If you’re a first-time webmaster looking at hosting options for your new website, it’s easy to get a little overwhelmed. There are a ton of choices out there, after all – and some of them can get downright expensive. With that in mind, you might be tempted to spring for simplicity and settle on a free hosting service.
Stop right there. Unless you’re creating a website that’s completely personal – one you’ve no intention of profiting from or building a business around – then signing up for a free hosting service is one of the worst decisions you can make. I’m not just blowing smoke here – I’ve some very good justifications to back this claim up.
Let’s talk about them.
They’re Extremely Limited
Here’s the thing about web hosting – you tend to get what you pay for. In the case of a free hosting platform, you’re going to be severely limited in terms of what you can do. That means less bandwidth, less storage space, and, in the case of WordPress, fewer options for customization. Some hosts might even take it a step further, limiting you in terms of what content you can create.
They Can Be Flighty
When you pay for web hosting, you generally do so with the understanding that your hosting provider’s going to be around for a while. They won’t decide to shut everything down without warning – and you won’t just randomly lose access to all your content. You receive no such assurances with free hosting.
“Let’s say you’re on Blogger,” writes Coschedule’s Julie Neidlinger. “Do you really think Google has a reputation for not randomly shutting down services that are no longer beneficial? And what if the export feature is clunky and useless? You may still have your content, but it is in a usable format?”
They Tend To Look Less Professional
Quick question, folks. What makes a professional-looking website? Let’s put together a little list:
- A branded domain name
- Subtle, unobtrusive advertisements
- A unique look and feel
- Great content
With a free hosting service, pretty much the only option on the list you’re guaranteed to provide your visitors is the last one – and even then, that content might not be yours to market (more on that in a second.) See, free hosting services don’t let you control your domain name, and they don’t generally let you manage your ad network. Most only offer minor customization options, as well.
What that means is that you’re effectively at the mercy of your host – and your site will look all the worse for it.
You Likely Won’t Make Any Money Off Of Them
Since free hosting options limit the amount of control they give to clients, it follows that if you’re using one, it’ll be significantly more difficult to profit from your site. You might be limited as to what ad networks you can use – or even prohibited from hosting your own advertising in the first place. What’s more, free services don’t generally offer suitable website monitoring metrics, nor do they offer the option to utilize analytics.
…But Your Host Will Probably Make Money Off Of You
The best piece of advice I’ve ever heard is that nothing in the world is actually free. So that hosting service that touts itself as such? Rest assured, they’ve probably got some business model that lets them profit off the fact that you’re utilizing them.
Are there free hosting services that come with no strings attached? Sure – there are companies that make enough money off subscriptions to offer a free tier. At the same time, plenty of other free providers might well tap into your content and remarket it – a practice known as sharecropping.
So What Should You Do Instead?
If you’re planning to use your website to drive your business, then you should self-host. You need to have control over your website’s appearance, ad network, and – most importantly – content. By hosting your website yourself – either through your own servers or through a third-party, paid host – you can ensure you’ve enough control to actually base a business around it.
Of course, if you’re just using a blog for personal musings and ramblings; by all means, go free – after all, you’ve really nothing to lose in that case.