Editor’s Note: This article was originally published by Web Marketing Today. Practical Ecommerce acquired Web Marketing Today in 2012. In 2016, we merged the two sites, leaving Practical Ecommerce as the successor.
Should you host a blog on your own website with your own domain name, or use one of the excellent 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
Advantages of Free Blog Sites
The most obvious benefit to having a blog on a “no charge” platform is the free factor. If your tight budget is an issue, free blog sites remove that barrier.
The second benefit is the fast factor.
Third, free blog sites are also functional. Even the least experienced webbie can launch, post and publish content (including videos and pictures) with easy-to-use interfaces designed to cater to a novice web user. Blogger’s user interface, for example, has some similarity to Word, even including auto save and spell check features. Most free blog sites allow a certain amount of customization so blogs can be customized based on your target market or brand. Here are examples from a couple of my clients’ sites:
Both use free Blogger sites that express strong brand and design similarity to the main website.
Disadvantages of Free Blog Sites
Of course, “you get what you pay for.” 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’re trying to tell someone the URL on the phone. Though you can link to your blog from your home page, if the blog isn’t hosted on your site, when someone leaves your website to visit your blog, they are on a different destination. The URL of a free blog is often longer, less attractive, tougher to say out loud, and lives on a destination other than your website. Example: http://webmarketingtherapy.blogspot.com/ (free blog site) vs. http://www.webmarketingtherapy.com/blog (hosted on main website, all under one umbrella)
A second negative to a free blog site is that the free templates offered can be limiting. You’ll probably be 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 you further customize your blog design.
But the third and most important free blog site negative relates to your search engine optimization (SEO) strategy. 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, not credited as content to the main company website. For companies that are SEO-savvy, adding a wealth of keyword-rich content on the blog domain that is separate from the main site domain 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 your main company website is your main priority, this is a relevant point to ponder.
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, professionals can still use software from free blogging platforms like WordPress, but have them hosted on their 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
The first benefit of having a blog on your own domain is seamless correlation between blog and brand. If you are on a company website like www.taxresolution.com and click to visit the blog at www.taxresolution.com/blog, all the content on the blog lives under the main domain to support SEO. 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.
The second benefit is a greater level of customization. Free blogs sites tend to be very template-structured for ease of management, whereas blogs hosted on your own domain can give you more flexibility in structure, design, and placement.
Disadvantages of Hosting a Blog on Your Own Domain
Whether your company has a single blogger — or dozens of bloggers like The Huffington Post — when a blog lives on your main domain, the content has a connection to your company and brand. Though 9 out or 10 companies want this strong connection, some bloggers who are not fully affiliated with a company prefer to have their own blog. Some companies don’t want their writers’ opinions connected with their brand and would prefer to not host a such blog under their domain. In a few cases this strong company/blog tie-in could be seen as a disadvantage. You are what you publish.
When it comes to making your final decision about using a free blog site or self-hosting, focus on these four factors — vanity, search visibility, control and flexibility.
- Vanity. For those of you who are a little more image-conscious, remember that using a free blog site like Blogger or WordPress that is not housed on your domain will yield a URL with the blog company name in it like http://companywebsite/wordpress.com/. If a “prettier” URL like www.companywebsite.com/blog is important to you, then hosting the blog on your own domain may be the way to go. For those of you who want a free blog site but want a better looking URL, know that free blog sites like Blogger do allow you to make your domain more attractive. (Example: http://dressedonline.blogspot.com can be http://blog.dressedonline.com)
- Search Visibility. If search engine optimization is an important part of your marketing puzzle, then you may decide to focus on building more pages within your existing website and consider hosting the blog on your own domain. Having a blog live on your main domain will allow all new blog posts to be indexed by the search engines for that single domain, creating frequent content all credited to the parent website. Free blog sites will also come up in search engines and can be set up strategically to serve as a second website for the search engines to spider to boost company visibility and link to the parent website.
- Control. A blog on a free blog site runs the risk that if for any reason the blog site doesn’t want to keep your blog live, they can kill it. Access can be denied if the blog site feels that you are violating any blog policies. For example, some free blog sites are used to do nothing but build key-phrase links to help boost search engine optimization for another site, which flags the account. They can deny a blogger access if they choose. Hosting a blog on your own domain gives you more control over your content.
- Flexibility. Some bloggers may choose the flexibility of a free site and live with some of the downsides. Others may choose more design flexibility and host on their own site. Having a flexible mind allows you to decide based on options.