You’ve made the decision to start a blog or website to increase your business exposure or sell products online. Both represent a presence on the Internet or World Wide Web, both have considerable value, yet significant differences can exist.
Many blog hosting options – Blogger, WordPress, and Blogspot, et al. – are available to you; further, many are free or inexpensive. As a blogging novice, one should consider several issues: Cost, exposure, features, support, ease-of-use, and flexibility are a few. Also of concern is whether to initiate a website immediately or ‘test the waters’ and by blogging, gauge interest in your product or service. The three blog hosts mentioned above are excellent choices: free, easy to use, and offer support services.
To clarify, a blog is similar to online diary that is updated every time a post or entry is submitted. Depending on business or personal needs and goals, a blog may not be appropriate; consider a traditional website instead. A website generally consists of a ‘home’ page, an ‘about us’ page, a ‘contact us’ page and other content pages. This kind of Internet presence is more complex but more versatile as well. For instance, more payment options can be incorporated in a website as opposed to most blogs. So-called ‘Shopping Cart’ features provided by third party providers can accept payment options from PayPal to Visa and gift certificates. Since a contract is involved, certain legal rights are both inherent and implied; free hosts generally give no promises or guarantees.
Also to consider are the terms of service (TOS) used by some blogs. Wordpess, for example, states the following in their TOS: “Affiliate marketing blogs: Blogs with the primary purpose of driving traffic to affiliate programs and get-rich-quick schemes (“Make six figures from home!!”, “20 easy steps to top profits!!”, etc). This includes multi-level marketing (MLM) blogs and pyramid schemes. To be clear, people writing their own original book, movie or game reviews and linking them to Amazon, or people linking to their own products on Etsy do NOT fall into this category.”
(see: http://en.forums.wordpress.com/topic/affiliate-link?replies=73 for details)
WordPress therefore, is not suitable for the business that wishes to make money from certain affiliate marketing or MLM links. If that is your business plan, a hosted website (paid) is a better option.
Further, if a decision is made to use a free blog exclusively, one should be aware of the limitations of free hosted services, in particular if the blog is an income generator. Be warned that regardless of how wonderful and popular your blog is, it exists on the Internet at the host’s discretion. If the host opts to shut down its services or your blog, it may do so without warning and recompense. Simply, any income generated from your blog (and any content included) is potentially at risk of non-existence at any time.
Other issues to consider with free blog hosting are bandwidth (pages slow to load), content size limitations, and support concens. Consider the free blog host with millions of visitors slowing your page load; people will become impatient and navigate to other sites. This scenario is not atypical; countless numbers of websites and blogs exist on the Internet in addition to yours and may bog down even the best maintained sites.
A common solution may involve starting with a free blog host and once solid visitor numbers are acheived, migrating to a web host. Of course, there may be disadvantages to this strategy as well: Site ranking may be negatively impacted and will take time to recover. There is also a risk of losing some ‘regular visitors’ and in turn, a drop in earnings from the site.
Finally, consider instead investing in a paid host immediately and avoid the potential future headaches of losing visitors or an entire blog presence. Many reputable and solid website hosting companies have very inexpensive initial hosting plans that can be upgraded in the future. For example, GoDaddy.com offers an economy hosting plan for around $5.00 per month, depending on the terms.
by Dion D. Shaw
Dion Shaw is the founder and owner of Homepreneurs.