Okay, so you understand the benefits of business blogs, and you’re ready to make the commitment to developing and maintaining a blog for the long haul. The next question is: where should I put the blog?
There are five common options:
Free hosting on a blogging platform site. The URL would look something like mycompanyblog.wordpress.com or mycompanyblog.blogspot.com. This option should never be used for a corporate or business blog. Free blogging platforms are fine for hosting personal blogs where there is no justification for spending money and no expectation of generating any business leads, sales or income. For business however, such platforms are an unprofessional setting, offer limited functionality, and provide very little SEO benefit.
Hosting on a corporate website using the site’s CMS tool. Many corporate websites are built on content management system (CMS) platforms such as Joomla, Drupal or DotNetNuke. These and several other open source and commercial CMS platforms offer built-in blog creation functionality. The advantages of this approach are:
- • All SEO authority (via inbound links) accrues to your corporate website, because the blog is just another section of the site. This is valuable because blog posts are often more effective “link bait” than typical website copy (“About Us,” product/service descriptions, etc.).
- • Your internal (or agency) staff, who may at different times write content for both the company blog and corporate website, have only one content creation tool to learn.
- • The blog has the same “look and feel” as the rest of the site, supporting corporate branding.
- • Whether viewing the blog or regular product/service content, visitors never leave your site.
- • Most CMS plaforms will easily accommodate multiple-author corporate blogs. They can also support multiple blogs (e.g. a widget industry blog and a widget maintenance blog)—though the common look/feel and top-level domain name make it difficult to clearly separate these.
The primary disadvantages of the CMS approach are that the blog is very clearly “the corporate blog”—it has no independence or personality of its own—and that CMS tools often lack the rich functionality and plugins that blogging platforms such as WordPress offer (e.g. subscribe to posts by email, quick polls, automatic XML sitemap maintenance, etc.).
Hosting on an existing corporate site using WordPress. This option assumes that your corporate website is built in something other than WordPress (e.g. on an open source, commercial or proprietary web CMS platform), and that you’ll be installing WordPress just to power the blog. This approach shares many of the advantages of using the underlying CMS to build the blog (SEO links, visitor are kept on the site, multi-author blogs are supported) and does away with some of the shortcomings: first, since the blog template is separate from the website template, it’s easy to give the blog its own personality, consistent with but separate from the rest of the corporate site. Second, unlike most CMS platforms, WordPress has an active developer community contributing special-purpose plugins to continually expand and enhance its functionality.
However, this approach has its own drawbacks. For one, it requires installation and setup of the WordPress blogging and MySQL database management software–not a terribly difficult task, but not one for technophobic to be sure. Where this really becomes complicated is in a multi-blog scenario (again, such as separate industry news and technical / how-to blogs), since each blog requires its own WordPress and MySQL installation. For another, functions that are often provided seamlessly by a dedicated WordPress host (see the separate blog and website hosting option below), such as nightly database backups and WordPress version upgrades, have to configured separately for a self-hosted WordPress installation. In other words, you’ll definitely need knowledgeable IT support for this option.
Hosting both a blog and website on WordPress. This is definitely an option to consider if you are just developing the website for a new organization or rebuilding the website for an existing enterprise. It offers all of the advantages of a WordPress blog while giving IT only a single platform to manage and users only a single CMS tool to learn. Though originally developed as a blogging platform, WordPress has evolved over the years into a respectably capable full CMS option for relatively small, simple websites–with or without a blog.
The downside is that WordPress isn’t suitable for large, complex websites or those requiring customer web application functionality, at least not without some highly involved development effort. For midsize to large enterprise sites, or even smaller company sites requiring specialized functionality, it’s often simpler to develop the non-blog portions of the website using another tool and treating the blog separately. Which brings us to the final option:
Separate blog and website hosting. With this alternative, a blog is treated completely separately from the main company website development platform, hosting arrangements and underlying technology. Regardless of how or where the main website is hosted, the blog is generally hosted with a dedicated WordPress host such as HostGator, Bluehost or JustHost. (Disclosure: I do use JustHost for my personal blog hosting, but I have absolutely no financial relationship with any of these companies.) The advantages of this approach are:
- • The blog can not only have its own “personality” separate from the corporate website, but even its own search-friendly domain name (e.g. widget-industry-news.com).
- • Related to the point above, your company can potentially get an extra spot on the first page of the search engines for specific core search terms. The search engines will generally display any specific website no more than twice (e.g. the home page and one interior page) on the first page of search results. Having a related blog with a separate top-level domain name gives you the opportunity to snare a third spot on the home page for certain search phrases very closely aligned with your business.
- • The blog can easily have its own look and feel, carrying over selected elements of corporate branding (e.g. colors, logo) without having exactly the same look and navigation structure.
- • There’s no burden on the corporate IT group. Setup is easy and maintenance is usually handled automatically by the host for a nominal annual fee. This frees your IT group to focus on more important things, and it means you don’t have to wait for or rely on IT to install new features, add authors, add new pages or perform pretty much any other function on the blog.
- • Authors can write blog posts, add comments, install or update plugins, and perform virtually any other function on the blog from any Internet connection. This may or not be true for your corporate website, depending on the platform used and security settings. In large companies (and many midsized organizations as well), a VPN connection or other software is often needed for corporate site editing access.
- • Separate hosting supports both a single blog with multiple authors and multi-blog scenarios. Managing multiple external blogs will increase costs (though many hosts offer discounts for multi-site hosting packages) but also provide more opportunity for search presence (e.g. in addition to your corporate site, you may own blogs like widget-industry-news.com, widget-maintenance-tips.com, etc.).
- • You’ll incur extra hosting and domain name registration fees, generally running $80-120 per year per blog. That’s not a huge outlay, but something to consider.
- • Your SEO authority will be split, with one set of links pointing to your corporate website and a different set pointing to your blog.
In the final analysis, there is no single perfect answer for all organizations to the question posed in the title of this post. There are benefits and drawbacks to each approach. The best advice is: consider the specifics of your situation and relative advantages and disadvantages of each approach before deciding on the optimal hosting arrangement for your blog.
Other helpful information on this topic:
Location? Location? Location? by SEO Inc Blog
Business Blog: separate domain or on your website by Better Business Blogging
Blog: On Site vs. Off Site – SEO Advantages by WebProWorld (forum)
RC Lations @ MyProspectHill says
Great summary article. I always encourage clients to keep their blog on the same domain as their main site, because most companies need all the ranking fodder they can get without splitting their ranking potential up. However, I would add that you can have your IT department setup part of your domain name to point to an external blog – for example http://www.yoursite.com/blog or even blog.yoursite.com could go to a different website than http://www.yoursite.com This would allow you to keep the SEO benefits in the domain as well as the external hosting solution.
Also, regarding CMS systems when you say –
“The primary disadvantages of the CMS approach are that the blog is very clearly “the corporate blog”—it has no independence or personality of its own—and that CMS tools often lack the rich functionality and plugins that blogging platforms such as WordPress offer (e.g. subscribe to posts by email, quick polls, automatic XML sitemap maintenance, etc.).”
Most companies setting up a CMS system will have a professional do it, because Drupal or Joomla isn’t something you really want to try on your own. If you’re using professional to instal and setup, you can easily contract them to add style and plugins wherever you want. Yes, WordPress has some features that other CMS’s won’t, just because of its huge user base. However, anything you would want for a business setting is easily found in other systems like Drupal. I think the big message between the two is setup difficulty and system functionality. More heavy-duty systems like Drupal or Joomla will give you a lot more functionality in the long run because they’re a more open system, however they require more expertise to setup properly.
Tom Pick says
Excellent points all, thanks for the detailed and thoughtful comment.
“If you’re using professional to install and setup, you can easily contract them to add style and plugins wherever you want.” Very true. An advantage of WordPress is that you don’t necessarily need a professional to set up such things, and even if you do choose to hire it out it’s a quick (and therefore relatively inexpensive) project.
Good article. I believe it really depends on the financial pros/cons… You have captured it quite nicely…
For example, in our case we have our main site http://www.ellipsisdive.com however we wanted to keep the blog site “catchy” so we bought http://www.neverendingthoughts.com as our blog site. For now we are just redirecting the blogs on “never ending thoughts” to our main site’s “blog” subdomain…
That way you can reduce the maintenance cost by not running a full blown website and maintaining the domain and at the same time leverage the benefit from a “catchy” domain name…
Tom Pick says
Thanks Laura, good point. That approach may not get you to #1 on Google for your blog name, but at least on the first page. Love the blog name!
I think there are benefits of hosting the blog on another domain for secondary branding purposes.
Tom Pick says
I’m coming to the conclusion that there is no definitive answer, and “it depends” is spot on.
Hey, Are you going to be posting a follow up piece? My spouse and me have squandered some time checking over your web pages and funnily enough you discussed a little something we were referring to just the other week with our accountant. We often hear ourselves quarrelling with the smallest of details, isn’t it childish?
I am impressed with your all points, blog is best way to advertise your business.
legal case management software says
I think blogs are really important, but I think that they would be best served if they are directly on the website.
I rarely use blogs as any form of being “offical”. I normally just use a basic website for that.
Renate Somsy says
Thank you just for sharing. I think that blog should be a part of your corporate website. Though it has its por and cons, but anyway I think so. IMHO.
Tom Pick says
Thanks Renate. That does seem to be the trend, though again, as you note, there are pros and cons.
I’ve had a difficult time trying to decide this. I suppose if it were for SEO purposes, then you’d want it on you site with no sub-domain.
Tom Pick says
Agreed Ron. Then again, I kind of like having the corporate name on the website, and a key generic search phrase as the name of the blog. Plus, a separate URL makes the blog seem more informational and less “corporate.”
In today’s tech, for any business having a blog is a must – but it’s also a great way to express, evaluate, and educate with your customers.
Tom Pick says
Couldn’t agree more Jay!
I love Joomla says
Hi all there. I think a blog has a helper function. But the blog must stand alone, it´s not a part from the same Domain. And i would link only from the blog the “First Level domain” and not backwards. I hope you understand me 😉 Greetings, Jan from Hamburg
Tom Pick says
I think I followed that – thanks Jan!
The key is to have some measurement on the roi of spending the time it takes to manage your blog
Yes, but it’s also important to be careful with this. Content marketing needs to be viewed as an investment rather than an expense (such as an online ad would be). The value of a blog increases over time; if the ROI measurement period is too short, the blog’s contribution to the business will be undervalued. It takes time to build credibility with the market, influencers and search engines. So by all means measure ROI on the time spent, but be sure to take into account that the return will be minimal over the first few months but will grow over time.