Free Blogs – Should You Use Them?

Free Blogs Have Good and Bad Points

There are always expenses to be paid if you’re going to work in affiliate marketing.  If you’re going to make money online, you’re going to have to spend some money to get there.  There’s no way around that, but there’s nothing wrong with looking for ways to save money if you can.  One of the ongoing, nagging expenses of working in Internet marketing is having to buy domain names and pay for Web hosting.  Free blogs could solve that problem, as you wouldn’t have to buy a domain name and you wouldn’t have to pay for hosting.

free blogsOf course, there are some drawbacks to using free blogs, and those drawbacks may or may not be important to you.  Some people feel that they should start with free blogs and then, when they start to earn some money, they can move to paid hosting and their own domain names.  There are pros and cons to using free blogs, and in this post I’ll talk about the advantages of using free blogs and some good reasons why you may wish to avoid them.

Examples of Free Blogs

There are a number of platforms that offer free blogs, and a quick Web search for the term turns up a few million results.  Clearly, there are a lot of people interested in blogging and moreso, there are a lot of people interested in free blogs, as opposed to paid ones.

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While there are a lot of small players in the blogging world, the best-known sources of free blogs are:

Blogger – This one is owned by Google, so many people feel that you’ll have a built-in advantage if you build your blog using Blogger.  The thinking is that Google may favor their own sites in the search results, so building a blog using Blogger may give you an edge when it comes to search engine optimization over other sites that use different blogging platforms.  Blogger is easy to set up and use, and the interface is quite intuitive.

free blogs wordpressWordPress – WordPress is best known as a standalone blogging/Website platform, and you can download that at WordPress.org.  At WordPress.com, you can set up free blogs using the same software that you’d use to build your own hosted site.  It just takes a minute or two to set up and then you’re good to go.  If you’re already familiar with WordPress, you’ll be right at home.

Weebly – Weebly’s free blogs are easy to use, and easy to configure, and they have a number of impressive and attractive themes that give your site a nice, professional look.

Tumblr – Tumblr seems to be mostly regarded as a site for people who want to have blogs with lots of photos, rather than text, but they can accommodate both. Their text interface isn’t all that easy to use, but it works and it’s another option for anyone whose interested in free blogs.

SiteRubix – SiteRubix is included in the Wealthy Affiliate program.  The hosting is easy to use and robust, and the blogs are built on the WordPress platform.  They’re also more configurable than the ones at WordPress.org.

Other platforms for free blogs include: blog.com, tripod.com, livejournal.com, angelfire.com,  and webs.com.  I’ve used all of them at least once, and I didn’t have too much trouble getting any of them to do what I needed to do.

Pros and Cons of Free Blogs

Free blogs have their good points and their bad points.  On the pro side, they’re free.  You don’t have to buy a domain name (though you can with many of these platforms) and you don’t have to pay for hosting.  If your budget is $0, then free blogs might be your only option. They’re easy to use, and they’re still very flexible.  You can create an attractive, professional-looking blog with any of the platforms above, and their servers are all robust enough to handle all the traffic you can throw at them.

The search engines do index all of the major free blog sites, but you’re unlikely to find your blog getting ranked particularly highly.  That’s where we get to the cons of using free blogs.

Blogs using the sites listed above, without using a unique domain name, are likely to have names like yourblog.blogspot.com or yourblog.wordpress.com or yourblog.siterubix.com.  This is less desirable for SEO purposes than having your own domain and a name like yourblog.com.  While there’s disagreement about the importance of exact match domain names (EMD) these days, it stands to reason that the search engines are going to favor standalone domain names over subdomains when it comes to indexing.

free blogs bloggerAnother potential problem of free blogs is flexibility.  Some of the free blogging platforms have limitations regarding how you can set up and configure the site.  The standalone version of WordPress is much more configurable than the free version at WordPress.com, for instance.  Also keep in mind that there are thousands of plugins for the standalone version of WordPress that adds all kinds of functionality to your blog.  Many of the sites offering free blogs don’t use WordPress, so you’re not going to be able to take advantage of those features.  That’s a particular problem for those using Blogger.  There just aren’t a lot of addons for that platform, which severely limits the things you do with the site.

Perhaps the biggest problem with free blogs is that you’re at the mercy of the companies that operate them. Most of these companies have relatively strict terms of service, and any violation at all can result in having your site disabled and your account canceled.  I can speak from experience when I say that if you do something that Google doesn’t like, they’ll cancel your account without warning or explanation.  If you’re using their Blogger platform and you cross some line regarding their terms of service, they might just shut your site down for good without even telling you.

Good Uses for Free Blogs

There are some good uses for free blogs, even if you’re using a standalone domain – they’re good for linking.  You can build your site at yourdomain.com and then build free blogs at some of the sites listed above.  You can create a single-page blog with a lengthy article about your main blog’s subject matter and then link back to your main blog from there.  While it’s unlikely to give you a huge boost in the search engine rankings, a link to your site from Blogger, Weebly or a similar site could help you gain better rankings with time.

Free Blogs Summary

In general, if you can afford it, it’s best to go with a unique domain name, paid hosting and a standalone blog.  While this may not be the best possible starting place for everyone, the advantages of using a paid blog over free blogs are significant.  While free blogs are good for the occasional backlink, you’re going to have a hard time establishing a brand, getting good search engine rankings or drawing a lot of traffic.  Start with free blogs if you must, but try to get to a paid version as soon as you can.

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