The Best Blogging Platform in 2020 — WordPress vs. Squarespace vs. Ghost vs. Medium vs. Blogger
Are you planning to start your own blog but struggling to choose the right blogging platform for you? We wouldn’t be surprised, with the number of options available – it’s definitely overwhelming.
In this article, we’ll help you choose the best blogging platform for you by taking a close look at all of the options available...
1. The WordPress.org Blogging Platform
In this post, we’re referring to the WordPress.org blogging platform, not the WordPress.com service which is geared towards very simple websites. Learn more about the difference.
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A big part of what makes WordPress.org the world's most popular blogging platform and content management system available is the fact that it is open-source and theoretically also completely free to use – though pricing is something we'll cover in detail later.
We wouldn't be using WordPress as our content management system of choice for this blog (yes, the Serverwise blog you're reading right now) if we didn't think it was the best out there...
WordPress originally started its journey as a simple blogging system back in 2003, but it has since evolved to become an incredibly powerful platform that can be used to build almost anything, from simple hairdresser booking websites all the way to real estate agency listing websites & social networks...
WordPress: How Much Does It Really Cost?
It's important to note that while WordPress as a content management system is completely free to download and use, there are other costs associated with running a blog powered by WordPress. One such cost is the yearly domain registration fee as well as a reliable web host...
On top of this, when building your website you may find that the functionality or appearance you're aiming for is only achievable with the help of premium (paid) themes & plugins.
Domain Name Registration
Obviously, your website requires a domain name which is something that you'll need to register separately when building a blog with WordPress. On average domains can cost around $11.99 per year and some can be more expensive (especially if you're buying one that is already owned by someone else).
Obviously, when it comes to hosting, we're biased but SSD Nodes offers powerful VPS hosting at a fraction of the cost of other hosting providers...
This and your domain name registration fees really can't be avoided and using a reliable host is an essential part of running a successful blog...
The Overall Experience
Overall, WordPress is extremely easy to work with. That being said, it is slightly more complicated to work with than Squarespace, Medium, and Ghost but the benefits of that are that it's also far more advanced and capable in terms of functionality, performance, and appearance...
Themes & Designs
There are over 7000 themes available just in the WordPress official theme repository. These are themes that are freely available but there are a number of other paid themes (usually more reliable than the free themes) that you can buy that also come with support from the developers...
Here are some trusted theme vendors that we can whole-heartedly recommend:
- WP Page Builder Framework
- Elementor Hello
It's important to highlight that not all themes are free of charge, though there are a number of reasons a paid theme might be the right choice for you such as – better support, easier customization, and more reliable development just to name a few. Simply put, when your website generates income, paying a little bit extra just for some peace of mind is well worth it...
Functionality & Integrations
In general, as of right now WordPress is without a doubt the most powerful blogging platform and content management system – it is the most reliable and trusted by some of the largest sites in the world for exactly this reason.
This is especially true if you want to keep your options open to be able to sell any form of physical or digital products at some point. So if growth, customizability, and planning for the future are what you're looking for then WordPress is the obvious choice...
WordPress is open-source. You are the sole owner of what you create. You're free to switch hosts & migrate, change themes & redesign or remove everything whenever you want...
Some blogging platforms we'll be covering later on in this article – Medium, Squarespace, and Blogger in particular – are closed platforms that control your content and make it difficult to migrate the content. Thankfully, this is not the case with WordPress and one of the reasons we love it and rely on it for our own website. You aren't bound to set terms of conditions or terms of service that could change and put your entire business at risk without warning.
2. The Medium Blogging Platform
From the perspective of a marketer, Medium is definitely the easy choice for people starting out. Building an audience is often easier and you don't have to spend much time designing anything or setting things up – but do you really want to build your audience on a platform you don't own or have any control over?
I completely understand the allure to use a platform like Medium and I read articles on there from time to time. After all, it is a great place for your work but it has flaws that stop me from ever using. Notably, some popular Medium publications started migrating to other open-source content management systems when they felt threatened that the company was putting too much of a focus on using paywalls for the purpose of monetization – so that even their articles wouldn't remain free to read regardless of whether they wanted them to be...
In addition to this they also still haven't added the ability to set a canonical URL to your own website which means that you shouldn't republish content on Medium if you've already shared it on your own website.
Nonetheless, Medium as a blogging platform can't be overlooked since it's definitely among the best available – so, let's take a closer look at how it stacks up...
Publishing your content on Medium is completely free. You do not have to be a paying member to write articles and you can even get paid if you start to build up some readership on the platform.
Writers can even earn money by enrolling in the Medium Partner Program, which is free and open to the public. If you want to start writing solely to generate revenue off of writing (i.e. with no other real business model), Medium could be a good place to start and tap into an existing network to grow an audience of your own.
There is a cost to this, however, which is that – even if you don't want to earn money from your content – Medium may choose to put your content behind a paywall limiting its access to the public which is something that you may not want if you want your content to be freely available.
The nature of the platform is that readers who do not pay $5/month are only able to read up to three articles per month. To continue reading past this limit you need to become a paying member. The payouts are handled by the number of claps that an article gets – whenever a paying member "claps" for an article, a small amount of their monthly ($5) subscription os donated to the author of the post. So, in general, the more claps your content gets (subject to some other factors such as whether members are paying or not), you'll also get paid more.
Medium: The Overall Experience
The platform was originally developed by Evan Williams, the co-founder of Twitter, in August of 2012. Their main goal was to create a place where people could express themselves.
Medium definitely takes pride in letting its customers know that this blogging platform is not like anyone else on the Internet. The platform focuses on the blogging process itself, making it ideal for beginners or bloggers who just want to express themselves and don’t expect much out of their blogs.
So, as you'd expect, the process of getting started is really simple. All you need to do is sign up for a free account and start creating & sharing content.
Thousands of people choose Medium as a start point for their blogging career. However, major turn-offs for people who are serious about running a website are that the moment someone opens your article, a sign-up interstitial window appears and they insist that people download the Medium app when reading an article on the website on a mobile device.
In short: Medium is great for beginners. It's super simple to get up and running. But if you care about your blog in the long-term and want to own your data and have the ability to control it, experiment, and extend the functionality of your site, you should consider WordPress...
Medium: Themes & Designs
Although the writing experience on Medium is great, when it comes to design & customization, there's basically nothing that can be done. Blogger and Medium are the two most limiting platforms.
Unfortunately, even if you were to start a publication instead of just posting articles on your user profile, the customization options are really limited - all you can really do is add a logo, choose whether articles should appear as a grid or list and change accent colors...
Medium: Functionality & Integrations
While we're on the topic of customization, Medium really falls short here. They don't offer anything that allows you to optimize your content even inserting opt-in forms is difficult and has to be done using a workaround that relies on iFrame embeds. What you can do with your Medium profile or publication is virtually nothing when compared to a fully-fledged platform like WordPress.
So as long as you're not planning to use your site to generate leads for your business, or anything other than sharing content & growing an audience – Medium is definitely still an option worth considering.
Medium: Data Ownership
One major disadvantage of Medium and in my opinion "the final straw" is that you don't own your blog and the content you share on Medium. If Medium decided to stop running their platform, you would lose all of your data and all of the effort you've dedicated to growing a following so this is definitely something to bear in mind.
3. The Ghost.org Blogging Platform
Although Ghost was originally founded all the way back in 2013, it's been gaining a significant amount of popularity in recent years.
Similar to WordPress, Ghost is an open-source platform that thrives off of simplicity, speed, and a range of functionality that's already built-in. And they also have some great customers including Buffer, Close, Airtable and more...
Ghost is also an open-source content management system which means getting started is completely free – all you'd need to do is cover the costs of domain registration and hosting as you'd need for WordPress.
We covered how to install Ghost in detail here...
Ghost: The Overall Experience
Overall, I'm a huge fan of the Ghost blogging experience, it reminds me of WordPress but more straightforward with clear attention to detail and well-defined core features & vision.
There's a strong focus on the writing experience that the rich text editor provides, how easy it makes formatting, and becoming an integral part of a company's publishing workflow with the ability to share drafts easily...
In addition to this, Ghost offers built-in functionality that allows you to create registration forms, collect payments, manage members, and even run an email newsletter so you wouldn't need to pay extra for that or buy additional software to install.
Ghost: Themes & Designs
In terms of popularity, Ghost is still technically a newcomer to the game when compared to WordPress. That being said, they do have some great themes available that make getting your blog up & running easy.
There is a whole range of free & paid themes available from Ghost's official theme marketplace where the average theme costs around $49...
Ghost: Functionality & Integrations
Ghost is the closest to WordPress in terms of functionality & integrations. It makes doing a handful of things such as creating a membership website and newsletter which is something that could be more complicated with WordPress very easy since the functionality is built right in.
In terms of search engine optimization, they advertise that their platform is automatically configured to SEO, which to us means that you don't get the level of control that you'd have with WordPress and an SEO plugin – simply put because best practices only get you so far.
Ghost is still under active, fast-paced development so for the full list of features that are currently available, please refer to their feature index.
Ghost: Data Ownership
Ghost is an open-source platform, so you can host it on your own VPS (virtual private server), control the domain name, and change anything whenever you want. If you outgrow Ghost or just want to migrate over to WordPress, you can easily do so and actually own the rights to your content.
Even if Ghost is killed off as a platform (not that this is likely), you wouldn't have to worry about losing anything because you own your content, host it and own your copy of the source files that you installed on your server...
When you click the export button from the settings in your Ghost post, your content will be downloaded in a JSON format. This includes all settings, users, posts, pages, and subscribers. However, you will not be able to export the themes files and images.
4. The Squarespace Blogging Platform
Squarespace has been on the market for quite some time now. It was founded in 2004 and as of present, they've managed to grow to a team of over 1,000 people.
You've likely heard of them on a podcast or YouTube channel because they spend a lot of money on advertising. Overall the platform works as intended and is great for people that don't want to get their hands dirty or learn anything about building websites on their own, but there are a few setbacks we'll cover later that we highly recommend considering before you settle on Squarespace as your blogging platform of choice...
Squarespace takes pride in letting people know there are no hidden fees and you only pay for the amount on the plan you choose. It offers a 14-day free trial (no credit card required) and if you're satisfied after taking it for a spin, there are four plans you can choose from.
The first one is the Personal plan, which costs $16 monthly, with the option to save 25% if you pay annually. You can have only two contributors on your site with this plan. The domain costs an additional $20 if you pay monthly, and is free if you pay annually.
Their second plan – the Business plan – costs $26 per month but if you decide to pay annually you can save 30%. The domain pricing is the same as on their personal plan. This plan provides access to basic eCommerce functionality, advanced analytics, and more...
Squarespace Basic & Advanced Commerce
The Basic Commerce ($30/month) and Advanced Commerce ($46/month) are the only other plans that Squarespace offers. plans that Squarespace offers. When paying annually, you can save 13%, and specifically with the Advanced Commerce plan, one domain is included at no extra cost.
Their pricing platform is definitely more expensive than all of the other blogging platforms here.
Due to their pricing model, getting started with Squarespace as a blogger is more expensive than any of the other alternatives we looked at in this post. And, in addition to this, there is also a hidden cost associated with the fact that it is a closed platform with limited functionality and migrating isn't as easy as it should be.
Squarespace: The Overall Experience
As a complete package, Squarespace is great – especially for beginners because it's really easy to use. It basically bundles a lot of the tools & services that you would need to manually set up otherwise.
While we can only speak for ourselves for this, we also know thousands of others would agree that the additional control and flexibility is worth the extra setup time required.
If you also think you're the type of person that might require a bit of handholding to get their site ready – Squarespace offers excellent support that is available on chat.
As an affordable and simple platform, it's popular among users that aren't particularly tech-savvy so if you think you're the type of person that might require a bit of handholding to get their site ready – Squarespace offers great support – though as you grow, you're likely going to end up migrating over to a more flexible platform like WordPress.
Squarespace: Themes & Designs
Squarespace offers a set number of templates that are available from their library on all of the plans, but beyond that there is very little customization that can be done.
Before you click: A lot of them are very artistic and geared towards minimal blogs or photography websites.
Squarespace: Functionality & Integrations
If your blog is your main focus, then Squarespace does its job pretty well. In terms of functionality, it offers a feature-rich commenting option, multi-author functionality, and you can even create podcasts on this platform. The ads on this platform are free and you can select any of the six available interface languages (EN, ES, FR, PT, DE, and IT).
On top of this, they do have integrations with 3rd party software which they refer to as Squarespace Extensions. Most of them are only really useful if you're using Squarespace's built-in eCommerce functionality (only available on the Basic & Advanced Commerce plans).
The feature set, integrations, and what's possible with Squarespace overall doesn't compare to fully-fledged content management systems like WordPress and Ghost.
Squarespace: Data Ownership
Just like Blogger and Medium, Squarespace isn't self-hosted & it's a closed-platform meaning that you aren't truly in control of your data, audience and what you can do with your website.
Fortunately, if you do want to move your data they do let you export your content as an XML file which makes migrating to WordPress relatively easy to do...
5. Google’s Blogger.com Platform
Blogger is a completely free blogging platform owned & operated by Google themselves that makes it fast and easy for anyone – regardless of their technical experience – to create a blog. The blogging platform was originally launched back in 1999 by a company called Pyra Labs and was then later acquired by Google in 2003.
It's a popular first choice among bloggers just dabbling with sharing content online on a free blogger subdomain but, as time goes on and they learn the ropes of running a website, they usually end up switching to an alternative like WordPress or Ghost that offer more customization and control over everything...
Launching your blog and hosting your content on Blogger's platform is 100% free with a subdomain such as ssdnodes.blogspot.com. But, if you want to use a custom domain (which is something we highly recommend since migrating away from Blogger when the time comes will be easier), you would need to register a domain separately.
You do not need to have a paid plan in order to connect your custom domain though, all you'd need to pay for is the yearly domain registration fee.
Blogger: The Overall Experience
It's fairly common for people new to blogger to start with Blogger because it's completely free and switching to WordPress as their blog grows is always a possibility.
Blogger.com Pros Blogger.com Cons It’s free The platform is quite limiting, you can’t really add any functionality. You don’t need to be good with technology The number of templates/designs available are very limited and basic. Developed by Google and doesn’t require much management The platform does not receive frequent updates or feature additions.
To access Blogger, you simply need to log into your Google Account (the same one that you use to access Gmail and a whole range of other Google services).
Blogger: Themes & Designs
Having in mind that it’s a hosted blogging platform, Blogger provides basic customization options. Before you edit the HTML and CSS, you need to navigate a large number of conditional statements in the code editor.
Blogger allows you to change the design layout through built-in elements. If there are individual elements of the theme you selected available within the theme editor, then you can customize them. However, you do have limited freedom when it comes to transforming the content into something unique. You can’t insert a lot of external features from sources other than Google, for example.
The important thing to consider when choosing Blogger is that if you’re planning on starting a simple, traditional blog, the customization will not be a problem for you. If your plans are a bit more ambitious, however, the very basic customization options will prove to be a constraint, so in that case, you might consider opting for a platform such as WordPress.org or Ghost.org.
Blogger: Functionality & Integrations
Without disregarding Blogger as a platform entirely, if we're being honest, there isn't really anything to say about Blogger in this regard. Despite how old the platform is – functionality, integrations, and ability to customize are all non-existent.
If you're not concerned about functionality and all you want to do is share some written content with people as quickly as humanly possible, Blogger might still be the way to go for you, but we wouldn't recommend it as a long-term solution.
Blogger: Data Ownership
Google owns Blogger which means that you don't own your content. You risk having your blog shut down without warning or any real explanation. Unfortunately, this is a reality for all websites that don't use an open-source blogging platform like Ghost and WordPress.
It is also worth mentioning that Google is known for shutting down products – such as iGoogle, Google Reader, Google Glass just to name a few – so if you built you've built your blog on Blogger, it could be living on borrowed time...
So, what’s the best blogging platform?
This is the only real way to make the right decision.
If you only ever plan on publishing articles and nothing more – but want to make use of an existing audience then Medium is the way to go. But, if you aren't a fan of Medium and are slightly concerned with the way they handle data ownership, Ghost is a great blogging platform that you truly control (since it's open-source).
And lastly, if you plan on growth and know that you’re eventually going to transform your website from a simple blog into an eCommerce website or membership website that also lets people log in and create profiles, then WordPress is the right choice for you.
You really can't go wrong with Ghost and WordPress, both are incredibly powerful blogging platforms and content management systems...