If you are ready to build a website and needs web hosting, you may be wondering if you should pay for it or find a free web hosting option. As someone who has done both, I will describe some of the major pros and cons of each choice.
Free Web Hosting
It’s always appealing to get something for free. Web hosting is no exception, as you have to pay both for a domain and the monthly or annual hosting fees. While these are not huge amounts of money, when you’re starting out it can still be an issue. Some people also think that they should start off with free hosting and then upgrade later on, perhaps when their blog starts to earn money.
Blogger.com and WordPress.com are popular
The most common type of free hosting is where you use a platform such as Blogger.com (owned by Google) or WordPress.com. We will talk later about WordPress.org, where you own the domain and host it elsewhere (this is not a free option).
There are also other free blogging options, which you can find by doing a search. However, they are all very similar to Blogger and WordPress.com so I will focus on these here.
Setting up a blog is very easy
Setting up a free blog is very easy to do, which is another reason why it appeals to many beginners. While registering a domain is not complicated, it can seem so if you’ve never done it. There are also technical issues such as setting up name servers or, in some cases, domain forwarding. With a free blog there is none of this to worry about as it’s simply point and click!
Blogger.com even gives you some ways to monetize your blog, as it’s integrated with the AdSense program (not surprising, as Google owns both). You can also add photos, videos and even extra pages to your blog.
Disadvantages of Free Web Hosting
Blogger.com and WordPress.com (and many others like them) seem to have all of the features of a “real” website, making them tempting for people who want to save money. Unfortunately, there are also downsides to this hosting choice.
Because you are hosting on a domain that’s not yours, it will be more difficult to rank your blog in the search engines. Rather than having a web address such as 100Webhosting.com, it will be something like 100Webhosting.blogspot.com.
There are millions of other sites sharing this domain, so it will be much harder to optimize your site. You will sometimes find Blogger, WordPress.com and other free hosting sites that rank well, but it’s a lot harder than if you own your own domain.
Lack of Control
Another major problem with free hosting is that you must abide by the rules of your host. These are not always obvious, and many people find that their Blogger and other free blogs get removed for one reason or another!
Some free blogging applications, such as WordPress.com ban any type of commercial activity, so if you try to use affiliate links or ads you are likely to get banned. Blogger.com is notorious for removing blogs without providing a clear reason.
So even if you manage to rank your free blog well or make money from it, you could find that it’s gone at any point. You will then have to start all over again from scratch!
Your Site Will Look Unprofessional
No matter how many features a free blogging website may provide, anyone can see that you are using a third party domain. In many people’s mind, this gives your site an unprofessional look.
If you have an online business, people will wonder why you don’t have your own domain. It gives your whole site a less permanent appearance, and suggests you may not be very serious about your endeavor.
Paid Web Hosting
When it comes to paid hosting, you avoid all of the disadvantages I just described.
Having your own domain immediately shows the world that you have taken the trouble to create your own, personal website.
Complete Control Over Your Site
When you own your domain and host it yourself, you don’t have to worry about having your site deleted for various infractions. As long as you don’t do anything illegal, your web host will let you do whatever you want.
Aside from that, you will have many more options as far as how your site looks and the features it includes. Even if you are just starting out and don’t know how to do many things, you can always learn as you progress. With a free site, you are always limited.
Disadvantages of Paid Web Hosting
There are only two drawbacks to paid web hosting. One, obviously, is that it costs money. This is really not a huge obstacle for most people, though. A domain costs around $10 per year, often even less. You can often find .info domains for around $3 if you’re a bargain hunter!
The other downside to paid hosting is that there’s a certain learning curve involved. While a platform such as Blogger.com holds your hand every step of the way, when you have paid hosting you have to figure out things for yourself.
Yet this is not much of an obstacle nowadays either. For one thing, most web hosts provide user friendly site builders for beginners who aren’t familiar with programming. These are just as easy to use as free hosting platforms. The big difference is that with these, the site is still yours. As you learn more, you can give it a more professional look later on.
Yet even if you manage to stay in the good graces of the free host you’re using, it’s still not really practical to switch over to paid hosting. You could, of course, transfer all of your content and files. This, however, will be a lot of work. Not only that, but your new paid site will still be brand new when it comes to SEO. For this, you will lost all the SEO work which you have done on your old website.
For the reasons we have discussed above, I highly recommend starting out with a good paid hosting even if you’re brand new. The costs are not very high, and learning the basics is quite simple. For a few dollars per year you will be setting up a professional site that you have complete control over.
At some point you will definitely want paid web hosting, so it’s best to start out that way from the get go!