Own your brand, or someone else will
What do I mean when I say “own your brand?” You should have control over your business, and that includes having a website that you control. Facebook, Twitter, Etsy, and CafePress don’t count, because you don’t control those websites. If they change the rules or shut down, and your business is built solely upon them, then you’re dead in the water. Does that mean you shouldn’t use those online stores and social media sites? Absolutely not. Use them if they’re helpful to you. In addition to that, have your own website that gathers the email addresses of your customers or potential customers.
Having a website created doesn’t have to be a long, tedious, expensive process anymore. If you already know what business you want to start, what you want your website to do (gather emails, sell your product/service, display your business information), and if you already have your colors/logo/business card, and the content already written for it, then a website pro could have a website or blog done for you in as little as one day (assuming they have the time to get to it immediately, and assuming what you want is straightforward and not complicated—have reasonable expectations).
If you want to set up a blog up yourself, you could have it up and running in as little as 10 minutes, not counting the time needed for customization or content creation. It’s important to note that a free blog or a free website is not something you want to go with. You want something you pay for, mainly because it’s the only way to own your brand. At the very least, you’ll need a blog put up on a web hosting account.
Web hosting can be compared to a stall in an antiques mall. For the sake of this example, let’s say this one doesn’t sell the piece, just allows people to view it. The mall owner = the web hosting company. She sells the use of the space where the product (website) can be viewed. The website sits on the shelf, so to speak, and site visitors are able to be served the pages they want to see. The shelf = the computer server the website is stored on at the hosting company. Some site owners have their own servers, and some people resell web hosting (as we do), so it can be a bit more complicated, but this is the gist of how it works. If you understand renting shelf space, you understand what web hosting is.
You need a web host. Dreamhost and Bluehost are the top two, and the cost for an account is currently about $120/yr. for hosting, and $12/yr for domain name registration/renewal. We handle the hosting and domain name registration/renewal for all of our clients, at a lower cost to them. Currently, $75/yr covers both hosting and domain name registration/renewal. That’s nearly a 50% savings on price, and it’s a 100% savings on the time and hassle of handling it yourself.
Free websites and blogs
It’s true that WordPress and other blogs can be hosted for free on those companies’ sites, and free is appealing. For that matter, there are “free website” websites, and “free blog” websites. What’s wrong with those?
Here’s why you should never use a free website platform—what they’re NOT telling you. That company owns your site. They own your url, and if they ever go out of business, or if they ever decide to delete your site for whatever reason (it happens!), or if Google ever “slaps” them, then everything you have spent so much time building is gone. Down the drain. Many people say that the free website platforms do some pretty shady and illegal things. I can’t prove or disprove any of those claims, and won’t recount them here, but the other problems are reason enough to stay away from “free website” places.
Own your brand
Always own your brand: make sure your website is not just another page on someone else’s site, but is a site all its own. What does that look like? www.yoursite.freesitecompany.com or www.freesitecompany.com/yoursitename Blogger, Blogspot, WordPress.com, Weebly, and a dozen other companies offer “free” sites. Do not do it.
What’s happening on the “free website” sites is you’re creating content for them, increasing their rankings in the search engines. You’re benefiting them, but they’re not really benefiting you. For a few hundred dollars, you can hire someone to create a website for you. Then, for about $120/year, you can handle your own hosting. It’s worth the peace of mind, knowing that your site is totally in your control. For $75/year, you can have someone handle all of that for you, but they need to be someone you can trust (ahem, call me).
Your own website
What does it look like when you own your own domain? www.your-website-name.com For the purposes of owning your own brand and having total control over it, it’s best to own your own domain. For some information on building your own website, and some great infographics to see and possibly use on your own sites, visit firstsiteguide.com (just ignore any affiliate links that promote free websites).
Checking your site’s proposed url will tell you if you have
- a page on someone else’s site: www.examplewebsite.com/yourpagename.html
- a subdomain on their site: www.yourpagename.examplewebsite.com, or
- your own domain: www.yourwebsitesname.com
Before I go, here’s another danger with “free websites.” I mentioned that they own your url, but depending on the terms of agreement you electronically sign by using them, they might even own your content, or the use of your content—forever. The term “in perpetuity” means “forever.”
A fellow writer lost nearly 100 pages of content to a thieving site like that. Several of us shared in her hair-tearing grief. One hundred pages might not sound like that much, but once you start writing content for your website, or if you’ve ever written content for a website before, you’ll understand her pain. It took her nearly a year writing full time, and it was all gone, just because she didn’t realize what the terminology in the terms of service meant.
Own your brand. Have your own domain.