With the economy the way it is right now, new entrenpenurs are looking for ways to save money in their startup costs. Every one seems to be looking for free web hosting but they really don’t understand the cost to their business by doing this. If you are reading this after the recession of 2008-2009, the following information is still relevant as it relates to building a reputable online presence for your business. Let’s look at the cost to your business if you go with free web hosting.
Professional Appearance of Business
When you use free web hosting, your URL (the web link for you website) will look something like this:
In the example above blogspot.com is the company providing the free hosting.
If this is a business blog or website, it doesn’t give the appearance that you are serious about your business.
Outgrowing Your Free Web Hosting
At some point your website/blog will outgrow the features offered by free web hosting providers.
If you move from free web hosting to your own domain with paid web hosting you don’t have the capability to upload a .htaccess file to redirect the search engines and visitors to your new web hosting space. To let the search engines know you have moved you use instructions in the .htaccess file to 301 permanently redirect them to your new location.
Also, you cannot use a .htaccess instruction to permanently redirect your visitors and search engines when you delete a page within your site.
After years of building your website/blog on free web hosting, your efforts will be lost and you will have to start over, from scratch.
Some will say you can include coding in the existing pages to redirect the visitors and search engines to the new location. But these methods do not provide a 301 permanant redirect instruction, which the search engines need.
…Use a 301 Redirect to permanently redirect all pages on your old site to your new site. This tells search engines and users that your site has permanently moved. ….
…Don’t do a single redirect directing all traffic from your old site to your new home page….
…To prevent confusion, it’s best to retain control of your old site domain for at least 180 days…
Moving your site – Webmasters/Site Owners Help at Google
Custom Error Pages
Another problem with free web hosting is that you will not be able to use custom error pages. Error pages are used by the web server to show the visitor there has been an error. For example, a 404 error is shown when a page is not found within the webspace. On a free web hosting space the visitor will be shown the web hosting company’s stock error page and give no direction as to how to find what it was they were looking for. A confused visitor will just leave.
With the right paid web hosting account, you can provide a custom error page for each type of error. This gives the visitor comfort that they are not lost (especially if they are a novice web surfer) when the error page is formatted to match your site and provides help on how what happened and how to find what it is they are looking for.
Free Isn’t Free
How do you suppose a company that offers free web hosting makes any money to run their operation? Answer: Through advertising.
Free web hosting companies need to make money somehow. They do this by inserting advertising into your page. You have no control over what advertising is shown. What if a competitor’s ad is shown or an ad inappropriate for your target audience is shown?
To support the service we may occasionally show Google text ads on your blog, however we do this very rarely. You can remove ads from your blog for a low yearly fee. In the future you’ll be able to show your own ads and make money from your blog.
WordPress.com Features (way down at the bottom of the page.
Using paid web hosting you don’t have this problem.
Free Web Hosting Doesn’t Last Forever
When using a free web hosting service there is no guarantee that they will stick around. A some point, even large providers of free hosting decide to pack it in.
Ok, paid web hosting companies don’t last forever either but, if you have a web hosting account where you are able to download your whole site, then you are covered. You have a backup of your site that you can upload to a new hosting company and get back up and running quickly. You should backup your website each time you make a change anyways.
ISP Web Hosting
Usually when you signup for internet access with an Internet Service Provider (ISP) your package includes a small, free web hosting space. When using this type of web hosting your URL will be similar to those provided with free web hosting accounts.
Web hosting at your ISP has the same problems as described above for free web hosting.
Something else people don’t realize is that when you cancel your internet service with your ISP you loose the web hosting space (and your email address, which is a whole other problem if you have used firstname.lastname@example.org as your business email address).
Limited Features with Free Web Hosting
Free web hosting accounts have limits on what you can and cannot do. You are limited to the features provided by the service.
Some paid web hosting accounts have limits too. If you create a checklist before signing up for the account then you will be aware of the limits of the plan. These limitations are generally less confining that those at free web hosting service providers.
Official Google Webmaster Central Blog: Recommendations for webmaster friendly freehosts has some points you should ask your free hosting company before signing up.
From the Official Google Webmaster Central Blog March 6, 2012
…If a free hosting service begins to show patterns of spam, we make a strong effort to be granular and tackle only spammy pages or sites. However, in some cases, when the spammers have pretty much taken over the free web hosting service or a large fraction of the service, we may be forced to take more decisive steps to protect our users and remove the entire free web hosting service from our search results….
You Can’t Take Your Website Template With You
Free web hosting accounts are attractive to new business owners because they generally include free website templates and other website related features.
Some paid web hosting providers also provide free website templates and features.
The problem with the free website templates, graphics, ecommerce software, etc. is that you can’t take it with you. Read the terms of service from the hosting providers. Somewhere in there it will say you cannot use their materials elsewhere.
You are better off paying for either a website template you own or hiring a professional web designer to design your website. Both of which can be tweaked to provide a search engine friendly design, improved website navigation, and personalized feel for your busines or blog.
Free Web Hosting Is a Misconception of Economizing
Those that consider free web hosting is a good way to economize for their business/blog are not seeing the bigger picture.
Yes, initially we all have to save our pennies when starting a business but to economize on web hosting, domain name registration and web design at the start of your business is going to cost you money in the long run:
- Not a way to give a professional appearance to your business
- Problems moving the site/blog when you get bigger
- Lost incoming links from those who have added your site to theirs
- Having to redesign the site if you move to paid hosting.
Web Hosting Further Reading
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