“It goes without saying that every business needs to have some form of online presence these days. While not all companies can afford to bring in professionals for creating small business websites, there are affordable options out there to produce high quality sites. Many, however, make the mistake of looking for free alternatives for their businesses. Saving money in this way may end up doing you more harm than good because free websites often come at a hidden cost…”
The majority of free hosting packages are paid for through advertising. These are forced on your site, and will usually be in a fairly prominent position. While advertising is becoming a necessary evil for most websites, for a site promoting your business not only can this detract from what your business does, but also the priority given to this advertising (and often through the use of intrusive pop-ups) can make your site unattractive for visitors.
When conducting SEO for small business websites, you should be just as mindful of some of the less important SEO guidelines. For example, everybody knows the rules about duplicate content, but how many people know about the guidelines for page loading times? Google will punish you for breaking duplication rules, but will not punish you for a slow loading time. It will simply add a drag factor on your website’s SEO. Adding adverts to a website will increase the weight to your website. This may not matter if your website is made up of a MB or two, but if your website is already quite heavy, then affiliate adverts are going to keep your website off page one on the search engine results pages.
Are these free hosting plans really free though? While most may be free at first, or may be as a result of advertising support, the free service may not be provided forever. Free web hosting is often loaded with fine details that you need to be aware of before you even consider entrusting them with your site. Even before choosing a free host, you need to be aware that they will all only offer a limited amount of free storage space for your site before your site incurs a charge. Similarly, free sites are only allowed a finite amount of bandwidth on a monthly basis and if you exceed this, then you will either need to pay or run the risk of the performance or even the availability of your site suffering.
Less important for some, but one that has happened with many free hosting providers, is that there are limits to the types of content that you can store online. Some won’t allow certain types of files to be uploaded or only offer support for particular types of websites. If you don’t think that will affect your site then think again – it may mean that, for many of you, you may not even be able to install something as straightforward as WordPress without upgrading from a free hosting option to a premium paid package.
No Branded Domain Name or Email
The most successful and professional small business websites have managed to develop a clear identity of their own but this is something that can’t be achieved using free hosting. Invariably, you will be restricted in the domain names available to you, and your site address will be a sub-domain of your hosting company. While this may be fine for hobbyists, for a serious company you want to maintain your own image and brand, not promote some other company that may be half way around the planet.
The same applies to your email address. A dedicated hosting package will often come with dedicated email addresses linked to your domain name giving your business effective branding and an all-round professional image. You certainly won’t have that with a free host.
Making sure that your site is found by search engines is essential. While existing customers may already know about your business, you’re going to want to attract new customers as well to your website, but free hosting can be a nightmare when it comes to SEO for business websites.
Due to the ease at which free sites can be set up, many hosts can be plagued with “spam” and what search engines consider to be “junk” sites. Google themselves adopt a policy of not listing any sites hosted by free web hosts if they believe that the majority of sites that they host are “spam” so some research before choosing your host may be prudent!
Finally, you are taking reliability into your own hands with a free site. As the saying goes, you really do get what you pay for with free hosting… and when you pay nothing, expect nothing! Free hosting won’t be able to offer you as much reliability as a paid hosting package, nor the same level of technical support if you need it and certainly not the same level of performance. If you need a site that has to be online 24/7 with support that is there when you need it, then you won’t find that with a free package.
Ultimately while it may seem like a great idea to save a few pounds a month on your hosting, is it really worth it for a site that will make your company look unprofessional with intrusive adverts interfering with your business site; a site that is offline more than it is online; or a site that makes your visitors feel as if they were back in the pre-broadband era? For your company to succeed online then you need to have a strong website and one that is professionally hosted and organized.
With the right host, supported with your own domain name, a proper system in place for organizing the content for your site (if you feel confident enough to run the site yourself, WordPress or another Content Management System would be ideal) or turn to the professionals… but no matter what, it will ensure that your business is properly prepared for a successful time on the Internet.
From Ross Davies- [su_button url=”https://makeyourideasart.com/design/no-such-thing-as-a-free-website/” target=”blank” background=”#3f3f3f” size=”6″ icon=”icon: arrow-right”]Read the article here[/su_button]
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