When it comes to technology, there are two basic kinds of blogs: hosted and self-hosted:
- A hosted blog resides on someone else’s server. You don’t have to get your own hosting to publish this type of blog and there are several hosted blogging services available, including Blogger, TypePad, Live Journal and WordPress.com. Many hosted blog services are free, others charge a nominal fee.
- A self-hosted blog resides on your server (or that of your hosting service). Basically, you secure the hosting and install the blogging software, such as WordPress or Moveable Type.
The question, then, becomes which type of blogging platform will be best for your business? Choosing which blogging platform to use is one of the most important decisions that you can make for your solo entrepreneur business. And, there are different opinions on which is the right choice. In this post, I’m going to share with you my thoughts on the matter.
It is my opinion that if you want your website to appear professional, you should secure your own paid hosting. And this is why: An ineffective blogging program can damage your image, as well as your marketing opportunities. When your website’s URL clearly shows that you are being hosted by a free blogging platform, it sends a message that you are not willing to invest in your business. This may be a subtle message, but is it there.
So, I ask, if you are not willing to invest in your business, why should anyone else?
Free blog hosting services may be popular, but they are much more appropriate for individual online journals than business website platforms.
Another reason is flexibility and control of your website. Many free blogging services limit what you can do with your blog. They may have restrictions on the type of content you can have. They may limit the functionality you can have and more. You may not need that flexibility and control now, but you will as your business grows. And, it is far easier to work with a system that allows for this growth, than to have to transfer all your content later!
And what about branding? Don’t you want your website to be an expression of your unique brand? When you used hosted blog sites, you are often limited to a handful of templates that you can only modify in certain ways. How does that help your website express your brand? Do you really believe that your business is enough like everyone else’s that you can afford to use a cookie-cutter template? Do you want your business to be seen that way?
That said, there are times when starting off with a free blogging site is a good way to go. When your business is new and fresh and you are just testing out if you can build a following is a great time to use a hosted site. That way you don’t have to invest in what might turn out to be a losing venture for you.
Free blog hosting sites are great incubators for your new ideas. Also, for first-time bloggers, using the free, hosted version of blogging software is a great way for you to play around with the back end and get used to using the software. I often recommend that my clients play around with a free WordPress.com blog before they take the plunge with their own, hosted, WordPress.org blog.
Once you’ve decided to host your own blog, you’ll need to choose a hosting service. Many people immediately think of GoDaddy, which I use for one of my blogs. I’ve found their customer service to be decent and I haven’t had any problems with downtime. However, their back-end interface is not that user friendly and I often get lost, myself. So, I switched to 1&1.com. They are inexpensive and so, so easy to navigate! I love working with them. Their customer service is, at times, inconsistent, but I’ve been happy with them and have all my other websites hosted there.
There are also hosting companies that make it very easy to install WordPress and other blogging platforms. HostGator comes to mind. But I haven’t needed all they offer, so the investment wasn’t worth it to me. You should take a look at your options and see which service best meets your particular needs and skill level.
Then, you need to choose your blogging software. Of course, I recommend WordPress. It is very flexible, relatively easy to learn, and has a host of developers working on ways to increase it’s functionality. But it isn’t the only game in town and, again, you should look at your options and choose the one that best meets your needs.