WordPress is often heralded as the de facto blogging platform. It's well supported, almost universally loved, and perhaps most importantly, beginner friendly. But is it still the best blogging platform in 2020?
But with all those Squarespace ads and the rise of sites like Medium, you're right to question whether WordPress is still relevant.
All this is to say, if you want to start a blog in 2020, you're in luck, as there are plenty of great options. In this post, I'll be exploring the best platforms for everyone from casual bloggers to seasoned professionals.
1. WordPress — The best all around CMS
I'd be remiss not to start with WordPress, everyone's favorite blogging content management system (CMS).
To be clear, I'm not talking about Automatic or WordPress.com, which is a similar but different blogging platform. I'll touch on them a little later. I'm talking about the self-hosted version.
First introduced in 2003, WordPress is one of the oldest modern blogging platforms out there and today it remains one of the most popular. That staying power is thanks to the platform's sheer flexibility. It's a framework for building websites and blogs of all shapes and sizes.
What's more, the platform is also incredibly intuitive and scalable. This makes it ideal for those new to blogging. WordPress is also incredibly well supported. There are countless guides and tutorials for how to get the most out of the platform.
Thanks to its popularity, WordPress is one of the easiest platforms to get started on. It can be installed with the press of a button on most hosting providers.
WordPress does have a bit of a learning curve. A simple blog can be spun up in a few minutes, but if you want to add more complex features like a storefront or a community forum, it'll take some tinkering and potentially some cash.
The good new is there is a massive library of high-quality plug-ins out there to make adding these features quick and easy. Just remember the best plug-ins are seldom free. And it's best you get acquainted with plug-ins early because you'll be using plenty of them.
Not sure where to start? Here are some of my favorite plug-ins:
- Yoast SEO — A simple and intuitive search engine optimization plug-in.
- Monster Insights Google Analytics — This plug-in makes integrating with Google Analytics quick and easy.
- W3 Total Cache / WP Rocket — Browser caching is a must if you don't want your web server overwhelmed by a sudden spike in traffic.
- Jetpack — This plug-in is from the folks at Automatic and it packs features like analytics, a robust comments system, enhanced security, and a content delivery network that speeds up image load times.
Who is WordPress for?
Whether you're starting a blog for the first time or you're a grizzled veteran, WordPress is a great place to start a new project. Learn more about starting a blog on WordPress here.
2. Ghost — So Light So Fast
While not nearly as popular as WordPress, Ghost is quickly becoming a favorite among bloggers who'd prefer to spend less time juggling expensive plug-ins and more time writing.
Since its launch in 2013, Ghost has quickly gained momentum and now powers many of the largest blogs in the world, and it's what powers Rambling Polymath.
Like WordPress, Ghost is a free, open source project, but aside from that, the two platforms couldn't be more different. WordPress is designed to support everything from lifestyle blogs to major e-commerce sites. Ghost, on the other hand, has a singular purpose: blogging.
This gives Ghost a couple advantages over WordPress. First of all, it's stupid fast. Ghost has a super lightweight code base that means pages load practically instantaneously without the need for expensive caching plug-ins.
It's also packed with features made specifically for writers. I'm not kidding when I say Ghost has one of the best rich text editors out there.
One of Ghost's coolest features, especially for those that'd prefer not to run ads on their sites, is native support for gated content. This makes it dead simple to turn readers into paying subscribers. Think of it like Patreon for bloggers.
Ghost also lacks WordPress' expansive plug-in library. While integrations with platforms like Google Analytics, MailChimp and Disqus do exist, they are far from seamless. Just adding a comments section required manually injecting some code to my theme.
It's not all bad news though. Ghost is well supported and has a fantastic forum if you ever get stumped. When I ran into some trouble customizing my theme, I posted in the forum and, within an hour, the developer of the theme had reached out with the exact code needed to solve my problem.
Ghost is free and can be installed on most web hosts. Ghost also offers managed hosting that supports the development of the platform if you'd prefer not to deal with hosting it yourself.
Who is it for?
Ghost is an ideal blogging platform for experienced and professional bloggers that want to put content front and center and don't mind getting their hands dirty sifting through a little code. You can learn more about Ghost here.
3. Medium — If you just wanna write
Medium falls somewhere in between a blogging platform and a social network. You might call it a blogging network of sorts and, much like Ghost, it puts content front and center.
Since it was launched in 2012, Medium has matured into a lively community of writers sharing their ideas, stories and knowledge through the written word.
If all you care about is writing, then Medium is a pretty incredible place to speak your truth and discover other like-minded writers.
Unlike WordPress or Ghost, which need to be hosted somewhere like SiteGround or in the cloud, all it takes to get started with Medium is a free account.
This simplicity means launching your blog on Medium couldn't be easier. But it does mean giving up some personality, at least the kind that can't be expressed in words. There are no custom themes; no plug-ins to add custom functionality; there is nothing to separate your blog from someone else's, except for your content, and that's kind of the point.
Medium is very much a community and by stripping away everything else, all that's left is a your content and your readers.
Who is it for?
Medium is an ideal platform if you don't plan on producing content on a schedule or simply don't want the hassle of building, hosting and maintaining a blog of your own.
What about Squarespace?
It's hard to miss all the Squarespace ads and testimonials that are popping up on TV and in YouTube videos, so it's fair to ask whether it's a good platform for bloggers.
And the simple answer is you can blog on Squarespace, but you probably shouldn't.
Before I get into why, let's talk about why you might want to build your site on Squarespace. It's one of the best website builders out there. Regardless of whether you need a landing page for your business, a blog or a portfolio, there is no denying that Squarespace is one of the easiest ways to create a gorgeous website.
But for bloggers, it leaves a lot to be desired. It'll work if you don't plan to update your blog all that often, but if you're trying to build a robust community around your content, I recommend sticking with WordPress or Ghost.
Perhaps my biggest complaint about Squarespace is the price. At $15 a month or $144 year for the base package, it's really expensive compared to premium hosting from sites like SiteGround.
You could easily build a similarly elegant website in Ghost or WordPress that'll cost less than half of that, if it costs you anything at all.
WordPress.com is a managed blogging platform that's built on the WordPress source code.
My history with WordPress.com actually goes way back. It was the first blogging platform that I used seriously. At the time, I was deep into Linux and the Ubuntu operating system and used the site to host a series of video tutorials.
WordPress.com is a lot like Medium in that it's sort of halfway between a blogging platform and a social network. I still have an account at WordPress.com because it's a good way to find other bloggers with similar interests.
It used to be that the platform was just a stripped-down version of WordPress, but but today it bears little resemblance. The admin panel, for example, has been completely redone to make it easier to use for those starting a blog for the first time.
If you want an easy and free way to start blogging that still provides you with some degree of customization, WordPress.com isn't a bad place to start, if you can live with the limitations.
You can unlock additional functionality with a paid plan, but their "personal" plan is pretty limited at $4 a month. Automatic's "premium" plan gets you access to premium themes and some monetization tools, but at $8 a month, I think it's a little expensive, especially if you don't plan on taking advantage of any of the additional features.
Whatever blogging platform you decide on, the important thing is that you're writing. Your readers won't care whether you're using WordPress or Ghost, or if you're posting your stories to Medium. If your content is good, they'll read it anywhere they can get it.
For new bloggers, I still recommend starting with WordPress. Not only is it hugely customizable, and a great platform to learn on, it will scale with you as your audience grows.
More to come
This post is part of a larger series on blogging that will be released over the next few weeks. Find all the posts in the series at the link below.
What do you think? Share your thoughts in the comments below:
- Which platform do you use?
- Have you ever considered trying something else?
- Do you plan to launch a blog this year? Why and what's it about?
- Already a seasoned blogger? Where did you get your start?
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