Dennis Cooper blogged about fiction and art for about ten years. Then last month, Google deleted his blog. He is yet to be told why. Losing ten years’ worth of effort writing down his thoughts, feelings and ideas as well as all his follower’s comments and interaction is devastating. Obviously, most people would say, that the solution to this is to always make a backup of your work. However, it goes beyond that.
You see, even if Dennis backed up his work, if Google does not allow his work and his blog to be reactivated, he has to rebuild again, on a different domain name, on a different platform or on a different URL. Losing the URL, that precious link that you and your followers have been sharing on the Internet, leading people to your website — that network of websites on which your links are displayed, simply becomes useless; for they now lead to a dead-end. Your users click a link expecting to see your blog, website or online shop, and they go nowhere. That is, for me, the biggest loss.
If you are reliant on a free service, you are at the mercy of a person or some company’s business, operational or technical limitations. Companies who provide ‘free’ services have objectives that is different to yours and at some point, they may conflict or divert. The answer therefore, is to move your projects, arrange your assets, in a way that provides you more access and more control to your information, to your work and to your business.
You might have started off something as a hobby online. You might have started a blog or even a website selling a product or a service. You did it on some platform that uses another business’ domain name.
Many of these services are free. These types of services I am talking about are the type of services where your blog is stored on someone else’s website. A blog might have URL of www.blogger.com/marysblog or a shop might have a URL of www.name-of-other-business.com/jennysshop.
At the start, it might be just the perfect fit for you. But at some point, you have to decide when something is serious enough to warrant doing what you do by giving it its own home. You would know when something online is serious enough. This could be based on how much of your time and the resources you are committing to it.
Once you have decided that an activity you are doing online is serious enough, then I suggest you give it its own home as soon as possible. How exactly do you do this?
When you give someone a home, you need a house or an apartment or some form of accommodation. In web development, this process is called getting your website hosted. Who hosts websites? Hosting companies. Hosting companies are like real-estate vendors and renters. They rent you spaces in their computers for a fee, so that you can have a place in which your website files, scripts and databases can live. Hosting companies are responsible for keeping your files accessible to the world 24 hours a day.
Like in the real world, your website will have an address. But online, this address is not something that is just given to you. You actually need to register your address. The good thing is you can make up your address, so long as it has not been registered by someone else.
These addresses I refer to are called Domain Names. You register a domain name and it could be your name, the name of your business, your product or anything else you fancy. When you have this address and you have the right to continue using it as long as you maintain its registration.
Now you can tell the world that your address is www.yourbusiness.com instead of www.someone-elses-business.com\my-business. You and your team can have email addresses like email@example.com instead of firstname.lastname@example.org. You can stop promoting someone else’s business or activity and focus and promoting yours.
Yes, these activities costs money. But in exchange, you get ownership. Whatever you are doing online, be it blogging or running a business, it actually becomes yours. You have more access and control on how your website, blog or online shop runs and operates. So long as it does not break the law, it is you who decide what content to publish. Off course, you still need to back up regularly, but when you do, you can restore it back to the domain name or URL where people expect to find you.
Thank you to Aja Romano for his article titled, “A writer kept a blog for 10 years. Google deleted it. Why?“, Vox.Com (Dated 30 July 2016)