One of the most important things when starting a business website is choosing the right web hosting service.
There can be temptation to choose free web hosting with a website builder and then maybe upgrade to a premium account. These services include Wix, Weebly, Blogger and more. With so many web hosting services on the market it is hard to choose.
As well, there are a few things to understand about free hosting / upgrade plans and the potential to hurt your website’s quality and company’s reputation plus cost more money in the long run.
When you use free web hosting, at Wix for example, your web address will look like this: http://username.wix.com/sitename
This does not give customers a feeling of security or seriousness. As well, it would not look good on a business card.
Ads on Your Webpages
One reason that a hosting company may offer free web hosting is to make money from advertising. These ads will be placed on different parts of your web page taking attention away from your content or products. Not all free services do this so it best to check if their ads will be shown.
Bandwidth and Storage Limits
Make sure to read the details about available bandwidth. The speed of a website is important for customer experience and search engine optimization. Visitors to your website are impatient and will move on in 1 or 2 seconds. Google also factors website speed into its search result rankings.
If you are planning to display many photos or videos then storage space can be limiting. For simple content websites this is not a big issue. However, for product based websites where quality photos are a must will definitely not reach their full potential.
As a business grows its online needs will change and require updating and sometimes even special customization to take full advantage of the market place. Website builders may stay up to date with styling options but adding special tools or options for sales and marketing will be very unlikely.
Only SEO Friendly
Free hosting plans and website builders can provide a platform for effective SEO. However, successful SEO depends more on the person than the website structure. Effective marketing and sales skills plus SEO knowledge will be the basis for success well beyond just a platform. This is a key benefit of dealing with an experienced web designer. Google does not reward websites just because they are “SEO Friendly”. The website needs to be “Optimized” internally and externally.
Content is Yours, Not the Website
Let’s say you decide to start with a free website and hosting account. You spend a lot of time getting the layout right, adding features, and content. When it comes time to upgrade to a more flexible paid account with the same company you will still keep all this work. However, if you need to move to a completely independent unrestricted hosting account for better business, you have to start again. You can move the content over from the free account or upgraded account but not the website itself. You will need to hire a professional web designer to create a new website for your content or do it yourself again.
This is an important point for calculating costs of your online business. Below are two scenarios to show the price difference between a free hosting/website builder service (like Wix) vs. starting out with a hosting plan and hiring a web designer. We will assume that 1 year was free then 3 years of upgrade to a premium package was bought from Wix.
Free Hosting / Website Builder Service – Wix
1 Year Free Account
3 Years of “Unlimited Plan” ($12.42/month) = $450.00
4 years of One Email Account ($5.00/month) = $240.00
Total = $690.00 U.S. Dollars
**Does not include shopping cart, or multiple websites option.
Unlimited Hosting / Web Designer
WordPress Theme Website (manage own content) = $550.00 (+/-)
2 Years Hosting – Canadian Web Hosting ($3.95/month) = $95.00
$192.00 U.S. Dollars + $550.00 Canadian Dollars = $645.00 Canadian Dollars
**Includes Unlimited Email, Stylish Theme, Shopping Cart.
The price is almost the same over 4 years and then the “Free” option will become more expensive if you pay all in USD. For Canadians, it is more cost effective to choose a web designer and hosting company. As well, you don’t own your Wix website that you have been paying for. It seems clear that a business owner would benefit most from working with a web designer and having complete control over their website.
Could There Be Advantages to Free Hosting?
It should be noted in fairness that the price for a web designer can vary widely but getting a theme based SEO WordPress website (shopping cart if necessary) setup for around $500.00 to $600.00 is not unrealistic. You will need to add content and understand the admin area but this is no different than using the free hosting / website builder service. As well, if you choose to utilize the flexibility of full control with the website there may be extra customization costs from the web designer over time.
When could using free hosting be useful? Possibly a testing situation would benefit from using free hosting or a website builder to save costs. But as soon as the online business website would become permanent, switch to an independent hosted website designed by a pro. You will save money, have more flexibility, create a better image and reach your target market more easily.