Blogging / Et Al

Blogger vs. WordPress: Who's Got the Upper Hand?

In the blogosphere, Blogger and WordPress are two very popular blogging tools, but they’re popular for different reasons. Blogger tends to be the beginner’s place to start because it simplifies the art of blogging and makes it easy for the novice to understand. On the other hand, WordPress tends to be the intermediate and advanced bloggers’ tool of choice not necessarily because it’s more complicated than Blogger but because in general, it produces more professional-looking blogs. I’ve used both tools, and I like features in both.

After about six months of serious blogging and reading blogs on a variety of topics, I switched my personal blog from Blogger to WordPress. When I made the announcement, several people asked me why I made the move, but I had a hard time nailing down the reason. I guess I was just ready to try something new—to take my blog to the next level—and I thought WordPress was the place to start.

Even though I had researched WordPress and how it functioned differently than Blogger, a few surprises slapped me around once I made the switch:

  1. No custom URL. With Blogger, I was able to direct the original site (sarahjoaustin.blogspot.com) to a custom URL (www.sarahjoaustin.com), which eliminated the ‘blogspot’ in the middle. If I wanted to do the same on WordPress, I would have to pay $10/year and keep my blog hosted at WordPress or host my blog on my own. Instead of forking over the cash, I made due for a few months by forwarding http://www.sarahjoaustin.com to sarahjoaustin.wordpress.com, but I always hated having ‘wordpress’ in my URL, so I eventually broke down and bought my own hosting.
  2. No JavaScript; therefore, no Google Analytics. Too many scripts on a web page can slow down or crash your browser, so WordPress prevents this problem by banning embedded scripts (including JavaScript) on WordPress.com-hosted blogs. On Blogger, I used Google Analytics to track my site statistics, but because I couldn’t embed my itty-bitty piece of JavaScript in my WordPress site, I could no longer use Analytics. But WordPress has its own stats tracker in every blog’s dashboard, so I could still see the most pertinent statistics for my blog. I just started hosting my blog on my own external server, so now I can embed JavaScript again, but even with Google Analytics available, I still use the WordPress stats for day-to-day updates.
  3. No HTML or CSS control. Both Blogger and WordPress have some great themes and templates, but I have some HTML and CSS skills, and I like to customize templates to meet my needs. With Blogger, I could completely manipulate the code to make my blog function as I wanted (i.e. change layout, colors, type, images, etc.), but on WordPress, once I committed to a template, I was stuck with the template designer’s choices. Some templates allowed me to change header images, but that was about it.

This sounds like a list of reasons why I hate WordPress, but it really isn’t. When I made the initial switch, I was frustrated because I didn’t know I’d have to give up the control that I loved having with Blogger. I wished someone had lined them up side by side and told me how they were the same and how they were different, and that’s what the table below is designed to do. On the left is a list of features that are important to me as a blogger, and in the WordPress and Blogger columns are the details for each tool. If the specs are different for hosting on WordPress and Blogger than they are for hosting on an external FTP server, I’ve listed those, too.

WordPress
Blogger
Themes/templates
Yep, free. Yep, free.
Custom URL
(excludes cost of domain name)
Yep, $10/year if hosted at WordPress.com.
Yep, free if hosted on external FTP server.
Yep, free.
Custom CSS
Yep, $15/year if hosted at WordPress.com.
Yep, free if hosted on external FTP server.
Yep, free.
AJAX
Yep. Yep, if hosted at Blogger.com.
Nope, if hosted on external FTP server.
Sidebar widgets
Yep. Yep, if hosted at Blogger.com.
Nope, if hosted on external FTP server.
Javascript support
Nope, if hosted at WordPress.com.
Yep, if hosted on external FTP server.
Yep.
Statistics
Yep, automatic if hosted at WordPress.com.
Yep, must install a plug-in if hosting on FTP server.
Nope, but you can embed Javascript, so you can add Google Analytics.
Multiple users
Yep, up to 35. For unlimited users, it’s $30/year. Yep, up to 100.

I don’t want to be a blogging snob and tell you that WordPress is best because your decision should be based on your needs as a blogger. Yes, I use WordPress for my own blogs, but I manage other blogs that use Blogger and get by just fine. Yes, WordPress has more (and cooler) templates, but if you have HTML and CSS skills, a Blogger blog can look just as great. Bottom line, both are excellent tools; you just have to evaluate your blogging needs and experiment a little!

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11 thoughts on “Blogger vs. WordPress: Who's Got the Upper Hand?

  1. If you have your own web space, wordpress is much better. because you can find many useful plugin or you can develop one by yourself. But wordpress.com free account don’t allow adsense so I don’t like it.

  2. Hi Sarah,
    I stumbled across your article on Digg and just wanted to say I like your writing! I have given you a Digg and also added a link to this posting in a recent blog article I wrote called The Top 5 Reasons I left WordPress.com for Blogger. (The post is linked in the URL field if you would like to take a read through) Obviously we kind of went in opposite directions (you from blogger to wordpress, me the other way), but I really have no problem with wordpress.org which you’re using, it was the crippled client at .com that I found annoying. Anyway, I hope I can send some traffic you way and keep up the good work.

    Cheers,
    Daniel

  3. @Wang I like WordPress.org, too, because it gives me a lot of freedom. And you’re right, it can be frustrating on WordPress.com when you can’t add scripts that you want, which is why I like Blogger.

    @Daniel Thank you for the link and the great feedback. I really appreciate it!

  4. The 35 users on a wp.com blog is incorrect. That is you have a private, password protected blog. If you do, you’re allowed to have up to 35 users be able to view it. The paid upgrade gives you an unlimited number of folks who you can give access to.

    Even with the basic free blog, you can have any amount of authors and the like on each blog. There is no limit.

  5. @Mike Thanks for the clarification. Sometimes all the specifications they list can be confusing, huh?

  6. I am really trying to decide which service to stay with. I started on Blogger because it was the only one I knew about when I started blogging. Now that I am considering buying my own hosting, I am trying to decide if I want to stay with Blogger or move to WordPress.

    I haven’t had (and don’t anticipate) much time to play around with the HTML/CSS, so the pretty built-in templates at WP look awfully tempting, but other than that, all the features I love on Blogger will probably keep me there.

    A couple features that you might consider adding to your chart: scheduled posting and commenters subscribing to comments. Schedule posting is native to WP, but right now is only available via http://draft.blogger.com, Blogger’s beta-testing dashboard.

    As far as I know, WP doesn’t let commenters subscribe to comments, so it makes it harder for the conversation flow than on Blogger, where commenters can opt in to receiving follow-up comments via email.

    Love your comparison chart! I still might change my mind! 🙂

  7. I agree that the switch from one platform to another is a tough one. Both have features that I like.

    As for the templates, in WordPress, I chose one that was pretty plain, but I customized the colors. I don’t have a lot of time to redesign my blogs either (but I promise one will be coming here eventually).

  8. To be honest, my choice of WordPress is pretty much geeksnobbery. I’ve never liked blogger from the day I signed up in 2000, when Blogger was more or less THE tool. I then imported the posts under my own domain name with an iframe, but it still felt like I was cheating. In any case, I have never really considered myself a blogger, I had websites, not blogs. 😉 I only recently started blogging for the sole reason, that blogs are a much easier to promote these days than normal website with complicated feeds and the sort. Anyway, with self hosted WordPress installation I could still promote my skills as a web designer, although granted, wordpress themes are too complicated for my taste too. Blogger gives you a lot more freedom with the site design, without you having to know that much about it. I CAN design for Word Press, but it being so complicated, I rather not, and just customise the existing templates to suit my needs.

    However, WordPress has a lot of plug-ins to add to the installation, a lot more than Blogger does. And if Blogger does, it is usually a bit later than with wordpress, so with WP I feel like I’m a bit ahead of things at all times.

  9. @Sebastyne
    I find blogs useful for promoting websites, too. At work, I’m responsible for all our web development, and for two or three years our site was static simply because we didn’t think we had anything new to say. Now that we have a blog, we’re forced to say something new!

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