There’s a short, somewhat sad thread in the Google Webmaster Help forum from a business owner who recently lost his web site. Why? Because it was hosted on AOL … and AOL recently closed down its FTP/hosting service.
This business owner didn’t just lose his web site. He lost:
- all the incoming links that pointed to it
- all the direct traffic from users who had bookmarked it
- all the search rankings the site may have had
- all the trust the site may have had
He had to start from scratch. And he did — he now has a web site on its own domain and has apparently rebuilt things enough to have a PR3 home page. But, he can’t implement 301 redirects to help users and spiders find the new content. He can’t really do anything beyond what Googler John Mueller suggested in the thread:
Alas, once the old hosting is no longer available, there’s not much that can be done. Since you cannot redirect from the old URLs to the new ones, the best thing that you can do is to contact the people who have linked to your old site and ask them to change the link to your new one.
As Barry Schwartz said on Search Engine Roundtable, “This is just one more reason not to host on a free hosting service.”
Yep. And it’s one more reason to resolve in 2009 to own your own digital assets.
A few months ago, while writing on my other blog, HyperlocalBlogger.com, I mentioned that I had discouraged my wife from blogging on Active Rain, a super-popular web site/social network for real estate agents. A reader over there asked me why I did that, and I wrote a detailed post about it. Here’s part of that post:
4.) It’s all about digital asset ownership. This is the most important reason, so much so that it trumps the previous three items on this list. I’m a BIG BELIEVER in owning your own digital assets. Our intention was always to build high-quality blogs; why do that on someone else’s domain? What happens if Active Rain shuts its doors someday, or gets sold? Where does all our great content go? I’d much rather own that content myself, on my own domains, that I can move anywhere I want.
In a sentence: It’s better to spend time building up your own assets for long-term success rather than building someone else’s assets.
What does this mean to the small business owner?
I think it means a few things:
- Don’t use free hosting services for business web sites.
- Don’t use free blog services, like Blogger, for a company blog. (What if Google decides to shut it down tomorrow so they can “focus on core search”?)
- Think longterm value. You’re trying to build trust and that requires a longterm outlook, not a “let’s just throw something together real quick for free” outlook.
- Think ownership. Successful online marketing is about owning an audience, owning the links you receive, owning the value you create via content, etc.
It means that you need to own your digital assets for longterm success. if you don’t, you’re building on quicksand.