Free Blogs Vs. Hosting Your Own Blog

effective-bloggingOne of the first decisions an organization needs to make about its blog is seemingly small but could have big repercussions: should you host a blog on your own website under the organization’s domain name, or use one of the free blog sites? There is no universal right choice. There are pros and cons to each option to consider for immediate and long-term blog success.

Pros and cons of free blog sites

You’ll find many choices if you’re looking for a free blog site. Some of the best known are Blogger (powered by Google), WordPress, LiveJournal…

Advantages of free blog sites

- The most obvious benefit to having a blog on a “no charge” platform is that it is free.

- A second benefit is the speed and ease of launching a blog that is provided by free blog sites. You can launch a blog in a matter of minutes with tools like Blogger.com.

- Third, free blog sites are also easy to use. Even the least experienced webbie can launch, post, and publish content (including videos and pictures). See Figure 5.2 for an example of a free blog built on Blogger.com that matches the look and feel of its websites.

Santa Barbara Luxury Rentals uses the free Blogger platform but designed the layout so that it expressed stronger brand and design similarity to their website.

Disadvantages of free blog sites

There are some downsides to using free blog sites. First, the URL has the name of the free site or “blog” included in the name, which can be tough to verbalize if you are trying to tell someone the blog address for them to remember.

Although you can link to your blog from your main website, if the blog isn’t hosted on your site, when users leave your website to visit your blog, they are on a different destination, which is a usability point to ponder. The URL of a free blog is often longer, less attractive, tougher to remember, and lives on a destination other than your website. Example: http://webmarketingtherapy .blogspot.com/ (free blog site) versus http://www.webmarketingtherapy.com/ blog (hosted on main website, all under one umbrella).

Another negative is that the free templates offered can be limiting. Marketers are usually limited to a certain structure, have to pay to get advanced templates, or have to hire a web designer who is HTML-savvy to help further customize the blog’s design.

Blogs that are on free blog sites do not live on the main company website, so all the content being added and indexed is “credited” to the free blog site. This could offset results, if optimizing the main website is the goal. Some companies use free blog sites as a separate SEO strategy that ultimately links to the main website, but if optimizing a main company website where having all the search-friendly content under one domain is the priority, then it may be worth considering building a blog into the main site.

Another factor to consider is that a blog on a free site can be shut down if for any reason the blog site doesn’t want to keep your blog live. Access can be denied if the blog site feels that you are violating any blog policies. For example, some users only use free blog sites to build key-phrase links to help boost search engine optimization for another site, which flags the account. Free blog providers can deny a blogger access if they choose. Hosting a blog on a main domain gives marketers more control over content.

Pros and cons of hosting a blog on your own domain

Hosting a blog on your own domain is not necessarily more expensive. In fact, you can still use software from free blogging platforms like WordPress but have the blog hosted on your main website server. It adds a level of company connection by having the blog live under one company umbrella. This tactic can create ease of user experience, streamlined website management, and enhanced brand affiliation.

Advantages of hosting a blog on your own domain

Having a blog on your own domain creates a seamless correlation between blog and brand. If you are on a company website then a simple click on blog will bring readers to all the blog’s content. The ongoing content being added to the blog is indexed by the search engines under one domain, creating more pages to index and a more visually attractive and easy-to-communicate URL.

There is also a greater level of customization. Free blog sites tend to be very template-structured for ease of management, whereas blogs hosted on a main domain can give more flexibility in structure, design, and placement.

Disadvantages of hosting a blog on your own domain

Whether a company has a single blogger, or dozens of bloggers, when a blog lives on a main domain, the content has a direct connection to the company and brand. Although nine out of ten companies want this strong connection, some bloggers prefer to have their own space. Some companies may not want their writers’ opinions directly connected with their brand. A strong company/blog tie-in could be seen as a disadvantage.

The desire to affiliate (or un-affiliate) with content is worth building into your setup strategy.

Deciding where to host the blog is a first step. But remember, it’s not the tools that make web marketing matter, it’s how you use them that makes all the difference. A little blogging attitude adjustment will make a big difference.

If you want to take your blogging to the next level, read on.

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