I’m a HUGE fan of blogs, especially as powerful marketing tools for bootstrapping entreprenurial types. The easy to use blog interface removes many of the barriers to web site success. Business owners can update content easily, add reciprocal links, and even interact with potential clients/customers via the comment feature of blogs. Blogs, in general, are merely Content Management Systems that even the most un-technically savvy business owner can use to harness the power of the internet for any business.
In response, I’ve created a site where all I do is sell self hosted blogs….and inevitably, I am asked WHY would someone PAY for a blog when they can register at wordpress.com or blogger.com and get their very own blog for free.
For the record, I USED to recommend free blogging accounts to my clients. I had one client who signed up for a free blog, made a few posts and then got distracted and didn’t post to her free blog account for a few months. While doing a random check of her essential keywords, my client saw her free blogsite posts topping the list. She was thrilled and shared her experience with me.
As a result, I opened my own free blogging account and encouraged other clients to do the same. After all, it made sense. A free blog account wouldn’t suffer the "google sandbox" sentence imposed upon new sites and if a client did "fall down" in their blogging efforts, then their content could still "rise to the top" of long tail keyword searches. With minimal cost, it seemed that free blogging accounts really were a good investment of time and effort for my clients. They could use these free blog sites to drive traffic to their web sites.
One client to whom I made this recommendation discovered she had a real talent for blogging and REALLY went to town on her free wordpress.com blog. She would blog 3-4 times a week, keeping her potential clients updated on the latest in her industry. We included links from her web site (which was enjoying exponential traffic growth) on her site and she made frequent mention of the blog and the address in her ever expanding newsletter.
As luck would have it, this is a client for whom I perform monthly traffic analysis and after about 8 months, I began to notice that her free blog wasn’t delivering ANY traffic to the site. (Remember, we’re talking 8 MONTHS of blogging efforts!!!) Since the free blog account doesn’t offer the ability to track traffic, I only had one side of the story…. but the lack of incoming traffic from a blog with THAT many posts put me on alert.
So, we began an "experiment" (which is really the BASIS of good "marketing.") We set up a self hosted Word Press Blog and my client began her regular posts on her self hosted blog rather than on the free blog.
The very next month after launching the self hosted blog, my client’s web site was already seeing a trickle of traffic coming from the self hosted blog. The self hosted blog wasn’t the top referrer… but it made the top 10.
There’s a great post over at Return Customer which advocates using domain based email addresses for your business instead of the FREE variety. There’s a more indepth post at the Aweber blog communications blog.
I’m a bootstrapper at heart and as much as I’d like to report that your time is well spent blogging on a free web site, I’m afraid the same principles which apply to free email accounts, apply to your free blog as well.
Unlike the free email address issue addressed in the above posts, your blog posts to your free blogging account are consuming a non-renewable resource: YOUR TIME!
See, your money…. that’s a resource which you can renew. Once you’ve spent or invested what’s in your account, you can earn, beg, borrow or steal more money. On the other hand, your TIME can’t be replaced or renewed so easily. You can’t earn more time on the planet. You can’t beg and get more than 24 hours in your day.
In my client’s case, I recommended that she invest her valuable time posting content to her OWN web site rather than posting it for WordPress.com’s benefit. As a prolific blogger, it won’t be long until her blog becomes a force in her niche market. In the mean time, she’s building content for HER site instead of building content for the free blogging site.
After just a few weeks, her brand new self hosted blog is already doing it’s job of driving customers to her web site where they can purchase her products and services. Since 100% of 0 is still zero, I can’t say that her self hosted blog is performing a level of X% improvement. We went from zero to something by launching the self hosted blog.
I’ve been searching my log files for referrals from my blogger account. There are none, just as in the case of my client above.
I’m open to success stories from free blog hosting accounts. Any out there?