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Summary:

Lately, my inbox has been filling up with notices. Notices about the impending renewal date of my web-based server space, and the domain names attached to said space. Which means, as the emails ominously remind me, that once it lapses, neither I nor anyone else will […]

homepageLately, my inbox has been filling up with notices. Notices about the impending renewal date of my web-based server space, and the domain names attached to said space. Which means, as the emails ominously remind me, that once it lapses, neither I nor anyone else will be able to get at that data. I know I’m meant to be terrified of this possibility, but I just can’t muster an appropriate degree of fear.

I thought about it long and hard, but in then end, there were just too many reasons against keeping my own server space in operation, and too many reasons for storing and publishing my data, portfolio, and contact information elsewhere. Here’s what convinced me to stop the madness and save a little money in the process.

  1. Discoverability. Because I am not myself anywhere near an expert on SEO, and because I’ve been entirely uncomfortable with shoving links to my content down the throats of people in my network, any content I might post on my own domain goes largely unnoticed. Sure, I have the occasional link via profiles on sites like this one, but let’s be honest, how many of us click through to those, and even having done so, how often do we follow further links off-site from there?
  2. Maintenance required. When it comes to your own site, you take responsibility for the look and feel, the user experience, and the content. The look alone requires pruning, refinement and the occasional overhaul to keep it feeling fresh and current. Keeping content up-to-date might be as easy as updating other social networking site pages, but more often than not, it’s actually a lot more work than making sure your Facebook or LinkedIn profile is accurate and current.
  3. Low Rate of Return. The monetary investment involved in setting up a web site is not inconsiderable. Even if you’re only paying between $100 and $200 a year for server space and domain name registration, are you really seeing that money come back to you as a result of having your own web site? Think about the professional connections you make that turn into profitable relationships. Do they come mostly from your own site (if your business isn’t operated solely from your site, of course), or from connections made via the social web and other sources?
  4. Distraction Factor. A web site of your own might be doing more than just costing you money. If you’re spending a lot of time trying to boost your visitor count, set up advertising, and basically justify its existence in some way, you could be spending your time in a much better and more productive way pursuing additional contracts, working on high priority projects you’ve been procrastinating about, or even just improving your work/life balance.
  5. Reputation. If you do have a web site, and it languishes in disregard, as mine does currently, than it might be even worse than just distracting or wasteful. Stale, dated content with your name on it automatically becomes part of your personal brand, whether or not you’re actively trying to cultivate one. If someone is looking you up online, and they come across your web site before anything else, whatever good things they heard about you via word of mouth could be tainted or even completely erased by the impression your site gives of someone who is either lazy or out of touch.

A web site is admittedly a nice thing to have if you’re a web-based professional. But if your business isn’t dependent upon it (which it would most likely be if you were a web site designer, for example), then that’s all it is: a nice-to-have, not a need-to-have. If you can let it go, maybe you should. You’ll save yourself time, money and possibly even face in the bargain.

Do you have your own web site? Do you use it? How often does it bring you business/real value?

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  1. Daryl Griffiths Thursday, October 15, 2009

    I used to have a small website on the domain I primarily used for running my personal email.

    However, once I took the plunge and switched to gmail for my email and now of course we have Facebook and LinkedIn for personal profiles, I dumped the website for precisely the reasons you’ve enumerated.

    I was going to set up a forward to my facebook profile but as I don’t actively use the domain decided against it. I think that if I were still actively using the domain for email, I would probably redirect the www side to my Facebook (or maybe LinkedIn) profile.

    1. I’m toying with redirecting to my LinkedIn profile — but I know that I won’t do it. I like the idea of having my own site that I can do whatever I like with, even if it is languishing currently.

  2. I can think of one really good reason to maintain your domain – control. LinkedIn may decide to start charging a fee you don’t want to pay or Facebook may never figure out how to make a profitable business out of what they do. Gmail may go down for a week (very unlikely, but it could happen). If you are forwarding all your domain mail to Gmail then one quick change to stop the forwarding gets you back into business with email. I pay $50 a year for my domain site- it’s worth it for the piece of mind alone. If you don’t want to maintain a blog there then a simple portfolio page with your resume and with links to your online locations is useful and not harmful at all.

  3. Turning control of you online presence over to social networks?
    You must be a douche.

    1. Dan (when you’ve finished your course at charm school), who said they’re doing this anyway?

  4. I would never give up my domains, though I did give up running a separate site a long time ago. I use Google Apps for my backend so I get all the Gmail goodness but with my own domain name. I get to use the tool I like but I still get the benefit of having a more professional look to my email address and control over my addresses. For my personal domain I just pointed the homepage to a google sites page that links to some family stuff, pictures and what not. For my personal I site I use tumblr which you can use with your own domain. I almost never populate tumblr directly but it pulls in my Google Reader shared items and twitter updates. The page also has links to facebook and other sites. Its just enough with the auto updates to keep the page fresh and to lead a visitor to the relevant sites.

    I think having your own domain is important now and will only get more important as a way of securing your identity online. I’ve purchased the domains for all my kids which they may or may not use in the future but for a few bucks a year at least I know they will have them later on.

    1. I like the idea of securing domains for my kids–hadn’t considered that before.

  5. Sam Harrelson – Why I’m Keeping My Personal Site Thursday, October 15, 2009

    [...] via Why I’m Letting My Server Space Subscription Lapse. [...]

  6. Stephen McGehee Thursday, October 15, 2009

    Having my own web site long ago became a necessity and not an option. My customers download software and updates, get tech support docs that would otherwise be tech support phone calls or emails, and it lets me put show a personal side of an otherwise sterile software business. All of my plans are for expanding the role of my web sites and domain names – not eliminating them.

    I am a big fan of simplifying and maintaining control wherever possible, and having my own web presence gives me both simplicity and control. One of the biggest benefits of working for myself is the ability to fully control every aspect of the business. Handing that control over to someone else is just one more step toward going back to the corporate environment – something I will not do.

  7. As someone who does web development, it’s next to impossible to not have a website. I’m amazed at the number of people who now consider it perfectly acceptable to put an @gmail.com account on business cards. Kids these days…
    I agree with Stephen–I like the control. Even if my design stagnates, it’s mine.

  8. I was in the same position a few months ago. I kept the hosting so I could have a way of controlling the domain name. This hosting also had email and so on.

    My new solution is that my domain is hosted via WordPress. My WordPress site is now my new personal home page and the jump point for everything else.

    WordPress domain hosting also has pre built support for Google Apps so my mail is now there.

    Finally all my photos are with SmugMug.

    So overall, I am paying the same sort of money each year as I did before but somebody else does all the hard work at a server level and I can just concentrate on the content. In addition I don’t have the same sorts of space limitations as I had before.

  9. Darrell, you’d think that with all the freelance designers and marketing bloggers that read / subscibe to these posts you wouldn’t be in this situation.

    Maybe in a few weeks when I’ve gotten a bit more established as a freelancer I’ll get in touch and see where you’re at. ;)

    In the meantime, I would seriously recommend keeping your domains, even it you end up re-directing them to your Facebook / Twitter / LinkedIn profiles. You may want them back later and find some ad-site squatting on them (boo, hiss!). If you find them currently too expensive, have a look around for an alternative supplier.

  10. Darrell, you may not have considered that, if you let your websites lapse, search engines will still include them in search results for your name for quite some time. People clicking through to those sites will get a dead link, unless you redirect every web page. How do you suppose dead links will impact your brand? That certainly won’t give a good impression of you.

    Although it’s a pain and perhaps a distraction to have to keep up with less valuable websites, I think it makes sense to incorporate the time into your regular marketing maintenance to update those sites every few months or so, or hire someone to do it.

    If those sites have been around for a while, they have some Google power, and with a little work, could perhaps become more valuable to you.

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