Free Ad Supported Website Hosting
Millions of website owners select low cost or free hosting options that may not be appropriate for commercial or small business websites. Based on one recent experience with a custom website client, I feel site owners need to understand that free ad supported website hosting is not for everyone.
The ads exchanged for free hosting offered from one major hosting company are described as done by inserting "advertising on a small portion of the site". In fact this "small ad" is a top banner that covers the width of the screen with a height of 1.2 inches (30.4mm), and displays 3 separate ads. The choice of ads placed in the banner advertising is fed based on page content, so your site might feature an advertisement from your competition. This is fine for non-commercial personal sites, or a website monetized for advertising revenue only. It is senseless to advertise for your competition.
Website hosting is inexpensive. The decision to use free ad supported hosting should be considered carefully.
The cost for paid hosting ranges from modest to outrageous, so many business owners fall victim to overpriced hosting services because of inexperience. Some pay $1000's USD per year for their domain, hosting, and maintenance when in fact their site is static and nothing is ever added. A monthly fee based on the contingency that something might need to be changed in the future is a waste of money if your website is launched and just gathers dust. If it is dynamic adding content frequently and you receive value for money, monthly fees are practical.
Tip: You do NOT have to include the copyright date on your web pages. Using the copyright symbol and the year means you have an obsolete website a year later. The cost to change the date each January hardly justifies paying thousands annually in monthly fees. Published material is covered locally and internationally by copyright law without specifying the year or including a copyright statement. The fact that content is published on your website means you own it. My advice is avoiding dated material and simply state "Copyright Material - All Rights Reserved".
Another client told of a service where they paid $179 a month for a similar package which included a logo design and website graphics. Although their agreement also included high quality artwork of their logo for printed marketing materials, the service provider refused to make it available when requested. The website version was 3-color low resolution and looked fine online. Creating a 4-color CMYK high resolution version appropriate for professional printing should have been easy. Instead, the website owner was compelled to shop around and pay extra to have printed marketing materials designed.
When you remove "maintenance" as a service in the example above, your small business website can be online for less than $150 USD annual cost instead of $2148.00. The amount this customer saved was enough to pay for a custom site design, and then future savings of $2000 a year after the first year. You need a www domain and hosting, plus a site design. Dependable service companies are out there at less than $10 a year for your domain, and less than $5 a month for hosting. Why pay more? Choose carefully when you select someone to design your small business website, and their advice may save you more than the design.
Next, the technical implications of free ad supported website hosting may escape the notice of most site owners. In the recent incident, the XHTML code to create this site was deprecated by the free service when they automatically inserted code to generate the advertising banner. Instead of a website with zero code errors, 10 XHTML errors were added to each page because of the extra inserted code. Currently proper HTML or XHTML code is not mandatory for favorable search engine ranking, yet if you have a perfect design, there is the risk that deprecated code could affect ranking in the future if search algorithms change.
Small business owners are usually too busy running their day to day operations to learn about the best options for getting and keeping a website online. Free ad supported website hosting is available, but the downside needs to be understood before you opt for free hosting. If you select a web developer to design your website and they do not offer monthly fee based services, they will most likely offer advice for your best hosting options.
In conclusion, designers who offer value added services are viable choices for small business owners who choose to have fresh content added to their site frequently. Just make sure to communicate your needs for online and in print to maximize your results and avoid disappointment. I am opposed to free ad supported website hosting for small business websites because anything displayed on your site needs to promote your product or service. Advertising, especially competitive ads, detract from the positive first impression that is critical for the success of your small business website.
About the Author:
Jim Degerstrom offers small business advice based on 30 years in management, sales, and marketing, including President or General Manager of small companies in 5 states. He is proficient in website and graphic art design, and runs his online Small Business Resource Center at http://www.jimdegerstrom.com from Kissimmee FL USA.