People think creating a site with free hosting providers like Weebly, Wix, WordPress.com, Blogger, etc. gives them the opportunity to concentrate on content and get rid of all hosting related issues. Probably most of the new webmasters do not even aware of the importance of having control over hosting server. Free hosting is good for smaller sites and for people do not want to invest more money on their site.
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The website’s root directories are located on the hosting server. You need to access them for controlling your website’s behavior. When you are planning to build a larger site, it will become impossible to control the site without root access. In addition, you also need to have full control over content backup and restore in emergency situation.
Bloggers Life Cycle
The general cycle of webmasters, especially the bloggers runs like below:
- Bloggers start their site with free site builders and leave the site without continuing over the period of time.
- After initial trouble with free hosting providers, hardly 20% of bloggers migrate their sites to shared hosting plans.
- Only 5% of bloggers continue in long run, finally upgrading to dedicated hosting server and maintain their site properly.
The last category of 5% of bloggers might have lost at least few years and many sleepless nights before finally understood the importance of paid hosting. The objective of this article is to inform the readers about the importance of paid hosting before wasting few years to understand the real facts.
Free Hosting – A Curse or Bless?
Free Hosting with Free Subdomain
In general, free hosting comes with a free subdomain offered by many companies like Weebly, Blogger, WordPress.com, etc. For example, a free site created with Weebly will have a site address like http://my-site-name.weebly.com. At first it may look very attractive to create a site for free. However, the fact is that free has its own limitations.
Think of the following points:
- Do you remember reading an article on any individual site or blog running on free subdomain for a decade or more? The answer probably is no or very few. Think, why free sites are not withstanding the competition over the years and died out from the web?
- Free subdomain is an easy way to become popular for those service providing companies and not your own brand. Most companies display ads on their free-hosted subdomains which take out the credibility of your site from the reader. Will you ever buy an item from a site named http://someone-selling-items.weebly.com?
Free hosting even for a personal blogs is no more good when intrusive ads are displayed.
Free Hosting with Custom Domain
This is another option people think they can save money spent on hosting by showing hiding free hosting from visitors. Unfortunately, it is not always about visitors, as a site owner you need control over content. Think of the following scenarios where you still need paid hosting for your site:
- You want to redirect a page of your own subdomain to another site or subdomain. At the maximum, free hosts allow to set 301 redirect for the same domain in the front end without allowing to access .htaccess file. Did you encounter the page you are visiting asking you to enter human verification code? How did people do such restrictions on their site or block specific IPs from certain countries? You really don’t need to be a technical expert to do this. Adding small codes in the .htaccess file is sufficient to do such restrictions.
- Did you think of enhancing your Sitemap file? For example, a Sitemap index file will consist of many Sitemaps from that site like posts, pages, images, etc. Free hosts offer rigid Sitemap with minimum capabilities which may not be sufficient when your site is grown in size.
- Most important factor is having control over your backup. Free hosts may offer email or XML backup which may not have complete compatibility with other hosting platforms. Migrating a free hosted site will become a nightmare when you decide to move to paid hosting platform.
Why to Go for Paid Hosting?
Some free hosting providers allow users to modify the source HTML / CSS. This is hidden trick to encourage users spending lot of time on beautifying their free site. Users should understand that this is not same as having access to root directories. Below are some of simple reasons for a site owner to go for paid hosting services:
- Restrict access to directories using robots.txt file.
- Redirects and other settings through .htaccess file.
- Installing software like plugins on your site to avail enhanced features.
- Backup and cleanup your site content. For example, you can save all images in different subdomain for easy loading.
- Uploading and downloading content to and from server using FTP.
- Easy to handle ads on your site by placing the ad code on source files or using ad management plugins.
You can get quality support with paid hosting and install different type of CMS like WordPress, Drupal, Joomla, etc.
Cost of Paid Hosting
As we mentioned earlier, free hosting is sufficient for those who have limited needs. However, if you have a dream of building a larger and reputed site then prepare to invest money and time. Take a scenario of having a custom domain with free hosting platforms. It can help you to avail additional benefits like displaying AdSense ads for the premium plans costing around $8 per month.
The same $8 per month is more than sufficient to get a very good shared hosting services. You can get hosting from leading companies like Bluehost, DreamHost, GoDaddy or HostGator. Perhaps by adding few more dollars you will get dedicated hosting with SSL, IP, daily backup and site security. Below is the rate card from Bluehost for various shared hosting plans. It can provide you an approximate overview of industry rate for paid hosting services:
Though the rate is for initial term, you can always move your site another host that offers good deal.
SEO and Paid Hosting
Besides the above mentioned advantages there are certain SEO advantages of using a paid hosting services.
- Site migration and merger activities need lot of redirect setup. You can do this easily with paid hosting services without loosing your existing search ranking.
- Search engines give more weightage to page speed. Paid servers have lightning speed compared to slow free or shared hosting servers.
- For the same type of content (competitors) search engine prefer custom domain sites with paid hosting.
- You can block bad bots crawling your site with paid hosting. This otherwise may affect actual search engine crawlers and user experience.
- Integrating tracking and verification codes for analytics, webmaster tools, etc. is easy with paid hosting.
If you are happy with small site with bigger aims, then custom domain with free hosting option is sufficient. However, you need to plan it right from the start in order to run bigger websites. Choosing a right hosting company is a make or break deal for many bloggers. Therefore, we strongly recommend choosing a could or dedicated hosting server. Though you don not need this at the start, that will be the only solution later when your site receive handsome traffic.