This post/video is a slight departure from what I normally do. I’m hoping to answer a question that so many people seem to be confused by. Should you host your blog for free or pay for hosting your blog? I’m using blog and web site interchangeably here.
To be thorough, I’m going to walk you through your free options first and highlight a few key points for you. Let me start off by saying this – nothing is free. I don’t care how good the ad looks. Nothing in this world is free. Someone pays or you pay in time, sweat or other ways.
A lot of the allure of these free hosted blogging platforms is that it doesn’t cost you anything to get started. Sadly, that is where the appeal ends. If you’re serious about blogging, it really wont take you a long time to outgrow a free hosted blog. The sad thing I see over and over again, is that people regret going for a free option, once they learn the actual cost involved in switching over later. They build up their blog, gain a nice following, only to want to move on to a more robust site with a custom domain to be met by steep technical challenges. Hopefully you’re at the point where you’re researching this stuff before you decide which route to take.
So What About Free Blogs?
The good news is that you have options. I’ve selected 4 of the most popular free hosted blogs out there. WordPress.com, Wix, Weebly and Blogger.
All of these are literally no cost to get up and running. All you need is an email address and you’re good to go. The low barrier to entry and non-technical interface is the reason so many people decide to go this route in the beginning – for a while that is. I’ll come back to that in a little bit.
Let’s take a look at WordPress first of all. WordPress is probably going to be one of the more powerful of the four. The code for the WordPress blogging platform is also open source, so what this means is that the actual code that runs the blog software, is free to use and modify as you wish.
Next up is Wix and Weebly. I placed Wix in probably the worst category for a long time because they had such poor seo capability. For those of you who don’t know what that means, its just the ability for you to optimize your web pages to improve your ranking in search engines. (that’s kind of an over simplified explaination, but anyway). Wix recently did a complete overhaul and now they’re a little better but still extremely a long way off from being useful to serious bloggers.
Weebly is basically the same thing, and both Wix and Weebly come with nice templates you can just start off with and do some light customization to. They both were flash based before although, now I believe that they’ve finally moved to html5. Weebly’s pricing structure is a little more palatable than WordPress.com, as they don’t seem to require annual up front payments. The have similar templates you can start with and editing these are quite intuitive.
Lastly, we have blogger. Blogger has been around for a very long time. It’s a Google product. The only advantage that Blogger has over the other free hosted options is the disk space. You can use Google drive for storage and since last I checked, they offer unlimited storage. Quite a nice option, considering, you will hit limits with the other three free web hosts and need to pay to upgrade.
Ah, but alas.. blogger has probably the least customization options of them all. They’re pretty unprofessional looking blogs and have a rather dated look.
What does it Cost?
If you start any of these so called free hosted blogs, you’ll notice they have ads running on your site. You cant remove them, unless you upgrade, which costs money. So you really have to be ok with random ads across your entire site.
If you’re looking to serve up video on a WordPress.com free hosted blog, you’re going to have some trouble. In order to do that, you guessed it, you need to upgrade. You’re also quite limited to a small amount of disk space.
The ugliest thing about free hosting solutions in my opinion is the use of sub domains. You’re basically getting: something.wordpress.com, or something.blogger.com. Once you grow out of that and decide you want your own personalized domain name, here is where free goes out the window.
Check out the video accompanying this post for more detail on the price breakdowns. The bottom line is that these companies offering free hosting options, know that sooner or later you will need to upgrade. The costs for WordPress for example are annual fees, the cheapest starting at $5 -6/month, totally $60 -$72 a year that you will need to pay up-front. Contrast that with paid hosting which offers unlimited disk space, bandwidth, domains (at times) or several domains on one server. All this for anywhere from less than half this price to close to equal.
The comparison cannot even be made in terms of features and freedom. You get to host your own domain name, use whatever technology, including WordPress, that you desire and extend your site with advanced features.
So we’ve covered some of the costs involved, now lets look at the benefits of hosting the blog yourself. By this I mean through a third party.
There are two things you need if you’re going to want to get serious about blogging and make money.
A domain name. And, website hosting. Those are the only two things you need to buy. I have a whole tutorial series that walks you through the process if you’re interested check it out.
So number one, the cost of a domain: if you get it through godaddy or namecheap. Namecheap is actually cheaper, is around $10 for a .com. You pay this annually. Then hosting is the other cost involved. This can be anywhere from $25 a year or around $5.99 a month for a business hosting account.
You can customize the site anyway you want. You can host videos, upload images & files with both of these hosts without hitting any caps. They advertise them as having unlimited disk space and unlimited bandwidth. If you care about clean energy and all that, iPage actually uses only windpower to run their entire operation, just as an fyi.
The next thing is that you’re also going to have, is the ability to customize and utilize the full power of any blogging platform you want. WordPress.org is your friend here, some hosts actually just have a few clicks to installing a wordpress cms on your site, but I would advise against doing it that way.
Check out my how to make a blog series, I go into more detail why that’s not a good way to go.
Wordpress is still as easy to use as the WordPress.com free hosted site. Its the same software. You can actually start out with a wordpress.com free site and then when you out-grow it, port your site over to your own host. One of the biggest limitations that you’ll no longer have on your paid hosting site, is that of plugins. Plugins are forbidden on WordPress.com sites. This is basically code that you can get access to, that allows you to do all kinds of cool stuff on your site. You can even write your own plugins to do anything you want.
WordPress is no small fry
Just in case you were wondering, WordPress powers like 60million blogs which is astronomical. This is another reason why a lot of us web developers offer customized WordPress sites to our clients. It’s very fast to get a site up and running and if you know to code, the sky is the limit to what you can achieve. The cool thing too is that you can literally not know any code and still have a professional self hosted site using WordPress. They have had many years to polish their system, and even though there are still a couple of issues I don’t like, it’s very versatile.
If you’re into creating a blog, it really does the job well. Many developers use it as a swiss army knife because of its simplicity and rapid development capability. Truth be told, there are far more advanced content management systems that are a lot leaner, like MODx and Drupal. These are more for your web developer as there are far steeper learning curves to using these alternatives.
It is kind of amazing that you can build complex sites, e-commerce sites and more with WordPress by pretty much just point and click. The other thing I must mention is that you can control your SEO to a much higher degree of customization as well. This is vital when you’re trying to rank in search engines for specific search phrases. If you’re making money selling t-shirts for example, then you’re just not going to get far with a free hosted blog, because you’ll be so severly limited, in features and in doing proper SEO.
As you can see, the real differences are quite vast when you consider all the limitations a free hosting solutions presents. I would say if you’re on the fence and you want to go with free, go with free, but you should have very low expectations. I understand that some people just don’t have the money to pay for a domain name or hosting for that matter and that’s ok. It was one of the reasons why I offered to credit people one years worth of free hosting to eliminate that cost for them.
If you get iPage hosting through this site, a gift card basically pays for the entire first year of hosting. The other option is doing a month to month with InMotionhosting for around $5.99, or doing the first year at iPage for like $25 or something (at the time of this recording). I think thereafter its $11 a month. If you’re interested in taking advantage of that offer, get your hosting here.
Hopefully, this comparison helped shed some light on the two ways you could go. If this was helpful, please like and share.