for you. Either way, focus on testing and doing the right things for your customers.
I’m in the third camp. I have never seen any evidence that Blogger will “cleanse” or “un-blacklist” a website*. I’ve never seen any evidence that blogs that live on Blogspot / Blogger get an advantage in the search results. I also have no idea why Google would even make that a factor.
*this is in regards to search algorithm penalties, not Blogger content policies.
Don’t buy into SEO snake oil when you are looking for a website builder. The only tested SEO truth is that the internet is made up of websites of all kinds. You have to execute on the fundamentals of content and promotion since Blogger takes care of most all technical concerns.
If you want to start a blog with minimal fuss and cost, then go start one on Blogger now.
If you have a long-term project that you have at least $100 to invest in, then take the time to setup WordPress on your own hosting account.
Have fun on your next project!