by: Syd Johnson
There are hundreds of free web hosting services on the web. You can type “free web hosting” into any major search engine and get an expanded list. However, when you sign up for free hosting account, you are basically signing an expanded advertising agreement.
In exchange for free hosting, the company can place ads your website. The ads can be placed on the top of the main page, the top of every page, or on the sides. The ads are usually not targeted. It is possible that they won’t match the demographics of your web visitors. In addition, they are not customized to match the content on your web page.
This is a very expensive exchange program if your goal is to build up an online business. The area above the fold, everything that is visible without scrolling, is the most effective advertising area on the entire site. This is the area you should use for your affiliate links, Google Adsense, paid links and expanded site navigation.
Some free web hosting contracts go a step further and ask for your participation in their email marketing campaigns. You will receive emails that require a click through to a merchant site, and/or fill out endless surveys. This can be very time consuming and annoying.
Before you sign any free hosting contract ask to see sample sites. You want to get a feel for the types of ads that are being shown on other website. What do you want to look for?
1. Do you see pop-up ads? What about banners?
2. How large are the ads?
3. Are they just off topic or are they inappropriate?
4. Where are the ads? Are they on every single page or on selected pages?
Even if the ads are not on every page, watch out. It could mean that the hosting service has figured out which pages bring in the most revenue and they can afford to ignore everything else. Guess what? If it brings in lots of revenue for them, it could probably bring in lots of revenue for you.
There’s free and then there’s FREE
If your new site will look like http://yoursite.freewebhost.com you’re getting a subdomain for your site. It’s not really your unique domain name. They are simply loaning you a space for your stuff.
This is not a unique domain name that you can use to brand your business. You can’t use it anywhere except with this particular web hosting company. Ditto if the new domain names is http://www.freewebhost.com/yoursite/.
How long will it take before you actually own the domain name? Even the cheap web hosting services will require that you stay with the company for thirty to sixty days before you can keep a free domain name.
What happens if you want to switch to another company before the period is up?
Sometimes there’s a charge to keep the domain name or to transfer it. This should be clearly stated in their FAQ’s or in the text of the hosting contract before you agree to use their service.
Many free web hosting services are providing their services in such a way that you will need to upgrade your hosting package if your site has any degree of minor success. The tipping point is usually bandwidth. That is a measure of how much text, pictures, ftps etc. you can send to your web customers every month.
The Bandwidth in your contract is measured on a monthly basis. Check the contract to see if there are any fees for going over your monthly amount, or if you will lose your free hosting privileges.
There is a very high turnover for free web hosting services that heavily depend on advertising revenue. Even the most successful web companies will find that their advertising revenue varies on a monthly basis. Will the company suddenly go out business if they hit a three month slump?
There should be a written policy on what happens to your content if they site suddenly goes out of business. Can you still access your files? Is there an alternative URL or login site with your information? How much time do you have?
Check out the statistics on the uptime for their servers. This applies to any hosting service, whether you are paying or not. If their uptime is in the low 90’s and below, then try to find another hosting provider.
You are taking a big risk if you use a free web hosting services for your business site. The inability to control your advertising, high turnover rates among the free hosting providers, and variable contracts usually spells disaster for e-commerce sites.
To run a successful online venture, 24-hour live customer service, high uptimes ratios and control of your advertising space is a must. These features are also the major weaknesses of the average free hosting provider.
A better option for you company would be to sign up for an affordable or cheap web hosting provider. You will have many service options in this category and can usually avoid the limitations of the free hosting companies.