Mar 2 • 31M

Your Account Has Been Suspended (Issue #359)

This particular vulnerability has hurt many people

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I wish Facebook had the decency to send a similar message to me when they suspended my account years ago. Instead, I found out the hard way. One morning, I was booted out of the app and couldn’t sign back in.

There was no warning. They provided no explanation.

On Monday, I shared this story with my premium subscribers as part of this month’s focus on owning your domain and controlling your personal website as your “forever online home.”

I lost access to my Facebook business groups and pages. So, I called one of my moderators and asked them to message the groups and let people know what happened. Note: Always have people you trust as additional admins and moderators for your online communities.

I was locked out for about a week before Facebook suddenly reactivated my account with no explanation. To this day, I still don’t know why it happened.

My best guess is that a competitor falsely reported me for something, and Facebook suspended my account while they investigated. But I’ll never know for sure, so there’s nothing I can do to prevent it from happening again in the future.

I vowed never to let myself be that vulnerable ever again:

  • I created my Slack community that week and migrated over as quickly as possible. A few months ago, I closed my Facebook groups (fool me once…).

  • I built other communities on Mighty Networks, Discord, and a few other services.

  • I distributed my marketing efforts more equally and frequently across Twitter, LinkedIn, Quora, Medium, Flipboard, YouTube, Instagram, etc.

  • I built my mailing list here on Substack and created a backup list on ConvertKit (my affiliate link).

  • I launched more robust websites using open-source software on domains that I own.

My current strategy puts my core website and mailing list entirely under my control. Everything is portable, so I can migrate to a new platform whenever I want. Sure, I still use numerous online services, social media, publishing sites, etc. But, they are simply tools, marketing channels, and ways to grow my audience.

Most importantly, I no longer have a single point of failure or a risky dependency on another company. I will never again make my primary “internet home” on a service that leaves me vulnerable, and neither should you.

Own your domain and control your website.

Never build your home on someone else’s land. Never put all of your eggs in one basket (especially if Facebook owns that basket).

How about you?

  • Do you have a personal or professional website (feel free to share a link in the comments so we can give you some SEO love)?

  • Do you own the domain?

  • Do you have total control over the site (e.g., you can make updates, redesign it, migrate it to another hosting service)?

I hope so…

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Why it matters

As I mentioned to premium subscribers earlier this week, having your own website is different from relying on a cookie-cutter profile page (e.g., on LinkedIn) or microblogging on a service (e.g., Twitter). You have complete freedom and flexibility to make your site exactly what you want.

  • Your website is all about you and nothing but you. No one else will be competing for a visitor’s attention while they are on your site.

  • You have more control over the design of your website.

  • You can showcase your work, portfolio, and stories precisely as you want.

  • It is completely dynamic and can be changed as often as you like.

  • You have almost unlimited control over what you put on your website.

  • If you follow good SEO practices, it makes you easier to find, and you control the experience of what someone sees when they do find you.

  • You can choose to use your website to generate income however you want (e.g., ads, affiliate links, paid content, services).

  • It can be your “forever home” for all of the content you create (e.g., writing, art, photography, design, music, code samples).

  • You can also feature your testimonials on your site (e.g., so they don’t get lost on LinkedIn if something happens to your account).

  • Of course, you’ll still be active elsewhere, so you can create a one-stop page to link to your other profiles on the internet (e.g., Twitter, Discord, LinkedIn, Reddit, TikTok, GitHub, Dribbble, Medium, Substack, Quora, Instagram, SoundCloud, YouTube).

Think of it this way:

Your website is your permanent online home that no one can take away from you or shut down (e.g., as happened to me with Facebook).

We all know that companies and services come and go over the years. But, you can own your domain forever, and you get to decide what goes on your website.

However, there are a bewildering number of choices available for creating and hosting a site. Of course, you can code it yourself and host it on a server of your choice if you have the skills.

I used to do that from around 1998 to 2003. My site was basic HTML with some JavaScript. It had a contact form and pages to feature my design services, show a past clients list, and showcase my portfolio.

My old website for MindSpan Design
Pretty fancy, huh? 🤣

If you don’t feel like developing your website and getting deep into the operational aspects of hosting it, there are dozens of popular services available. Actually, there are probably hundreds of different services for creating your personal website, but who has time to try them all?


Comparing the many options

Choosing a hosting solution for your website can be a little overwhelming. There are so many options that range from:

  • Simple to complex

  • Very constrained to very flexible

  • Free to pricey

If you already have a website up and running somewhere, this is a chance to review your decision and make sure you’re still happy with it. You may be experiencing some growing pains and becoming frustrated with your current solution.

As an example, here is my full website stack is:

  • Domain managed with Google Domains.

  • Cloudflare provides caching, enhanced performance, security, and ease of DNS management.

  • WordPress open source software to manage my dynamic website.

  • Flywheel for my managed WordPress hosting (reliability, performance, and security).

Some other options available to you for a website:

  • Blogger is still around (acquired by Google in 2003), and it’s free.

  • WordPress.com is free.

  • WordPress.org is open source, but you’ll need a hosting service for the software.

  • About.me is a very basic one-page site builder. They have a free version, but you can also upgrade for more features ($6.58/mo).

  • Weebly is another website builder that has a free version. You can get more features for $6-26/mo.

  • Squarespace is pretty easy to use but is less customizable than WordPress and not open source ($14/mo). Prices go up as you add more features to enable customization, analytics, e-commerce, etc. ($23-49/mo).

  • Wix is similar to Squarespace but offers something they call “Wix ADI” that is supposedly an AI-based automatic website creator ($14-49/mo).

  • Behance, Deviantart, and Dribble are simple options for hosting your creative portfolio if you want to showcase your artistic talent or design work. But, they offer limited customization beyond having a profile page.

  • Ghost is an interesting new publishing platform that helps you turn your audience into a business. Like WordPress, you can use an open-source version for free if you host it somewhere. But, they also provide a hosted service from $9-199/mo.

  • Each of the following services is also becoming richer and more full-featured to enable them to become more like a personal website:

Do some research and explore the information available about all of these services. You may also have some other options in mind. Do you know of something cool that we all should hear about? Leave a comment!


Choose a dependable solution

I hope this article helps you think through the pros and cons of each website hosting option. Instead of quickly shooting from the hip and regretting your decision in a few years, think of the long-term benefits of what you end up selecting.

Way back when I decided to migrate my old HTML website to something more dynamic and data-driven, there weren’t as many choices. Initially, I created a WordPress site around 2003, and it was a messy, confusing experience. I also made a Posterous site a few years later to compare to my WordPress experience.

Posterous was a simple blogging platform that started in 2008. It was the hot new service that integrated with social media, analytics, and made it easy to lifestream from your mobile device. You could email something to your Posterous blog to create a post (e.g., text, photo, video, sound file). You could even manage comments via email.

It was acquired by Twitter in 2012 and shut down in 2013. Ah, the Silicon Valley cycle of life and death…

There are hundreds of CMS systems out there. But, I remember struggling with the decision to invest in Movable Type, Tumblr, Posterous, or WordPress.

  • Movable Type was going to be too expensive for me at the time, so I dropped that one quickly.

  • Tumblr was the simplest and fastest to set up but lacked deep customization features. It didn’t really feel like your own personal website.

  • Posterous was more powerful than Tumblr and had cool features like the mobile posting, but you couldn’t get deep under the hood.

  • WordPress was the most complex, finicky, and got hacked a lot. But, I saw that you could write code to deeply customize it and add in real functionality (e.g., shopping and payments).

Even though WordPress had a steep learning curve (and still does), I liked fully owning where I could install and host my own instance of it. I also liked that it was open source and might escape the fate of other services that got acquired, ruined by the new parent company, or shut down.

Ironically, I remember reading that some guy compared WordPress, Posterous, and Tumblr and decided to migrate his WordPress blog to Posterous in 2011. Oops!

I guess this was a long-winded way to tell you to think hard about where you decide to create your forever internet home. You know what features are essential for you and how complex your website might become.

If your needs are very simple, basic, and you’re ok with migrating your whole website later if something happens (e.g., the company gets acquired), your decision might be based on cost and ease of setup and management.

But, if your needs are more complex, you want more control, and you want something that will last, WordPress.org might be interesting for you. I’ve been using it for over 19 years and haven’t been forced to switch to anything else yet. You can use WordPress.com to set up a hosted blog for free, but it has less functionality than using the .org software hosted elsewhere.

The founder, Matt Mullenweg, has built a profitable and growing parent company (Automattic) and is seriously dedicated to the open-source software philosophy. So, I don’t envision him selling out any time soon or ever, like the founders of those other companies did.

Good luck with your decision! As I mentioned above, feel free to share a link to your website in the comments so I can check it out.

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Larry Cornett is a leadership coach and business advisor who hosts a private mastermind community for ambitious professionals with weekly challenges, office hours, and confidential support. If you’re interested in starting your own business or side hustle someday (or accelerating an existing one), check out his “Employee to Solopreneur” course (launching later this year).

Larry lives in Northern California near Lake Tahoe with his wife and children, and a gigantic Great Dane. He does his best to share advice to help others take complete control of their work and life. He’s also on Twitter @cornett.