Why Free Hosted Websites are an Invitation to FAIL!
News Flash! News Flash! Blogging is for everyone!
Whether you call it a blog, an online journal, or simply a website, the “phenomenon” of blogging has gone mainstream. It used to be that if a business didn’t have a website, they were “old-school”. Now, if that same business is not blogging on a consistent basis, they are going to be passed up by the “mom and pop” competitor who understands the power of blogging and social media marketing for their online business.
Maybe your goal isn’t to run an online business. Maybe you’re just a mom who’s just keeping track of family pictures and events.
Maybe you just want to have a voice, be heard, share ideas, or simply rant about the political dilemmas of our nation.
A blog is an amazing way to share your opinion, to keep track of your family history, and to connect with others all over the world who feel the same way (or completely the opposite way) as you do. A blog can be a simple way to make a little money online with very little out of pocket expenses.
There are really two main options when it comes to blogging – Free Hosted blogs (blogger.com, wordpress.com) and Self-Hosted blogs (installing free custom wordpress software on your own domain name and having complete control of the content). Both options can be very useful; however, it’s time to face the reality that “there’s no such thing as FREE lunch”…or “FREE BLOG” for that matter.
Before I get in to details, though, about why a Free hosted blog is a red-flag and why you should have a self-hosted blog, read this “horror story” about what happened to a good friend of mine who had been using a free hosted blog for a few years:
The FREE Blog Horror Story – “It’s Gone!”
This is a case study from a famous Utah blogger, Janet Meiners Thaeler, who has been published and has presented at a variety of business conferences:
About 6 years ago I started a blog at newspapergrl.wordpress.com to talk about internet marketing. I built up a strong following and search engine rankings. I put my heart into it. Then one day it was gone. My readers started to tell me they couldn’t find my blog. It was true, it was a broken link. I had no warning and no recourse.
Luckily I had imported most of the content onto my new blog at www.newspapergrl.com. However, I couldn’t import the comments, and the search engine rankings were gone. I happened to know someone who works for WordPress and contacted him to try to get my blog back. A lot of my friends were mad and asked them to bring it back. I eventually got it back online. But it was short lived. Yes, it got deleted again.
When I asked what happened, the response was it violated the terms and conditions of WordPress. It came down to ONE link they considered spammy – to an article directory that wasn’t spammy when I linked to it. Also, they said my blog was promotional. I was pretty mad. I didn’t know better and didn’t have the technical know then to install my own blog with its own domain name. There were no easy installs.
So I gave up and just focused on my new web site. I have never gotten the page rank as high though. As bad luck would have it I set up a client on WordPress years later because it was less technical for her to learn. After countless hours and posts all 3 of her WordPress blogs got deleted too. (I should have learned from my own mistake…)
Learn from my frustration: don’t use the free WordPress blog at www.wordpress.com. Buy your own hosting (which usually comes with a FREE domain) and install WordPress.org. Many web hosts like Bluehost have simple installs – just call for them to walk you through it. The $7 a month or so is worth it so you don’t have what happened to me happen to you.
One other reminder – once you get WordPress on a self-hosted account, make sure you update it to the latest version. I went for over 6 months without updating it (I had a good reason). I had to find and hire an expert because of all the imports I’d done meant that I almost lost all the content again.
Here’s how blogger explains Janet’s problem:
If your blog is disabled, it will be listed on your Dashboard, but you will not be able to click on it to access it. If this is the case, there will be a grace period during which you can request that it be reviewed and recovered. The disabling is a result of our automated classification system marking it as spam. Because this system is automated there will necessarily be some false positives, though we’re continually working on improving our algorithms to avoid these. If your blog is not a spam blog, then it was one of the false positives, and we apologize.
Does this make sense?
Has it been stated clearly?
If you are serious, or even semi-serious, about doing something worthwhile online, avoid Free hosted websites like the plague!
To explain the title of this article even more, let me give you a bit of education about Free Hosted blogs & websites vs. Self-Hosted blogs & websites.
What’s a Free Hosted Website?
“Free Hosted” means you don’t have to pay for anything. No domain name fees, no hosting fees – NOTHING. It’s all just handed to you on a silver platter. Wikipedia defines “Free Hosted Websites” or “Free Web Hosting Services” as “offered by different companies with limited services, sometimes supported by advertisements, and often limited when compared to paid hosting.”
To some of you, this may sound like the end-all cure-all for a website. If that’s the way you feel, you obviously don’t understand the delusion of “something for nothing” – there’s NO.SUCH.THING!
There are three main blogging platforms that follow this model: Blogger.com, WordPress.com and Typepad.com.
Yes, they are all functional.
Yes, they may work for some.
But the true question is this:
What do you really want to do with your blog website?
Is your goal to make money blogging?
Do you want to establish a positive online reputation?
Are you looking to share a resume with potential employers?
Do you want to generate leads and new business to your brick and mortar store?
Do you actually want to be found by search engines like Google and Bing?
Or, are you simply blogging as a way to keep a journal and store family information?
Is all the time you’re putting in to storing that information worth losing in a heart beat?
If so, the Free Hosted Blog option is NOT FOR YOU!
What’s a Self Hosted Website?
“Self Hosted” means you pay a minimal fee (around $7.00 per month) for hosting and a domain name. That’s right, you get BOTH for that small fee.
The scope of hosting services varies widely. There are a few costs to a “self-hosted website”, but they are minimal for the benefits you get.
Here are a few details on specific self-hosted options according to Wikipedia: (I generally recommend the first option if you are just getting started)
- Shared web hosting service: one’s website is placed on the same server as many other sites, ranging from a few to hundreds or thousands. Typically, all domains may share a common pool of server resources, such as RAM and the CPU. The features available with this type of service can be quite extensive. A shared website may be hosted with a reseller.
- Reseller web hosting: allows clients to become web hosts themselves. Resellers could function, for individual domains, under any combination of these listed types of hosting, depending on who they are affiliated with as a reseller. Resellers’ accounts may vary tremendously in size: they may have their own virtual dedicated server to a collocated server. Many resellers provide a nearly identical service to their provider’s shared hosting plan and provide the technical support themselves.
Hopefully you have a better understanding of what the options are out there for running a legitimate website.
Now the Pros and Cons:
Benefits of a Free Hosted Website
- Is it really free if you lose all your content and have to start again?
- Is it really free if you can’t modify the look and functionality of the site very easily?
- Is it really free if you can’t use affiliate links or ad space without permission or without paying a price?
- Is it really free if the content you write really isn’t owned by YOU at the end of the day?
Downsides to a Free Hosted Website
- Free blogs are not very search engine friendly.
- Can’t customize Title Tags on all pages
- Can’t add landing pages
- Can’t modify friendly URLs
- Sub-domains, like yourname.blogspot.com,rarely (if ever) show up high in search engine results
- Often times, the home page is the main indexed page in search engine results
- Free blogs use a sub-domain.
- This hurts your credibility
- All the content you’re providing is actually “owned” by the main domain (blogger.com or wordpress.com), meaning they could turn it off at any time for any reason (see Janet’s case study above)
- Free blogs give you little to no online credibility.
- How many big, professional sites can you list that use blogger or wordpress.com? I can count them on one hand.
- Free blogs limit what you can and can’t do.
- In blogger, you have to be approved to use affiliate links within the Google Affiliate Network
- In wordpress.com, affiliate links aren’t accepted. Here’s what WordPress.com says:
- We have a feature called Ad Control that lets WordPress.com bloggers with a lot of traffic (generally 25,000 pageviews/month or more) and appropriate content turn on AdSense and Skimlinks for their blog and split the resulting revenues 50/50 with us. If you’d like to apply to try Ad Control, please use the form below to send us a message.
- Adsense, Yahoo, Chitika, TextLinkAds and other ads are not allowed on free WordPress.com blogs. If you would like to run ads on your blog, one of these options may work for you:
- Free blogs can be turned off at any time for any reason.
- There’s really no way to back up all your information unless you understand computer hacking and exporting…
Benefits of a Self-Hosted Websites
- Inexpensive: about $7.95 per month (all paid up front)
- Free Domain Name for life
- Unlimited add on domains
- Unlimited email accounts
- $50 worth of Google Adwords Credit
- Unlimited 24 hour access support via phone and chat
Bluehost is the Self-Hosted service I recommend. It comes with all the above features and benefits and even more!
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Before I finalize my RANT on Why Free Hosted Blogs SUCK, let’s see what others say about sites like Blogger and WordPress.com.
Feedback from Other Bloggers
Lisa Sabin-Wilson – Professional Blogger & Author of “WordPress for Dummies”
I don’t necessarily think a free, hosted solution (such as WordPress.com) is a waste of time; I think for the purposes of running a personal blog, this works fine. For business, however, I lean in other direction of self-hosting your own web site for several different reasons, here are my 3 top reasons:
- Legitimacy – if you’re running on a free solution (like Blogspot or WordPress.com) it sends a signal that you, maybe, don’t have staying power. Free blogs come and go easily. If you’ve invested in your own property on the web, its gives the impression (whether true or not) of a legitimate business willing to spend money in order to make money.
- Content – on a free solution, the company you are hosting with owns your content. If they go away tomorrow, what happens to your site? With a self-hosted solution, you have control over your own content – – this includes written content, images and any media files that are a part of your web site. You control the backup of your data, not someone else.
- Flexibility – more than likely, your business is going to want to take advantage of all the latest tools and features available for web sites. This may include such things as eCommerce, memberships, discussion forums, social media integration tools, etc. With a free solution, you are at the mercy of whatever tools they offer…for example, WordPress.com doesn’t allow their users to upload plugins or themes in order to fully customize and individualize their sites. However, with the self-hosted version of the WordPress.org software, you can customize to your hearts content by taking advantage of the thousands of plugins and themes that are currently available for use with WordPress – including creating your own
Hope that helps, Nate – thank you …
Jordan Kasteler – Expert Social Media Marketing and SEO Consultant
16:29 Jordan Kasteler: WordPress rocks if it’s self-hosted but a huge security risk. Especially w/added plugins that open up the code with vulnerabilities. Blogger.com sucks cuz you don’t own your own content since it’s hosted on blogger.com. Same thing with wordpress-hosted sites. If people want to blog on a hosted platform, Tumblr is great as it also adds the element of exposure, social networking, and virality
Mat Siltala – (on Twitter @Matt_Siltala)- Owner, Dream Systems Media
15:29 MollerMarketing: i’m doing an article on why Free Blog platforms suck – what would you tell people?
15:29 Mat Siltala: main reason is that you drive all those links, traffic, juice etc to another domain (rather than your own)
15:29 Mat Siltala: you want to build your own brand up
15:29 Mat Siltala: not someone elses
15:29 Mat Siltala: plus what happens if they decide to ban you
15:30 Mat Siltala: or remove you
15:30 Mat Siltala: its gone forever
15:30 Mat Siltala: when its yours … its yours
15:30 MollerMarketing: good call
Devin Eden – Professional Programmer, Eli Kirk
15:32 Devin Eden: The biggest downside is it is a way for someone else to capitalize off of you and your knowledge/personal information
Paul Barker – Online Business Owner and Consultant
15:35 Paul Barker: usually free, you have limits
15:36 Paul Barker: space limitations with blogger
15:36 Paul Barker: blogger doesn’t have the plug ins that wordpress has
Janet Meiner Thaeler – Professional Press Release Writer & Author of Book “I Have a Press Release, Now What?”
15:31 Nate Moller: hey janet!
15:31 Nate Moller: i’m doing an article on why Free Blog platforms suck – what would you tell people?
15:31 Nate Moller: i know you had some first hand experience
15:31 Janet Thaeler: that WordPress can delete your blog if they want to
15:31 Janet Thaeler: if it’s too promotional or has even one link they consider spammy
15:32 Janet Thaeler: happened to me and someone else – seems totally arbitrary too
15:32 Janet Thaeler: but overall you want to have control and build up content and branding on YOUR domain
15:32 Janet Thaeler: not on blogpost or wordpress
15:32 Nate Moller: could you tell me your story in two or three paragraphs?
15:32 Nate Moller: like the juicy details
15:33 Janet Thaeler: right now in chat?
15:33 Nate Moller: and how it pissed you off (pardon the language)
15:33 Janet Thaeler: it still pisses me off
15:33 Janet Thaeler: I lost a ton of traffic because of it
Brandon Buttars – Professional Website Designer
17:00 Buttars: google doesn’t rank them well
17:00 Buttars: proof google de-values otherwise blogger blogs would rank too.
17:00 Buttars: how often do you see that.
17:01 Buttars: so google would probably push results to blog search results instead too
Katie Freiling – Motivational Speaker and Expert Blogger
You’ve probably seen other blogging sites out there like Blogger and Blogspot, but they are NOT recommended. These sites are hosted and OWNED by Google and you do NOT want to put your fate into the hands of any external sources… They will have the power to take your blog away with a snap of a finger and you’ll have no way to get it back (This happened to me about a year ago). With WordPress.org, you host it and YOU own it 100%… It’s yours for life! Plus, WordPress.org has the most advanced, cutting edge programs, features, and functionality available for you to build into your blog. They reign supreme as the #1 choice for EVERY serious blogger and business owner. And I wouldn’t want you to have anything less than THE ABSOLUTE BEST.
If you haven’t been convinced by now that a Free Hosted Blog is just not the right way to go, let me summarize one more time with four main reasons to get a self-hosted website:
- Lack of Freedom & Control. With a free hosted blog, you lose flexibility with what you can put on your blog. This could be in terms of content, advertising positioning, and even design. There are ways to pay for upgraded services on your free host, something like $7 – $10 a month. This will allow you to do SOME things, but WHY don’t you just save yourself the headache and the risk and pay a hosting company $6.95 per month to do the very same thing on your own domain where you’re 100% in control? Even if you’re just blogging to share family pictures, what if, all of a sudden, Blogger decides to shut down or limit what you can do? Do you want to lose all that information and history like Janet did?
- Lack of Search Engine Friendliness. Not even Blogger (which is owned by Google) has a lot of sites that show up at the top of search engine results. Test it out – Go to Google right now and punch in your favorite keyword phrase. See any free hosted sites there? NOPE! Zero free hosted blogs again. Sure there are exceptions, but those exceptions have likely been online for 5 years or more, and it’s SO rare. (I showed these two examples because I have close friends who are free-lance photographers and a neighbor who wonders why she never gets new business through her Blogger business website…HMMM? Think this insight will hit home with them?)
- Lack of Income Opportunities. Sure, not everyone who starts a blog really cares about whether or not they make any money, but those people are few and far between. As the cliche states, “Time is Money!” At some point, everyone wants to at least make a few bucks a month off their blog. If you’re not willing to pay $6.95 a month to help you rise to the top of search engines, why should an advertiser or potential new client have ANY faith to pay you even $5.95 a month?
- Lack of Credibility. Think about it this way: imagine you’re walking down the street and you see two stores.
- Store A has clean, shiny windows that allow you to see into the store. The store owner is standing outside on the step in a well-tailored suit. He’s neatly groomed and is offering a 50% off sale on his products.
- Store B has flaking paint on the exterior walls. The wood around the windows is cracked, dry, and damaged. The store owner sits there in rags which probably came from the trash because they were “free”. He’s got greasy hair, is missing a front tooth, and is lunging at you as you pass trying to get you to come in and buy something for a rock-bottom price.Which store would you want to work with?
Some of you may be thinking, “This all makes sense but I have all this content on my “Free Blog” and I don’t know how I would get it all over to a “Self-Hosted Blog”? We can help with that! Others may wonder, “Where do I even start?” We can help with that too! Finally, you may ask, “Which, of all that hosting services, should I use?” Yep, we’re here to walk you through that as well or even do it for you!
BLUEHOST is the solution we recommend.
The bottom line is, you need to get a self-hosted solution YESTERDAY so you have the freedom, control, search engine friendliness, income opportunity, and credibility that you know will take your online blog to the next level! We look forward to helping you through this process!
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Other Sources on Why Blogs Need Self Hosting: