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by DP Taylor | Updated Aug. 5, 2022 – First published on May 18, 2022
Image source: Getty Images
There’s a lot of different ways to do website marketing, but blogging is one of the most accessible — and, depending on how much work you put into it, it can be one of the most effective ways to get customers in your door virtually for free.
Whether you’re in restaurant marketing or are trying to track down more real estate leads, creating a blog can have a huge impact on your bottom line.
If you’re putting together a small business marketing plan, you need to leave room for a blog. And if you want to design one from scratch, there are a few great blogging software options that can help you.
Creating a blog is a little bit different than creating a website. The purpose of a blog is to showcase content specifically, and you aren’t worried about many of the other functions of a website.
Consider these three things to make sure you choose the blogging platform to make your content shine.
Blogs must be simple to use. You should be able to draft up a post, get it up on the site immediately, and watch the traffic roll in. And it should be simple to design the blog to begin with, so look for blogging platforms that are easy to use and won’t require you to take a class to figure out the interface.
Sure, the content is what’s most important. But you want your blog to stand out, so it’s always to your advantage to avoid a cookie-cutter look that you can see on a thousand other websites if you can.
If you’ve got a little bit of tech know-how, consider an open-source blogging platform that you can mold as you see fit.
It’s vital that you understand how customers are responding to your content. Are they clicking on your posts but not reading them? Are they interacting with the content but not going to your store? A platform that can track the marketing analytics and metrics that matter most to you will help you get vital insights that you can use to adjust your blogging activities for success.
There are a lot of content management platforms out there, but not all of them are great for small business or for blogging in particular.
Here are our top five picks for the best blogging platforms to use.
Wix is a content management system that is perfect for a business that wants to create a simple but professional looking blog from scratch in an hour or two. The software, which may be the easiest blogging platform out there, has a simple drag-and-drop interface and lots of templates so you can go from having no website to having a sleek-looking blog in practically no time.
It doesn’t have all of the powerful features you might find with other CMS systems, and it’s primarily geared toward small business owners strapped for time who just need to look professional when they send a client to their site. However, there are customization options and advanced plug-ins that can take the site to the next level if you want.
With company claims of more than 150 million users, it’s certainly one of the most popular CMS options out there.
Wix has a simple interface for designing your blog. Image source: Author
Key feature: One nice and surprising feature Wix offers is e-commerce automation. The blogging platform can automatically thank visitors for contacting you, ask customers for feedback, and more.
Pricing: Wix offers a free version of their website builder, but if you want to increase the professionalism of the site with your own domain name and no ads, or if you want access to more apps and more bandwidth, it’ll cost between $13 and $23/month, which is certainly affordable for most small business owners.
Squarespace is another highly accessible option ideal for small businesses that just want to quickly create a professional blog and don’t want to deal with complicated design software.
Squarespace has a solid range of customization options and templates and a lot of features that can help those looking for more advanced website features.
Unlike some other options, Squarespace offers no free version, and it is fairly limited when it comes to widgets and apps, with just a few, mostly e-commerce extensions available. That’s not a problem for many small business owners who need a simple solution, and Squarespace excels there.
Squarespace has lots of templates to choose from. Image source: Author
Key feature: Squarespace does well when it comes to analytics. Many other website builders allow you to integrate a third-party analytics platform, but Squarespace does it directly through the site builder, which is certainly a big plus.
Pricing: As stated, there is no free version of Squarespace, although you can get a two-week trial to try it out. The cheapest plan is $12/month, and it ranges up to $40/month depending on what features you want access to, putting it at the higher end in terms of CMS solutions.
If you’ve ever been involved with a company that publishes content, you’ve probably heard of WordPress. The company has been around since 2003 and is one of the best-known names in content management.
What makes this blogging platform one of our top choices, and great for small business, is not just that it’s easy to use, but that it’s a free and open source platform. That means you can stay within budget and you have a lot of customization options at your disposal. It may be the best free blogging platform out there.
WordPress is a great alternative to tech-heavy CMS options, as it also boasts a lot of powerful plug-ins and features. Many small businesses won’t need these features, but as your business grows, you may find that you need some more advanced tools, and WordPress has you covered there.
WordPress has numerous plug-ins and advanced features. Image source: Author
Key feature: Multisite integration is one of WordPress’s most impressive abilities. You can launch a number of different sites through WordPress, and a wide range of plug-ins lets you build everything from product pages to menus.
Pricing: As stated, WordPress has a 100% free version. However, if you want to upgrade to Personal to get a custom domain and 24/7 support, it will cost you $4/month, billed annually. It’s $8/month for premium which offers more advanced design tools and Google Analytics support. Finally, the Business version, at $25/month, provides 200 gigabytes of storage, live support, and custom plug-ins and themes.
If you’re a small business with a bit of tech knowledge, Bolt CMS is one of the best blog platforms out there. It has a small but loyal following thanks to its developer-friendly format and open source model.
This is a great option for companies that need a content management system custom-tailored to them so they can create a highly specialized blog that will catch customers’ attention. And even if you’re not very tech-savvy, the software offers professional templates that can help you quickly create a website that looks sleek and puts your best foot forward as a business.
The software is straightforward and offers a lot of integrations without a lot of extras you don’t need.
Bolt’s dashboard shows you recently edited pages. Image source: Author
Key feature: This software does a good job of tracking any changes made through the software. It has an activity log that tracks any change that any user makes to the code. It also has a recently edited pages log so you can jump to whatever you were working on most recently.
Pricing: Bolt is open source and free, so there’s no pricing structure to worry about, making this one of the best free blog sites you can use.
HubSpot is a major player in the marketing and sales world, so you know their CMS is going to have some major strengths in that area. Not surprisingly, HubSpot CMS has a lot of tools for achieving your marketing objectives, helping you bring traffic to your site through content.
Interestingly, HubSpot eschews templates or common coding languages in favor of its own language, “HubL.” That’s great for tech novices who should be able to pick it up pretty easily, but perhaps a little off-putting to professional developers who want to customize the software and would prefer a more familiar coding language.
But the great thing about HubSpot for small businesses is that it’s easy to use, with simple navigation and a step-by-step approach to building your blog.
HubSpot’s A/B testing helps you identify which content works and which doesn’t. Image source: Author
Key feature: HubSpot allows A/B testing of web pages, which means you can try different types of blog posts with your customers to see which resonate better. This provides vital insight that allows you to tweak your content to maximum effect.
Pricing: HubSpot will give you some sticker shock compared to other CMS options: it starts at $400/month plus a $1,000 onboarding fee. The plus side is you won’t get nickel-and-dimed by all the upgrade fees and extra plug-ins offered by other “free” platforms. It might still be too pricey for a small business, but you may find that HubSpot’s features are worth it.
Creating a small business website can be frustrating for the owner who is not tech-savvy, but these are some of the best platforms for blogging, and you can’t go wrong giving them a try.
You may find out that creating a professional, highly customized blog is a lot easier than you thought, and it could have an immediate positive impact if you’re wondering how to market yourself.
If you’re looking to build a brand, you need one of the top blogging platforms to get your company to the next level and increase the amount of free, organic traffic rolling into your small business website. The best next step would be to give one of these options a try for a week or two to see how they feel.
DP Taylor is a business software expert writing for The Ascent and The Motley Fool.
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