(Blogging Platform Review) Blogger – Free, easy to use, powerful and the most secure platform

Google’s very own Blogger (blogger.com) is perhaps the most popular blogging platform worldwide especially among the newbie bloggers. There are many plus points with Blogger –
Everything is free with Blogger – you will get a free domain (as blogspot.com subdomain), free hosting at Google servers (almost 100% uptime), free SEO advantage. Besides it is damn easy to create a blog at blogger.com (it’s like one-two-three – login to blogger with your Google ID, choose the URL and title of your blog and select a blog template and done, your blog is up and running.

Blogger
Blogger—the platform—was the creation of Pyra Labs, which was later bought by Google. After the buyout, Blogger was offered as a totally free blogging service at blogger.com by Google (Pyra Labs offered the service in two variants with only the paid version offering all the features). Blogger.com only forms the client and platform part of the blog, the blog needs to be hosted on a server. While Google will be glad to host the blog for you at blogspot.com (your blog site will be xyz.blogspot.com), you are free to configure blogger to publish the blog on another server. Interestingly, blogger.com will post to any ordinary Web host and doesn’t require any add-ons like a database etc.

Blogger
Blogger

Google has successfully integrated few of its other services with blogger.com. Users of blogger.com can easily include Google AdSense ads to make money from the blog. It is also possible to blog from Google Docs and Spreadsheets. You need to sign up with blogger.com to be able to use the client. Blogger offers two client options—the classic and the updated. The updated client offers greater customization options compared to the classic one. After sign up you are given the option to choose where to host the blog. In case you would like to host the blog elsewhere the details have to be provided in the “Advanced Blog Setup” at this stage. Blogger.com uses FTP or Secure FTP to transfer the files to the server, so these details need to be entered in the relevant fields. In all other cases, the blog is hosted at blogspot.com, you need to choose a unique name for the blog before you can proceed.
In the next step you are given a set of templates to choose from. This can be changed or tweaked later on. After the template selection, your blog is ready. Just like that. You can visit the blog immediately, but there would be nothing else there besides the title.

The Client
Blogger as a “client”, allows you to add a post. The capable text editor allows basic formatting of text, besides pictures and other media can also added to the post. Labels (similar to “tags” of WordPress) are a way of organizing your posts according to topics. All posts tagged with the same label can be quickly retrieved by the visitor, by clicking on the label link. Categorizing your posts is recommended. If the formatting options provided are not adequate, the client also allows modifying the underlying HTML code.

The Platform
All other modifications to the blog are possible by interacting with the platform. The platform influences system wide aspects that affect all posts of a blog, like page layout, page color, font color, adding additional scripts—like AdSense ads, RSS feeds, pinging blog trackers etc. Under the Template tab, you can see the pre-built templates on offer at blogger.com. The “Page Elements” link allows changing the layout of the blog by simple click and drag. Additional elements can be added to the blog—for the choices available, you can click on the Add a Page Element link. Some useful choices are the Link List element, which can be used to add a Blog roll; the AdSense element can be useful for those planning to make money from their blog; the Labels element will show the list of labels associated with your posts, enabling a visitor to quickly access similar posts; and, the HTML/JavaScript element can be used to add additional code, like a link to bookmark at del.icio.us or a link to Google analytics—a user tracking service from Google, which offers a lot of information about visitors to the site. Fonts and their colors can be changed under the Fonts and Colors Link. For whom, these options are not adequate, can achieve even greater customization by editing the HTML code by clicking on the Edit HTML link. While the Template Tab provides options related to the blog appearance, the settings tab presents the options regarding the features of the blog. To prevent your blog from appearing in search results, you can disable the “Add your blog to our listings?” option. Doing so only prevents random access to your blog, people who know the URL of the blog can directly access it.
Under Publish Link, you can choose where to host the blog – at blogspot subdomain or a custom domain. Under the Formatting link, you can choose the number of posts to be shown on each page. Keeping a very high number will increase the page size and the loading times. While having all posts on a page will reduce the amount of link clicking required, routine visitors to the blog will prefer not to wait for the entire page to load just to read the latest post. Thus it is recommended to keep a limited number of posts (say 4-8) at the home-page (or any single page).
Under the Comments link, you can set the comment moderation options. Back-linking is an indicator of a post’s popularity. It is best left enabled. Under the Site Feed link, you can configure the RSS feeds of the blog. For more options click on the “Switch to Advanced Mode” link. You can set the size of the feed for the blog and its comments too. Customized text can be added to each feed, and this could include any ads that you would like to display. By allowing ads in feeds, Blogger has ensured that the blogger does not have to be deprived of earning opportunities by offering the entire post as RSS. Under the Email link, you will find a nifty little feature—the Mail-to-blogger Address is an e-mail address which can be used to post to the blog without visiting blogger.com. All e-mails sent to that address are published. If you would like the emailed post to remain as a draft only, clear the check next to the “Publish” option. The blogsend address is the e-mail ID to which every blog post is sent to. Enabling this is recommended since it is always a good idea to keep a backup of all your posts. Under the Permissions link, you can decide to limit the access to the blog. Again, this feature will work only if the blog is hosted at blogspot.com. In case of a multi user blog, you can add users either as a guest who can only contribute posts, or as an admin who has equal rights as yourself. Mobile blogging is also supported.

Concluding Remarks
Blogger is a capable and powerful blogging platform, offering all the features required to operate a blog. Best of all it is completely free to use. Other unique features of Blogger are –
It’s powerful servers can handle millions of visitors per month with almost 100% uptime guaranteed. You will have to spend a lot of money for this if you buy a paid hosting plan for a self-hosted blog on other platforms. Blogger is giving it all free of cost!
Being a Google service Blogger blogs generally rank higher in Google search index – a controversial but obvious bias of the search giant.
Blogger is the most secure blogging platform – so you can be rest assured about hacking or corrupt database issues.
Blogger is probably the only blog host which does not hold back from giving free users the entire array of features of the platform. Google is continuously working on it, regularly adding new features and improvements. So go ahead and create your first blog now…

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