Free Hosted CMS* – Renting a Fabulously Furnished Apartment
by Jennie Jerome
This is a prerelease excerpt from Jennie Jerome’s new book, How to Choose the Right Blog Platform and CMS Software for Your Business.
Setting your blog and/or website up via a free hosting service, such as WordPress.com, Blogger.com, or Tumblr.com is a lot like renting a fabulously furnished apartment for a number of reasons:
- OWNERSHIP: You reside at someone else’s address.
In an apartment, someone else owns both the building and your specific unit, so your address is a number at the complex. Likewise, with free hosting, the host site owns both the complex (primary domain name such as WordPress.com) and your unit (such as http://www.yourbusiness.wordpress.com).
There are two big drawbacks to this if you are hosting your blog — or worse hosting your website — on a free service without your own domain name.
- You can’t build up any equity. In the same way you can’t build up equity by renting an apartment, you also can’t build up any online equity by not owning your domain name. Remember our discussion about how important SEO is for your site getting found? Having a secondary address like http://www.yourbusiness.wordpress.com prevents you from getting any SEO traction. Why? Because all of the SEO credit goes to the host site (in this case WordPress.com), and not to you. Bad deal.
- You don’t actually own your content, they do. Free hosting comes with a cost: as soon as you upload anything onto their server through their site, it’s theirs. This means that they can use, add or remove your content— and even shut your site down— at their sole discretion if they determine that it violates their policies. Very bad deal.
- RESPONSIBILITY: Someone else owns and maintains the premises.
- Pro: In an apartment, you don’t have to worry about the cost or headache of maintaining the landscaping, painting the buildings, or making sure anything is in working order. The same is true for a free hosted site. You don’t have to worry about setting up a domain, backing up content, maintaining the software or the servers, installing and configuring updates, or anything else having to do with the functioning of the site. You just sign on and go — no hassle and no worries.
- Con: In an apartment, if something breaks you put in a work order and the complex hires someone to fix it. In some cases they fix it quickly, but in other cases it can take days or weeks for them to fix. You incur no expense, but you also have no control over the timing or the quality of the fix. The same is true for free hosting sites. If you have a problem, you have no control over when, or even if, they will fix it. Yes, they are responsible for the system, but if your one little unit is having issues that they determine are not “critical” they may simply point you toward a forum and tell you to have a nice day.
- RESTRICTIONS: All of the major functional things have already been taken care of and set up for you.
In an apartment, this means furniture, dishes, etc. are already in place — all you have to do is stock the fridge and add your knickknacks. From a functional angle, the same is true for a free hosted site: the site is already SEO maximized, has spam protection and analytics already built in, etc. Everything is set up for you. From a design angle, this means that all the major choices (such as furniture, wall color, etc.) have already been made. Likewise, with a free hosted blog you are limited to whatever templates are available. While you can make some minor finishing touches like changing the background color or changing where something sits, all the major design decisions have already been made — you just plug and chug.
- SECURITY: They are required to maintain high levels of security.
In the same way the apartment complex is required to ensure a certain level of security (i.e., the locks work, the lights in the parking garage are functioning, a security guard is on duty at night making rounds, etc.) all hosted blogs—both free and paid— are required to maintain a high level of security. This is VERY important in our world of hackers and cyber thieves. Webhosting companies take security very seriously, and have a lot of very talented people on staff for just this purpose.
Some additional things to be aware of when choosing a free hosted blog:
The hosting company has the right to run ads, for themselves or another party, on your site. They are also entitled to any revenue these ads bring. You, on the other hand, cannot run ads on your site, nor can you sell anything on your site, as you are not allowed to modify the code or install any third party widgets or plugins. Doesn’t seem fair, does it? Like I said, free hosting comes with a cost.
NOTE: All of the free hosting sites mentioned above do have upgrade options which allow for additional customization and grant additional rights. If you would like to learn more, please check out How to Choose the Right Blog Platform and CMS Software for Your Business, available here.
* Content Management System
Jennie Jerome is a marketing consultant and business coach specializing in strategy and negotiations. Her business is focused around determining where you are, where you want to be, and how you are going to get there. She is in the process of launching a new and expanded website, but you can connect with her here, or meet her in person at the Publishing and Book Promotion Meetup, organized by Laura Orsini. Jennie is a reoccurring guest blogger and posts here the 5th of every month. Please feel free to submit questions or blog ideas in the comments sections of her posts. Happy writing!