In my opinion, free web hosting is one of the most misunderstood concepts on the web today. Free web hosting plans are becoming increasingly popular as new webmasters bite into the idea without actually analyzing the consequences. I myself spent many years, at the start of my webmaster career, using free web hosting plans. This experience has giving me an insight into the down-side of free web hosting plans that many people seem to miss.
Would Coke promote Pepsi on their website? Although the rhetorical question above seems ludicrous, this concept is one of the fundamental problems with free web hosting plans. Forced advertising is the way that hosting companies can afford to provide “free” hosting. Whether it be through pop-ups, pop-unders, headline ads, or implanted adsense you will be hosting advertisements on your website that generate revenue for your hosting company whether you like it or not. Not only is this annoying it can also ruin the look of your page; the majority of the time you cannot control what the ads look like or where they go, they are simply dropped down onto your site and there is nothing you can do.
Traffic Jams The bottom line in web hosting is that bandwidth (data transfer) costs money and if your plan is free it is most likely your bandwidth will be limited. Too many times I have attempted to access a web site hosted on a free server and been given the message: “This user has acceded their bandwidth limits, please try again next month”. As a webmaster this can be infuriating. Imagine building a solid page, marketing it, gaining an audience, and then losing that audience because your page is not allowed anymore hits for the month.
SEO woes This is a problem that caused me a ton of frustration, but in the end taught mea lot about how search engines work and how search engines handle name resolution. In almost every case free web hosting plans do not allow you to point a domain name (www.yoursite.com) to an actual page. Instead you are forced to use a concept called URL redirection. URL redirection allows a webmaster to identify a site that the URL should point to. So if a user types in www.example.com and we have configured it to redirect to www.freehost/users/mysite.html it will end up on that page. This does not seem like much of an issue until you begin trying to get your website indexed in the search engines. So you submit your site (www.example.com) to some directories and you ake some good link partners and then you start to wonder, why am I not being listed in the SE’s? I have 100 solid back links pointing to www.example.com, what is happening. The problem is that www.example.com has no data, it has no content, it simply redirects to your actual page at www.freehost/users/mysite.html. SE’s not only will not index a page with no data or content but they may even view this as an attempt to fool their algorithm, thus banning your domain name. The only work around is to forget the domain name and optimize for your free hosting address, which is not really an acceptable work around.
But wait! Although I am a strong believer that free web hosting is not the way to go it is possible to find a free web host that works for you. There are some out there that do not force advertising, do not limit your bandwidth, and will allow pointed domains. The problem is finding one that does all three. If you are a serious, or even only slightly serious, webmaster take the hit and pay the money for web hosting. In the end you can get an awesome web hosting plan for as low as $5.95 a month, and trust me this will be WELL worth the money.
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