Friday, February 12, 2016

In defence of Blogger blogs

An article was shared in a blogging forum I belong to today, called "36 Reasons Why Having a 'Free Website' is a bad idea". It was shared with the hope of putting the idea of free blogging platforms to rest once and for all. Thing is, I disagree with almost every point and would argue that it doesn't have anything to do with blogging on Blogger. Some of it would be an issue if you're creating a website... but we're talking blogging as it was raised in a blogging forum.

I don't understand the whole "my platform is better than your platform" malarkey that goes on day in and day out. It would seem that some people can't appreciate that what is important to them is not important to others, perhaps?

I remember back when I first started my blog and I had no idea if this little hobby would be something I stuck with for a month or even a week, there was so much pressure to move to WordPress. The person who did the most pressuring ended up having his WordPress sites hacked to the point where he could not retrieve any of the data and had to start again. Yet here I was on my free platform, plodding along nicely.

Turns out I did stick to it and my blog turns seven this year. Woah. So I have six years of experience with Blogger being NOT TERRIBLE. Sure, way back in the beginning there was less functionality, so perhaps people are writing these articles from how it used to be?

But I'm going to come out in defence of Blogger for no other reason than I'm tired of people assuming I'm stupid for choosing it. It suits my needs. I'm not saying it suits yours. So here is my point by point rebuttal:

1. Extremely slow websites

In my experience the slowest websites are those who have massive images, and it has very little if any to do with the platform those massive images are held on.

2. Unprofessional web addresses

Um, heard of buying domain names? Mine costs $10 per year.

3. Trial service is not really free

Doesn't apply to Blogger.

4. Hidden charges for free website

Doesn't apply to Blogger - unless you want to buy your own domain, but you have to pay for that no matter which platform you choose.

5. They can lock down your data

Migration services are not a problem if you've been backing up your blog. See that? I'm all for migrating platforms if your needs change!

6. Irrelevant advertisements on your website

You can choose to have Adsense running on your Blogger blog or not. If you choose to have it, it uses magic sparkle power to figure out which one will work best - i.e. an algorithm to find key words and put up an ad that it thinks will match. You don't have control over the specific ad shown but you can say no to all ads if you wish. This is for any site that uses Adsense though, not just Blogger.

7. They can shut down your website

Technically yes! They can come along and boom! All gone. If you've been backing up, this shouldn't be an issue. But I'd like to point out that your hosting company can also do this. If your content promotes horrible nasty things like killing kittens or listening to Nickelback, or breaks the law they can remove it. I personally know a case where a small hosting company didn't like a review they got from one woman and held her content to ransom if you will. Unless the server is in your own house, someone else has an element of control.

8. These companies can disappear at any time

As can your host. I'd like to think that a company as big as Google would give me a little notice when it shut down a service. They've shut down things before, usually with six to twelve months notice. So I can scurry along and find another service then if I need to.

9. You will lose your site address

Again, heard of buying your own domain?

10. They can sell your information

I absolutely agree that if you're not paying for something, you are the product. And that's fair, because companies need to make money. But free services are not the only ones that sell off their mailing lists to other companies.

11. No site building tools

Sigh. There's plenty. And look, we're talking about blogs here, I'm not trying to convince Myer to move their website to a Blogger blog.

12. No WordPress

Yeah, that was actually part of the appeal of Blogger for me back when I had zero skills. If you aren't capable of maintaining plug ins and backups, then WordPress might not be for you. SHOCK! HORROR! If you can't run the back end, then you're leaving yourself open to security holes and hackers. Not everyone wants to control the back end. Add euphemism here if you wish.

13. Limited WordPress

See above.

14. Malware distribution

Again, not for Blogger. You have the power of Google behind you. You know what is notorious for malware? Plug ins! Third party apps and widgets and whatnots. There are some fabulous, well respected, awesome plug ins, no question. Keep them updated and it usually isn't an issue. Usually.

15. You may become part of a link farm

Do they grow baby links?

16. Limited bandwidth

Again, we're talking blogs here, not companies with big websites that also have a blog to show you how hip and relatable they are. How much bandwidth do you need?

17. Low disk storage

My storage is always telling me I've used 0%. Six years of blogging and it's still not enough data to even register. I remember it went up to 1% once, and not long after all the storage allocations were increased.

18. Vulnerable to hacking attempts

Anyone with third party widgets is open to hacking if they aren't kept up to date. Blogger only allows pre approved widgets meaning they're going through Google security first. You can add your own at your own risk if you wish.

19. HTML only sites with limited number of pages

How many pages do you need for a blog? Big website, sure, go for pages and sub categories it's important. But, um, there is no limit to the number of pages on Blogger blogs.

20. Low credibility among your users

I'd argue that any poorly maintained blog (or website) lowers credibility. I've been trying to convince Tricky's school to fix their website for two years now - their expensive, self hosted, ticks all the right boxes website. Because it stands there with "under construction" on most of the pages, and images that are twelve megapixels big creating massive load times. That looks extremely unprofessional despite it being a you beaut, self hosted website. Spelling mistakes, broken links, poor font choice, missing data and being unable to correctly number list items are things that make a site look unprofessional.

21. Limited design choices

Not really. There are so many templates within Blogger and literally thousands of combinations to choose from. If you don't like those there are a stack of free templates you can install or you can pay for a custom template if you want. I've never paid for a custom template (yes, we can tell I hear you say), I've always just tweaked bits here and there and figured out what to do with tutorials.

22. No help or customer service

There is less Blogger customer service representatives, yes, but that doesn't mean that there is no help. Because it is such a widely used platform there are thousands (yes, thousands!) of websites offering tutorials - written and video, so you can choose one based on how you learn best.

23. You can't run advertisements or make money

Um, yes you can. The article states you can't add Adsense... It's a Google product, of course you can put it on your other Google product.

24. There are no backups

Yes there is. You are responsible for your own backups. But wait, you say, I'm not responsible for my backups with my host! Well, the standard backups for most hosts are not guaranteed, you have to pay extra for a full guarantee backup. Which is great if you want that security, but there are backups in Blogger.

25. Difficult to get rid of

There's a button that says delete blog. It doesn't get much simpler than that. Or you could just hide your Blogger blog if you wanted to. Or make it accessible to only a few, invite only VIPs.

26. No statistics or decent analytics.

The article states you get free statistics about your site's visitors and can even install Google Analytics if you go self hosted. Newsflash. Blogger has always had this.

27. You will be targeted with email offers

The only targeted offers I get are for Adsense dollars, which anyone who signs up for it will get, regardless of their platform.

28. No support for mobile phones

I can update my blog from my phone or tablet if I want to. There's an official app for that. And a few third party apps, too.

29. No responsive designs

I click a button that says "enable mobile site" and by magical fairy powers it transfers my theme to a mobile one - yes, even my completely self modified template. Totes hard.

30. No branded email.

I've had a branded email from the moment I bought my own domain. It's called Google Apps. It's also free.

31. No contact forms or email forwards

There is a contact form within Blogger, you can choose to add it on your blog as a widget if you wish. With Google Apps, the emails come straight from Google to me.

32. Limited file upload features

To be honest I've not tried to upload more than six images at a time. But that is more than the one image at a time that the article states.


The original article has skipped number 33. My favourite bloody number, too. Bastards. See number 20 for details.

34. No way to setup redirects

OH LOOK! One that is actually true!

35. Investing time on a free website is unwise

It depends on what your intent is! I think it is unwise to pay a lot of money for hosting when you are just starting up and have no idea whether you're going to be blogging for more than a week. I think it is unwise to pressure people in to choosing a more technically advanced platform that they might not be comfortable with. I think it is unwise to recommend a site to a beginner because your own website needs more functionality. It's like recommending I get a 21 seat coaster bus because YOU have a big family that uses one and finds it fabulous. My little family does not need it.

36. Not even for practice

This isn't a reason. But I still disagree with it. Ha! f you've got a website and aren't 100% sure on your coding, a free platform to play on that doesn't screw up your other one is a great idea if you're unfamiliar with HTML checkers.

There is nothing wrong with using a free platform if it suits your needs.

I'm not saying that one platform is better than the other - they are DIFFERENT and will suit DIFFERENT people for their DIFFERENT needs. But if you're going to come out and say one is better, then maybe do your research, because out of the 36 reasons above (35 if you realise one is missing - 34 if you realise the last one isn't a reason), only one is really a downside to Blogger, and that's redirects. Which for me personally, is not an issue.

My Blogger blog is perfect for what I want it to do. I am not after world domination, I am not trying to have a business, and I'm not trying to use it to sell products. I just want to vent the crap in my head and maybe get some pocket money every now and then. If I change those plans at some point, which is highly unlikely, then I might find the platform doesn't suit my needs any more. But as it is, it looks like I'll hit the seventh birthday still on Blogger. Still suiting me great.

If you wish to read the original article you can find it here.

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