Bear in mind that if you start a blog on the Internet, the professional way would be to buy your own domain and a hosting space that costs some money. If you cannot afford this at the beginning, blogging service providers will provide a sub-domain URL for your blog for free (e.g thisisyourblog.blogspot.com if you are using Google Blogger service.)
Of course, the hosting space is free, as your content will be stored on their own servers, so you do not need to pay anything. This article will attempt to review the top blogging service providers on the Internet for this year. Selecting an appropriate blogging service is critical; you will need to choose one before you can begin blogging online.
This review will be very helpful to those beginning bloggers needing to earn money from blogging as well as looking for the most efficient blog platform in terms of search engine optimization and blog page design. This is also helpful for those beginning bloggers that are planning to migrate to a paid hosting solution in the future using their own domain, but would like to start blogging using free services for now.
This review does not include paid blogging services like Typepad and Squarespace.
Criteria for selecting the best free blogging service
There is more to selecting a blogging service than just registering, selecting your favorite theme and then starting to write a blog post. Most beginning bloggers fail to realize some of the important criteria to consider when selecting a proper blogging service, which are as follows (by order of importance):
- Ability to edit the blog template HTML source code – This is very important. Without this feature, you cannot monetize your blog, as you cannot add AdSense code and other blog monetization methods. In addition, the ability to edit the blogging service’s source code will provide you with more search engine optimization opportunities than you would have with those that disallow template source code editing.
- Ability to transfer your blog’s link juice to your new domain – This is also very important, because a time will come when you decide to transfer your content to your new domain. This domain will be hosted some place other than with your free blog service provider. There are lots of ways to do this, either by redirection (server side) or link rel canonical (template side).
- Allows you to monetize your blog — This can include putting Google Ad Sense codes and affiliate links on your blog. If the free blogging service doesn’t allow this, then you cannot make money out of your content.
- Ability to change blog theme and designs – A blogging service with this feature will allow you to change the look and feel of your blog even after you’ve started blogging and been doing it for a while; you’re not locked into what you chose when you first signed up.
- Does not put third party advertisement banners or links on your blog - It would be nice if the free blogging service did not provide advertisement banners to crowd out of your content. Your blog will definitely look better and cleaner without them.
- Privacy and anti-spam protection- It is extremely important, if you wish to protect your privacy and identity, that these features are offered by the free blogging service in addition to preventing spam in your blog.
Ability to edit the blog template HTML source code
Reviewing all of the top free blogging services, only Google Blogger allows full template source code editing.
With this enabled, you can add the following very important blogging tools for success:
- Verification methods for Google Webmaster Tools and other search engines (like Bing).
- Website analytics – such as Google Analytics or Stat Counter.
- The implementation of advanced onsite SEO techniques (title tag optimization, etc).
Ability to transfer your blog link juice to your new domain
Again, only Google Blogger seems to have the technical ability to transfer your existing blog link juice to your new domain, hosted in a different place.
Although Google Blogger does not offer 301 redirection, it does make use of the cross domain link rel canonical functionality: http://googlewebmastercentral.blogspot.com/2009/12/handling-legitimate-cross-domain.html
The strategy is to put link rel canonical tags on each of your posts’ head tags pointing to the specific post using your new domain’s URL. For details, you can read this tutorial for moving Blogger-hosted blogs to WordPress using your own domain: http://www.seochat.com/c/a/Search-Engine-Optimization-Help/Finish-Moving-Your-Blogspot-Blog-to-Another-Host-with-Link-Rel-Canonical-Tags/
Note: Although WordPress.com and other platforms do offer “domain mapping” solutions (with an upgrade), this won’t give a clean 301 redirect (which is SEO friendly). Instead, it provides a 302 redirect (from your WordPress.com blog to your own domain), which does not transfer link juice.
Here are some related resources that explain the limitations of WordPress.com’s domain mapping service: http://en.forums.wordpress.com/topic/301-redirect-to-self-hosted-1?replies=5
Allows you to monetize your blog
Google Blogger freely allows blog monetization (like Google AdSense, affiliate links, and in-text advertising) using your Google account. No upgrade is necessary.
Note the entries that include the ***: WordPress.com does allow blog monetization. It’s applicable for successful blogs with generally 25,000 page views per month or more. Read the details here: http://en.support.wordpress.com/advertising/
Live Journal offers Google AdSense to their paid and permanent account users, according to this FAQ: http://www.livejournal.com/support/faqbrowse.bml?faqid=299.
Other free blogging services do not allow you to monetize your blogs at all.
Other Criteria for Assessment
Ability to change blog theme and designs
Luckily, all free blogging service allow you to change blog designs and themes. So if you do not like the default theme, you can adjust it to something you like.
However the number of themes can vary, as well as the manner in which the theme or design of your blog can be edited. Below is the data on the number of available themes (default quantity) you can choose from after registration:
Blogger.com= 31 themes
WordPress.com = 97 themes
Livejournal= 605 themes
Multiply.com = 38 themes
Friendster.com = 92 themes
Does not put third party advertisement banners or links on your blog
Of all the free blogging services, it seems only Friendster does not put ads on your content. Examining all Friendster blogs indexed in Google: http://bit.ly/9e5jVx, you won’t see any ads on those free hosted blogs.
Google Blogger does include public ads, as do WordPress.com and other free blogging services. You can also prevent ads from appearing on your WordPress.com blog with a paid upgrade.
Privacy and anti-spam protection
Since spam is rampant, all free blogging services mentioned in this article are equipped with anti-spam and privacy protection.
Google Blogger has most of the important criteria, particularly:
- Ability to edit the blog template’s HTML source code
- Ability to transfer your blog link juice to your new domain
- Allows you to monetize your blog
This means that if you are serious about optimizing your blog for SEO (such as tweaking the code), then your best choice will be Blogger.
Blogger also allows you to transfer your blog link juice to your new domain in case you decide to do this in the future.
In terms of the design and theme aspect, all blogs do let you choose, although Livejournal.com offers the highest number of themes to choose from.
If an “ads-free” blog is very important to you, you might choose Friendster (this might change in the future).
Overall: Considering all important criteria and some trade-offs, Google Blogger is the best free blogging service in 2010.