What Sort of Web Hosting Do I Need: The Hidden Costs of ‘Free’ Hosting
If you’ve ever looked at running your own website or blog, you’ve probably asked yourself the question, what sort of web hosting do I need?
When seeking answers, chances are you’ve come across a free hosting platform. WordPress.com is perhaps the most common, but you also have the likes of Blogger, Tumblr and Squarespace to consider.
Now, these platforms do have their place on the web. For small time bloggers — such as personal online diary style blogs — this type of hosting is all you’ll ever need. However, those looking to take things to a larger scale should tread very carefully.
Although advertised as free, these platforms can have hidden costs for your blog or website.
In the initial phase of forming a website, you’ll likely have no inclination to offer advertising — and with good reason.
Early-stage websites are unlikely to have much traffic, rendering advertising useless. For this, a free platform can work very well.
Eventually, though, you’ll start to build more users and generate more traffic. All these eyes viewing your site are potential money-makers, and the more viewers you have, the more you can rake in from advertising.
Then comes the big question: What sort of web hosting do I need to make money?
You can make money through individually sold ads or programs like Google AdSense — on private web hosting services at least.
On free platforms, you have no control over advertising and see none of the income made by displaying them to your audience.
If your blog is achieving even moderate success, the potential revenue gain through advertising is likely to negate the extra cost of private web hosting.
If you choose to stay on a free platform, the web hosts make money out of your site and you’ll miss out on valuable earnings.
Reaching Your Bandwidth Limit
Often when you sign up for a paid web hosting service, you’ll be offered “unlimited” bandwidth for your website. Why do they offer you so much data?
The amount of bandwidth your website has dictates how much data it can transfer to users. In essence, it is a cap on how many people can visit your site, as everyone who visits your site will download some data.
Unlimited bandwidth means your website will never reach a user cap. However, most free hosting platforms do not offer unlimited bandwidth.
Again, for personal blogs, this isn’t going to be an issue. But for those reaching a wider audience, free hosting means you could face a cut-off limit. If you reach your bandwidth data allowance, you’ll see this message.
Once you reach this limit, your website will be down until your bandwidth limit increases; either when you start a new month or you pay for more data.
All the time your site is down, you are losing views. If you are a business owner, this could well translate to lost customers.
Limited Customer Support
Websites can be fragile little creatures. The tiniest change, the most innocent of plugins, and…
Those on privately hosted web servers have an immediate port of call. They can ring up their service provider, who will work tirelessly to get their site back online — if they’ve selected a service provider with adequate customer service, anyway.
For those on a free hosting platform, you are pretty much on your own.
It’s not surprising, really. Why should they offer dedicated customer care for a free service?
But of course, this can cause problems for your website.
Just like with bandwidth, a down site is a useless one. Every moment your website is offline could be lost revenue. It means no clicks on your new promoted content, or customers unable to find your bakery address to come pick up some sweet treats, for example.
With nobody to turn to, you are often left to trawl YouTube videos and forums in search of answers, all while potential revenue slips through your fingers.
Poor Credibility Damages Traffic
Most free web hosting services leave a mark on your site. A very noticeable mark.
This can be found in your domain name, which will typically be something like ‘www.myblogorbusinesssite.freewebhost.com’.
Now, despite popular belief, SEO isn’t directly impacted by having a free host. There are plenty of examples of websites with free host web addresses ranking higher than those on private servers. However, they are a minority.
It’s not because Google, Bing or any other search engine penalises them; it’s because audiences do.
When a searcher sees a .blogspot or .wordpress address attached to a website, it immediately gives an amateur impression. Most professional, quality websites are not free hosted and won’t have a .tag in their web address. This can lead the searcher away from your site.
Not only does this directly affect traffic and therefore your ability to gain viewers and potential income, but it also has an indirect effect on SEO.
Search engines are clever. They can identify how many people view your page on a search result compared to how many people actually click your link. The worse your click-rate is, the more search engines will start to disregard your site and push it further down the search results.
Using a private web host improves credibility and increases clicks on your site, boosting audience engagement and SEO.