One of the most frequently asked questions I get about business blogging and website creation is “Should I use a free blog? There are, afterall, so many free blog providers out there.”
My answer to this question is a simple “No”.
I understand that the main concern for small business (especially startups) is cashflow and cost. If you can get something for free, why pay money to do the same thing?
Well, you don’t really get “the same thing”.
Free blogging / web host have three main limitations, in my opinion.
#1 Web Hosting Space
While many providers like Google (Google Pages) offer more than enough web space for you to do whatever you want, most others the provide more flexibility and control (like those which allow you to FTP in to upload your pages) limit you in terms of web space and bandwidth.
With multimedia getting ubiquitous on the net with podcasts and video streaming all around, this small web space might just run out.
When you work on a free platform, there is NO WAY that the provider is going to give you a free domain name like http://www.yourname.com. Most of the time, the address given to you will be a subdomain, like http://yourname.blogspot.com.
This is not much of a problem in terms of search engine marketing, because subdomains are considered as a different address altogether, but consider how it would look like to your prospective clients? If you are serious about your business, wouldn’t it be better tell people your website is “http://www.yourname.com”, instead of “http://yourname.blogspot.com”?
Also, when you are hosted on someone else’s server, there is absolutely no guarantee when that service might just terminate your account for some thing you might have accidentally done wrong. Again, if you are serious about your business, you don’t want that to happen to your website.
A domain name will cost you US$8.95 a year. So even if you don’t want to get a web hosting service, at least, get your own domain name and then map your domain over to your blog, or do a redirect.
#3 Template Restrictions
When you host your blog on a free service like WordPress, for example, you do not get to do much with your template. One of the most wonderful things about WordPress is the ability to extend it with the different themes and Plug-Ins. Unfortunately, if you host your blog with WordPress.com, you are pretty much stuck to the themes they provide.
As Lorelle puts it recently
Sometimes your limitations force you to be more creative. They also help you learn that there is a lot more you can do with a free WordPress.com blog than you might have thought.
If you are a CSS whiz, you might give a go tweaking the template for WordPress.com, but I’ll just say the level of technical expertise is “not common” 🙂
Other blog platforms like Blogger do allow you to modify the template all you want, and you are also free to put advertisements on a blogger blog.
So, what’s best?
In my opinion, I would rather spend time working on the website contents, rather than tweaking all these details. I personally recommend (and I use it myself) domains registered with GoDaddy, and a reseller account with Hostgator.
As far as hosting is concerned – and I’m sure many other webmasters would agree with me, the good ones don’t come cheap.