* Best Blog and Web Site Hosting for Small Businesses
I've done a lot of research in response to repeated reader questions about web site hosting solutions. My new recommendation for blog and basic web site hosting is Type Pad. Please note that although they are seen as a blog specialist, I've found the Type Pad service to be very effective and easy to use for general web site hosting, too.
Summary: TypePad is a cost-effective and easy-to-use content publishing and site hosting solution for anyone wanting to set up a blog or basic web site. The Typepad system offers a range of strong features, easy to use customizing and editing tools, and reliable hosting. There are also free blogging services available but none that we have tried match Typepad. Their 14 day free trial is a great way to get acquainted with Typepad. (And the basic paid version is only $4.95/month - well worth it given the system's features, reliability, and flexibility.) I like their service so much that I recently moved not just ScottFoxBlog.com but my main web site, ScottFox.com over to Type Pad hosting, too.
My Detailed Review of Type Pad Blog & Web Site Hosting Services
The Type Pad hosting service is great for blogs and works well for general web site hosting, too. It's an excellent example of an easy to use yet affordable online system that anyone can use to cheaply and quickly start an internet business, even without knowing much technology. Here’s why:
Easy to Use: Type Pad offers you the ability to quickly and easily create a new web site or blog. After registering with a few clicks, you can set up a new web site or blog using one of their pre-defined graphic templates. No FTP or Dreamweaver type editing software is needed – the service is delivered completely through your web browser - simply click and type to get your site up online.
You can enter your content as a series of blog-style “posts” to create a blog, or as more traditional web site “pages” if you want to use the service to create a non-blog web site.
The “what you see is what you get” (WYSIWYG) editing tools are straightforward. They are easy to use and familiar to anyone who uses Microsoft Word. (Although they inexplicably don't include buttons for two basic layout tools: alignment and table insertion.)
Type Pad is also a hosted solution (sometimes also called an ASP – application service provider – or SaaS – software as a service). This is tech speak but is basically good news for you because it means that they handle all the software and hosting. You don’t need to worry about installing any software or upgrades or bug patches when operating your new web site. You can access all their services through your web browser, 24/7/365. This means that you can focus on your business instead of technology support!
Strong Publishing Capabilities: The Type Pad system gives you good control over your publishing schedule because you can pick the time that a post will go live. You can also quickly and easily insert photos and other graphics into each post or page without having to create a separate photo archive.
Best of all, you have easy and direct access to the HTML of the posts you make. You may not need this (because the basic WYSIWYG editing tools they provide are generally adequate) but it can come in handy if you want to try more sophisticated layouts or formatting.
Customization: Although the provided graphic templates are a pretty weak bunch, you can probably find a look for your new site that will be enough to get you going. If you tire of the theme you selected, it is as easy as a few clicks to change your template, too. Templates are limited to 2 or 3 column blog-style layouts. This should be sufficient for the basic uses I'm recommending but may be constraining if you want to present a more freeform page structure. Advanced customization of design is also an option for advanced users but my focus here, as usual, is for users wanting to create something quickly without a lot of technical investment.
Because it was designed for blogging, most of the Type Pad customization is available in the sidebars on the web page with the central column being largely limited to text input and graphics (unless you want to get fancy with custom HTML and CSS).
That being said, the sidebars are full of interesting and useful customization tools. For example, you can easily check boxes in the preferences screens to add or subtract different content modules such as your "About Us" page or lists of recent posts or comments.
The side bar content modules are also easily re-arrangable. Type Pad offers a clever "drag and drop" content rearrangement system that really helps in making the site look exactly how you want without any coding skills needed.
Type Pad also makes it easy to start “domain mapping”. This allows you to use your own URL to overwrite the assigned TypePad URL that visitors would normally see. (So www.yourbrandname.typepad.com can become simply www.yourbrandname.com for all your pages.)
This is important so that you can keep your branding consistent. Customers never need to be distracted by knowing that you are using Typepad. The instructions in the Help section are detailed and specific enough so that anyone could accomplish this important bit of technical domain mapping customization without much trouble.
The system also offers a concept called “Typelists”. A typelist is essentially a content module that you can fill with whatever you’d like. Graphic ads, link lists, photos, etc. are all fair game. You can then publish those modules to your site, or even across multiple sites/blogs if you are using your Typepad account to power more than one site.
The Type Pad Widget Gallery also offers dozens of additional plug-ins that can enhance the functionality of your blog. These have been specifically designed to integrate with the Type Pad system. I installed a fun poll on my blog with a few extra clicks, for example.
Reliable Hosting Service: Type Pad is a major service provider so thousands (millions?) of people depend on their servers being up and online all the time. I have had no problems in the time I have been using them.
Cost-effective: Pricing is competitive. While I love the open source theory behind free Wordpress blogs, I found Wordpress’s support and reliability less consistent than I wanted. And while Blogger’s service is okay, the Blogger branding and poor customer service support of Google led me to decide against recommending it either.
In running a business web site I frankly feel a bit better about paying a few dollars each month to have a reliable service. So far Typepad has not disappointed.
Pricing Plans: Typepad offers a 14 day free trial, so that’s a good place to start. If the service meets your needs, you can then sign up for your choice of 4 monthly plans:
- $4.95: the “Basic” account offers 1 blog with one log-in account.
- $8.95: a “Plus” account offers you 3 blogs via one log-in.
- $14.95: a “Pro” account offers unlimited blogs/sites and unlimited author accounts. (Most of the best customization features kick in at this level also.)
- $29.95: the “Premium” account has the same features as the “Pro” but includes priority support.
There is also an $89.95/month plan for serious, high traffic business users. The company also offers pretty good discounts off of these rates if you pay for a full year up-front.
Technical Support: Typepad’s support is decent. Their technical Knowledge Base can answer most questions fairly well. They offer no phone support – only email – unless you pay for the Premium Account. I’ve found their email support team to be friendly and responsive but it almost always takes 24 hours to receive a response. If you need more rapid help than that, you may need the Premium account. Their Knowledge Base has been adequate for the vast majority of my set-up questions, though.
Special Bonus: One of my favorite things about the Typepad system is that with a $14.95/month “Pro” Account, you can post an unlimited number of web sites. This means that you can set up additional web sites and blogs for no extra cost. If you combine this with the availability of the domain mapping discussed above, this means that you can host a whole bunch of separately branded web sites for only $14.95/month. This is a great and cost-effective option for testing new web site concepts and content.
Overall, I’m a big fan of the Type Pad system and highly recommend it. It does have a few weaknesses, however, that I’ll highlight for you here so you can make the best decision for your needs:
Traffic Reporting: Reporting on viewership of your site(s) is limited to page views per day. The system offers no details on unique visitors, most viewed pages/posts, or entry/exit points of your users. The company is promising an upgrade of this rudimentary reporting, however, so I am hopeful for more in the near future.
Weak Design Templates: As mentioned above, the system only offers a few dozen design templates from which to choose. The ones available are fine for basic publishing, especially if you don’t mind your site looking like a typical blog, but do constrain the individuality and branding you can present.
Meta Tags: Any business site must be concerned with search engine optimization (SEO). Type Pad betrays its roots as a personal blogging platform, however, because it offers almost no control over the meta tags of each page/post. Search engines are said to be decreasing reliance on meta tags, however, so hopefully your good content is more important in attracting high organic search engine ranking.
No E-commerce: Lastly, Type Pad offers little to no native e-commerce integration. Again, this is not suprising since Type Pad was originally built for blogging but you should be aware that if you’re planning on building an e-commerce web site, there are better choices available. A good compromise is to use the cost-effective Type Pad platform for your blog or basic web site and link to another provider that provides whatever e-commerce tools your e-business needs.
Conclusion: Type Pad is Highly Recommended
If you are a startup looking for a cost-effective and easy to use web site system, Type Pad is an excellent choice. You can get a new web site up and running quickly, with enough customization to make your efforts easily reflect your desired professional image. Updating is easy and quick - an efficiency important to any entrepreneur with a thousand things to do.
I like the Type Pad hosting system so much that I use it myself. You're reading a Type Pad-based web site right now! How’s that for an endorsement?
Do you have a Type Pad blog or web site? Please tell us about your experiences with the system. (Include a link back to your web site for a little free publicity, too!)