Don’t be fooled: so-called “free websites” are a nightmare waiting to happen. You may believe you’re avoiding a lot of problems by not paying for your own web space – namely, having to pay money to host a website that you assume you can’t afford.
Except you are going to pay, just not in the way you thought. You’ll “pay” when your website is covered in ads that drive traffic away. You’ll “pay” when you lose networking opportunities because others don’t take “http://gloverdesigns.totallyfreewebsite.com” seriously. You might literally have to pay when you find that moving your data elsewhere is impossible.
Despite these pitfalls, some continue to be tempted by the idea of free websites.
What Are Free Websites?
This type of website is usually found through what’s known as a “non-paid web hosting service.” Some of the better-known free hosting sites are Weebly and Wix. These sites typically offer subdomains or an Internet domain that’s part of a larger, primary domain. The selling point is simple: you’ll get a free website that can be live in a matter of minutes.
So what’s the downside? Well, it turns out there are several downsides to free websites.
Free Websites Are Unprofessional
Which looks more professional: “yourname.com” or “yourname.atotallyfreesite.com?” Of course it’s the first choice. The free subdomain just comes across as amateurish.
It doesn’t matter how long you’ve been in a profession or how many degrees you’ve acquired. Your free website name screams, “Doesn’t know what he/she is doing and doesn’t take his/her professional image seriously.” Adding insult to injury, your “snazzy” site name (yourname) is competing with your website host (atotallyfreesite.com) for attention. A subdomain name means visitors are more likely to remember the hosting site than your actual website!
They’re Often VERY Slow
Yours is just one of many free websites that a free hosting service is housing. And with all of those websites on one server, your website will load slowly as a result – and you’ll also lose out on site clicks as they navigate to the faster-loading pages of your competitors.
Patience may be a virtue, but lengthy loading time can do a number on your bottom line.
Free Sites Are an SEO Nightmare
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is a relatively straightforward concept: you are optimizing your website to ensure it shows up within the first few pages of a search engine result. Ideally, you want to be on the front page, if not one of the first few search results.
Well, you can kiss that SEO hope goodbye with a free website. Search engines like Google prefer paid domains (yourwebsite.com) as a rule. Your freebie site is more or less the exception. Those websites with similar content and products who have paid domain names will almost always outrank your site.
It doesn’t matter how many keywords you use or what the density is. Ultimately, your subdomain is going to be in the way of progressing upward in website rankings.
Limited Room to Grow
Have you ever mistaken a mansion for a broom closet? Probably not. So you shouldn’t expect the broom closet that is your free website to give you the same space as a premium mansion-like website. By shopping sensibly for the latter, you can give yourself space for thousands, even hundreds of thousands of monthly visitors.
Free website hosts will penalize you for being successful. If the site doesn’t go down from being overloaded, your host might yank your site offline. Often you’re told outright that you can only receive so many visitors per month – something you logically have no control over.
Don’t let someone else decide how successful you get to be.
Your Competition Has Already Won
There’s a reason this post has repeatedly brought up competing businesses and websites. Simply put, by opting for a free website, you’ve effectively lost the race before you even started. Even if you’re not a business, per se, just a blogger hoping to amass followers. You’re still in competition; you’re competing for views and – if you’ve monetized your blog – dollars.
Your competitors are taking every aspect of their blogs seriously, especially since for many it’s a primary form of income. They are going to invest in ways you won’t. If you really want to compete, you have to take “free” out of your vocabulary.
Free websites aren’t free. They just don’t tell you what they’ll be costing you in the long run! You can sidestep the headaches from the very beginning by paying for a domain and affordable monthly web-hosting plan.
Have you ever been burned by a free web-hosting plan? Share your experiences with free hosting sites in the comments!