From the BlogContact Me Now

Do You Own Your Website?

Yesterday a very dear, long-time friend called me to ask my advice about a website. “Sara” (not her real name) is just finishing a naturopathic degree and thought it would be a good idea to have a website to market her services.

Sara’s mainly a stay-at-home mom (most demanding job I know of) to her three incredible daughters -all under 8. She’s committed to being a wife to her husband Tom first, mom second and business owner third. So, unlike many of my own clients who need full-featured, client-focused websites to grow their business, Sara needs a small, simple, somewhat causal website with few, if any features beyond her content.

Sara and Tom are good friends to my wife and I. We all talk regularly by phone. During a casual conversation a few months ago was when Sara first asked me about what she needed for a website. We talked briefly about her business needs, her audience and writing content. We also talked about the basics, such as domain name registration and hosting. It’s this conversation that spawned her new interest in having a website.

Luckly, she found the Yahoo! Small Business website. “Perfect,” she thought when she saw that she could register her domain name for $1.99 when she signed up for hosting with Yahoo!. Cheap domain registration and easy hosting, right.

It’s true, companies such as Yahoo!, SiteBuilder, and Homestead offer some great, and easy-to-use services. If you use their templated designs, you can often have a website up very quickly. And for seemingly little cost.

Yet, as Sara and I soon discussed, there is a cost. And it’s a cost that usually goes without knowing.

Sara thought the design she was using was okay – “good enough for now.” And she felt ready to create the pages of her site using this template from Yahoo! just to get things moving.

Then she asked me a very important question…

“Dawud, if I want to stop using Yahoo!, what do I need to do to move my website,” she asked?

I said, “There’s the crux…you can’t do anything…it’s not your website?”

She said, “What do you mean it’s not my website, I’m paying for it?”

It’s true, she is paying for it. She’s paying for the hosting on Yahoo!’s servers and for the privilege to use their templates for her design. But she doesn’t own any part of the design itself. So once Sara stops using Yahoo! for hosting, she looses her website all together. The only thing she can retain is her content. But only if she gets it off “her” website before closing the account.

Most people who use these services don’t realize that if they decide to host elsewhere, be it for development, service, pricing, etc, they loose their site. So in essence, they’re either stuck with the service they initially chose or they have to start all over when they want to move.

This isn’t a bad situation for a personal or club website. Even for some small, brochure-style business sites it’s fine.

But for any business owner who wants their website to be a hub for growing their business it’s certainly less than ideal. Not only do you not own your website, it often difficult or impossible to alter the designs you can choose from to accommodate the needs of your growing business.

To be fair, there is one advantage to using templated services…start up costs. You can often get a website off the ground for a very small investment – usually under $50. This may work well for you if you have little cash flow as you’re starting your business.

If you choose that path, my advice is the same to you as to my dear friend Sara…Get a professionally designed website as soon as you have enough cash flow to do so. The investment will pay dividends even in the smallest business. Especially if your designer has the skills to help you develop and execute a web-based strategy for growing your business.

My advice, if you can, own your website. and go through the development process with a designer that can really help you craft your site into a marketing hub for your business. You really can’t measure the gains for your effort, time and cost.

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Comments

  1. Beth Quinlan says:

    You newsletter was very timely. Just this week I met with a group of moms who are looking to get our businessess off the ground. Several of us are feeling like a Web site is the next step but we are all feeling overwhelmed. I understand that the cost of a Web site will vary depending on the complexity but could you provide some idea of what to expect to pay for a designed that can design a farily basic site – that would allow for growth over time.

    ALso, I regisered a domain name through one of those cheap sites. I have not created the site yet – just reserved the name. Can I take the name with me? That whole domain name confuses me. I mean, who has the authority and right to sell the names? How can I be sure the name stays mine?

  2. Beth, I fully understand. The costs for website development will vary as will what is covered in the cost. So whatver direction you go, just be clear about what’s included and what’s not.

    With Healthy WebDesign, I do a lot more for my clients than just build their websites. I also work closely with them to refine their marketing approach and help them with strategies for business success through their website. Furthermore, I educate and train my clients to whatever level they want or need training and coaching.

    If you want to know more, please take advantage of my free 25-minute phone consultation.

  3. I was just skimming your blog (linked from Mike Sansone’s) and ran across this article.

    FABULOUS!

    As an independent contractor, I run across this on a regular basis.

    “I have a friend that has his site on {enter shared webpage here} and it only costs him {enter insanely low monthly payment here} a month. Can you do that?”

    HECK NO!

    Then I have to go on to explain that although they now have a web presence, they may not have their brand represented. What I try to educate prospects on is the importance of truly integrated branding and communications. Everything from a base identity to the way they answer the phone should reflect their brand… Including their website!

    Now, some small businesses DO benefit form these economical solutions, but as with “Sara’s” case, what happens when they’ve outgrown the twin bed and need to mature into the double, queen or king?!?

    I really like what you have here.

    Keep cooking!
    The Brand Chef

  4. Andrew

    Thanks for stopping by and commenting.

    I used to get this alot. And I still do from time to time with friends. It’s really important that business owners own their own sites. I feel that way even for those who work with me. I give everything over to my clients once we’re ‘finished.’

    Anyone serious about developing their business online will eventually need their own domain and well-designed website.

    Just visited your site – very nice.

  5. Dave Starr says:

    Very good advice. The number one reason folk sought to steer clear of Yahoo! and other “we own you” sort of places is the fact that we can never tell where our efforts will take us … and what is a little “brochure” site today may evolve into something big tomorrow.

    FWIW I thing web designers should make this a key part of their counselling and services. I have my sites on a little reseller account that costs about $110 a year and has near flawless up-time. It takes perhaps a day or two to become confident with using the included Web Host Manger and Control Panels to set up a client site (there are automated programs for this but that’s more than I care to get into). It would be very easy to make the first year’s hosting and the physical site set-up as a “deal sweetener” in the original proposal … as just one example of a way to do business, and if your new client needed to move on hosting-wise later there would be no strings attached.

  6. Dave

    Thanks for your excellent comment. We’re certainly on the same page. Who hosts your ‘little reseller account?’ I’d like to take a look.

  7. Dave Starr says:

    I have no problem recommending these guys (not an aff link, I have no connection with them except as a satisfied customer)
    http://www.qualityhostonline.com/
    Notice the “Extreme Reseller” account for $10 a month … you get some always running promos on top us the basic 2.5 Gig/20Gig and private name servers, so your clients won’t show up in a DNS search as served by “Look How Cheap My Host Is”, you can set up the account in the business name you desire. Once you have the master account you can put a client online in seconds and since you are, in effect the host, you decide what the client sees on their own Control Panel.

    I’m not in the hosting or web design business but find this great for persoanl “tinkering” sites, my own blogs, my wife’s blogs, people I have help get started, the list goes on.

    The servers are physically located in Texas, the tech support, email only so far as I know, seem to be in India … or mebbe not … but they are great …proper ticketing system, responses in minutes and the last time I needed tech support it was about a problem caused by my own new ISP after my overseas move … not a problem, they figured out what my ISP had done and showed me how to fix it in 5 minutes. Good people.

  8. Dave

    Nice link. Thanks for the clarifications. I use DreamHost for all my sites. Love them. 170GB/1.7TB with unlimited domains/websites for $7.95/mo. And a number of ‘one-click install’ solutions – like WordPress, phpBB2, MediaWiki and a bunch more.

  9. Dave Starr says:

    Interesting. I recall someone having triuble/claiming to have trouble with DreamHost sometime in the past … but now so farback I can’t recall the issues.

    The guys I mentioend have all the one-click install stuff too, both Fantastico and a different, contrasting install program.

    I will take a look at DH in the future, though, becuase I’m looking hard at having some sites spread across two business and geographically diverse providers … thanks for the guidance.

    BTW, why don’t you have a search form on the front page of the blog … I forgot the name of the post we were having this conversation on and pretty much had to stumble upon it … I couldn’t blog without the built in search on my WordPress Theme, I always am using it to look up things I’ve writeen about ….

    regards

  10. Dave,

    I’ve not had any problems with DreamHost – with my sites or any of my clients. Perhaps what you heard about was old news. This past summer they lost a couple of servers during a upgrade but got them replaced and back up in a pretty short time. None of my clients were on those servers.

    On the search form…it’s on my list. My blog/site isn’t done yet. I’m making a number of updates throughout March. So you’ll see a search function some time then. Thanks for caring enough to mention it.

    You may also be interested in my post about comment tracking.

  11. Hi, I actually have not built a website with Yahoo yet, but I did register the domain name thru Yahoo (there is just a placeholder page right now). I still can move my domain name can’t I when I’m ready to have a professional site built?(I get notifications from other companies to switch registration).

  12. Diane,

    Registering a domain is fine with almost any service – as long as it’s going to be around a long time. No need to move your domain name from Yahoo!

    Hosting with Yahoo! could go fine as well.

    Their designs, on the other hand…if you purchase any of their templates and build your site off that, you’ll run into exactly what I’m talking about in this article. Better to hire a designer to help you build a site you own.

    Better yet, hire a web designer who is also a business coach & consultant. I know one I hear is pretty good if you need a reference.

  13. Thanks! I will be in touch!

  14. Did I mean me???

    Okay, I guess I did. I’d love to talk have a conversation with you about how I can help. Contact me as you’re ready.

  15. Its good but its hard to do that. I do consulting services, I’m not a designer though so I let people know. A lot of people come to me though because my costs are cheaper since I teach them how to find the cheaper ways of doing things and running your website for low cost higher profit margin capability. I just found designers to do the things I want to do are a lot pricier than the average joe can afford.. especially when i’m that joe!

  16. Amanda,

    I fully agree. I don’t think that using ‘cheaper’ options is bad at all. I do think that clients and business owners need to be educated so that they can make a decision that’s best for them.

    I’ve worked with a number of clients over the years who have had websites on these templated services and then lost their sites because they didn’t want to continue paying a monthly bill. Most often, no one told them that when they cancelled their monthly fee, they would loose their website.

  17. This is interesting site, got good information about site. Even I have similar site as would give few information about my site…..Develop and implement strategic and tactical web site focused marketing strategies that will accomplish your Goal…..If you want more information about site click the link marketing

  18. Hunter,

    Thanks for your comment. Tell me more about what you do.

  19. This is something I wish I’d known when I first started selling jewelry online. I set up a website through Site Builder because it was cheap and easy & looked really slick. Then when I started reading up on SEO I realized all of the things I couldn’t do. I ended up starting over from scratch, and most of the work I’d put into my website was wasted.

    I’ve seen other people do it with Homestead, too.

  20. Adria,
    I hear stories like this over and over. My own opinion remains that if you’re serious about promoting your business through the web, make the investment in hiring someone to build it for you. There are just too man pitfalls in using the pre-made online services. Though they do work well if you’re just trying something out first.

  21. Very good advice!

    Does the same recommendation apply to blogs hosted at WordPress.com?

    I know that customizing and widgetizing at WP.com is limited, but are there also problems with exporting WP.com blog data to a new, independent WordPress host?

  22. Metta,
    Ultimately, yes. I’d say it’s less important if your blog/website is more of a personal nature. But if you have a business and you’re using your site to promote your business, I’d recommend getting it onto your own domain name from the beginning – if you can. If you’ve already started, I would transfer everything sooner than later.

    I’ve not heard of any export/import problems with self-hosted WP. Once WP is installed, there’s an import function. While I personally have not yet imported a WP site from WP.com, I have on many occasion imported from Blogger & Typepad with no glitches at all. So I would think that import from WP.com would be seamless.

  23. Hi Dawud,

    I have just began the adventure of a new website. SittersLink.com is only a few weeks old. My current problem is the marketing of this site in my target area. I have my branding i.e. logo and I am doing print advertising but I know there is a better way to get the message out on the net. Any suggestions? Take a look at the site if you have a few minutes and I would love to hear back from you with your comments.

    Thanks,
    Debby
    SittersLink.com

  24. Debby,
    One thing, you need to actively find your niche. Yet, you have two niches, in a sense. You need to populate your database of sitters AND you need visibility with people looking for sitters. Seems like it would be necessary to populate your database first so that your site has value to your second group.

    Site looks great. I might make a few changes – like with making sure buttons look like buttons (submit would be a good example).

    You’re welcome to contact me and we can talk about your specific needs.

  25. Hi Dawud,
    I have another question. What about the domain name? Quite a few years ago, I was going to build my own website through Yahoo. Well, I never did complete it and really forgot about it except for the monthly charge on my credit card.

    I’m under the impression that I own my domain name. How can I find out if this is true?
    Thanks.

  26. Carma,
    If you began using a domain name you likely own it. You probably bought it through Yahoo! One way to find out is use whois.com to find out if you’re the listed as the domain’s owner. Then, all you need to do is make sure your registration is up to date with Yahoo! – which you would do through the login they sent you.

  27. Thanks Dawud. This information is very helpful.

  28. Gary R. Hess says:

    People get suckered into quite a few things. There are plenty of web designers out there who have no experience whatsoever with SEO, SEM, W3C standards or know anything about hosting/domaining.

    I was searching for jobs around here for web development and with just about every single one the only requirement was a Graphic Design degree. I almost fell out of my chair!

    A nice looking website is great and all, but if they don’t know how to code it, it’ll only look good to about 10% of people! Not only that, no one will find it in the first place.

  29. Gary,
    Great points. I recently had a conversation with a new grad from the University of Michigan with a degree in graphics and web design. I was amazed that she knew very little about web standards – specifically CSS. It appears that a highly reputable school like UofM is still teaching font tags and table layout. Why?

    And don’t get me started on usability, accessibility and business development – all skills a web designer needs to aid their clients and build quality websites.

  30. This is the first time I’ve actually understood the argument for self hosting. I’ve been trying to decide whether to self host or not for a few months, since so many people have told me to, but now I get it.

    Once my revenue has built up enough to support it, I will definitely be moving to self hosting.

    Thanks Dawud!

  31. Cory,
    You wouldn’t believe how inexpensive it can be to host your own website. You can regularly find hosting for $5/mo. Check out HostGator. Great reputation, phone support and WordPress. And you can easily port your Blogger blog to WordPress through a simple import. Domains cost less than $10/yr.

    So for as little as $70/year you can host your own domain at a reputable host with blog software one-click away from installation.

    Then, with WordPress, you can easily install one of the thousands of free WordPress themes that are available.

    Doesn’t take too much work or know-how, really, and you can be blogging on your own domain – sending traffic to the domain you want to build long-term.

    Just a thought. Contact me if you have any questions.

  32. Penny Gould says:

    Thank you for explaining this so clearly. I chose the option of using a site hosted by a large company, and knew that I probably wouldn’t be able to easily move it should I decide to change hosting options. So far I am very happy with my choice, as a beginning webmaster I appreciate the prebuilt templates and customer support. Your encouragement to “own my own” website will stay with me as I learn the business. Thanks!

  33. Penny,
    Great. I just wanted to be sure that people understood the difference. Pre-made sites and hosting offer a great way in. And at some point you’ll want your own. If I can be of any help, or if you have any questions, don’t hesitate to contact me.

  34. Maryam Hand says:

    Thank you Dawud. That was informative and timely. Maryam

  35. I agree self-hosting is the way to go. You leave too much in the hands of someone else when you host with Yahoo or Homestead.

    Domains are cheap, hosting is cheap (I second your HostGator recommendation), and WordPress is easy to install – even for most non-techies.

    That said, if someone wants to go the easy and/or free route, why not setup a free blog on Blogspot, register a domain at GoDaddy, then point the domain to the free blog? Total investment < $10.

  36. I use wordpress, so I don’t have to create a website from scratch but it offers a lot of flexibility too.

  37. Thanks alot for the information this is very helpful to me. I came to your sight and am very satisfied with your comments. Will be back.

  38. Hi! this might be a little off topic but thought you might comment .I had a web page including a shopping cart desingned for me, the developer hosted my page.I decided to change to another server ,and I am having problems getting him to give me all the nessesary files to get my site live on the other server does he have a legal obligation to give me the files

  39. I just started doing my own site but I am still compiling things and thinking what will be the appropriate things I can put in it.

  40. i’m new to computers and so i’ve been messing around with ebay,and then thought hey why don’t i own my own website,so the search was on and i saw lots of stuff that made no sense, but what would,i don’t know what i’m looking at any way,so to make this short,i saw an advertisement to own your own website and i would have acess to many products and i could even put my own items on my site,and they advertised, that they were the only one’s who allow that,and i bought the website for 200.00 dollars,so then they explained i could use thier retailer id account or my own,so i picked to use my own through paypal,and when i called paypal the representative said that i would have to apply the cart and buttons to each item, or i could utilize one of thier approved third party vendors who would manage the products for me and it could be totaly automated,but that i needed to get the api’s from the company i bought this website from,and then they would take care of processing payments and applying updates,but when i got ahold of the host company they said they wouldn’t do that,but yet they offered the two plans that detailed that plan b would allow me to capture my customers payments,but there is so many products i need to use a thrid party vender to do so, i am worried i’ve just been had.
    sick in texas

  41. bottom line is i want my own website,and to do business the way i want,with the companys i want.

    how can i biuld my own and make it profitable.

    ralph

  42. I use wordpress, so I don’t have to create a website from scratch but it offers a lot of flexibility too.

Trackbacks

  1. [...] Does Marc own his blog? Dawud Miracle over at Healthy Web Design writes an interesting post called, Do You Own Your Website? I flagged this post because I notice that Marc’s blog is run through Blogger. Dawud ponders the question about switching your blog from its current location to one where you can host it yourself. [...]

  2. [...] Blog Building: Who Controls Your Blog? You? Your Host? The most of people think that if we buy a hosting, we can do everything. Sometimes, it’s not like that. There are a lot of hidden pain with hosting service provider. Who controls your blog? By lorelle and Do you own your website? by Dawud Miracle are the best for you to read for this point. [...]

  3. [...] Do You Own Your Website? – Dawud Miracle @ dmiracle.com – (formerly … We all talk regularly by phone. During a casual conversation a … It’s true, companies such as Yahoo! , SiteBuilder , and Homestead … Diane Dyer Quote Me. March 5th, 2007 at 8:18 am . Hi, I actually have … http://dmiracle.com/healthy-websites/do-you-own-your-website/ [...]

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