It’s safe to say that most small businesses these days know they need a web presence.
But there are a couple of mistakes that some businesses are making when they decide how to get their business online. And both mistakes are related to not having their site at their own domain name.
The first mistake is blogging with a free subdomain on a blog host like wordpress.com (or blogspot.com or another free blog provider). This is different than using WordPress to build a blog on your own domain, which is available for all EarthLink Web Hosting customers .
The second is relying entirely on Facebook.
So, what’s wrong with not having your site at a domain you own?
These are the top 5 problems with not creating a web site at your own domain…
But if Facebook is your only online presence, you are diminishing your brand and putting it second to another company: Facebook.
As cool as it is, your Facebook page is at a Facebook.com URL. As well designed as it is, your Facebook page has a Facebook logo in the top left corner where you would expect to see your logo. We encourage you to get a business page on Facebook, but your brand also needs a place of its own to be #1. So build your website at your own branded domain.
With a blog at yoursite.wordpress.com you can avoid the issue of having another company’s logo a the top of your page (blogspot.com blogs have blogger.com logos and other blogger.com links), but the Web address will still be a wordpress.com URL. Since your URL represents your business in many places, that’s not an ideal situation.
2. Confusion – This issue is closely related to the branding issue. When your webpage or URL is not entirely your own, it can cause some confusion. And when there is confusion online, business suffers. You especially don’t want someone thinking they may have gone to the wrong site if they end up at a wordpress.com URL – especially with phishing scams and other online security issues.
3. Control – If you don’t own it, you don’t control it. And that’s certainly the case with Facebook.com. If it were fully your page, you wouldn’t have put Facebook’s logo at the top, would you? You may be a fan of the Facebook timeline format, but many businesses aren’t, and they’re still stuck with it. Likewise, many businesses weren’t happy about changes to the tabs and other design and functionality changes Facebook has unilaterally rolled out.
It’s safe to say, Facebook will continue to change their site, which means they will continue to change your site, whether you like it or not, if Facebook.com is your only presence.
On your own domain, you decide what you want and what you don’t. On Facebook, Facebook decides.
This is a less obvious issue with a free subdomain on wordpress.com since the page looks more like your own and you can choose from a wide variety of themes and layouts.
But WordPress can still change requirements and you would either have to accept them or leave (which presents very real problems for your business). WordPress.com also runs its own ads on free subdomain sites (though you can pay to remove them).
4. Analytics – Facebook has recently released what they call Insights for business pages. Insights offer some visibility into your Likes, reach, and demographics of your audience, but it’s not nearly the amount of information and insight you can get from a full-fledged analytics program such as the free Google Analytics, or the built-in analytics available in our EarthLink Web Hosting Control Center.
WordPress.com offers more robust Stats than Facebook, but they still may not be everything you are looking for.
5. SEO – Facebook business pages and WordPress.com subdomains can both rank on search engine results pages, but each has limitations when it comes to search engine optimization or SEO.
Compared to a website on a domain you own, Facebook presents a more limited opportunity to develop content targeted to specific keywords to help your SEO. Facebook limits the number and kind of pages/tabs you can have.
Facebook also presents some challenges with Google search result sitelinks. Sitelinks are the extra links Google sometimes returns along with the link to your homepage. Ideally these are the most important pages on your website.
With your own domain website, you have some control over these links through Google Webmaster Tools. But Facebook pages sometimes appear with sitelinks under your main Facebook page that aren’t even from your page at all.
EarthLink’s Facebook page sometimes appears alongside links to unrelated pages that look from the search results like they are affiliated with us. Since we don’t control Facebook.com, we cannot exclude these links in Webmaster Tools.
With a subdomain site on WordPress.com, the biggest SEO issue comes if you want to move your site to your own domain after you’ve developed lots of SEO-enhancing links to your wordpress.com site.
WordPress.com does now offer some services to help you establish 301 redirects so you don’t lose the value of your incoming links, but it is an add-on service that you’d need to continue paying for as long as you want the redirects live (which could be…forever).
Your biggest SEO problem using either Facebook or WordPress.com would be if they went out of business (or changed their business dramatically).
It certainly doesn’t look likely, but it has happened before. Geocites was once an enormous provider of free websites. Then they disappeared. Google is still running blogger.com, but they have recently closed down many other businesses, so you never know. It is also possible that future problems with other sites on the larger blog domains could spill over and negatively impact SEO on your site.
When you own your own domain name, you own it independent of the company that hosts your site. Even if you sign up for EarthLink Web hosting and choose your business’s domain name in that sign-up process, it is your domain and will continue to be yours as long as you keep renewing your domain registration, no matter what hosting company you use.