Do you participate in #blogchat? Every week, this weekly discussion on Twitter focuses on a specific topic and bloggers everywhere are invited to join in. Because I often have more to say than what will fit in 140 characters, every Sunday night (or Monday morning), I post about some of the most interesting #blogchat tweets. Join the conversation by commenting below.
(Still confused? Read more about #blogchat here.)
This week’s theme: Open Mic! (It was also a day later this week, due to the holidays)
A question I’ve been asked often from new bloggers is this: do I need to purchase my own domain name? This week, one of the #blogchat tweeters wondered the same thing:
bworthey: So do you think one can “make it” with just the freebie blogs or does one need their own domain, etc.?
I’ll ask you one question, which sums up my feelings on this topic before discussing it more. Of all the blogs you read and enjoy, of all the blogs out there make six figures for their owners, of all the blogs you admire – how many of them have a free domain name?
I’ll let you think for a moment.
Personally, I can only think of one that is super successful – Seth Godin’s blog, which is on Typepad. Maybe soe of you can name a few others, but in all honesty, 99.999999%* of successful blogs have their own domain names.
Of course, that also depends on your definition of successful.
Not everyone needs a domain name. I recommend a WordPress.com, Blogger.com, etc. domain name to people who are brand new to blogging, since it gives you an absolutely free way to see if you’re going to stick with it. You can grow an audience on a freebie blog. You can even make some money. It’s a great way to test the waters.
But on the flip side, here are a few things to keep in mind:
- It’s hard to get the respect of other bloggers if you use a free site.
It’s not like other bloggers are trying to be snobby. It just says that you aren’t really serious about blogging as a profession as much as your own domain does. The cost is next to nothing – seriously, I’ve seen hosting deals for like, $3 per month, and domain names cost less than $10 per year. It’s hard for me to believe that you’re serious about earning money with your blog if you can’t invest $45 into a business…for the entire year. That’s $3.75 a month.
- You get lumped in with “diary bloggers.”
There’s nothing wrong with using your blog as a personal diary. That’s how I got bitten by the blogging bug in the first place, after all, and I know some people who still really enjoy journaling online. That said, if you want to take a more serious approach, it’s hard to be successful with a blog that’s just you talking about your life. Unless your life is crazy for some reason, it doesn’t really work because people don’t find it entertaining unless they know you. But I digress. Diary bloggers, as I’ve taken to calling this group of people, generally use free sites, since they aren’t concerned with building their blog – they just want a place to vent. Whenever I see a free site URL, I immediately think that it is likely this kind of blog. Sometimes I’m surprised with a well-designed, interesting, informative professional blog, but that’s not the first thing that comes to mind. So, you’re starting from behind.
- Your URL is harder to remember.
It’s just bad branding to have a free-site domain name. People will forget to add that little bit to the end and be confused when looking for your site. Sure, the hope is that they’ll subscribe to your RSS redd or bookmark your homepage or something, but that doesn’t typically happen on someone’s first visit. With your own domain name, the URL is more memorable.
- You’re bound by TOS.
TOS – the dreaded Terms of Service. Whatever free service you use has something that you have to agree to when you sign up. They can really limit what you do, from the themes you can use to the ability to put ads on your site to the type of content you post. Lack of freedom stinks, especially as you grow. And yes, they can and will shut you down if you don’t obey the rules. I’ve seen it happen.
- You can’t control downtime.
Every blog has downtime. Every blog. If you own the domain name and pay for hosting, you’re more in control of when that happens. Sometime hosting gets spotty (especially with a $3 plan), but you can do upgrades and such when you traffic numbers are low, and you can also put up a message to let your visitors know when you’ll be back. Early this month, Tumblr went down for several hours – and by several, I mean like 18. In a row. And what if they didn’t come back? Or what if some of your posts were gone when they did? You’re using a free service, so it’s not like you can demand your money back or something.
- Your own domain name is better for SEO.
I’m not a pro at search engine optimization, but I do know that if I’m searching for my name, AllisonBoyer.com will win over AllisonBoyer.worpress.com. Sure, you can work on building links and using keywords to boost your search engine rating with a freebie blog, but think to yourself – when you search on google, how often does the result you click on happen to be one of these blogs. It’s rare, right? I know it is for me, anyway.
- You own domain name is more attractive for advertisers, buyers, and partners.
You just don’t seem as legitimate with a free site. Advertisers are less likely to approach you and even less likely to say yes if you approach them. I think twice before buying a product from a blog that’s hosted on a free site. Other bloggers are less likely to want to JV with you. People are less likely to want guest posts from you or to do guest posts for you.
Bottom line: Can you be successful if your site is on a free host? Sure. But is it likely? I’ll leave you to answer that for yourself.
*That’s an official stat. That I made up.