WordPress.com Vs Blogger – Which Free Blog Service is Better?

Battle of WordPress vs Blogger - Who is the champ?

Who'll come out the champ?!

Are you thinking about starting a new (free) blog?

Trying to decide between the two most popular options?

Want to know which will work best for you?

Looking for which one has more features?

Which blog service will reign supreme?

Who will win this all-out match to the death?!

(OK, not quite that extreme.)

I’ve tested out both Blogger and WordPress.com. I’ve customized my template on Blogger, and played around with a few third-party templates. I’ve gotten a taste of the features in both.

Keep in mind, this I am using WordPress.com, not WordPress.org (I’ve used WordPress.org before, but more on that another time). WordPress.org is what most people opt for when referring to blogging platforms. WordPress.org allows you to make changes to virtually every aspect of your blog. WordPress.com, the free version, limits you.

But are the limitations worse than those imposed by Blogger?

Find out when Blogger and WordPress go head to head!

The Match

It’s time for the main event! Let’s see how each contestant stacks up.


Round 1: Themes/Templates

WordPress offers you a huge number of templates (“themes”) in comparison to Blogger, but they are evil in a way. You get the selection, but the best looking ones are NOT free. In fact, they’ll cost you upwards of $40.

See the 4 themes in the image below? Three of those are free, the other one will run you $68! Can you guess which one you’ll have to shell out some bucks for?

Examples of WordPress Themes - Guess which one ISN'T free?

The top-right theme is NOT free.

Blogger, on the other hand, offers only free themes. Entirely free, but there are a total of 6 (not counting for different color combos available in some). With that in mind, there are WAY more than 6 varieties available on WordPress, try around 140!

Blogger makes up for its lack of choices by allowing you to fully customize your themes. Some (e.g. “Simple”) are fully customizable through Template Designer and through code. “Awesome”, on the other hand, is not customizable through the Template Designer but you can still edit the code.

The great thing about Blogger is that you can edit the entire template’s XML/CSS code. You can add to it, take away from it, whatever you want.

You can edit, or even replace the CSS in WordPress, but there’s a charge to upgrade to customizable CSS (a common theme in WordPress.com, it seems). Same goes for fonts. Blogger offers use of several fonts for free, WordPress charges to use custom fonts.

The accessibility of the code, and the ability to revise it, also gives you the option of changing to an entirely different template not offered within Blogger directly. This gives you a limited amount of control over the style of it, but there are hundreds of free Blogger templates available so perhaps you won’t need customization.

Blogger’s variety of free templates comes at a price. You have to know what you’re doing with them and how to edit the code directly. It’s easy to install a template, it’s not easy to get it to fit your exact specifications.

The basic Blogger template don’t provide a number of things that WordPress.com themes offer standard, so when you do install a template created by some 3rd party, the code becomes bloated. You also have to save the changes before you can see how the new template looks.

Unless you are just starting fresh, or haven’t yet customized your template code, plan to do a lot of tweaking.

In comparison, WordPress.com has a super easy “Preview” button. You don’t just get to preview what the theme would look like on a blog, you get to preview the theme on your blog. You can preview, and then go back and try one of the other 140 themes if you don’t like it.

If only Blogger incorporated a few more default template options, they would’ve won. It’s great to be able to customize your template/code so completely, but obtaining the appearance you want could be frustrating for a beginner.

Winner: Draw
Blogger: Fully Customizable
WordPress.com: Easiest to Use


Round 2: Widgets/Gadgets

The widget selection in Blogger (generally referred to as “gadgets” in Blogger) is also extremely limited. Well, I take that back. There are over a thousand you can get right from your Blogger blog. Sounds great, but you won’t want most of them.

Many of Blogger’s built-in, easy-to-use gadgets just aren’t useful. There are a few such as popular posts, subscribe to my blog, link list, etc. The others are for advertising (Amazon Associates & AdSense), media, or are just crap.

When I say “crap”, I mean gadget after gadget offering a “Daily Joke/Verse/Quote/Picture/whatever” or the top news stories from some other site.

When trying to locate a gadget, you have a choice of “Featured”, “Popular”, “Basics”, or “More”. Once you get to “More”, you can only search through page after page of generally-worthless gadgets, all 1,160 of them, until you find something you want. There is a “search” function, but that’s it. No sorting.

Even with some of the useful gadgets (e.g. “Recent Posts”), they are third-party gadgets. It’s a pro and a con – you could have several versions to try out, but you also may have to try out several versions to find what you works best.

The saving-grace if you will with Blogger is that it allows you to add HTML/Javascript gadgets. This means that you can add custom code that other people have created and are willing to share. You can add those all over your blog if you want. As nice as that is, much of Blogger’s customization comes from editing the template, not adding  gadgets.

WordPress.com, on the other hand, has a bunch of widgets, all of them useful. Recent Posts, Popular Posts,  Share This, etc. Some are the more random things like a Calendar, but they aren’t junk widgets like “Daily Images of the Wittelsbach Blue Diamond” or whatever. They are easy to add, and require no special code revisions.

The downside is, you couldn’t revise the code if you wanted to.

Widgets in WordPress.com also take on a more sophisticated look and feel. That was one of my primary reasons for making the change to WordPress – I really wanted an elegant, magazine-style template on my Blogger blog. I could install a 3rd-party template, but with 60 posts already in place along with several code edits, it would take a daunting effort to correct the template code and remove the parts I didn’t want.

On WordPress, all the widgets fall into place neatly and work perfectly with the template you’ve chosen.

Winner: WordPress.com
Convenient and Useful


Round 3: Comments

Comments are pretty straightforward on either platform, but one does stand out a little more.

The comment box on WordPress.com, by default, is embedded in your post page and linked on your home page. It’s exactly how you want it. The WordPress.com comment box has a nicer look and feel to it (dependent on your chosen template).

The comment box below is from the Mystique template on WordPress.com and I use a customized version of the Simple template on Blogger. Here’s what the two comment forms look like:

WordPress.com Embedded Comment Form, Mystique Template

WordPress (Pretty)

Blogger's Embedded Comment Form

Blogger (Not So Pretty)

You can also add a customized form to the bottom of each post in WordPress, with the classic “Name”, “Email”, “URL”, “Comment” or add whatever else you want. WordPress even lets you add an option to subscribe to your blog from your comment box.

Blogger has nothing like that.

However, like everything else, you can get customizable code snippets to revise your template and change things up a little.

You’ll also have to be sure to enable embedded comment forms in Blogger, otherwise you just get a link to “Leave a Comment”.

Winner: WordPress.com
Sophisticated Appearance


Round 4: Images

Images on WordPress are hosted on WordPress. Even when you load an image from a URL, it will automatically embed it (save it to your list of files) unless you turn that feature off.

Since Blogger is a Google product, all Blogger images are uploaded to Picasa.

WordPress.com allows you 3GB of uploaded media per blog*, with the option to purchase more if you need it. Picasa gives you only 1GB, but it is technically separate from Blogger so you can create albums and edit privacy on individual images.

I actually find it easier to work with WordPress.com’s Media Library, since I prefer the convenience of having my images right there. I can edit them from within WordPress.com instead of having to go back and forth between Picasa and Blogger to re-upload an image.

Editor’s Note: I originally mis-stated that WordPress gave you 3GB per account, not per blog. I was wrong, it is 3GB allowed per blog.

Winner: WordPress.com
More Storage Space with Convenient Access


Round 5: Post Titles and URLs

One of the most important things you can do is make sure that your post titles are effective and your URL is relevant.

For people like me, who sometimes want to write 3 posts in one day but then no posts the next week, both Blogger and WordPress.com give you the option to schedule a post. Sounds great, right?

In Blogger it’s a total pain!

Blogger forces you to limit your URL to 39 characters. In my experience, the 40th character drops off the last word. This means that you either have to use a really short title on every post, or you have to customize your URL in an awkward fashion of setting your title twice. The 1st time is to make a short enough URL, the 2nd time makes the title you want.

See where this is going? In Blogger, the only posts you can schedule are ones that are OK to have a very short title to begin with. You can go back and edit the title after the scheduled post date, but search engines may have already picked up the short one.

In WordPress.com, you don’t even have to think about it. You can alter your URL or, by default, it will match your post title. Easy, effective, great.

Ahhh. I could just about switch to WordPress for this one option. It’s a real one-two punch! And WordPress.com still has one more “pro” up its sleeve.

In WordPress.com, your new posts automatically take the form of “Post Title << Blog Title”. This is roughly how you want it. It looks much better in search engine results.

In Blogger, to achieve this same result, you have to add a code snippet. It’s easy to do, but it’s one more step that you isn’t necessary with WordPress.com.

Winner: WordPress.com
Straight and Simple


Round 6: Share Buttons

Blogger and WordPress.com both give you the option to add share buttons to the bottom of every post.

WordPress.com allows you to customize which social media sharing services you want to allow sharing with, but you only get so many to choose from.

WordPress.com Share Button Options, Shown at the Bottom of Every Post

WordPress Share Buttons

The ones I don’t have showing are “Email”, “Print”, “LinkedIn”, “Press This”, and “Google +1”.  I have a couple hidden behind “More”. If your favorite sharing services aren’t listed, you can manually add them by providing the sharing service name, URL and link for the icon*. You can use all of them, some of them with some hidden, or just use a few of your favorites.

The default share buttons in Blogger are limited, and do not include many popular services like Digg and Reddit.

Blogger Share Button Options, Added to the Bottom of Every Post

Blogger Share Buttons

That’s it. You get “Email”, “Gmail”, “Blogger”, “Twitter”, “Facebook”, “Google Buzz” and “Google +1”. If you want to use the default share buttons in Blogger, you take them all or you take nothing.

However, as with the templates and widgets, Blogger allows you to add code snippets and 3rd-party tools that get the job done with just as much, if not more, gusto.

You can use AddThis, ShareThis, “Sharing is Sexy”, “Sharing is Caring”, and a variety of other blog gadgets that will let provide you with buttons for every sharing, blogging, and microblogging service you can think of.

Editor’s Note: I originally mis-stated that you were limited to the share buttons provided in WordPress, without realizing you could manually add more. Oops. However, Blogger still allows you to use a variety of third-party sharing tools, so the end result remains the same.

Winner: Blogger
Wide Variety of 3rd Party Sharing Options

 

Round 7: Composing Posts and Pages

Typing up a post is the same in Blogger or WordPress.com. Nothing special required to type a bunch of words into a box and click “Publish”.

If you want to do more than that, you’ll want WordPress.com.

  • Links: Links are faster to edit on Blogger, but potentially faster to create on WordPress. Blogger gives you one-click access to change your links, but WordPress makes interlinking a breeze. Blogger interlinks must be created manually.
  • Images: Blogger again has a partial convenience advantage, but WordPress is better overall. Blogger allows one-click access to change your images for size (pre-determined small/medium/large), alignment, removal, or adding a caption. In Blogger, captions can be made into links because Blogger puts your image into a small table. In WordPress, standard captions cannot be links though you could still manually code your image into a table and do it that way. Images with captions may look nicer on WordPress, depending on your theme. WordPress requires you to open the image editing window each time, but gives you many more options (border, title, alt text, caption, etc). WordPress also gives you a list of images to use from what you’ve already uploaded both for that post as well as for your whole blog. Blogger only shows other images uploaded from that post, otherwise you have to open Picasa. Blogger also does not display alt text when you hover over an image, and both “Title” and “Alt” must be manually coded in.
  • Jump Breaks: Jump breaks work about the same on either platform. In Blogger, you are able to change your “Read More” text, but it only shows as text, unless you edit your code to use an image. In WordPress, you still see text but it looks more like a button. You can change it by modifying the code per post. Blogger lets you set it once for the entire blog and you can use images, so it has the upper-hand here.
  • Pagination: Pagination allows people like me, who have some ridiculously long posts, to split it up into pages, making the page easier to read overall. Pagination is a simple addition of <!–nextpage–> into your post in WordPress. It isn’t available in Blogger without a special 3rd-party script.
  • Labels/Tags: WordPress offers “tags” as well as “categories”. Blogger only provides “labels”. In WordPress, you can liberally apply tags to anything. Categories are for broader subjects, and you can even set them in a hierarchy with parent subjects. Search engines pick up Categories (I believe tags also). In Blogger, the “labels” feature doesn’t help your SEO any because the search engines don’t read them. Furthermore, since “labels” takes the function of both “Categories” and “Tags”, you’ll either wind up with a long list of labels or force yourself to keep a small one.

WordPress provides many more tools, using what they call the “Kitchen Sink”, to use while creating your posts.

WordPress posting tools

Posting Tools in WordPress

Blogger offers only the basics.

New post tools available in Blogger

Posting Tools in Blogger

WordPress even provides a word count, right within the post.

You can also create your post in a variety of formats (standard, aside, image, quote, gallery), create a post template for future posts, and opt whether or not share buttons and a like button appear on individual posts. You can even “request feedback” for your post before you decide to publish it.

Blogger doesn’t have post templates or varied formats, and share/like buttons have to be added via code snippet or gadget, so you can’t control whether or not they appear on an individual post.

My only qualm with WordPress.com (that rhymed…but I didn’t mean it to) is that the HTML handling seems a little rough at times.

Winner: WordPress.com
Full-Featured, Customizable Post Options


Round 8: Dashboard (Main Menu)

Which of these looks more appealing to you?

This is the screen you see when you’ve logged into Blogger and clicked one of the initial links:

Blogger's main dashboard screen.

Exhibit A

As you can see, there is a tab for “Posting”, “Comments”, “Design”, “Monetize”, and “Settings”. Technically this isn’t the dashboard you see in Blogger when you first log in, but it’s the main screen you’ll work with.

Now, let’s take a look at the dashboard for this blog in WordPress (you also have a global dashboard in WordPress, but it doesn’t show much).

WordPress dashboard for a specific blog

Exhibit B

WordPress lists your new posts, shows your stats, gives you a Quick Post option, and has links for everything else all on the main screen. The main options are “Posts”, “Media”, “Links”, “Pages”, “Comments”, “Feedback”, “Polls”, “Ratings”, “Appearance”, “Users”, “Tools”, and “Settings”.

Blogger is weak against WordPress with the lack of options for individual posts. Take polls, for example. WordPress.com allows you to create different polls in both posts and pages. You do have to create a PollDaddy account, but WordPress makes that easy too.

Blogger requires you to create a poll via a gadget, meaning you get only one poll at a time.

Winner: WordPress.com
Long List of Features at Your Fingertips


Round 9: Analytics

You probably already saw this coming. Blogger provides some general statistics regarding your page views, traffic sources, etc. Since Blogger is owned by Google, I’m sure you’ve already realized that linking a Blogger blog to Google Analytics and other webmaster tools is a cinch. It still requires editing the template code, but it’s a very simple one.

WordPress provides built-in stats as well, that are apparently also from Google Analytics. However, since code can’t be edited in WordPress.com, you will not be able to view your stats from Google Analytics’ website.

WordPress does redeem itself a bit by making it very simple to add tracking for Yahoo, Bing, and Google Webmaster Tools. Get a line of code from the site, paste it into WordPress, and click “Verify”. You’re done!

Winner: Blogger
Internal and External Analytics Available


Round 10: Making Money

Blogger wins by default.

You pretty much aren’t allowed to have ads on WordPress.com. Most all forms are restricted, except a revenue-sharing opportunity for those whose blogs rake in 25k visits per month. In fact, WordPress.com may even place ads on your blog, ads that you don’t benefit from.

Blogger not only allows you to have ads, it also provides several ad options for different AdSense styles and a variety of Amazon Associates links and gadgets.

Winner: Blogger
Google AdSense and Amazon Associates are Built-In


And The Winner Is…

WordPress.com – 7 rounds
Blogger – 3 rounds

WordPress.com!

WordPress.com wins overall for its practicality and general usefulness.

I have really tried to stick up for Blogger. It is more customizable than people would have you believe. Since Blogger allows you to edit your template code, you can make all sorts of changes and use any template available – or make your own!

Unfortunately, this is also a setback on Blogger. If you want something beyond the very basics, you have to know how to edit the code and be comfortable doing so.

I also try to stick up for Blogger because it’s completely free. For the full functionality of WordPress, you have to pay. There is a charge for many of the nicer themes, a yearly charge to have your own domain, a yearly charge to purchase more storage… There’s even a yearly charge if you want to use WordPress.com but be able to edit the code.

If you go all out and use WordPress.org, you have to pay for the custom domain as well as the hosting charges. You have access to many more themes, widgets, and all other 3rd-party tools available in Blogger, but WordPress charges you for what Blogger lets you use for free.

But in the end, Blogger just doesn’t cut the mustard.

WordPress provides so many features by default that Blogger doesn’t. And although it’s great that you can edit your code, most users will find WordPress easiest to use in the long run.

Blogger looks easier, because everything is simple and straight forward. But that’s only because it’s actually so basic.

I was spending hours playing with the template on Blogger. In fact, I’d spend hours – trying to use a new template, trying to find code that did what I wanted – with little to show in the end except mounting frustration.

Actually, when you’ve edited your template with a variety of 3rd party widgets and code, it starts to look all mish-mashed. It doesn’t blend together smoothly, like WordPress does.

Blogger works best for just text and pictures, unless you are comfortable with code.

Otherwise, it’s WordPress.com all the way.

Happy Blogscapades!

Boxing Glove Image Courtesy: xedos4 / FreeDigitalPhotos.net


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3 Responses to WordPress.com Vs Blogger – Which Free Blog Service is Better?

  1. Pingback: Troubleshooting the Move From Blogger to WordPress « Techie Beginners

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