The Most Essential Thing Your Business Needs To Grow Online

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You have gorgeous products. Your online sales are growing. And so is your brand. You may be writing some witty blog posts that are getting liked and shared. But if you don’t have this one thing, your online business is on shaky ground. And you could be putting everything at risk.

That one thing you must have is your own self-hosted website.

But why is it so important?

You can sell your products through various online marketplaces. And you can grow your brand and audience through social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter. So what is the point of going to the trouble of setting up your own website?

The answer is: because without it, your online business isn’t yours.

The problem with all those sites is that you don’t own them. And you never know when something might change, or those sites disappear.

The pros and cons of online marketplaces

When you’re getting started, online marketplaces can be a real help. They take care of the marketing and advertising. And you can just concentrate on designing, making and selling your products. They are also a great way to increase revenue streams to your business.

But if your only storefront is one on an online marketplace. Then it’s not really yours. It belongs to the marketplace. And if, for whatever reason, they decide to close down their website. Along with it goes your store.

Or lets take another scenario. What happens if they decide to substantially increase their commission rates? It could affect your whole business model and make it unsustainable.

Even the people who place orders can’t be considered your customers. Yes, they may buy your products. But usually, you won’t be allowed to add them to your mailing list. Or even to enclose promotional material together with your order to encourage repeat sales. If it directs them to a site other than the marketplace.

The dangers and benefits of social media

The same goes for social media. You’re at the mercy of another company’s terms and conditions.

Some small businesses use Facebook like a home page instead of having their own website. The advantages are that it can help you grow a large audience – and it’s free!

But what happens if they decide that your content has breached one of their terms of service? They can simply take down your site and you’ve lost everything.

And you never know when the algorithm might change. Just like Facebook did recently. So now your updates won’t be seen on the timelines of all of your fans each time you post something. Even if they chose to like your page.

That’s not too say social media isn’t useful. On the contrary. You should be using sites like Facebook and Twitter as part of your online marketing to help build your brand. They are great ways to help grow your audience and customer base. As well as to engage with your followers. And they can be really insightful for marketing research. But use them as vehicles to bring people back to your site.
Tweet: Your website is your home, and social media is the transport that brings people to visit you http://ctt.ec/bF74B+Your website is your home, and social media is the transport that brings people to visit you.

Free blog vs a self hosted blog

If you have your blog hosted on a free platform like Blogger or Tumblr, I’m sorry to tell you that also isn’t entirely safe. You don’t have complete control over it. There is always the danger that your site can be shut down and all your work erased.

Another thing to bear in mind is that a website hosted on a free platform is harder to rank on google than one that is self-hosted.

So build your brand on a platform your own. And make sure you have your own domain and a self-hosted website. It is an asset you can control as you wish, to build and grow.

By all means, use third-party sites to help grow your business. But aim to use it as a means to direct traffic back to your own site. And concentrate most of your energy on your own website.

Grow your own assets – rather than someone else’s. And retain your freedom.

[Image: Flickr Creative Commons via Eran Sandler]

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