Want to Use Your Blog to Build Your Brand?
Want to build your reputation as an authority in your field while build an audience of ideal clients who are interested in what you have to say?
My advice: Create a blog.
And, not on a free blogging platform (such as Blogger.com or WordPress.com) – but a self-hosted WordPress blog.
That’s the blogging platform that my blog www.annemariecross.com is built on.
The beauty of having a self-hosted WordPress blog is that it’s not just a blog; it’s also a fully functioning website, which I think is pretty cool.
When setting up your own self-hosted WordPress blog – while the WordPress (blogging) software is free (from WordPress.org) there will be some costs involved in setup, hosting and graphic design.
So why should you pay for something you can get for free?
Especially if setting up your blog over at WordPress.com has all hosting and management costs being taken care of by their team?
Well, if you’re serious about making a great lasting impression and money in your business (which I assume you are), then you’ll want to invest in a self-hosted blog. [I’ll share some of my reasons why I believe this so strongly, shortly].
To me, this isn’t an expense, but an investment. An investment in your reputation and overall professionalism – as a self-hosted blog that has been strategically designed and branded will enable you to continue building a professional and memorable online presence.
If you’re still temped to go down the free route and host your blog on WordPress.com, be warned – they frown upon users selling their products/services (or even making reference to their products/services). You may just find your blog being taken down overnight.
Just like two of my colleagues. They lost everything overnight and had to start from scratch after WordPress.com shut down their blogs.
I don’t know about you. To me, it’s just not worth the risk.
So, in answer to the question “Your Blog: Free or Self-Hosted. Which is best for your brand?” Here are my top 5 reasons why I vote for a self-hosted WordPress blog.
1. Build a Consistent Professional Brand
While there are many free great-looking themes available for your self-hosted WordPress blog, once you get some funds behind you, I would strongly recommend you invest in a graphic designer to develop a professional personalised banner.
In fact, I purchased a theme from WooThemes.com, which cost me $70 for two standard yet very professional templates with some great features.
I hired a WordPress programmer who tweaked the theme to my brand colours; added a signup box on the top right hand side of the page (prime real estate) as part of my list-building strategy; and changed some of the formatting/layout to personalize it.
I also worked with a graphic designer to create my banner with the colours and fonts matching my business cards, brochures, images and flyers.
Having your own corporate colours, banners and images on your self-hosted blog will help you build a consistent professional on-brand message and online presence.
To brand your free blog to your corporate colours and images will also cost you money as well. My advice is to invest in your self-hosted WordPress blog from the start.
2. Build Credibility with Your Own Domain Name
Read both of these domain names out loud:
Which do you think is easier for people to remember AND looks more professional?
Hopefully you’ve selected A.
It speaks for itself. Yes?
3. YOU maintain full control of your content
Because it can take hours to craft a well-written blog post, and months (if not years) to build a solid repertoire of inspiring, informative articles on your blog, you want to ensure that you retain control of all your content.
With a self-hosted blog you CAN maintain control of your information, whereas with a free option you can’t. If they decide they don’t like what you’re posting – they can shut you down overnight. Period.
I certainly wouldn’t want to take that risk and I’m sure you wouldn’t want to either. Especially considering all of the hard work you’re going to be putting in to building high-quality content for your audience.
Yes, of course having a self-hosted WordPress blog will mean you’re responsible for the security and updating of your blog software; however to me that’s a small price to pay for keeping my information safe and secure.
As one of my colleagues on Facebook so aptly commented:
“If you don’t own it – you don’t own it.”
4. Send traffic to YOUR site
With all of the effort you’re going to put into driving people back to your website through your social media and communications strategies, means YOU’LL benefit from all the traffic.
With a free blog – you’re sending all the traffic back to their site.
Plus, with your self-hosted blog, once you’ve captured their attention and interested they are far more likely to stick around and click through to review some of your product and service offerings.
Another advantage of having a self-hosted WordPress blog is the myriad of free (and paid) plugins available. (A plugin is a customised piece of software that provides specific abilities and functionalities to your WordPress blog.) These are easy to install and use.
Some of my favourite plugins include All in One SEO Pack to help me with SEO (Search Engine Optimisation); Shareaholic, which allows my readers to share my blog posts with their social network; and of course the GoogleAnalytics plugin, which allows me to see how many visitors are reading my posts and where they are coming from.
You can’t add plugins to your free WordPress.com hosted blog (unless of course you pay them.)
And, as I mentioned before, if you’re going to spend money – invest in your own self-hosted blog and reap the benefits.
5. Build Your List
As many marketing gurus state: “The money is in your list”, and having your own self-hosted blog/website will allow you to integrate your list-building strategy into your overall website strategy.
As you can see on my blog, I’ve set up my list-building strategy into the banner and footer and on selected pages throughout the site.
This list-building strategy works for me 24/7, 365 days per year with new contacts being added to my list on a daily basis. They don’t have to click through to another site in order to access it. They can access it directly from my self-hosted WordPress blog.
This is difficult (if not impossible) to do with a free WordPress.com hosted blog, and is going to require some investment costs on your part. As I have recommended before, invest in your own self-hosted blog and continue to enjoy the benefits.
So there are just five reasons why I prefer a self-hosted WordPress blog to the free WordPress.com hosted blog.
I also reached out to my community on Facebook and asked them the same question. Here’s what they said.
Have Your Say!
So, what do you think? Do you believe free or self-hosted is best? Do you have other reasons why you believe this? Please share! It’s always good to hear from you!
Till next time – stay brilliant and inspired
I think self hosted blogs are better than free ones because of many reasons and especially those that you have mentioned above. However if you are new to blogging you can first try out the free ones for sometime but when you want to be serious about your blog then it is important that you switch to a self hosted one.
Hi Jesse, yes, if you’re not sure whether you will like blogging or be able to be consistent, then trying a free one is a step you can take. What I have found is that businesses need a website anyway, so a great strategy is to set up a WordPress.org site from the start, and the blogging feature will be there to use when you are ready to move forward. Having said that, one of the ways to build your credibility as an authority in your field, is to showcase your knowledge/wisdom through blogs/articles, so my advice would be to develop/roll out a blogging strategy in your social media marketing/communications plan.
Interesting post. We moved FearlessCompetitor.com from a free WordPress site to a host site. We also did a huge redesign this month.
One of the reasons we went to a self hosted site was the customization available. For instance, we now use the Genesis framework and a child theme, which is state-of-the-art. We also like Plugins. My iPhone has lots of apps and my blog should too.
Thanks Ann Marie.
Jeff Ogden, Find New Customers
Thanks for sharing Jeff. The themes and plugins you can get for WordPress are just amazing. In fact, I’m in a position where I have to be careful what to add as I have dozens and dozens. I did install a free plugin called Memory Bump, which is great if you need a little bit of oomph, should you find your site slows down due to all the plugins etc. Congratulations on the redesign – very exciting stuff!
Thanks Annmarie. My blog had a lot of sweat and tears put into it, but it does look awesome today. http://www.fearlesscompetitor.com
I’m quite proud of what the re-design did for it.
Looking very impressive Jeff – well done!
Annemarie, I couldn’t agree more. Having a self-hosted blog is so important. Your advice is right on the money!
This is such an excellent post, Annemarie.
I’d like to underscore the importance of point #3. One of my past blogs was taken down by WordPress.com without any real explanation. I had been writing that blog on health tips for years, and poof! Gone. It really does happen.
Wow Jayna, how frustrating for you!! Both my colleagues had no idea that they weren’t allowed to post information about their products/services on their page. So clearly, they must not have this stated in a clear and prominent position on their site. Otherwise I’m sure people would not set up their blogs and dedicate so much time and energy in creating their online presence there. Hopefully other people will realise this before they find themselves in the same situation. Thanks for sharing Jayna!
Wow, did they respond to your emails or questions? Was there a way to back it up? Thanks for info!
Every point on target — People should bookmark this one!
Thanks Keri, hopefully some business will avoid the situation my two colleagues were in (finding their sites shut down) by investing in a WordPress.org site and not the free version.
Financial wise, I have no choice but to do a free blogger platform right now however Google frequently deletes blogs for no reason. I literally had to stay on the forum for 2 days straight to get my account back. So I can’t wait until have to means to get a self-hosted blog.
Oh no! That’s terrible! Are you able to backup all of your content, in case they decide to delete for good? I can just imagine all that hard word disappearing and not being able to retrieve it.
You certainly won’t have that issue once you get your self-hosted blog set up. Hoping that’s sooner than later for you!
Well right now I’m going to start backing up my content. However I am glad that happened to my new blog (especially since I was able to pressure them into giving back my account) because now I know the lack of customer service Google has. I just wanted to warn people because your account can be disabled for literally no reason.
I appreciate you posting the warning. Quite scary to think that all your hard work can be deleted overnight, without warning. I hope you’re able to get your blog back to it’s original state soon!
annemarie this a awsome post love it!!
Business card reflects alot about the person whom it belongs. We have to choose good color, good font as well as good design. Because it is useful to increase your business. And it will shows that what you are and what you offer the people.
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