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)