Propelling your brand to the forefront of your field takes much more than a functioning website and a loyal social media following. You need to establish yourself as a thought leader to maneuver your company to the top of the pack. One of the most effective ways to accomplish this is through a blog, an online hub linked to your website with content of interest. It has become a vital tool to establish your credibility as an authority in your business arena. We set out to explore the top blog platforms out there and the best ways to decide which one may be right for you.
Choosing a blog platform
From WordPress to SquareSpace, there are a number of blog platforms to choose from. However, before writing any content, evaluate your ability to launch and maintain a blog. The responses to these questions will dictate which blogging platform you should choose.
“I think the most important aspect to consider when choosing a blogging platform is the ease of use for the bloggers,” says Ben Larcey, digital marketer for Bluebird Global, the certified reseller of Revel Systems, an iPad POS technology for the hospitality and retail industry. Larcey suggests that business owners have a discussion about the technical abilities of their team first, and then evaluate the relevant blogging platforms that match those ability levels. Once that is established, think about the audience for your blog. Cultivating an idea of where those customers are and what kind of platform they are more apt to enjoy makes a huge difference in the reach and impact of your blog.
Talk to most small business owners with a blog, and they will likely point to WordPress, the most popular blogging platform. “Estimates are that WordPress powers close to 20 percent of all the websites online,” says Scott Chow, owner of The Blog Starter. “This figure includes blogs for small businesses as well as the sites of several large companies, including the Wall StreetJournal, Ford, and CNN.” While WordPress is Chow’s preferred blogging platform, he says there are several other interesting options.
Because of its ease-of-use and powerful functionality, Chow places WordPress at the top of his list. “It has an easy, intuitive interface for business owners that aren't technically-minded,” says Chow. “This allows you to get a simple blog up and running relatively quickly and easily. It has an immensely powerful platform, which you gives you the ability to customize and change your blog in the future as your business grows.”
For those businesses that want to highlight pictures and shorter content, Tumblr is a good choice. “Tumblr is a microblog platform, where the focus is more on visual content,” explains Chow. “It is best suited for businesses that want to illustrate their value through pictures or short videos, such as a floral shop that wants to showcase their arrangements.” Other Tumblr features emphasize a sharing component, making it ideal for businesses reaching a younger demographic. “Tumblr has more of a social aspect to it than WordPress,” says David Bakke, a writer for Money Crashers, a web site that offers financial, money management, and small business advice. “It’s more like Twitter in that way.”
Blogger was one of the first blogging platforms on the scene at its launch in 1999 by Pyra Labs (the platform was bought by Google in 2003). It has lasted over time due to the ability of a user to jump right in and start a blog in a matter of hours. “Blogger might be a better option than WordPress for beginners,” says Bakke. “It’s a bit easier to use for those just starting out.” Chow agrees: “It has a similar interface to WordPress and is just as easy to use.” Keep in mind the simplicity of the platform means somewhat limited design customization. Chow also points out there is less functionality to monetize your blog on Blogger, making this easy-to-use platform an option for those businesses not trying to sell product directly from their blog.
If you are also building a new website or want to revamp the look for your brand, SquareSpace is an attractive choice. “SquareSpace is not a traditional blog platform, but rather more of a website builder,” explains Chow. SquareSpace’s Layout Engine allows the user to easily click-and-drag features into the site templates, yet Chow notes that, “adding unique features that aren't included in the Layout Engine is difficult, limiting the functionality of your site.” However, this relatively new platform offers small businesses sleek and fresh site designs, which create a much more modern brand look. “Squarespace allows you to give your blog an air of sophistication, something you typically won't find with WordPress,” says Bakke.
Medium is the perfect choice for the entrepreneur who wants to highlight his or her writing. “The idea behind Medium is to keep the design and layout elements very simple in order to let the content shine through,” says Chow. “This format lends itself well to those who see themselves as ‘information marketers’ and want to build up their trust and credibility by posting great content.” Chow notes that due to its simplicity, other functions such as selling products is limited, making Medium a good secondary blog for a business.
No matter which platform you choose, once you begin blogging, consistency is essential. “Far more important than the technical details of the software is the ability for the business owner or staff to be able to quickly and easily publish posts,” says Larcey. “There's nothing worse than a company blog that hasn't been updated in six months, a year—or even longer.”
Note: All of the aforementioned blog platforms except SquareSpace are free for the user, though many also offer premium add-ons and enhanced packages or templates for additional fees. SquareSpace’s prices range from $8 to $24 per month, depending on the user’s preferences and needs.