Weebly Site Builder: Quick, Scalable Blogging
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The first thing you need to know about Weebly is that it’s a site builder.
That means Weebly is a blog hosting provider in the same way that a taxi is a rental car provider: you pay to use it but someone else handles the driving and maintenance.
And just like a taxi, Weebly is easy to use and you pay only for what you need.
Why Commit To A Sitebuilder?
On the one hand, full-fledged hosting providers require more technical heavy lifting from bloggers but the upside is you get more functionality and control over the design of your blog.
Weebly gives you a choice of a simple site or store right away.
Site builders, on the other hand, are built for speed and ease, usually with drag-and-drop design tools. Almost anyone can pick them up and start creating right away.
Weebly Helps Bloggers Get Online Quickly
Weebly is targeted to people who want to launch a business website — but that doesn’t mean it’s a bad choice for bloggers. On the contrary, for some bloggers, Weebly might be the perfect fit.
Weebly has a depth of features that allow even advanced bloggers to try out new things that they might not be able to do with a regular web host.
Weebly vs. WordPress
If you’ve been a blogger for any period of time greater than zero days, you’ve probably heard of WordPress.
WordPress is a popular content management platform offered for free by many conventional hosting companies. “Content management” includes everything from blogging to static pages on your site and its overall structure.
Next, you select your theme.
So the first thing we need to clarify is how Weebly relates to WordPress.
Is Weebly Related To WordPress?
The short answer is: it doesn’t. WordPress and Weebly are mutually exclusive.
Weebly is a hosting service and a blogging platform rolled into one. You don’t need WordPress (and you can’t get it) if you choose to blog on Weebly.
The converse is also true: if you want WordPress, you’ll need to pass on Weebly and get your hosting elsewhere.
Car (WordPress) vs Train (Weebly)
If we go back to our driving analogy, Weebly is the train you take when you commute to work while WordPress is a car you drive.
Sure, you can drive your car (WordPress) wherever you want, but you’ve also got to worry about all the other things that might go wrong on your commute.
With the train (Weebly), you just get on it and then get off at your stop. Worry free!
Moving From Weebly to WordPress Later
At this point, you may be wondering if the decision to go with Weebly will cost you (money or headaches) in the future.
That is if you decide to start your blog on Weebly, can you easily move it to WordPress once you’ve got more experience?
The answer is Yes. It’s not rocket science but it does take a bit of work. (Which makes sense, right? Neither Weebly nor WordPress wants people flip-flopping back and forth all the time.)
Still, it’s doable if you’d like to get started with a blog quickly on Weebly with the peace of mind that you can go elsewhere later if you like.
How To Move From Weebly to WordPress
An overview of the steps involved if you want to move a blog from Weebly to WordPress:
- Get a conventional web hosting plan from elsewhere, buy a domain name, and install WordPress.
- Export your Weebly blog’s RSS feed.
- Import the XML file to WordPress.
You may find that you like Weebly for blogging just fine — so migrating to WordPress may not even be a consideration.
There are also ways to outsource the migration from Weebly to WordPress.
Depending on your new plan, many hosting companies may help with the import/export process.
Alternatively, you can hire a third party like CMS2CMS to help do the technical lifting.
Does The Design Stay After Migration?
Your Weebly blog’s look and feel will not be duplicated on WordPress, though. Only your content can be migrated across platforms.
Again with the driving analogies: you can sit on the train (Weebly) but you can’t transfer the train’s benches to your new car (WordPress).
Drag-and-Drop Website Builders vs. WordPress
You’ve probably heard a lot recently about “drag-and-drop” website builders — and Weebly is definitely in that category.
Elements can simply be dragged to your desired position.
With Weebly’s easy-to-use interface, you can drag elements of your blog around (an element can be anything — a block of text, an image, a video, etc.) and put them wherever you like.
You don’t need to know one scrap of code or any special settings to get a drag-and-drop builder like Weebly to produce a blog that looks slick and professional.
The Learning Curve of WordPress vs Weebly
In the past, WordPress has come up short in the usability department when compared to these simpler website builders.
Bloggers can sometimes become frustrated with the learning curve required to get WordPress wrangled into submission.
However, WordPress recently released its version 5.0 (nicknamed “Bebo”) which blurs the line between traditional WordPress and a drag-and-drop website builder.
The Price: Flexibility and Customization
What’s great about this WordPress update is that you get all the benefits of a website builder but you can also choose to go behind the scenes and get more technical if you like.
Although Weebly, on the other hand, is fairly strict on what it allows you to do technically, the vast majority of bloggers will find Weebly’s capabilities up to whatever task they set it to.
Which Type of Blogger is Weebly Best For?
Weebly was founded 2007 and has over 40 million customers, so it’s a company that’s honed its product for people who want an easy way to get online quickly.
Weebly is a best for bloggers who are thinking of building out their blogs by adding features like a company website or an online store.
Personal bloggers who have been frustrated by their experiences with WordPress or another blogging platform may also welcome Weebly’s simplified approach to blogging.
Weebly isn’t ideal for hardcore geeky bloggers who want to fiddle with coding gears. However, there’s no harm in trying it out no matter what type of blogger you are since Weebly has a free plan.
Weebly’s Pricing Plans
One of the best things about Weebly is that you can try it out for free for as long as you like — no credit card required. But after you try it out, you might want to get a paid plan to add additional functionality.
Weebly has five plans to choose from, including their free plan. Here’s an overview table of each plan, but keep reading below for more analysis.
|Description||Get blogging!||Bloggers and small organizations.||Small businesses and stores.||Large sellers, some email marketing|
|Domain||Weebly subdomain||Free custom domain||Free custom domain||Free custom domain|
|Main Features||500 MB storage, Weebly subdomain||Unlimited storage, stats, HD video||Same as Pro, plus membership registration||Same as Business|
|E-commerce||SSL Certificate, but no online store||Shopping cart, ability to take online payments||Unlimited products, digital goods, reviews, discounts||Same as Business, plus abandoned cart emails, gift cards, real-time shipping|
|Marketing||SEO tools||Same as Free, plus $100 Google ad credit and advance site stats||Same as Pro plus popups, integrated Facebook ads, and advanced e-commerce stats||Same as Business, plus email marketing campaigns to 500 contacts|
|Support||Chat, Email, Forum||Same as free, plus phone support||Same as Pro||Same as Business|
Overview of Weebly’s Free Plan
The main point of Weebly’s free plan is to let you get your hands on the Weebly editor and see if it’s to your liking. You can play around with templates and design elements to see if it matches your vision.
Blogging with Weebly doesn’t require a paid plan. With their free plan, you get all the functionality of Weebly’s blogging platform and the only resource limitation is on your site’s storage — the free plan is limited to 500MB.
Storage Limits and Media
If you want to post high-storage elements for your blog (e.g., hosted podcasts, video, or very large image files), you’ll hit the free plan’s storage limit pretty soon.
Additionally, offering HD video or audio is a no-go unless you pay for the Weebly Pro, Business, or Business Plus plans (starting at $12/month annually).
The SEO tools you get on Weebly’s free plan is the same as what’s offered on their paid plans, too. It’s not as robust as, say, Yoast is for WordPress, but it will definitely help traffic find your blog posts if they’re of high quality.
The downside of blogging with Weebly’s free plan is that’s pretty much all you can do. Online selling, e-commerce, and marketing tools aren’t available.
You can have fun adding products and putting together an online store, but you can’t publish it until you upgrade to a paid plan.
The Primary Issues With Weebly’s Free Plan
Two important notes about Weebly’s free plan, making it less than ideal for some bloggers:
1.) You can’t use your own domain name.
Your free Weebly site is limited to a Weebly.com subdomain which means that your blog’s URL will look something like this: http://myawesomeblog.weebly.com.
2.) Weebly places its own ads on every page of your free site.
You won’t make any money from these clicks and, in fact, you won’t even see them on your analytics.
The good news is that the ads are only for Weebly’s products so you don’t have to worry about undesirable products or services being shown on your blog.
Of course, upgrading to a paid plan eliminates a lot of these downsides. Read on!
Weebly’s Premium Plans
If you want to do more with your website than just blogging, you can upgrade to a premium plan at any time. Going paid offers some significant rewards but can become a bit pricey on the high end.
Many hosting companies will give you the same services you get on Weebly’s Business and Business Plus plans for a much cheaper monthly price.
Who Are Weebly’s Paid Plans Ideal For?
As a result, we really can’t recommend those plans for bloggers unless they plan on adding a large store of products.
The Pro and Business plans are good choices for bloggers who want better support, their own domain name, or unlimited storage. Some important points to note about these two plans:
The Pro Plan ($12/month annually)
This plan begins to approach what you’d get from any other web hosting company. You get your own domain, ads are removed, you get unlimited storage, and the ability to add HD audio and video.
You can accept online payments and a shopping cart is included. However, you won’t get a fully-featured store as you would under the Business or Business Plus plans. So the Pro plan’s e-commerce features seem best suited for small groups, hobbyists, or small non-profits.
This plan also allows you to call Weebly’s tech support phone line when you get stuck and you’ll have $100 in Google ad credits to spend.
The Business Plan ($25/month annually)
This plan is listed as being for “small businesses and stores.” It includes a solid feature-set of e-commerce tools, like inventory management, automatic tax calculator, coupon codes, and various ways to display products.
It also has some nice marketing options like integrated Facebook ads and popups.
Is Either Paid Plan Truly Worth It?
Keep in mind that although we’re saying that Weebly’s hosting can be a bit more expensive vs. other hosts, Weebly’s main selling point is it’s easy to use website builder.
They put a lot of research and programming into the drag-and-drop builder so that’s really what you’re paying for.
Now we’re going to take you through the mega-list of all features that Weebly offers.
We will tell you which ones are free and which ones require premium plans and further discuss whether each feature is relevant to bloggers.
The full feature list we cover below includes:
- Drag-and-drop sitebuilder
- SEO optimization
- Blogging tool
- Category widgets
- Weebly Apps
- Responsive blogging
Weebly’s Drag-and-Drop Website Builder [All Plans]
Weebly’s front end is a website builder that lets you intuitively create a website or a blog by dragging and dropping elements onto a blank canvas.
You can make the design yours and tweak it how you like. The virtual “containers” that you drag and drop are called Elements.
How Do Elements Work?
The way it looks on the builder is exactly the way your site will look to visitors when you hit “publish.”
They can hold whatever content you like including:
- Text (like blog posts)
- Embedded code
- Dividers and spacers
- Slideshows and galleries
Weebly also offers some flashy bits with their builder that would be difficult to program by yourself on a traditional website or a WordPress blog.
Images and Design
For example, you can add images and modern color designs for your blog’s background — or even video that plays in the background of your pages (Weebly has a free video library).
These design features can add a professional touch to your Weebly site as long as you don’t get carried away to the point they’re distracting to your reader.
Weebly’s website builder also allows you to create customized headers on your pages that can include almost anything you like, including slideshows or dynamic content.
Weebly Makes SEO Easy [All Plans]
One outstanding feature from Weebly is that on all its plans (including the free plan), you get help adding key SEO elements to make it easier for your blog to be discovered.
You get fields for things like:
- Site description
- Meta keywords
- Google Analytics tracking codes
- Google Webmaster Tools
- 301 redirects
How Do These SEO Aids Work?
These SEO aids give Weebly an advantage over many of its competitors. Let’s look at the fields you can fill in to help your SEO results.
Each of your Weebly pages gets an SEO form like the one below. They essentially save you from having to code technical stuff like:
<Title>, <meta name="description" content=""/>, and <meta name="keywords" content="" />
The SEO Fields Explained
Let’s walk through how each of Weebly’s fields helps your blog and website get found by readers.
- Page Title – This is the name of this particular page on your site. The page title is displayed on browser tabs and it also has a direct impact on search results — so don’t name a page “Dog Days” if you’re writing about cats.
- Page Permalink – Here you get to define the actual URL of each page. You should use keywords to describe the content to help readers find it. Naming blog posts with keywords instead of “post-103” or dates like “November-03-2019,” will help visitors find you.
- Page Description – Write a couple of sentences about the content on this page. This is the information that appears in search results just below the page’s name. “Learn how to teach your dog to surf in 6 weeks with tips from pros, suggestions for gear, and how to make sure your dog is having a blast.”
- Meta Keywords – These are the words you want people to type in the search box to find your content. For the previous post, you might put enter keywords like, “dog surfing, how to train a dog to surf, surfing gear for dogs.” Weebly allows for as many keywords as you like.
- Footer Code – Here you can add some links to other posts that might be relevant to the reader of the current post.
- Header Code – You probably won’t use this one much, but if you’re HTML savvy, you can add additional meta information in this field.
In most cases, Weebly offers tooltips to help you understand what each SEO field does and why you’d want to add this information.
SEO settings are available on all plans, including the free plan.
Blogging on Weebly [All Plans]
When you sign up for Weebly, you’re taken through a wizard that asks you what type of site you want to build.
You simply choose “Blog” and then pick out a theme. There are only eight blogging themes, but they have are slick and professional looking.
Weebly Themes and Customization [All Plans]
Weebly stands up to its competitors with hundreds of professionally designed themes you can apply to your site for free. You can choose your own color schemes, too.
Weebly’s initial website setup wizard walks you through choosing and applying a theme. If you make a change from one theme to another, your website and blog stay intact and nothing gets bungled in the changeover.
Adjusting Your Theme’s Design Elements
You might be wondering, “Can I monkey with my Weebly theme’s design elements after I pick a theme?” The answer is yes! Let’s walk through the process.
After choosing a design template the wizard, you can change your site’s colors and fonts or switch to a different theme any time you like.
You can import your own theme or one you’ve purchased elsewhere.
Weebly allows you to add bits of HTML code and adjust the style sheets (CSS) but it won’t let you go hog-wild within the frameworks of the themes they provide.
How to Import and Customize Your Own Theme
If you’re coming to Weebly from another blogging or website platform and you like your existing theme, you can import it to Weebly! Here’s how to do it.
- Export your existing theme to a .ZIP file. (Weebly expects the theme files to be standardized into a directory structure — e.g., styles must be in a file called main_style.css. This shouldn’t be an issue for most theme exports.)
- Go to the Design tab on Weebly’s editor. Click Change Theme > Import Theme.
- Your theme will be uploaded as a choice in your Weebly Design dashboard.
- So, go back to the Design tab and this time click Change Theme > Custom Themes.
- Click Choose to apply your theme. You can also Edit your theme from this section.
Category Widgets [All Plans]
One of the coolest things about Weebly for bloggers is the ability to create gallery widgets that feature posts only from specific categories.
You can use it to feature any posts you like as long as you’ve created a category for them.
It can be a nifty way for creators to highlight their portfolio by creating a blog post for each of your works and then creating a category to feature on one of these gallery-style widgets.
Instant Translation [All Plans]
A sweet feature for bloggers with an international audience is the instant translation into 15 languages — even if you don’t speak them!
All your reader needs to do is choose their language from the top drop-down and presto-change-o, there’s a Google translation of your post! This is the future we were promised, right?
Languages supported for site translation include Chinese, German, Spanish, French, Italian, Portuguese, Dutch, Swedish, Japanese, Polish, Norwegian, Danish, Russian, and Turkish.
Weebly Apps [All Plans]
Adding additional blog functionality with Weebly’s app store is a bit easier than going it alone with some of the more complicated WordPress plugins.
Some desirable blog functionality automatically comes with your Weebly site.
Adding Facebook comments and automated marketing emails are as simple as dragging a widget anywhere on a page, post, or your blog’s sidebar.
You can also open an online store or accept donations through PayPal.
But Weebly also offers hundreds of additional apps that work similar to the way plugins work on WordPress. Weebly’s apps come in free, paid, and freemium versions.
Some free apps come integrated with your blog as soon as you get set up. For example, you can allow your readers to create memberships, add on additional contributors, or lock up your blog with a password.
Other free or freemium apps of interest to bloggers include:
- Facebook “Like” button
- Tables and tabbed pages
- Visit counter
- Events calendar
- Appointment booking
Weebly also offers paid apps from third parties that require either a one-time fee or an ongoing subscription:
- Real-time Chat
- Layout customization
- Community forums
- Testimonial sliders
- Advanced SEO help
Weebly E-Commerce With an Online Store [Pro, Business, Business Plus Plans]
While it’s not strictly a blogging concern, Weebly offers a simple way to help monetize your blog by opening an online store. You can even open an online store (up to 10 items) with Weebly’s free blog plan!
The best part is that opening your store alongside your blog just takes a few clicks.
How Much Will It Cost Me To Set Up a Store?
Even if you’re not ready to monetize, keep Weebly’s e-commerce capabilities in mind because later you might want to take advantage of how easy it is to add a store with Weebly.
Weebly offers a series of e-commerce plans too.
You can sell almost anything.
You will need the:
Pro plan ($12/month annually) to start with (25 products, 3% transaction fee) and if you want to sell digital items like ebooks, you should get the:
Business plan ($25/month annually, unlimited products, no transaction fees).
What Does Weebly’s Store Offer?
Here’s an overview of Weebly’s online store offerings.
- Full-service shopping cart and check out – No need for third-party apps or plug-ins. Sell physical products, services, or digital goods.
- Full store management – Inventory, merchandising, SEO optimizable product pages, coupons, promotions, gift cards, mobile store management apps for iOS and Android. You can also import an existing store from Etsy, Shopify, or CSV.
- Transactional support – payment, tax, and shipping options; abandoned cart and transaction emails.
- User experience features – filtered product searches, mobile shopping optimization, products integrated with your blog content.
- Marketing – Drag-and-drop email campaigns to up to 500 contacts.
Mobile Blogging [All Plans]
Your Weebly blog won’t tie you to your desk. You can blog any time you like and even respond to comments with apps for iOS and Android phones and tablets.
You can also edit your site’s other elements like themes or product pages while mobile.
Security and Backups [All Plans]
Weebly doesn’t offer much information about their security setup other than the SSL certificate that comes with all plans.
There’s a lot we don’t know about Weebly behind the scenes – they don’t provide information on their data centers, malware protection, or privacy controls.
They claim that sites are protected against DDoS attacks, but they offer no details in support of this claim. In fact, they aren’t very forthcoming about which SSL certificate they provide other than it offers 128-bit encryption.
Backups Are Done By You
Backups with Weebly are also an issue. You must initiate backups yourself manually — there’s no automatic backup option, even on the higher-priced plans.
For bloggers, in particular, backups are problematic. Although you can export your blog’s RSS feed, there’s no way to import blog posts back into Weebly either.
Additionally, even if you do back up your site, there’s no easy way to restore it yourself.
It’s possible (but not confirmed) that if you have a Pro, Business, or Business Plus plan with phone support, you can call Weebly’s customer support techs to help get your site restored.
Weebly Backups Compared to the Competition
Weebly’s competitor Wix significantly owns Weebly in the backup department by offering easy rollbacks based on time published with a click.
Another competitor, Squarespace, is comparable to Weebly’s in that you must export your own content in order to save it and no easy way to import it back in.
Uptime and Money-Back Guarantee
Weebly doesn’t offer a lot of information about their uptime status. However, you can subscribe to their incident logs to keep tabs on them.
You can also use the tool to scroll back in time to see previous incidents of which, fortunately, there aren’t a lot.
No Money-Back Guarantee
Weebly’s terms and conditions do not offer a money-back guarantee. They appear to rely on their free plan to help customers avoid getting into a situation in which they’d want their money back.
However, some customers have asked for their money back via Weebly’s community forums and have received favorable replies.
It’s probable that Weebly would also reply kindly to emails and phone calls with the same type of requests.
Billing and Refunds
Weebly pushes customers to sign up for plans paid in 1-year chunks. Recently, however, they’ve added the option to pay month-to-month, at a significant markup.
For example, the cheapest paid plan is $4/month billed annually but it’s $7/month if you pay as you go.
Weebly offers flexibility for your blog’s domain. You can purchase a domain directly from Weebly, use one that you already own, or use Weebly’s free subdomain while you get the hang of the platform.
Customer Service and Support
Customer service is at the same level across Weebly’s plans with options for email and chat ticket submissions or access to the community forum. Their online help is spotty.
In some cases, they offer granular, step-by-step instructions on their website documentation, but in other situations, you are left alone to quiz the folks in the forum.
Paid Plan Support
The only improvement you get with support is with a paid plan and that is the ability to call and talk to a tech support.
Support comes in slightly fewer languages than site translation: Chinese, German, Spanish, French, Italian, Portuguese, Dutch, Swedish, and Japanese.
Alternative Website Builders
As we’ve seen above, Weebly offers an acceptable platform for basic blogging.
Although it offers some intriguing SEO and monetization options, it does have some glaring weaknesses, especially as bloggers gain more experience and grow their audience.
In particular, Weebly’s “black box” approach to security and backups can be a deal-breaker for some bloggers.
Wix backs up your site automatically and offers one-click restore points on a timeline.
Wix also gives bloggers the option to display your Twitter feed or add chat functionality to your site.
Squarespace comes with free Getty image searches which will automatically add attributions, saving most bloggers a lot of time hunting down that perfect image.
Squarespace also integrates with a popular third-party blogging app like Disqus comments and MailChimp mailing lists.
SiteGround is a full-service hosting provider that offers great technical support for bloggers who want to use WordPress.
Combine Siteground’s low monthly fee with WordPress 5.0’s new drag-and-drop interface and you might like it better than more restrictive website builders like Weebly.
You can also check out our comparison of several other popular website builders and how they might work for bloggers (or not, as the case may sometimes be).
How long can I keep my Weebly free website?
Keep it as long as you like. There’s no expiration date on Weebly’s free plan.
Can I add my own code snippets to my Weebly site or blog?
Yes. Weebly has widgets that allow you to insert custom HTML or CSS.
Do I need a credit card to try out Weebly’s free plan?
Nope. Just an email address!
Can I host my domain elsewhere and use Weebly as an interface?
No. Weebly is a web host. You can purchase your domain name elsewhere, but the hosting and the DNS will point to Weebly.
Can I host an existing domain with Weebly?
Yes. Weebly has specific instructions for how to do this for many popular domain registrars.
Should I care about SEO as a blogger?
Absolutely. SEO is the way that Google and other search engines find your blog’s content.
If I pay for the cheapest premium plan (Pro plan, $12/month annually), will Weebly’s ads go away?
Yes, the cheapest paid plan, called the “Pro” plan, is ad-free.
What other website builders can I compare to Weebly for blogging?
Check out our comparison of several other popular website builders to see how they stack up for bloggers.
Should I integrate my Weebly blog with Facebook?
That’s between you and your conscience, dear reader.
You compared Weebly to a taxi and a commuter train. What about Lyft or Uber?
I think this driving metaphor may be getting hard to follow.
Although you might not think of Weebly first, it offers bloggers flexibility and ease of setup that’s appropriate for beginners.
If you’ve been considering a blog, but you dread the thought of wrestling with WordPress or Joomla because you think the learning curve is too steep, Weebly might be a good choice to get you into the game quicker.