Wordpress, Wix, Squarespace, Ghost, Weebly, the number of website builders can be a bit overwhelming. We've decided to test these different services to help you choose the perfect website builder to launch your blog.
Before we start it's important to know that your blog has to be niche. Meaning that there is no point in trying to compete with major news outlets like Inman or Forbes. The content you will create and share has to be about the communities you work in, the neighbourhoods you serve, etc.
If you ask people about a good website builder, most of them are probably going to talk about Wordpress. It is, by far, the most popular service. It comes with a large community of users that will help you with issues you might encounter. Let's be honest, whatever your problem, simple or extremely specific, you will find the help you need on the forums.
It is important to know that there are two distinct wordpress services: Wordpress.com and Wordpress.org.
The easiest to set up, you don't have to take care about hosting or anything else. It's a plug and play. The biggest advantage here is that in a matter of minutes you can get started. I would recommend this one if you have no experience with web hosting services.
You simply start by choosing your blog name. Wordpress automatically suggests a variety of domains you can choose from.
As you can see one of them is free, but there is a major inconvenient, it comes with ".wordpress.com". I strongly recommend going for an upgrade and selecting a custom domain name. The reason is simple: professionalism. This blog will be extremely important for your branding!
This crucial decision leads us to another one, the pricing options.
There are two possibilities and they depend on your strategy and budget. If your blog is just to write a few articles, mainly about your services, team and sales, I would recommend going for the "Personal Plan". It allows you to have custom domain name, enough storage space and removes the wordpress ads. Which is more than enough.
But if you are really serious about this blog and want to use it as a lead generation strategy, go for the Business Plan, no questions asked. You will have access to SEO tools, unlimited storage, all the premium themes, removal of the ads ,no wordpress branding, and much more.
The last decision you are going to have to make is purely about the design. You have to choose the right theme. And here is another strength of Wordpress: the incalculable number of templates.
The CSS they provide is quite complete, although sometimes a bit tricky to use, you might even experience bugs at times. You also have to be very careful with the content you upload. Indeed, Wordpress.com can and will delete your website if it doesn't comply with their terms of service
For the Wordpress.com website builder we decided to give a 6.5/10
WordPress.org is a free software to build your website, and in this case, blog.
First of all, yes it is a software, meaning that it is going to require a download and an installation. Which is quite straightforward, unless you are impatient.
Second of all, you've read it. It's free! But before you close this page and run to Wordpress.org, there is something you should take into account. The software is free, but you still have to host your website. And that isn't free, and can even become a little tricky if you've never done it before.
The hosting solution's price varies on a multitude of factors, but you can count on at least $5 - $7 per month. If you decide to go this route, I would strongly recommend asking for the assistance and guidance of a web developer or webmaster.
So it's free, you have the same community as for the Wordpress.com solution, but those are not the biggest perk if you ask me. What makes WordPress.org amazing is the library of plugins!
"A plugin is a piece of software containing a group of functions that can be added to a WordPress website. They can extend functionality or add new features to your WordPress websites" - wpbeginner.com
Plugins allow you to add free SEO tools to your website, automatic backups, anti spam softwares, and much more. You name it, they have it.
But that brings us to one of the main characteristics of this website builder. It is not as easy to use as the previous one, nor automated in any way. The great news about that is that your content belongs to you and cannot be deleted by Wordpress.org. The downside is that you have to take care of everything else, just like a Webmaster would.
For the Wordpress.or website builder we decided to give a strong 8.5/10
The Wix Website builder isn't the cheapest option around, nor the most expensive one. It has some unique features, and a complete toolset to create/design your blog.
So what sets this website builder apart? Let's dig in!
Before looking into the features, pricing and different perks, it's important to note that there is also an active community. Not as big as the Wordpress one, but definitely helpful enough to assist you with the different problems you might have. The Wix support center is loaded with posts, to the point where it feels a bit crowded.
First, let's look at the pricing options
I recommend going for the Unlimited Plan, as it offers great value. I personally built my blog with Wix, and that is the option I went for. Just like for Wordpress.com, the set up is extremely easy and user friendly, you can choose many additional options and select a custom domain name. But be careful, the extra options can quickly add up!
I my opinion, this package has more value than the one from Wordpress.com. There is an amazing built-in SEO tool and a collection of 384 templates to choose from. Which is not as much as its competitor, but do you really need more? You won't be losing time searching through an infinite library of possibilities.
After you selected everything and feel like a compulsive shopper, you will be redirected to your blog's dashboard.
And this is where the biggest flaw of this website builder appears. It's too complicated. So many options to choose from, you are not sure where you are supposed to click.
The next step is working on the design of your blog. And again, you can really go in depth and change everything, but it's a bit hard to fully understand how it all works. You want to change a little detail (for example the color of a specific line)? Sure, it's possible, but you are going to struggle to find the right way to do it.
It's also important to mention that you will have access to a blog manager, a library of plugins (called apps) and many other perks like a free launch e-mail campaign.
For the Wix Website builder we've decided to give it an honorable 7,5/10
You've also probably heard about this website builder. It seems to be the service everyone is talking about lately. You have to hand it to them, their marketing and communication team is doing an amazing job! It seems like they've put glamour back into website design...
But what's behind all the fuss? Is it really that great?
When you first arrive on the website, you are immediately hit by a comforting feeling: "this looks amazing". And rightfully so, the design of their website is fantastic. That is, in my opinion, the strong suit of Squarespace. How it really sets itself apart from the other website builders.
The first step you have to take is selecting your template. And first disappointment, there are only 58 themes available. Which is significantly less than what you would expect.
Again, the set up is very easy. All you have to do is give a little information about your website/blog, choose a name and you can start designing it before even paying a dime. Which is actually a pretty great feature.
You soon feel like a website designer. You are able to change and modify the theme to make it unique and very personal. To a point where the extensive styling options even become a little bit overwhelming.
If you want to go further you have to take your credit card out. The pricing is fair, depending on what you are looking to accomplish.
I recommend going for the personal option. It has absolutely everything you need to get started. You could even set up an e-commerce, but here we are talking about your blog, so let's set that apart.
Squarespace doesn't offer its own plugin directory. And at first you will think that it is not necessary. Indeed, you can create a functioning and beautiful looking blog with the tools they provide you. But once you want to go further, you soon realise that the lack of plugins can be very limiting, even frustrating.
Hopefully, there is a company that creates plugins for Squarespace. Through their website you can download the ones you need. Most of them aren't free though. You've been warned.
All in all, Squarespace is a great service, it offers a rather intuitive CMS, a free built-in SEO tool and a wide range of design possibilities. But I am not sure it is the best option for a Real Estate blog. It really feels like this website builder is aimed at artists, designers and creators. So if you are looking to create an e-commerce for your homemade artworks, I would strongly recommend this service. Otherwise, there are better options...
For the Squarespace website builder we've decided to give it a 7/10
This one is maybe not as well-known as the other website builders primarily because of its focus on publishing. It does an amazing job at delivering the perfect blogging service.
Ghost is a non profit organization with a focus on user experience, blogging and journalism. As they say on their homepage, it is The professional publishing platform.
When it comes to pricing you have two options. You can either go the open-source software route, which means it would be completely free. But on the other hand you would still have to host your blog by yourself. Which can be a bit of a struggle if you have never done it before.
Or you can choose the easy solution and purchase one of the plans they offer. Just like the other website builders, it might be more expensive, but in a matter of minutes you can get started.
I would strongly recommend going for the personal plan. It has everything you need, and if you reach more than 50,000 views per month, switching to another plan will be completely worth it. Moreover, you can test ghost for free for 14 days! Which is more than enough to learn about this platform and the many advantages it offers.
The next step is choosing the right template for your blog. And again, just like for Wordpress, you will be amazed by the enormous number of options. Not all of them are free though!
The CMS they built is extremely easy to use and very intuitive. You can really feel that Ghost is only focused on content and it makes for a better user experience. You also have a built-in SEO tool that allows you to modify the meta data, image descriptions, etc...
The blog editor is extremely easy to use. But you will have to learn how to write in Markdown
Markdown is a lightweight markup language with plain text formatting syntax designed so that it can be converted to HTML and many other formats using a tool by the same name - Wikipedia
Hopefully it is extremely easy to learn, and once you get the hang of it, even fun. Here is a link to a great (and free) tutorial to get you started: I want to learn Markdown.
Finally, you are going to ask about plugins. The developers behind this website builder are currently working on a plugin directory, which they call the Ghost App Platform. So at this time, there is unfortunately no plugins available. But that should change in the up-coming months (hopefully).
I would like to conclude this review of Ghost by simply saying that it is, for me, the best website building platform when it comes to blogging. It is not designed for any other purpose. So you won't be able to do anything else. But when it comes to creating content, it does everything you need, and it does it perfectly.
For the Ghost website builder we've decided to crown it with a 9/10.
Weebly is known for its ease of use. They perfected the drag and drop. Meaning that you can very very easily create your blog, drag and drop features to customize it and you'll be ready to write. In short, you don't have to worry about anything.
They will take care of the hosting, backups, the security and speed of your website. And quite frankly they are doing it pretty well. But let's first look at the sign up process.
Just like for any other website builder you have to enter your personal information and select the template you want. They've categorized it based on the type of website you want to create (business, e-commerce, blog, etc...). But very quickly you'll realize that there aren't many options to choose from. Their template library is disappointing to say the least.
Once you've selected your template you can immediately play around with it. Change everything, even start writing articles. Just like for Squarespace, that's a real plus. Although, at some point, you are going to have to make a purchasing decision.
Weebly actually offers very competitive prices, a lot of value for a great price. I'd recommend going for the starter or pro plans, depending on the degree of customization you want to reach.
The CMS they provide is very intuitive and easy to use. A 6 year old could probably create a website. They also offer some plugins. Although, just like for the templates, the library of apps is rather small. And most of them aren't free. It sort of feels like they aren't dedicated to their app directory. On the bright side, there is a built-in SEO tool that offers everything you need.
Weebly hosts more than 40 million websites! There is no doubt that it is a great option if you have no experience in blogging or website management. No need to code, no need to worry about anything, it's a smooth ride. But deep down, you know the ride could be faster elsewhere. If you really want your website to stand out, I wouldn't choose this website builder. But blogging is all about content! What makes a blog great isn't its design or hidden features, it's the quality of the articles. And honestly, Weebly has what it takes to help you generate more leads.
For the Weebly website builder we've decided to give it an 8/10.
Creating a blog can be a great way to set your real estate business apart, have a conversation with your clients and generate more leads. But when it comes to choosing a website builder, the decision can be tricky. We've decided to create this review of the different options to help you.
It is now time for me to give you my final thoughts. There are different websites builders that offer different advantages based on what you are looking to achieve.
If you want to take care of the hosting yourself, spend time researching about plugins and customize your blog down to every little detail, WordPress.org is the best solution out there. It's free, there is an amazing community to help you and an almost infinite number of plugins and templates.
But time is money and you can understand that blogging is important, but you don't want to spend too much time on it. You have no experience when it comes to hosting services, and frankly don't care about apps and plugins? Then Weebly is by far the easiest website builder around.
But we are talking about creating a blog. And blogs are all about content. And that is exactly where Ghost excels. Their publishing platform is absolutely amazing. They also have an fantastic library of templates and soon an app directory. They offer a minimalist and easy approach to blogging. And this is exactly what content creators need. You don't have to worry about anything else than creating articles that convert. For the side note, in case you were wondering, this blog article was written in Markdown.
Let me know what you think about this review, and which website builder you choose to start your blogging adventure.