Think of it as the difference between owning your property outright and renting your property. Both have pitfalls but if you own your property that means you are more secure.
When I first started blogging in 2007 it was pointed out to me that I didn’t own the traffic I was generating. I was using sites such as BT Tradespace and Ecademy. The traffic belonged to those sites. To this day I still use BT Tradespace (but not like I once did but because the site has become so awkward and clunky it’s now hassle). Although very new to the online world and not sure if it was going to work for us long term, we still invested in our own blog sites built with WordPress. The investment back then was around £100 per site. I now have over 30 standalone blog sites. Some personal like this site and some about UK delivery (business).
Beware the blogging experts that only talk free tools
This week I have seen several reputable business women promoting their blogging course using “free tools” and quite frankly I feel that if they really are marketing experts then they shouldn’t be teaching people to become digital sharecroppers, they should be explaining to other women that they need to own their own online home.
Nicolas Carr coined the term digital sharecropper and you should read the post -
A while back I wrote that Web 2.0, by putting the means of production into the hands of the masses but withholding from those same masses any ownership over the product of their work, provides an incredibly efficient mechanism to harvest the economic value of the free labor provided by the very many and concentrate it into the hands of the very few.
Just a few days ago Sonia Simone posted about it on Copyblogger, I missed that post but I found it when researching this post. She writes about a bookstore closing -
Literally overnight, their business model quit working. Revenues simply wouldn’t exceed costs. A decision made by another party, one they had no control over, took a wonderful business and destroyed it.
And that’s precisely what you risk every day you make your business completely dependent on another company.
It might be Facebook. It might be eBay. It might be Google.
It’s called digital sharecropping, and it means you’re building your business on someone else’s land.
And it’s a recipe for heartbreak and failure.
And if you look in the comments, the first comment is responded to by a lady called Sarah Russell who like me sees people advising “sharecropping” all the time.
As some of my friends know, the management of an online site decided that I was a fake account (even though they had met me and spoke to me on the phone). They deleted my account and it became forbidden to mention my name on their site. At the time I was furious, who were these people to threaten my business by removing my content and making up lies about me? But I was safe as my content was spread across multiple of my own sites. I wasn’t dependent on them for business or traffic. Prior to my being ejected, they had made all but a few of their site links “no-follow” and that had sent many of my friends websites plummeting in Google. My friends had relied on the sharecropping site rather than their own SEO efforts, and had not planned for them to change the rules.
Building a business around a web 2.0 site is an exhilarating thing, the blood rush to the head, the traffic, the applause for being the early adopter and sharing the benefits to everyone… well that’s not your business you are promoting. It belongs to someone else. And what if they decide that they don’t like you?
Yes, you may feel a fraction resentful when they remove you and your content.
It feels even worse to see friends cosying up and making the same mistakes and thinking it will never happen to them.
At the moment think about Facebook.
All your family photos are there. All your family updates, all your video. If Facebook banned you for a violation of their terms you would feel like you were excommunicated. All this week Facebook has made changes to the site, my sidebar is different, my comments some days update and on other days don’t. Linda Mattacks gets quite furious with it, she somehow thinks it’s my fault that she can’t comment or her comment gets wiped. If you are building a business using a site you are at their mercy.
Other friends are busy building super elaborate fan pages on a site they have no control over. Others argue that the pages are built using a WordPress extension so the content is in two places and I have always made it clear what I think about dominating Google with duplicate content…
So here we have it, a super long post about a practise that doesn’t benefit you that is advocated by many. Many who are uninformed and unrealistic about how business operates.
I shall leave you with you more examples, this time with You Tube as the content site hoovering up all your content and then locking you out. In this example it’s Jeff Johnson from the Underground training lab
Yet they terminated my youtube account that very same day. .. youtube didn’t even bother giving me the six months they mentioned in their email message.
Even worse … in my opinion youtube’s doing a great job of tarnishing my reputation by telling everyone who tries to view one of my videos that I’m some sort of “repeated or severe violations” offender.
(Note to youtube: Are two flags for marketing videos hat have been seen hundreds of thousands of times in 3 or 4 years really “repeat” or “severe”?)
Here’s what you’ll see if you visit my old youtube channel right now (click image to view full screen):
I had something like one million views of my youtube channel so chances are pretty good a LOT of people will see this less than friendly message.
And here’s what you’ll see if you visit one of the pages of that used to host my individual video:
Link to full article
Not cool, youtube! You are accusing me of posting “spam, scams, and commercially deceptive” videos yet nothing was being sold in the video, and it was 100% unique educational content that I created for my thousands of loyal youtube followers.
(Note to youtube: Everyone makes mistakes, especially me. But isn’t it possible that once in awhile your automated software systems or overly tired employees that are tasked with reviewing tens of thousands of videos a day make a mistake as well? If so, why not say something nice like “sorry, this video is no longer available”,when you remove a video… It just seems much “nicer” in my opinion and doesn’t seem nearly as offensive to someone if their video was mistakenly removed.)
It’s not just Jeff Johnson and his You Tube account, it happened to Darren Rowse too. He has since had his account reactivated.
I’ve just spent some time digging in my spam filters and found an email from Youtube from earlier today saying that they suspended my account for 6 months. It says it was for a single video (my last one titled ‘secrets to making money online‘ (you can read the transcript on that link) but doesn’t give any specific reason. I’m not sure what the problem with the video is (it makes no promises and promotes nothing) or why a problem with one video would trigger an account wide suspension, why they wouldn’t just delete the video and/or ask me to make changes.
I’ve also heard from another YouTube user who also got suspended today for a similar topic video and we’re wondering if some keywords in the video description might have triggered this (despite the content on the video being fairly harmless in my opinion). Hoping it might be that simple. Link to full article
I hope this post with it’s examples stops and makes you think twice about building your business on a 3rd party site with no back up at the very least.
The cure is simple. Prevention is better though.
Get your own blog on your own domain. I’ll help you with that. Own your blog, own your content and get a newsletter /email list so that if Google sandboxes you you still have your contacts and can share your side of the story. Then when you get canned for a perceived violation you are still OK. You may be wounded but you will live to fight another day.
photo credit: bernat…
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