There are probably more places to host your content for free these days on the internet than there are paid hosts. Between the free sites and social networks where you can have a profile, a page or even a blog, there are many people saying “Why should I host on my own domain?”. And there are just as many people saying “Why would I want to drive people to xxx instead of to my own site?”. Use your own hosted website as a homebase and all those “other places” as traffic cops to get the traffic safely to your home.
You want to own your own content, you don’t want to give it away to another company and you certainly don’t want to worry about being censored or your content “disappearing”. Each “free” host has a catch, each social network has a Terms of Service that allows them to censor your content, and “own” your content. Blogger, Typepad and WordPress.com (the hosted version, not the downloaded version) all have clauses that allow them to remove content that they feel is inappropriate. WordPress.com controls whether you can advertise on your blog there or not. Blogger removed content from a blog that was managed on the blogger host, but was not even actually hosted there! You have the ability to publish from Blogger to your domain and as someone recently discovered, they can remove your content from that domain also. So beware.
Geocities is another example of a place where people hosted for free for years and years and thought they would never have to worry. Yahoo is shutting it down. Several other “free” hosting services through the years have done the same, some vanishing into the night without warning. Hypermart changed from free to paid accounts. If you didn’t upgrade *poof* content was gone.
Free sites have their place, and social networks are certainly great places to have a presence, but keep in mind that all your social marketing should be driving traffic to a central place, and that central place should be under *your* control. A domain you have purchased on hosting you pay for. It can be a simple set of pages that sell your product, a blog that you can change or a complex website, but at the end of the day, you are in control of it. And while we are on the subject, be sure you keep a local backup so that if your host goes down, you can move that content to a new host without worry, and quickly.
Anyone remember NBCi/Xoom.com? More recently, Podango? Facebook, MySpace, Squidoo, Flickr, YouTube and a myriad of other sites are wonderful for creating a presence and connecting with people. But don’t use your Facebook page as your presence on the web. Use it as a funnel to send people to your space where you control the content and the ads. Anytime you rely on another company or their business model to host your content, you are playing with fire.
We recently did a podcast on this subject that you can listen to here, and this article is also published in FeedFront Magazine, which Deborah is a regular contributor to.
Download the entire FeedFront issue 6 here