As a business owner, you’ve probably had the value that a blog could bring to your business preached to you over and over again – and it’s true. Blogging is a long-term strategy that can provide a huge return on investment for any business that is willing to put in the time.
As you really begin to consider starting a blog, it can be an exciting time. So exciting in fact, that you might want to get your feet wet as quickly as possible, and in that case a free blog from WordPress, Blogger, Blogspot, and the like can look like an enticing offer. This is especially true for business owners without the technical knowledge to set up a blog themselves. Within minutes on a free blog site you can have your blog setup and ready to publish.
But there are some very important reasons to consider avoiding these free blog sites and be weary of the promises that they make to new users. Despite how enticing they may seem at first, any business that is serious about growing their online presence and developing an effective blog should avoid free blog sites at all costs.
1. Free Blog Sites Don’t Look Professional
When your blog is hosted outside of your own website, it actually says something negative about your business – no matter how great the content that you are publishing is. It shows that your business was not willing to make the small investment in installing and monitoring your own blog, which isn’t all that expensive or difficult.
This is especially true when you are linking to your blog from your main company website. Being taken away from your main website to a secondary domain is jarring and causes visitors to question whether or not the company is actually trustworthy.
2. Free Blog Sites Give You No Control
One of the biggest problems with choosing to host your blog on a free blog site is the fact that it gives you very little control over your blog as a whole. You will have a limited number of themes and layouts, so your blog will not match your main business website, which can be off-putting. You’re handcuffed.
When you choose to host your blog on a free blog site, you are also giving up all control of your blog’s servers and putting your blog at the mercy of the service that you choose. If your blog is loading extremely slowly or is experiencing technical problems, you have no recourse to get these issues fixed and their customer service is not likely to be much help.
3. Free isn’t Really Free
Sure, free blog sites advertise that you can setup and start publishing blogs for free – and that is completely true. There is no cost to start a blog and begin posting, but you’ll quickly find that there are hidden fees that they don’t mention when you initially sign up. Remember, free blog sites are a business just like anyone else, and they all come with a catch. Their goal is to get as many people signed up for their free plans as possible, and then upsell them additional services and products. In the end it often ends up being more costly than hosting your blog yourself.
A few of the ways that free blog sites will end up trying to charge you include:
- The good themes cost money. Most free blog sites have a number of themes that are available to use for free, but they usually aren’t very appealing and good luck finding a free theme that matches your business website. They’ll use the free themes to get you hooked, and then try to upsell the high quality themes and layouts at $20-$50 per theme. Suddenly “free” isn’t looking so appealing.
- You still have to buy your own domain. Want your blog to have its own .com domain? Well, you still have to pay for that just like you would if you hosted your own blog. Typically domains cost right around $10, but many free blogging sites insist that you register your domain through them, and they charge a premium. In the end you might end up paying $20-$25 for your own domain. Our friends at iPage will give you a free self-hosted domain name when you sign up for one of their hosting plans which starts at $1.99 a month. Click here for more info.
- They charge for plug-ins and extensions. Just like they do with themes, they make a small number of very basic plug-ins available for free, and charge a premium for the truly useful plug-ins and extensions that you would actually want to use.
In the end, it can actually end up being much more expensive to host your blog on a free blog site than to host it on your own server. The costs combined with the lack of control make it a poor choice for businesses that are looking to expand.
4. A Limited Number of Themes and Layouts
When you host your blog on a free blog site, you are limited to using only the resources that they make available to you. There are a set number of themes and plug-ins that can be installed on your blog. However, if you were to host your own blog you always have the option of hiring a developer to change the look of your blog, add new features, and customize your theme to perfectly match the brand voice of your business. This is simply not possible when you use free blog sites.
5. The Goal Should Be to Build an Asset That Drives Sales
The ultimate goal of any business blog is to drive sales to your business. The process of publishing blog posts that answer questions that your community has is a long-term strategy that helps to position your business as an industry authority while educating and building trust with your audience.
This means that you should want your blog to be a true representation of your business, and be an asset to your sales processes for years to come. By publishing your content on a free blog site, you are actually building an asset for the free blog company at the expense of your business. They will be the ones ranking for high-value search terms, with only a small percentage of the traffic taking the time to check your business website. Blogging is a long-term strategy and it requires a lot of effort to pay off for your business, so why choose a solution that creates more obstacles to monetizing your visitors?
6. Technical Issues Can Be Tough to Deal With
One of the biggest risks associated with free blog sites is the fact that you have no way to fix technical issues on your own, since you have no access to the server or the backend database. When issues do arise, you’ll find that the customer service teams of these companies aren’t too eager to put in a lot of time helping free users. Sometimes when you run into technical issues on a free blog site, you are just completely out of luck when it comes to getting it fixed, which just isn’t smart for businesses that are looking to build a reliable asset.
7. Risk Losing All Your Hard Work
Although any free blog site will tell you that it isn’t something you need to worry about – history shows that free web hosting in all forms can be extremely unreliable, even when run by some of the largest companies in the world. They can shut their doors at any time and render all of the hard work that you have put into growing your blog completely useless.
One example of a free web host closing their doors unexpectedly and leaving their users out in the cold is when Yahoo decided to pull the plug on their free web hosting service, Geocities. Geocities had been a staple of the internet for more than a decade, and out of the blue in 2009 Yahoo notified all Geocities users that they would need to back up their websites and find other hosting arrangements.
Free Blog Sites are a Bad Choice for Businesses
It’s easy to see why a free blog site might be an enticing option for businesses that don’t know any better. But what most businesses that use those services don’t realize is that they are actually taking a huge risk in choosing to use a free blog site, rather than hosting their own blog.
It is always a better choice for companies to have complete control of their own blog, which just isn’t possible on third-party free blog hosting platforms.