By Christine Springer
If you’ve been following my blog(s) for awhile now, you know how important blogging has become for sharing information about the things you care about.
I have personally struggled in the past several years with maintaining an online blogging presence because I don’t have a programming background. It took me many years to find a solution to this.
I began blogging in 2009, not having any idea how powerful it would be. It took me just four months of blogging on a daily basis to accelerate my business results and reach more people.
I began blogging on Foreclosure Industry, which was owned by a business partner. It ran on the WordPress platform. Everything was great until my partner lost interest in the business. He also stopped taking my calls and updating the website.
That created all sorts of other problems for me as a business owner. I lacked the technological skills necessary to update the site, and I had increasingly seen more and more scrutiny over claims made on the internet about helping people avoid foreclosure.
As the foreclosure crisis moved forward through the “scammy” phase, the regulations tightened, which required changes in our marketing for the site.
That meant I needed to be able to remove certain things from the blog. And since I didn’t own that site and my business partner had ghosted on me, there really wasn’t much I could do except pack up my content and leave.
Clearly I needed more control over my marketing message, which meant I had to be able to manage my own website.
This was a HUGE business and marketing lesson for me. In retrospect, I realized this was like “digital sharecropping” and all the social media platforms are doing this under the guise of things being more “social.”
In essence, these platforms are making a lot of money from YOUR content, photos and videos. You might have never considered writing a blog, but you're likely already blogging on sites like Facebook through your personal updates. Wouldn't you rather monetize your content ideas for yourself?
Even if you aren’t writing blog posts (perhaps you should!), your updates are building SEO and making money for these websites.
If someone is going to make money off YOUR content, why shouldn’t it be YOU? I think you have to be on these platforms as a business owner but the content should ALWAYS be created on an asset YOU own.
As my brother Mark would say, “Always be optimizing your OWN assets.”
That’s why it’s never a good idea to build your blog on someone else’s website, whether it’s a business partner or using a free service, like the free WordPress blogging platform.
Also, if someone else can pull the plug on your content, your business will probably suffer if you are an established blogger. I lived through this, and it sucked. It was an EXPENSIVE lesson. This basically derailed my business after I left Foreclosure Industry.
I moved to Foreclosure Industry News in 2011, which was another WordPress site. This time, I owned the domain name but I still had the same problem, though: I couldn’t figure out how to customize a WordPress site.
My brother built the site for me, and I began blogging there. It took months for the site to get optimized, and aside from that, the foreclosure crisis was dragging through the “dark days.” The courts were regularly ruling for the banks, and a lot of people had given up. There wasn’t a lot of good news to talk about then, and it was tough for me to keep writing.
However, the last time I had visited my brother in St. Louis, we talked about search engine optimization. He told me a story about how he had compared the websites for his biggest client to a competitor’s site, and they were doing the very same things – except the competitor was NOT using WordPress.
That stuck in my head, because it supported what I was already experiencing: WordPress was too complicated!
I did not want to have to take an entire class to learn how to design my website. I know this is how a lot of people break into the tech industry, but this was not something I could pick up in a couple of weeks and apply it to my business right away.
I began looking for alternatives to WordPress, mostly because I wanted better search engine optimization, but mostly because I wanted something that was easier to manage, that I could set up from start to finish and manage on my own, without any additional technical skill.
I found the Ghost platform while looking for a WordPress alternative. At that time, the founders were doing a Kickstarter campaign to get the funds to build it out and turn it into a viable alternative. The founders were clear that while WordPress was a good platform, it had essentially turned into a content management system instead of a blogging platform.
If you’ve used WordPress you know what I’m talking about. The level of complexity with WordPress makes it hard for people who just want to blog.
I waited for Ghost to launch and become available to the public. I was able to set it up myself and manage the design. I personally like that the default Ghost design is clean, simple and attractive. I use the basic template for all my websites now.
There is a learning curve with Ghost but it's definitely shorter than with WP. Also, during setup you run your site's traffic through CloudFlare, which is pretty cool because it has the latest in security features. And, if you get really big or controversial, you become a target for hackers, and CloudFlare's service minimizes the damage from denial of service attacks. CF also offers DNSSEC, the latest in security for the web. And it's all free.
Websites can be complicated, and if you’re not sure what to do, it can totally distract you from earning money.
On the other hand, I’ve personally seen how blogging can accelerate your business quickly when you create solid content on a regular basis, which then attracts your tribe.
What are the struggles you've faced as a business owner when it comes to establishing your website?