According to Moz.com, there were approximately 31 million bloggers in the U.S. in 2012 of which 57 percent even reported having more than one blog. Today, Tumblr has more than 232.8 million blogs, and 109.1 billion posts. Meanwhile, Wordpress.com reports that across thier hosted and linked blogs 60.1 million new posts are generated and 409 million people view more than 19.1 billion pages each month.
The real kicker here is that these numbers are still climbing. Blogging isn't new, but it isn't a passing fad either - especially with the increasing number of brands buying into content marketing.
There are a few beneficial byproducts of blogging. First, an easy way to declare authority on a given subject is to spread thoughts through clear writing. This makes blogging the perfect platform for building expertise.
Establishing a blog also builds a community by getting valuable content out to masses of people who could benefit from it. Comments on a blog post enable direct interaction with and among readers while an email opt-in form is recommended to capture subscribers and regularly connect with them through email updates.
Finally, whether a blogger offers financial consulting services or sells cakes and pies, the opportunity to convert blog readers into paying customers is always present. Gaining the trust of readers--combined with an increased awareness of products and services that are offered--typically yield an increase in sales.
There is a reason why, according to W3Techs, WordPress comprises 23.8 percent of all websites. It's so darn easy to create and publish engaging content. Users just select a site name, enter their email address and create a password, choose a responsive site design and start their first post. If they know what they plan to write, they can publish and share their first post in under 30 minutes.
While Wordpress.com is "Free for life," there are various features that come at a cost. A custom domain (https://example.com) requires a paid upgrade. Otherwise, the default URL will be yourblogname.wordpress.com.
All it takes is a Google account to begin blogging within minutes with Blogger. The available theme designs may be a bit dated, but if the intent is to focus on creating content, the barrier to entry is low. Editing a blog's theme is intuitive, allowing design modifications to be done with ease. Blogger also has built-in connections to other Google products, like Google AdSense, Google+, Google Webfonts, basic analytics and more.
By default, the blog will live at a blogspot.com subdomain, but users have the option to use a custom domain, which they can purchase from another provider.
Somewhere between blogging and social media, there is Tumblr. Easy and free to use, Tumblr lets aspiring bloggers create a blog, follow other Tumblr blogs of interest, like content and share with their followers. The built-in social aspect gives blogs a solid platform to grow from and new bloggers will have a definite advantage if their audience is already using Tumblr. Like Blogger, a custom domain name can be purchased.
Traditionally, Weebly is a site-building platform, equipped to create a robust website for a personal brand or business. Hosting a site and a blog under the same platform allows everything to be managed from one account. Weebly also has a simple-to-use--yet powerful--"drag-and-drop" feature for editing blog posts. Content creation is a breeze on mobile devices or desktops.
Like Weebly, Wix is a popular site-builder. Wix has several attractive blog templates that can be modified to meet individual needs. Even though creating blogs is not Wix's primary service offering, they provide all of the basic blogging tools such as tags, RSS feeds, comments, featured posts and archives. Similar to Weebly, building a primary site and blog with Wix will reap the same benefit of being able to manage both within a single platform.
Both Wix and Weebly have free usage, but offer a variety of paid plans to suit additional site needs.
Creating a Wordpress blog through wordpress.com is free and quick, but full control over the source code and the hosting of a blog requires installing the Wordpress application. Wordpress itself is free, but hosting-provider costs vary.
Users who are new to blogging and still developing their technical chops should visit wordpress.com. Those who know their way around a command line, cPanel and FTP client, can head over to wordpress.org where they can create fantastic content on a self-hosted blog in no time. Many hosting providers also offer automatic Wordpress installations.
After successfully completing a Kickstarter campaign in 2013, Ghost became one of the newest players in the blogging space. The Ghost promise is clear: an open source blogging platform that makes writing pleasurable and publishing simple. Ghost is a minimalistic, cut-to-the-chase publishing platform. Its editor utilizes Markdown, an easy-to-learn writing syntax, to quickly create and publish beautiful posts.
Like a self-hosted Wordpress blog, Ghost can be downloaded free or bloggers can pay a monthly fee to have Ghost host it directly. There are several tier options for the latter, the cheapest starting at $8 per month.
Svbtle has a few similarities with Ghost. They both were built to get out of the way of content, and both utilize the Markdown syntax. There are very few features included within the platform, but if the intent is simply to start transforming ideas into written posts, then Svbtle will do the job. Currently, the cost is $6/month.
Like Wix and Weebly, Squarespace is another (and perhaps the most) popular site-builder. Used by many for full business and ecommerce sites, Squarespace offers a lot of flexibility for Web needs. Squarespace bloggers benefit from the "drag-and-drop" editor, beautiful blogging templates and built-in blogging features such as comments, tags, categories, analytics and more. Squarespace currently has a 14-day free trial, after which pricing begins at $8/month.
Postach.io is a very interesting blogging platform that can turn an Evernote notebook into a blog. Many content creators spend most of their digital lives in Evernote. For users who already manage most of their content and web clippings from Evernote, Postach.io is an interesting option to consider for a first blog. Postach.io currently has a 14-day free trial, after which pricing begins at $9/month.
No matter what, a blogging platform is only as good as the content that's published on it. Before getting started with any of these blog platforms, users should draft three to five posts so they can establish an early momentum and ensure long-term success.
Tom Tate is a Marketing Project Manager at AWeber - Email Marketing by day, and an amateur novelist and serial blogger by night. Follow him on Twitter at @tnrt.