With an assortment of places online you can easily pick up a free website, why should you bother paying for your own? Well, the two are definitely not created equal and if you’re debating between free vs paid web hosting, I will almost always recommend you go with paid and I will explain to you the reasons why within this post.
What is free hosting, and how is it different than investing in a paid host?
If you want free hosting, you must be willing to go with a free website such as a blogspot, tumblr, webs, wix.. (there are tons more). These websites let you create your own personal blog or website at no cost, but with that comes several disadvantages. The most obvious drawback is the domain won’t be yours (a simple .com, vs. having a blogspot.com, for example). However, doing so is extremely easy and involves no technical knowledge.
Now, many of these free services such as Webs, Wix and WordPress.com come with options to upgrade your site to your own domain (meaning, going from a yourwebsite.webs.com or .wordpress.com to just yourwebsite.com). In these cases, they still claim that you get “free hosting” but you are going to end up paying a decent amount of money for their monthly/yearly packages this way, often times more than you’d pay if bought your own hosting. There are some advantages to going this route but it really depends what direction and your goals for your website (more about that later).
If you want to invest in paid hosting, you’ll need to actually go to a domain registar and buy a domain. Namecheap, GoDaddy and 1and1.com are just a few of the places you can do this (I always use Namecheap). From there, you’ll need to figure out where you’re going to be hosting your site. Many times the domain registars themselves will offer hosting plans you can take advantage of, but you have the ability to point the domain to host wherever you want.
You’ll then need to decide how you want to edit your site , for example with a CMS like WordPress or Joomla. Many times hosting companies will include easy web builders for you to choose from to design your site, but often times it involves knowing at least a little technical knowledge. With my top recommendation, all the “techie” part has been taken out, and you can host and build your site as easily as you could with any free site.
Is your blog for business or pleasure?
Free is completely fine for people who are just creating something for kicks and giggles, but if you’re creating a business website or the ultimate goal of your site is to make money, you really should consider investing in a paid hosting plan. At the very least, you can choose a paid version of something like Wix, Webs or WordPress.com. (However, those still come with limitations!)
With free sites, you’re still given plenty of template options and easy drag and drop editors, which simplify the process drastically and makes it so could do it.
Let’s talk free hosting sites – Wix, Webs, WordPress, Blogger, Tumblr….
There’s nothing inherintly wrong with choosing a free site, but like I mentioned, it depends on your intentions. Since your blog is free, in most cases you’re really not supposed to be using it for monetization purposes. If you use WordPress.com, for instance, you’re not allowed to use banner ads or third party networks like Adsense unless your blog is able to reach a high traffic volume.
Even if you do use a free site to make money, there are rules about what you are and aren’t allowed to promote. Any promotions for MLM, gambling or even make money online type products will be viewed as spam and your website could get deleted. Even if you don’t think you’re promoting anything bad or disobeying the rules, the moderators could delete your website whenever they want, for whatever reason they want. It’s probably not a good way to start out if your web presence is a top priority.
In any case, the website editors with places like Wix and Webs are super simple to use and with Wix especially, you can really produce an extremely attractive website with a relatively small learning curve with their drag and drop editor. It’s pretty much what you see is what you get, meaning, your editing mode will display your website exactly how it’ll look when you publish it (which can’t be said even for relatively user friendly content management systems like WordPress) and you definitely don’t have to know any code.
The confusion between WordPress.com and WordPress.org
I know I’m throwing “WordPress” around a lot as I write this, but I’d like to clear up any confusion. You see, WordPress is actually an open source CMS (content management system). A content management system is basically a big word for a website editor or website builder, specifically one that makes it easier for those with little to know coding knowledge to edit, upload files and manage their websites.
At WordPress.org, you can go and download the WordPress system for free, and use it to manage your own websites. You can also download different themes and plugins for your website (there’s TONS) for free. Since it’s open sourced, anyone with coding knowledge can add their own themes and plug ins, which is why the data base of these is huge. The downside is, many of them aren’t very well put together or maintained, which could end up hurting your site in the long run… so you must be careful with what you choose to install (but you can avoid many of those dangers, including removal of these rogue type plugins if you decide to host here).
At WordPress.com, you can go and get yourself a free website, such as yoursite.wordpress.com, like I mentioned previously. You can also choose to upgrade to your own domain (which is more expensive through WordPress.com than it would be elsewhere) and use their “free hosting” services. Your blog will be using the WordPress platform, but the difference is you have much less control over your site. You can’t upload your own themes or install any plugins, and you won’t have FTP or CPanel access. Oh, and if you want to do anything like change colors you’ll have to pay an additional $30 a year! You’ll also need to upgrade for more space and to get rid of their ads, which could end up costing between $100 – $300 a year, for ONE website…
On the upside, you won’t be responsible for any updates you may need to perform to the system or worry about installing any bad themes or plugins.
Oh, and just for a quick mention – 22% of the top 10 million websites used WordPress in 2013… that is over 1 in 5! Considering all the difference choices for websites that is a very significant chunk.
Advantages of free hosting
- It’s free, obviously. It’s a good option for personal websites that have no intentions of monetary gain.
- Really easy to set up, less hassle than buying your own domain
Disadvantages of opting for free web hosting:
- You don’t own it and don’t have much control – not only is it obvious your website isn’t actually yours, but you have way less control over what you can actually do.
- You don’t make the rules – often times you won’t be allowed to put up affiliate links or third party ads on your website, you’re not allowed to promote your blog within email lists, and even in many cases you’re restricted to what you can actually talk about!
- It’s unprofessional – your business site on a Tumblr domain would look a bit tacky
- They don’t rank as well in search engines – It may be content that ranks your site, but Google and other search engines still give preference to domains that are owned by the individual versus free ones. If your goal is to be seen in search, you’re better off investing in a domain
- Your blog may get deleted without warning, for any reason – sometimes it’s for violating their rules, but other times they don’t need a reason
Recommendation for free web hosting:
I know I haven’t really mentioned this yet, but if you’re interested in building a free site with a business intent, I honestly recommend heading over to siterubix.com
It’s meant for online business owners, so not only are you allowed to use affiliate links, you’re provided with training as to how to set up and monetize your blog… (as well as a community of experts)! If you do decide to buy your own domain, you’ll be able to transfer with literally ONE click… so you don’t have to worry about the headache of trying to do all those pesky 301 redirects…
Advantages of paid hosting:
- It’s YOUR property – you can do whatever you want, without worrying about “the rules”
- Total control – you can access your site via FTP or CPanel
- Better customization – you’ll be able to make your site look just the way you want it
- Better for SEO – for search engine optimization, that is… if you want to get ranked, having your own domain (especially a .com) will help
- Professional – the .com looks like you mean serious business
Disadvantages of paid hosting
- There’s more steps and more learning involved – buying the domain, setting up hosting, downloading WP or something similar.. then the whole learning how to use WordPress, or whatever it is you choose to manage your website… it can be time consuming if you’re a newbie
- Can get expensive – but the cost is highly variable depending where you host and what plan you chose. You can find hosting for as cheap as 4 bucks a month, while other plans may run you 20, 30, 40+/monthly, depending on your needs.
My top recommendation for paid hosting
There are many sites that offer hosting plans (BlueHost, HostGator, Namecheap, GoDaddy, etc) and many of them for only 4, 5, 6 bucks a month. But if you want to sleep tight at night knowing your site is safe, secure, backed up and reliable – find out why I recommend Wealthy Affiliate as my #1 choice for web hosting.
Obviously if you’re just looking for a website for play, grabbing up a blogspot or tumblr is perfectly fine. For anyone with more serious intentions, think about investing in a domain and paid hosting, it’ll be better for you and your business in the long run!
If you have any comments, questions or concerns, feel free to drop me a note down below!