You can create a website for free using many website-building tools, including Wix, Weebly, and WordPress. These tools allow you to create websites for free, and host them for free, making them extremely valuable for small businesses.
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What Is Website Hosting?
Think of “hosting” as finding a place where your website will live. The “host” provides a digital location for you to store all of the files related to your website. Then you can virtually visit those files anytime you want to update them.
Drawbacks of Free Hosting
Free plans with Wix and WordPress come with a big drawback. Your website’s URL (the part that starts with WWW) will contain their company names. Think of it as a way for them to get free advertising whenever someone looks at your website and sees your URL.
The URL will look something like www.yoursitename.wordpress.com or www.wixsite.com/yoursitename.
Such websites can be OK for some things, like school projects or hobbies. If you’re not trying to look professional, and you don’t care a lot about website traffic, why pay money? But if you want to look more professional, you’ll need a customized domain and secure website hosting. Customized domains are URLs that ideally include your business name.
And once you upgrade to a customized domain, you’ll need to find a place to host your website. Or, you can find a hosting company first, and pay them. They’ll often include a customized domain for a certain period of time (you’ll have to stay on top of billing to make sure you don’t lose the domain).
The First Thing to Look for in a Hosting Company – Security Features
Researchers have found that 30,000 websites are hacked every day. When a website is hacked, that means someone steals information about the site’s customers and publishes it on the dark web.
This information can include:
- Credit card information
- Debit card numbers
- Logins and passwords (People often reuse these so it’s easy to hack into financial websites)
Once criminals buy this information, they use the customers’ information to make large purchases or make small purchases or withdrawals, hoping the person doesn’t notice.
A good hosting company will provide free Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) certificates, which protect your websites against hackers. SSL certificates use encrypted technology to make sure hackers can’t crack into databases that store private information. If the website hosting company doesn’t offer this, it is in your – and your client’s – best interest to move on.
The Second Thing to Look for in a Hosting Company – Speed
The loading time for your website is how long it takes for everything on a page to be visible – text, images, videos, and more. Google recently reported that 53% of site visitors will leave a page that takes longer than 3 seconds to load.
How fast your website loads depends on many factors, including the resolution of your images, if people need Flash to use the site, and your hosting company. In short, slow sites annoy people and they annoy Google.
Google and other search engines don’t rank websites with slow speeds very highly in their search engine results. As such, Google recommends that websites should load in under two seconds to avoid their penalty.
This means that a slow site can be the difference between you appearing on page one of Google search results or on page ten.
Any hosting company you look into will advertise the speed your website should load if you choose their services. You can make sure the hosting company is living up to its promise by checking the speed of websites that use its services. Go to Pingdom and enter a URL. For the best results, try the same sites on different days at different times. If the loading times don’t measure up to what they promise, look somewhere else.
The Third Thing to Look for in a Hosting Company – Tools for Marketing and E-Commerce
Many hosting companies offer free e-commerce tools and marketing help, like the ability to send out email newsletters. They offer these add-ons to entice you into choosing their services. But keep in mind that these tools are often outdated. There may be newer options on the market, even including some that are free.
For example, WordPress offers thousands of plug-ins, many of which are free, to improve your marketing and e-commerce. That said, if you don’t have advanced e-commerce or marketing needs, the tools offered by your web hosting company may suffice.
SEO Design Chicago Can Help Find a Hosting Company
If you aren’t sure of what to look for in a hosting company, reach out to SEO Design Chicago. We know all of the major players and can explain their fees, pros, and cons to give you a clear picture of what your best options are.