I am going to share my reasons for why free website hosting is a bad idea, especially given the fact that website hosting that is paid for is generally fairly cheap anyway. It’s understandable to try to get something for free, rather than paying for it, especially when you are starting out. But, you need to take into consideration the actual cost to your business of doing so.
Many people start off with free website hosting, thinking that they will upgrade to paid website hosting when their business gets off the ground, but they are likely doing their business a grave disservice by going this route.
In 99.99% of the cases, free hosting is not really free in the end. But, it shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone that free hosting is not going to be as good as paid hosting or doesn’t come with some “gotchas” in exchange for being “free.”
Limited Ability To Use Your Own Domain Name
Free website hosting is often offered to you as a subdirectory or subdomain of the host’s own domain. So, your domain would be something like “yourcompany/thehostsname.com” or “thehostsname.com/yourcompany.” You generally don’t have the option of being on your own custom domain with a name like “yourcompany.com.”
This seriously dilutes your company branding and make you look less legitimate as a business than you might want. When I encounter a website built on someone else’s domain, as a subdirectory or subdomain, I think they aren’t in it for the long haul, since they weren’t willing to invest even the small amount of $10 to $20 a year a custom domain name would have cost them.
Also be aware that search engines, like Google, give more credibility to paid domain names, as they too consider them “more legit.” So, by not having your own domain name you are seriously affecting your search engine traffic.
If you have your website on a subdirectory or subdomain like this for a long time, you may also build up some links that are pointing to it and end up losing them should you ever move to a real domain in the future.
But, meanwhile the host (who has their domain name in your domain as well) is building up their own brand awareness and getting their own domain added to lots of other sites that may be linking to all the subdomains on their server. That is a win/win for them.
Be very leery of free website hosting services that offers you a free (real) domain. They are registering that domain for you, with them as the owner of it, so it is locked to their company. They could then hold your domain name hostage and charge you outrageous fees to get it transferred out of their hot little hands and into yours. I cringe at the thought of this, but have heard of it happening in the industry before.
Advertising For Companies Other Than Yours On Your Website
Free website hosting usually comes with advertising on your website that you may not want. Free hosts will place advertising for themselves or affiliate links on your home page or all of your pages, as they see fit.
They may place these ads in the form of links, banners, or even worse, pop-ups that appear to visitors on your website.
Since it’s free, there is nothing you can do about that. It’s quite likely it’s even a condition of it being free. Nothing in life is free, after all, right?
So, it’s not really free hosting after all. It’s “ad-funded” hosting.
Limited Web Space and Features
But what if your “free host” is offering it free without the need for advertising? Well, then it’s good, right? Well, hold on a second. We already now that nothing in life is free, so there must still be a catch. Do you really think all the company’s offering free hosting are making no money? How on earth would they still be in business? So let’s continue.
Free website hosting generally comes with a limited amount of web space allotted for your web pages. This means growing your site, or hosting a blog with a lot of pages on it, is out of the question without upgrading that free hosting to a paid plan.
You also will be limited with the features you can add to your website, such as plugins, shopping carts, chat rooms and forums. And, unless you are hosting on a free blogging platform, the options for blogging may be non-existant as well.
They may also limit your traffic and/or monthly transfer allowance with a low cap, so that when you exceed it your are forced into a paid hosting plan with them, or your website goes down until a new cycle starts and your allotment is reset.
They are offering you free hosting, to start, because they are banking on the fact that you will need their paid hosting packages as soon as your website outgrows that limited free space they threw at you to start with. Keep in mind that limited space and limited support they offered you in the starter package is not costing them a whole lot to give to you (maybe even less than $1 a month), so they are considering it a “loss leader” to get you into their paid service.
Slow Hosting, No Guarantees of Uptime or Site Longevity
Free website hosting can come with lots of downtime and no support, and you can’t really complain because, after all, it’s free!
With free website hosting you are probably going to have slower than normal page load speed times because their servers are overcrowded. Hey, everyone else wants it for free too! Slow page load times will hurt you with search engine rankings and could make it impossible for you to gain top spots in searches for your industry or local market.
And, keep in mind, because you don’t own the hosting and domain, there is no guarantee how long the free website host will be around, or if they will continue to offer you free hosting. Free website hosts often have limited support options, if any at all, and such companies tend to come and go in the industry.
No Branded Email Addresses
Because you are piggy-backing on another host’s site, you don’t have the ability to create and host email accounts that are branded to your company, like firstname.lastname@example.org. This can hurt your business, in terms of credibility to your clients or customers.
Company branding is important, especially when you are just starting out. Don’t discount the importance of something that may seem so minor to you as having a “real” email address with your company name at the end.
Free Website Hosting on Proprietary Services Locks You In
If you have chosen to go with a free hosting account on a proprietary service like Wix.com or Weebly.com, or a low cost one like Web.com, be aware that your website can, most likely, never be moved from their servers should you decide to leave them. This means they have you locked in, unless you are wiling to lose all the hard work you have already done in building your website.
Their method of operation is to offer you a very limited free website, so you will be locked into their service later on down the line when you want to upgrade and add more features. Many people have found the free options so limited with these services that they end up upgrading to the paid versions fairly quickly, just to have something functional. Well, there went their free website! It is now a paid website. See how that worked.
Value Your Business Enough To Spend A Little For Real Hosting
Your website is an important part of your business marketing plan. Do it right! Paid hosting is not really all the expensive. Don’t, as the saying goes, “be penny wise and pound foolish.” Don’t lock yourself into a service or hosting that holds you hostage to them later on down the line when you want to grow.
Search for a website host that offers you a real control panel (a fully functioning cPanel is my preference) and allows you, or your web developer, to have access to all the tools they need to build you a complete website from the very beginning. Don’t waste your time on the free guys for the cost of a few measly cups of coffee each month that a real paid hosting account would cost you.
Better yet, start your business on the right foot and work with a web developer who can steer you in the right direction with website hosting. At the very least, do your due diligence and research the company that you will have hosting your site. Don’t just read the reviews they post on their website.