Most of these products or services let you customize the appearance of your blog, moderate comments, add widgets and do other bloggish things.
They're appealing because they make you feel like a pro -- you're managing a brand. You're "curating" content. You're "designing" a website. It feels like your own personal publishing empire.
The problem is that bells and whistles can distract you from the reason you're blogging in the first place. In fact, they can get in the way, creating a psychological wall of separation between you and your readers, and preventing you from growing your audience as big as you could.
Why do you blog?
There are all kinds of reasons to blog: To share your thoughts and opinions with anyone who might be interested, to get feedback on those ideas, to influence people, to cultivate a community, to start interesting conversations, to practice writing and to teach, learn and grow.
Those are the reasons I blog, and probably why 99% of all blogs were started.
In olden days (five years ago), blogs were "open" and social networks were "closed."
Blogs let you put your ideas out on the wild, untamed Internet for all to see. Social networks, on the other hand, were "walled gardens." Blog posts were public; social networks were private.
In the past year, that situation has essentially reversed, although many bloggers haven't realized it.
The social networks have knocked down the garden walls, encouraging public posts accessible to anyone, even if they're not "friends" and even if they're not members of the social network.
Social sharing has become the de facto way for people to discover content.
Now, if you want to really promote your blog posts, you've got to promote them on social networks. Why? Because social sites like Facebook, Reddit and Pinterest are where the viral sharing of content takes place.
In fact, people now have so much content in their social streams that they're less likely to click over to that blog post. So posting on blogs, then promoting it on social networks, doesn't work as well as it used to.
If you post something on a blog, fewer people are likely to find it. It's like nailing a printout of your post on a tree in the forest.
Hybrid sites that combine social networking features with blogging, such as Tumblr and Twitter, are a step in the right direction (especially Tumblr, because it's a real blogging platform and it lacks Twitter's character limit).
If Tumblr is a small step, then Google+ is a giant leap.
As is the case with Tumblr, people who discover your Google+ blog can follow or "circle" you. But follower growth happens faster on Google+ for several reasons. First, people share more actively -- by clicking two buttons, anyone can repost what you posted to all of their followers. If enough people do that, your post could make it to the Google+ "What's Hot" list, and a million people might read it.
Second, your readers can share you as part of a circle. Good bloggers end up on circles that are shared and reshared -- circles with names like "Technology Women" or "Home Beer Brewers" or "Foodies." Once you start getting shared in these circles, it never stops, it only grows and grows, as more people add the circle and reshare it themselves.
Blogging on Google+ sets you free. You can write entries of nearly unlimited length and post an unlimited number of pictures. Readers can click a button to discuss your post in a Hangout (a group video chat). You can edit, re-edit, share, reshare and link to anything (including Google+ Search or Google Search). You can narrow the readership of your post if you want by simply addressing it to circles rather than "Public." You can toggle commenting on and off, delete comments, mute or block users and much more.
Blogging on Google+ has become popular with the Internet's biggest tech bloggers, including publishing mogul Tim O'Reilly, technology evangelist Robert Scoble, marketing genius Guy Kawasaki and Digg founder, angel investor and serial entrepreneur Kevin Rose.