It’s no secret that those “have a website instantly” services sound attractive. It seems like a great deal, right? Little to no coding experience necessary, a low monthly fee for everything (the site, domain, ecome-commercetall, etc.), and some kind of content management system you don’t need to install yourself. What’s not to love?
And then there are those free publishing content platforms that many professionals use to share their thoughts. You’re probably familiar with many of them: Medium, LinkedIn, Tumblr, and other blogging platforms. What all of these services have in common is they promise a web presence that 1. costs nothing or close to it and 2. allows you to have your content out there on the internet with little to no technical knowledge.
For some people, this setup is just fine. Someone with a personal blog that just wants to share their thoughts doesn’t need too complicated of a web presence. But if you’re a professional, especially a creative or someone involved in ecommerce, these free publishing platforms may not be the best solution for you.
If your web presence is your primary source of income, then building a website and hosting it on a managed VPS with an independent hosting company is the way to go. Does it require a little bit more work and (sometimes) cost a bit more? It can. But the benefits of “owning” your site far outweigh the cons. Let’s take a look at why free publishing platforms may not be all that they’re cracked up to be for professionals who make their money from their web business.
Who is Actually the Audience?
Let’s take a look at the more blogging based platforms (Medium, etc.) that act as content delivery services. You provide the content, Medium provides the platform and eats the costs. You pay nothing to get your voice heard. On the surface, this sounds like a great deal, but hold on. Now, to be fair, there’s nothing wrong with occasionally posting something on Medium or the like if you’re looking for specific kinds of social engagement. After all, social media is a big revenue builder. Social platforms like Tumblr and Medium have built in audiences that you may benefit from on occasion. But to go all in on them? Not so fast.
You’re technically working for the company you post for. That means it’s not your audience, specifically, but rather the platform’s audience. They reap all the benefits of those views which forces you to try and make the extra step of conversion through some other method. That also means you can’t make alterations to the site to better optimize it. You can’t do anything, really, outside of their terms and conditions. If your content is the source of your income, this will quickly lead to a dead end. Unless there are benefits to giving things away for free on these platforms within a larger plan, you want to stick to maintaining your own self-hosted site.
Data Collection and Analytics
This is a subset of the issues one faces in relation to audience and control when using a free site builder/host or publisher. We’ve already touched on the concept of your audience actually belonging to your platform and not to you. To take this idea further, consider how valuable insight into your audience is for your business.
When you’re using a site builder or content platform, you’re basically put into a dark room with a flashlight. You can see some things, but very little. It’s not very practical. You may get basic analytics (if any), but they won’t tell you much beyond how many people clicked on your post. If you’re looking to actually run a business, this is nowhere near enough information to act upon.
It’s no secret that having access to all the data you would want and acting on those analytics is essential to a successful web-based business. With a site you built yourself and on an independent host, you can install any kind of analytics software you want. When you have complete independence from your publishing platform, you’ll have access to actionable information like knowing where the majority of your traffic comes from, what social networks they use, the kind of content they read, and how long they’re spending on certain points of the site. From here, you can drill down and see what the conversion path looks like and its success rate.
You’ll also have more opportunity for audience engagement. Manage whatever comment or feedback system you would like. Install contact forms via plugin (if you’re using WordPress) or code them in. The ability to customize a site you host yourself gives you many more options. Throw in the capabilities of a VPS and you’ll see that speed and performance won’t be things your visitors complain about. Which brings us to the next point.
The performance of a site is a big deal when it comes to conversions. We’re not just talking the importance of fast load times, either. Granted, the big players don’t often go offline. But, in the event that Squarespace of WordPress.com suffers some sort of error or attack, you are powerless. There’s a customer service number, sure, but in an operation that large, there needs to be a global fix. Who knows how long it would take for your content to come back online. These big service providers also make attractive targets for things like DDOS attacks, which will make your site an indirect target.
These platforms can also go out of business. Medium recently cut a third of its workforce. What happens if they go out of business? What happens to all of your content? Suddenly, everything you contributed to a platform doesn’t have any value. If it lived on your own site with a hosting company you know isn’t going anywhere, you could be rest assured your content would be safe.
If you sell products directly, it’s clear what your income source is. But maybe your revenue stream isn’t so obvious. Maybe you don’t actually sell physical products and instead rely on ad revenue or affiliate links. This is where the specific platform you use can hurt your bottom line. Some platforms don’t allow you to place ads at all, so that revenue stream goes away completely. Others allow some advertising, like Google AdSense, but limit you via their terms and conditions. There is also no guarantee the ads will display properly depending on how the platform codes its templates.
There is also the good chance that, eventually, the platform you publish on will want to monetize for themselves. If your visitors are suddenly blocked by paywalls, advertising that benefits the publisher (but not you), or subscriptions that lower the visitor count, this is a bad deal for you. If you are looking to monetize your site, your only real viable option is one where you control where it’s hosted.
By now the benefits of hosting your own site on a managed VPS are pretty clear. Why sacrifice profits and independence for a little bit more convenience? If you’ve been running your business from a variety of free publishing platforms or shared hosting services, it’s time to stop letting someone else profit from your work. Contact the team at KnownHost today and we’ll help you come up with the hosting solution that will give you back control over your web presence.