This post just might turn out to be a little “mini rant” because it’s a topic that gets me all fired up – and it has for YEARS.
But I promise, I have a point and a very important message for you to take away from this post.
Here’s the statement/advice/words of “wisdom” I have seen shared by others for years and years now when it comes to building an online business…
If you don’t own it, they can take it all away from you!!!”
And then the murmurs start from those with a good bit of online internet marketing years under their belt….
“Yep… remember what happened with Squidoo… awful… folks lost everything… you gotta own your own site…”
Oh dear goodness gracious bless my heart give me strength….
Every time I turn around these days as I travel the internet, people ARE building their online businesses on FREE resources and platforms.
But they don’t even realize it.
Now, I’m not being mean about the past Squidoo situation, ok? I also lost my pages there as well.
While I didn’t lose anything near “everything” as far as my online business goes, I had loss, too.
It was just darn sad. It was a fun, free site to work on and it worked REALLY well while it worked.
And wow, at the amazing people I met from my time on Squidoo.
And oh my, the LESSONS learned – priceless.
What I DO want to talk about is this whole misconception that “free is bad”
It all started way back in about 2007 – 2008 or so in the good ol’ Warrior Forum.
Now, I’m the kind of online marketer that “pops the hood” on every tool, website, resource, etc that I use so I can learn to use it in the best way possible for my business.
As that time, I was doing a lot on Squidoo (a now offline free-to-use site where anyone could make free web pages with their affiliate links included – that was MAGICAL back then).
I was also doing very well with Squidoo pages.
Back then, if someone asked a question about doing better with Squidoo in the Warrior Forum, I would do my best to answer and help.
Each and EVERY. SINGLE. TIME. someone would say in the thread:
“Oh my gosh! Don’t use Squidoo! It’s FREE – you don’t own it or control it!”
translation: only losers use free resources for their online business. Color me Loser, lol!
There is this whole misconception that if you OWN your domain name and pay for your website hosting, that you’re covered – you’re safe from loss.
But THEN, one goes out and monetizes with Amazon’s affiliate program…. and with Google’s Adsense ads… and gets all their traffic from Google, Pinterest, Facebook, Twitter, StumbleUpon etc etc etc.
What do ALL those things have in common?
Yep, they’re all FREE to use.
As I’ve been doing even MORE deep research into Pinterest, I have noticed SO many bloggers that are virtually 100% dependent on their FREE traffic from Pinterest to earn money from their Ad Networks (also free to use) and from their various affiliate programs (also FREE).
Is that NOT “building a business on FREE”??!?!!?
To me, that is terrifying.
One little tweak by Pinterest and BAM, it’s all gone.
Heck, just yesterday the Pinterest site was down for awhile.
Yep, totally OFFLINE.
I can’t remember the last time I’ve seen such PANIC from other online marketers.
But heck, if you’re getting 50,000 page views a DAY from Pinterest, and there are 1,440 minutes in a day, that could certainly hurt if Pinterest is down and not sending traffic to your site for just an hour, right?
That’s an hours worth of no ad clicks, no affiliate link clicks/sales, no email list sign ups… nothing.
But the bigger panic was – what if Pinterest was gone for GOOD?
If tomorrow, the Pinterest powers-that-be said:
“Hey, we sold the Pinterest site and they’re closing it down! Sorry! But thanks for your time!”
Do you think that would cause serious issue for a good many bloggers?
Yes, sadly it would.
I can already smell the bitterness, the anger… the loss.
Thankfully, I see a LOT of them building their email lists.
(btw, that’s the only traffic you really have any control over – unless you’re paying for traffic, your free traffic sources can be gone, or taken from you, in the blink of an eye.)
Or, another all-too-common and horrifying story of BIG earners getting kicked out of the (free) Amazon affiliate program when that is ALL they focus on.
Just like that, POOF, it’s all gone.
Nothing about “OWNING” your own website makes a darn bit of difference there, does it?
Have I Terrified You Yet?
If so, I’m sorry, I’m not trying to TERRIFY you… I want your attention.
I want you to think… and plan…and be mindful of what’s best for YOU –
and most of all:
I want you to DIVERSIFY.
Do I think other online marketers should “own” at least one website?
Yes, I absolutely do – we bloggers all need a home base where we make the rules.
But it does NOT stop there.
If there is a free-to-use platform that works well, you bet your bippy I’m going to use it.
I’ll use any free-to-use platform that works for me.
My online business is not built on any ONE thing – free or not.
I have always diversified my places to build web pages – I’ll take all the exposure, engagement, search engine rankings, and sales I can get – won’t you?
My mantra has always been:
Be everywhere – and use everything that works.
Same for My Online Revenue Streams
I adore the Amazon affiliate program – it’s the easiest program of all because Amazon is the undisputed King of converting site visitors to sales.
But that is NOT the only stream of income my online business has.
The Amazon affiliate program is free to use… in other words, it’s FREE MONEY.
If that’s all you focus on, you’re building your business on FREE.
(note: if you’re NEW to all this, you have to start somewhere good to learn and Amazon is a great program to start earning with while you learn how to make great money online. Once you have that rolling, THEN diversify and grow.)
And What About FREE Traffic Sources? Do You Use Those?
I’m having a BLAST with Pinterest – the traffic I’ve learned how to get from Pinterest is mind-blowing.
Easiest FREE traffic EVER!
I can absolutely understand why some would build their entire business based on that free platform.
And not just for traffic!
Heck, we’ve got Pinterest tools, and Pinterest consultants, and Pinterest Management Services, and Pinterest courses (guilty on that one…lol! I teach my Pinterest strategy here.) – all risking EVERYTHING on that one free-to-use website.
I just don’t have the you-know-whats to do that.
I LOVE me some Pinterest…. BUT – that is NOT the only source of traffic I work on for my sites and web pages.
I like lots of web pages on lots of sites with lots of streams of income from lots of sources with traffic coming from multiple sources.
Whether anything is “free” or not, does not even cross my mind.
Whether it WORKS or not – now, THAT crosses my mind =)
Free is GOOD – but I also know “free” does NOT last forever.
Rules change, sites go down, sites get sold, algorithms change – that’s how it rolls online.
Your online business is better off, and YOU are better off, if you accept that free won’t work forever and always work with that in mind.
If Pinterest goes offline forever tomorrow – will you be ok?
If Amazon kicks you out of their affiliate program, will your online business be ok?
If Google tanks your site and you no longer rank for anything, will your business be ok?
If Facebook deletes your Page or Group – will you be ok with your other resources?
When it comes to free platforms and free resources, it’s not a matter of whether it’s “fair” or not if you lose that resource.
They can do whatever they want – whenever they want.
They OWE you nothing – they owe ME nothing.
It’s THEIR business. their site, THEIR rules – you paid nothing for the traffic/sales/etc you’ve been getting from them, right?
But now, they’re done with you – or done with that site – whatever, but you’re out.
Thanks for playing.
This is a breaking point for many in our business – you get those moments of choice:
Do I get Bitter – or BETTER?
Be Sure To Look at the Big Picture
At the end of the day, EVERY free-to-use resource or income stream we use is NOT letting us get traffic/make money from them out of the kindness of their heart or because we’re entitled to it.
They allow us to do that because…
When it’s all said and done… We are building THEIR business.
Think about it.
Pinterest needed users to add pictures to their site to build their site out.
In exchange, they let the pictures be clickable to go to the web page the picture is found on.
What happens when they don’t need any more pictures?
Heck even Google…. they use OUR web pages to build out THEIR products.
Where do you think they get the info in their search results?
Where do you think they get the info in their instant answers? Or when Google tells you what the football game score is or what the definition of a word is or any of those Instant Answers Google provides THEIR customers?
They get it from website content that others, like YOU, have created.
In exchange, we webmasters are offered the chance to rank well and get free traffic based on THEIR rules.
That’s right, the deal from Google is:
“Hey website owner, if you let us scrape your content and use it for our business to earn money, you MIGHT get some FREE traffic from our site… IF you figure out the rules.”
There are many other search engines – all free to be listed in as well – so why don’t you work so hard to rank in those other search engines?
Why don’t you beg other sites to scrape your content and use it for their own benefit? lol!
No need to reply – I know the answer to that 😉
This all applies even if you’re an affiliate for another program or person…
Yes, you are making FREE money… but ultimately, you are building THEIR business and THEIR email list.
If they close their affiliate program or kick you out of it – you’re out that free money, but their business is fine.
They’ve got an email list full of paying customers YOU sent them.
(oh, and another thing: don’t let anyone EVER tell you NOT to build an email list or that you don’t need one. You do need one.)
Seriously, think about the big picture.
Anyway, thank for letting me get all that off my chest.
The next time you ask if you should use XYZ Free Site or Free Service, and you are told:
“OMG, Nooooooo! Don’t build your business on FREE!!!!!!!!!!”
I want you to really think and make the right decision for YOU and for YOUR business.
No, you don’t build your entire online business on any single platform or resource… free or not.
The bottom line: Your monthly income “lake”, better have a LOT of streams flowing into it.
If someone deters you from trying ANYTHING new for your business, free or not, ask yourself WHY.
Perhaps because you are using (paying for) THEIR service to build THEIR business and they don’t want you going anywhere?
Maybe. Maybe not.
It’s YOUR business and YOUR learning experience – try it all.
That’s the ONLY way you know what works for YOU.
How CAN You Protect Your Online Business?
Ideally, we each should have:
– An email list (ie, our own controllable traffic resource)
– At least one of our own products (ie, our own controllable income resource), and
– Our own website where we control the rules, the content, and the flow.
Then, you use any and all resources you can to build and GROW those 3 things.
If it’s FREE and it WORKS – heck YES, use it!
But always keep growing – keep learning – keep diversifying.
Please, don’t ever get too comfortable with ONE traffic source bringing you good income from ONE revenue source.
It sure is fun while it lasts, but…. well, I think you get the picture.
Thoughts? Comments? Questions?
The comment area below is open for the next 7 days.
Thanks for reading!!
If you’re wanting to learn how someone makes 6 figures a year from ONE blog as an Amazon affiliate, you really need to read this. It’s VERY impressive!