March 25, 2012

Give the blog an independent identity for long-term gains.

If you are scared of technology and have created a blog on a free host, you have lost nothing, just nothing. You can retain all the beauty and resources of the old blog and run it like the true owner of the blog. We have discussed website hosting etc on other posts linked at the bottom of this post; here we'd talk about having an independent domain. Why and how? Read on…

Most of the blogs on the web today are hosted by big hosting platforms such as Blogger, Wordpress, and LiveJournal. These hosts provide free hosting and an array of tools to improve the looks and functionality of the blog. Such freely hosted blogs serve individuals as well as small corporate and institutional bloggers well. 

And yet, the number of blogs with their independent URLs [e.g. indiantopblogs.com instead of indiantopblogs.blogspot.com] is constantly on the rise. If you search for blogs on a topic, you are likely to get such blogs higher on search pages than the free-hosted blogs.


How is a blog on a paid web hosting site different from a free blog?

domain-name-web-hostingThe free hosted blog has .wordpress.com, .blogspot.com etc suffixed to the operative name; the independent blog has a standalone, more respectable, URL.

You don’t pay anything for opening a blog on free platforms; in the case of a stand-alone blog, you pay for (i) creating the blog, (ii) buying the domain name, and (iii) hosting the blog on the web.

A free blog is often part of a community [e.g. in the case of LiveJournal] and is closely linked to the hosting site; an independent blog is not associated with a free blogging platform.

A free blog has a big blogging community that creates free widgets, apps, themes (templates) etc, answers to queries, discusses new developments. Independent blogs lack this support other than the limited tools provided by the web host.


I have a free blog. How do I convert it into an independent blog?


Migration from a free-hosted blog to an independent blog / website is a win-win situation. While you pay a nominal amount for the conversion, all your assets remain intact including the data and site design.

Both the major blog hosts, viz. Wordpress and Blogger allow you this; others such as LiveJournal, Tumblr, Medium do not. In the case of Wordpress, free blog and the new URL are ‘mapped’. You need to pay for web hosting and mapping. The new site gets all the existing web tools and also extra space and more resources. Blogger has a simpler solution: you buy a new domain name from any host [including through Blogger itself], and migrate to the new name. It offers extra webmaster tools to accounts opened through it.

In fact, this migration / transfer / mapping thing takes away all the hassle of engaging a programmer to create and maintain a blog and it gives you a blog that is a full-fledged website of your own, at a very low cost.

LiveJournal too has a paid service that allows customization and statistical tools, but no independent URL. Typepad, another popular blog host, is fully paid.


What are the advantages of having a blog with a stand-alone URL?


It shows that you are serious, as you are spending money on the blog.

It helps in the long run, as your blog is seen as a stand-alone entity on the web.

It gets higher web authority and popularity as search engines tend to attach a low value to free hosting.


What are the negatives of a stand-alone website?


If it is a totally independent blog / website, you’d need to invest in writing code, buying URL and hosting it. You’ll need to keep writing and tweaking the code as the technology changes. So, this route does not suit you if you don’t want to invest in programming and you yourself are not a programmer. Even if you or your programmer can design a good blog, you / he would need to be abreast of the emerging web-technologies. Chances are that what you / he invent is already available with Blogger, Wordpress, etc.

If it is a blog with independent URL but uses tools of Blogger, etc, you will need to pay a small sum to the host for hosting the blog and using tools. You will also have to follow the terms of the host. It may sometimes not be painless to later on convert it into a big, multi-functional website since many of their resources will no longer be available to you.


Is the effort and money worth spending on a domain name and/or hosting (if I have a personal, not commercial, blog)?


Yes, if -
  •  you want to maintain the blog on a long term.
  •  you want to build a brand around the blog.
  •  you want the blog to be visible on the web beyond your small web community and be popular.
  •  you are a budding or established celebrity or an expert, and you need to promote yourself.
  •  you want the blog to sell products or services.
  •  you plan to convert the blog into a big site with functions beyond those offered by the free-hosting site.
No, if -
  •  you don’t want to extend the blog beyond your community.
  •  blogging is a transient hobby for you, and you are not sure it’ll stay with you.
  •  you don’t want the bother involved in migration to / creating of an independent blog, however small the bother might be.
  •  you’d like to experiment with a number of topics / designs etc before you settle down.


If I migrate from a free host, what will my existing blog lose?


You won’t lose your data or the existing design. You are likely to get all the traffic to your new site [if you choose to]. You will also get additional tools for analysis and promotion of your blog. Do check the terms of migration on your host’s website, to be doubly sure.

Any further tips?

Take time to find a good domain name. If your present blog is quite popular and has a standing, choose a URL that is close to the existing one. If you can’t get a matching domain name, give the blog a description just under the title that relates the two during the transition period. [You can change that after a few months.]

Once the new blog is established, go for traffic migration [The host will provide this facility, mostly by default. It means, your present traffic would automatically be diverted to the new blog.]

Be prepared for your blog’s search popularity going down initially. It will not only come back, it will grow faster if you properly maintain the blog after migration.

Put a notice on the blog that you are changing the URL. You don’t change your home address unannounced, do you? The same here. In addition, inform your regular visitors by email and through social networks.

The two big big free platforms, Wordpress and Blogger, allow one-click migration of the blog to the new URL. Technically called 301 redirect, this keeps both the URLs and sends those coming to the first URL automatically to the new one.

We have further developed this subject to answer many queries relating to web hosting, having a domain name, practical issues in migrating from an existing blog and so on. You can visit the new posts starting from this link: Giving website an independent name