Blogger buzz: ever since Google had announced that they were shutting down FTP blogs for domains which used Blogger software, Google’s Blogspot division seemed to have been working overtime to answer questions and try to improve their customer service relations. Let’s face it, Blogger has always been Google’s red-headed step-child. It’s ironic how Google is able to be a trend-setter for some services, but could have missed making Blogger the best. When it comes to setting up a unique, customizable, professional, and SEO certificated blog, WordPress custom domain wins, as I had already discussed in previous posts.
That being said, WordPress isn’t for everyone, especially for those who don’t have the time or patience to manage WP databases, configure plugins, and mess with php.ini files or .htaccess files. WordPress is the most powerful blogging software application there is, and with great power comes great responsibility; if you use too many plugins and get tons of traffic, you just may get shut down by GoDaddy or receive a warning letter from HostGator saying you’re using too many shared hosting resources.
So, in honor of Rick Klau, the Business Product Manager of Blogger, who has unlimited patience, an unenviable job, and a great sense of humor, I decided to give Blogger Beta a shot for a side project I’m working on.
Understand this- it really sucked that for all of those years I had an FTP hosted domain yet I did not have access to Blogger’s gadgets, so for those of you own your custom hosting/domain and use Blogger’s software you are in a better situation than I was back in the day. (Blogspot users were always in better shape than me, which was beyond LAME.) For the purposes of this Blogger review, I have to assume that custom domains have access to all of the features on I saw on the free Blogspot, since that is what Google was saying a few months ago before the FTP option got shut down. Here are my impressions for the new Blogger beta, and the free Blogspot in general (my wife uses it all the time, and she probably knew all these “revelations”):
- You can finally create Categories (via Labels) and post them on your blog’s sidebar using Gadgets. Whereas I used labels as a keyword stuffer in the past (which didn’t really help with getting traffic anyway), now you can actually use Labels so it does something to keep your blog organized.
- You can finally create up to 10 Pages, like About Us, Contact, Privacy, or any static page and add them to your sidebar or wherever. To access this mode, you must be in Blogger Draft. Blogger Draft is a Beta Dashboard with features that I guess are still buggy and not ready to be put in the stable version. I’m pretty sure if you ignore Blogger e-mails or don’t check out Blogger Buzz, you would never know about Blogger Draft. (You can thankfully make Blogger Draft your default Blogger Dashboard.) So I have a feeling there are thousands of bloggers out there that don’t know about this.
- At last, there are more templates to choose from, although they are all located in Blogger Draft. It’s called Template Designer. In addition to having new templates, you also have some basic customization, such as changing text color. You can also change Layouts (sidebar format) here. Uploading your own background image through this interface, however, still seems taboo at this point. The new designs rock.
- Previous attempts to move Gadgets around in Layout wouldn’t work in Google Chrome, but now drag and drop is very easy- a lot of freedom to change layout, too.
- The ability to add Jump Breaks on your homepage was another requested feature which is now a reality. Basically, it adds a “Read More…” button to the articles on your homepage. You set the Jump Break in your post. Using the new blog post editor, just choose Insert Jump Break. This increases homepage loading speed and makes the homepage less cluttered.
- Speaking of the updated blog post editor, you have the ability to translate text and define words on the fly. Spell check button is back (a previous beta version I used last year didn’t have spell check button, or if it did it was doing it automatically, and didn’t work well for me). Blogger’s updated post editor may have the edge to WordPress, or at the very least is equal.
- Blogspot’s speed is awesome, and I had no errors in publishing so far.
- Blogspot has been integrated with Amazon, so you can use your affiliate links for products and stuff like that. I haven’t tested it, but it seems to have an easy interface.
Okay, now for some negative stuff about Blogger:
- Still light-years behind Custom Domain WordPress in terms of Search Engine Optimization (metatags, controlling pings, bandwith, tags, customizing permalinks, setting up a post to be sent to bookmarking sites after publishing, etc.). WordPress still has much more customizable themes in different styles, so your site could look like a magazine, newspaper, or even “regular website”. WordPress’s plugin community is superior in terms of what the plugins can do, and most of Blogger’s gadgets are spammy, which is why they only recommend a few featured and basic ones. WordPress wins out in stat tracking option plugins as well. In fact it wins in every important category for SEO and internet marketing. I understand if you have tons of HTML experience and do searches for advanced Blogspot functions, you can pimp your blog, but most people do not. Even if you pimp it, the same programmer could work miracles using WordPress’s advanced customizations (doesn’t really seem to be a ceiling if you know what you’re doing).
- Was hoping that Blog2Print/Blogger (the ability to convert your blog into a book) would have had a free PDF option, but that costs $7.95.
- It’s funny how they seem to be phasing out saying “blogspot” in their promotional buzzes. Everything is “Blogger, Blogger, Blogger” but the actual domain name for the free software is Blogspot. When you set up a site, it’s yoursitename.blogspot.com, not yoursitename.blogger.com.
- Still has a “cheap” or “cheesy” feel to it, kinda like using the free version of WordPress.com with no paid domain. The side-project I am working on is just a hobby, so I didn’t want to create another subdomain, set up another robust WordPress database with tons of plugins; I just wanted to blog and wanted to use the new Blogspot as a test drive, but using Blogspot still has that ghetto perception, you know? It takes two seconds to set up with no credentials. Now that I say it, that is probably one of their selling points. LOL.
Everything being said, Google’s Blogspot software is simply for people who want to BLOG with no PHP skills, database management, or HTML knowledge; it’s not to create a full-blown website or to brand your internet empire. The expectation that you can use Blogger software to create a website or try and manage it as one is a huge misconception that many people have, one that I was guilty of a few years ago. Blogspot is a great blogging platform- it’s quick and simple, and it works.
The changes that Google/Blogger finally made are ridiculously simplistic (actually having better templates, and the ability to easily have Categories and Pages) yet it shows SOMEONE is finally running the show over there. LOL… I don’t see any problem with having a few side-blogs going with Blogspot (in fact I have a few, but having unlocked all of these features on them yet), but running Blogger software on a custom domain you paid for is still a stretch at this point. Of course, Google’s privacy policies rub people the wrong way as well, so it’s really “use at your own risk” if you’re going to brand yourself or your company with your own paid domain name and hosting using Blogger as the backbone.
I believe that when Google acquired Blogspot, they should have used more resources at the time to refine and update the platform to better compete with WordPress. At this pace, it’s going to be a while before Blogger software can offer all of the options that WordPress does.
I do want to make myself clear, however- if you just want to set up an online diary or creative project, Blogspot is free, quick, and simple to use. If you can’t afford to pay for a domain name and hosting, it’s a fine for the hobbyist, although there are around a dozen website writing platforms you can use, such as TypePad, LiveJournal, Xanga, Vox, Gather, Wetpaint, Squidoo, Hubpages, Drupal, and many, many others. However, in the long run, if you are very serious about using blogs to promote yourself or a company, and use awesome content management options, WordPress on your hosted domain is the way to go. As long as you have original content, there is no harm done in using both WordPress and Blogspot on different domain names to support each other with traffic overlap.
The new and improved Blogger/Blogspot would have been killer back in 2003. In 2010, it’s still not as robust as WordPress on a custom domain. Even so, it’s still a great platform for easy blogging and if you write your posts the right way, you can still promote yourself, and make some money with adsense and amazon. Blogger sofware, however, cannot be your main base of operations if this is your goal unless you know advanced coding.
It’s just for fun, and for mainstream users, and that’s okay, too!