I hope my notes will help you to find a reliable blog engine and theme. When I searched for them I found many things I would have been like to know in advance.
My goals were
• The blog engine should be ready and easy to use.
• Other people should be able to find me easily, in other words the blog should be search engine friendly.
• I should have the complete control of my blog.
In particular, I should be able to move it to another host provider without loosing may page rank in the search engines if needed.
I turned out that it is very difficult if not impossible to achieve all the three goals. The companies behind the reliable blogs engines seem try to incorporate your blog into their servers. After you are incorporated it becomes very difficult to move to another provider.
Since the blog should be search engine friendly, they should know its structure, in other words it should be well known blog engine. I quickly narrowed my search to three: WordPress (Automattic Inc), Blogger (Google) and Movable Type (Six Apart).
Form the three Google blog engines the Blogger would have been the best choice were I able to move it easily to another host if needed. But it is the service, so I cannot. Besides I already have my site with reasonably good Google page rank so I hoped that hosting my blog on my established site will make my blog easier to find for the search engines.
My provider suggested installing and supporting Movable Type for only $3 / month. They have a good reason. Movable Type is faster than WordPress because it sends the static pages to the browser and the sever can cache them. The faster the blog the faster Search Engines index its pages.
However I looked for the Google trend and it was so in favour of WordPress that I decided to use Word Press. The most used software should be the most tested and hence the most reliable. Besides, I read that Word Press has the plugin to cache (I should have known better!).
I indeed installed WordPress very easily (it was their famous five minute installation).
Then I decided to modify their default theme (Kubrick) and felt that it might be buggy or inconsistent. I had from the start several widgets in the taskbar but the theme setup showed no widgets. When I moved one widget to the sidebar I indeed got this widget but all other disappeared and I had to move them by hand back again.
I began to suspect that something is wrong because the old and tested (default!) theme should not behave like this. So I decided to change the theme for more reliable, may be even to buy.
Of course WordPress has nearly thousand of free themes but here is the problem. How can I compare the thousand themes and decide, which is reliable? Remember, the buggy theme may diminish your search engine rank drastically.
So I decided, may be I could buy the theme from Automattic, the company behind the WordPress. It turned out that I cannot. I should be incorporated with them first. In other words I should use their services or move my site to their server to get their themes.
Than I again began to wonder how it could happen that the default WordPress theme seems inconsistent in its behaviour. I looked in the source html code that produces this page and found the reference to the theme author (Michael Heilemann). It turned out that he is not support and develop Kubrick anymore and suggest K2 instead that he develops now with Chris J Davis, Zeo, Steve Lam and Ben Sherratt.
So I decided that if a person made a reliable theme once very probably his other theme is also good. I installed K2 and feel refreshing. However I would not say that it is a regular way to find a reliable theme.
Then I had a tough choice for the plugin to cache the pages and speed up Word Press. Naturally Automattic have also solved this problem for the incorporated users but I still struggled to stay free
Again I have at least four plugins and began to figure out which is the most reliable. It turned out that it was not a waste of time. It seems that only Hyper-Cache works well with the Google AdSense. So I installed the Hyper Cache and it seems work, though it remains to find out whether it really speed up the page fetching It seems so but I have not measured yet.
The bottom line is that all the companies behind the reliable blog engines want you to be incorporated and unless you are not incorporated you must study the soft and program yourself to make the engine work reliably.
It seems that the challenge for the open source community to make the blog software that works out of the box and search engine friendly still exists.
Or may be I have overlooked something?