There is a world of difference between the two blogging platforms, but there is nothing wrong with using free blogging sites. They are simple to use, they look cute, and they serve a purpose. In fact, I used to have a free blog on blogger.com and I was very happy with it because it served my purposes at the time. Besides, I didn’t know any different. I even recommended it to others and we all had a great time blogging.
In fact, I think they are a great service, AND I am a huge fan of them, with one exception: businesses should not be using a free blogging platform.
What Are Free Blogging Sites?
They are sites where you can create an account and become a member for free. Your blog becomes a sub domain blog, meaning that there is a main domain and you are a secondary blog on that domain. Everything you do on your site, affects and benefits the main domain.
Some examples of free blogging sites (platforms) are blogger.com and WordPress.com. They are really great because there is very little technical knowledge required in setting them up. Basically, you create an account, choose a template, and start writing. For those of you who are looking to stay connected with family, write about your life, or connect with others around a hobby or any other non-business related activity, you cannot beat the free blogging sites.
Well Then, What Is the Problem?
Some of the less serious problems with free blogging sites are that there can be a lot of spam, and they usually offer very little bandwidth, customization, or template choice.
On a more serious note, if you decide later to change to another site, you will have to change your blog name as you cannot take a name.blogsite.com type of domain name with you. You will also lose your established traffic and people will have to find you once again.
Speaking of traffic, (which affects your ranking on the internet) all of the traffic you have generated by your hard work at blogging only benefits the host, meaning that you do not get any ranking in the search engines for this traffic you have built up.
You have no control over the advertising on your free site (and there will be advertising), and if there is any money generated by the ads, you do not get to keep it.
Finally, and probably the most serious of all, is that the blog is never really yours.
As I am most familiar with the WordPress.org platform, I will use it to show the differences between free and self-hosted platforms.
How Does It Benefit Me To Use A Self Hosted Site?
First and foremost, you own the blog. You can do what you wish with it, including building it into a blogging machine and selling it.
Since self hosted blogs are extremely search engine friendly, all the traffic that is generated by your blogging and attracting visitors to your site is now yours. Your traffic helps you to get rankings in the search engines because each blog entry alerts the search engines to go to your site to “crawl it” for new content, thus building traffic due to the higher rankings, and around and around it goes.
You can look like a real pro with your own email address at your own domain name. You maintain your branding, build legitimacy, and you are taken seriously.
If you choose to have Pay Per Click (PPC) advertising like Google AdWords on your site, you get to keep the money, because basically you choose what goes on in your domain.
I think that the absolutely most beneficial aspect to a self hosted blog platform like WordPress.org is that you can customize it and make it your “website”. That’s right—no more spending lots of money on having a website built. No more charges for updating content on your site. No more waiting to have the updates completed. You can do it all yourself!
How? You Ask
I won’t go into a lot of details about the technical aspect of it, but you will have to trust me that you can do it if you choose to.
Basically, you activate the WordPress.org software at your host site. You find and upload a template, and then activate plug-ins (these make your site functional).
Now you are ready to go. You go to your browser and type your new address into the address bar. You will log in to your new site at the “dashboard” where all the controls are. You activate your plug-ins and widgets, create some pages, and upload any graphics, video, and content you wish to have on your site. Sort it all and arrange it how you like and you are ready to blog.
The dashboard is very easy to work in so every time you want to add content, you log in there, use some drop down menus to choose what it is you want to do whether add a new page, or blog about your business, and then you do it.
You can create pages such as “About Us”, “Our Products”, “Contact Us”, “Blog”, and so on, just like a traditional website. Some pages can remain static if you like and some can be changed daily. Your blog posts will always go to your blog page though.
Of course this is the simple view of having a self hosted site, but it isn’t much more difficult than that. You may need some assistance figuring out how to upload to the host site, and maybe even in activating the plug-ins, but very few people would have problems writing and publishing their blog posts, and that I know for sure. Additionally, if you have purchased hosting with a really good hosting company, their support team will be willing to help you with the uploads.
Note: hosting companies will not support your WordPress site itself, but they will host help you get your site up on the net.
To get my blog up and running, I needed to purchase a domain name. This is like purchasing an address for yourself on the internet. Mine is thesavvyva.com, and while I was at it, I also bought the .net, .org, and .ca since they are inexpensive and are counted as assets to my business anyway. This also protects me in the future from someone else purchasing these domains to:
- try to pose as me by creating a similar business with the similar domain names
- hold them hostage for the day when I decide I need to purchase those domains as well (at an overinflated price of course)
The value of domain names is that you can choose one that is relevant to your business. For example, if you are a VA, then you want your domain name to suggest that you are a VA. Your own domain gives the look and feel of a professional, gives you legitimacy, and stays in line with your branding.
Once you have your domain name, you will need to do some research on the subject of hosting. Your ideal host may in fact be the same place you purchased your domain name, but not always. Not all hosts are created equal; in fact, there are huge differences between offerings by different companies. For one, since I am using WordPress.org as my example, I would want to know that they support WordPress (and many don’t). Other examples of differences between what companies offer are:
- how many domains can be pointed, parked, and hosted there (and included in the price)
I know I have given you a very condensed version of the difference between free and self-hosted blog platforms, but I hope it has cleared up any confusion about them. Again, I love free sites. They are fun and can be very useful for social blogging. My recommendation is that if you are in business, you really need to get onto a self hosted platform.