The True Cost of Free Hosting

Free web hosting is an inviting prospect when you’re just starting out with a blog or small business website. It’s simple to set up, and it doesn’t drain your budget. However, these appealing features hide drawbacks that could compromise the success of your website. Before signing up for a service that promises something for nothing, consider the shortcomings of free hosting.

Lack of Branding

A strong brand is the identity that drives your business or blog, and using a free host makes it next to impossible to start building that identity. URLs include the name of the host instead of just your brand, and all the links you generate for your free site point to these addresses. Changing hosts and getting a branded domain name after you’ve established your site means starting from scratch in your quest to build credibility.

Limited Features

To run a dynamic blog or website, you need access to an array of scripts and plugins. Although some free services offer a few options, most hosts restrict you to using a website builder or simple HTML editor. Tools for building an email list, linking to outside marketing channels and running an e-commerce website are usually absent. Limited storage space means that you’ll likely have to host media on a third-party site, and a cap on bandwidth could cause your site to go down without warning should you exceed the monthly threshold. This is why self-hosted WordPress is sooo good.

Compromised SEO

Free hosting stays free with support from ads that are displayed on each user’s site. The problem with these ads is that they’re usually irrelevant to the content of your site, and relevance is a major part of SEO. Not having a branded domain can also affect your search engine rankings. Google and other engines “know” that spammers are fond of free hosts and tend to treat sites that use these services as less important than sites hosted by more reputable companies. Without a strong foundation for SEO, it’s much harder to bring your content to your target audience through organic search.

Shaky Support

If something goes wrong with your website, you need to know that someone from the host will respond to your service request as quickly as possible. Unfortunately, free hosts don’t tend to provide much, if any, real tech support. Your site could be compromised or inaccessible for days before a tech addresses a problem with scripting, downtime or hacking. Every day that users can’t get to your site equates to money lost for your business or a drop in readership for your blog.

For this reason alone you should choose from one of the well established WordPress hosting providers, one that will be there when you need them to provide support.

Uncertain Future

Business websites and blogs need room to grow, something else that free services don’t provide. In fact, some free hosts have been known to shut down overnight without notifying users (it does happen). Should this happen, you lose all your website files along with the visibility necessary to keep your business or blog afloat. If the host sticks around but you decide to move, chances are you won’t be able to migrate your site to a new service. Many free hosts use templates specific to their services and don’t let you take that structure elsewhere.

These pitfalls could wind up costing you more in the long run than you were hoping to save by using free hosting. Whether it’s stunted growth of your blog’s brand or loss of profits for your business, you’re bound to experience some kind of setback with these services. Investing in a paid host gives you the features and flexibility you need to thrive in the online community.

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