Free Web Hosting and Blog Services vs. Buying Web Hosting and a Domain Name

Someone asked me yesterday about the state-of-the-art in website development for beginners or for people who don’t want to spend a lot of time learning HTML or CSS. I told him to check out mcbuzz.com for ideas about what’s available, but I realized I don’t have a post addressing this.

Web publishing has changed a lot in the past 4-5 years. You really can have a website or blog up and running in less than a day — without knowing HTML, CSS, PHP or any other code. You don’t even need to know how to use FTP (File Transfer Protocol), which is what you normally use.

The way to do this is by using one of the many free services available.

What’s the difference between a blog and a website in this context? Well, WordPress allows you to use a “static” webpage as your home page. A “static” page is one without any chronological (aka “blog”-style) entries. Blog entries are short “posts” like the one you are reading right now. They always have a date, and they appear in order of most recent to least recent.

A website can be created and maintained using “blogging” software like WordPress without including any chronological entries. In terms of what the reader sees, there is no difference between such a site and a standard website. I don’t think Blogger has this feature.

Google Page Creator uses a more traditional website format: you create a home page, then add other pages like a Contact Us page — or whatever you want. There are no chronological, blog-style entries.

THE BOTTOM LINE: SHOULD YOU USE A FREE SERVICE?
Some small businesses might want to use a free web publishing service to get a site up quickly. Put the domain or URL (the website’s address) on your business cards and other promotional materials and you’re good to go!

Is this a good long-term strategy? For a business, I would say definitely not.

As Rae Hoffman says in this excellent post, “Before You Launch That Small Business Website“, one of the most important — and easiest — things you can do for your small business website is to buy a domain name.

One of the main advantages of doing so is the stability it offers for your site and for your business’s image or “brand”. Search engines like domain names that have been around for a while better than domain names that have not. So buy one now, use it and hang on to it. No matter where you decide to host your site, you will always have the same domain name and people will always be able to find you there. (You can change hosts without changing your domain name. — not true if you use a free service like Blogger.com, Google Page Creator or WordPress.com)

And, with your own domain name, you can create e-mail addresses for you and others that use the same domain. Again, as Rae Hoffman notes, “yourname@yourbusiness.com” looks much more professional and permanent than “yourname@hotmail.com” or “yourname@yahoo.com”.

Can you still use software like WordPress if you don’t use a free web publishing service and you don’t want to learn HTML code, etc.? Absolutely.

Many web hosting providers now offer WordPress installation as part of their hosting services. Ask about it before you sign up. If that’s not available, there is also a group of altruistic voluteers affiliated with WordPress that will install WordPress for free on whatever host you select.

If you need help with any of this, post a comment below!

Comments: 4

4 comments

I just bought a domain name at godaddy.com as well as their hosting, too, for two months. I was wondering how I now get some content on my website as I am used to work with big and complex CMS – but not with “self-made” HTML. WordPress looks great but on their site they do not mention godaddy. Is it possible that I use WordPress and upload it to site that’s hosted by godaddy?
Any help will be greatly appreciated.

Anja,
You raise a good question.

GoDaddy will install a version of WordPress for you. Here’s there answer to the question “Can I install WordPress on my hosting account?”

http://help.godaddy.com/article.php?article_id=834&topic_id=324

I’m going to paste it below just for kicks.

GoDaddy says:
Yes, you can install WordPress on your hosting account.

WordPress is a personal publishing platform, or content management system, that you can use to set up a blog on your Web site.

1. To install WordPress, log in to your Account Manager.
2. In the My Products section, select Hosting Account List.
3. Next to the hosting account you want to modify, click Open.
4. In the Content section of the Hosting Control Center, click the Go Daddy Hosting Connection icon. Go Daddy Hosting Connection displays.
5. In the Community Tools panel, click WordPress.
6. Click Install Now.
NOTE: The Install Now button appears only when the selected value application is compatible with one of more hosting plans in your account.
7. Read the End User License Agreement, and then click I Agree.
8. Choose the domain to install WordPress to.
9. Enter a database description and password, and then click Next.
10. Choose an installation directory, and then click Next.
11. Enter the Admin Name, Admin Password, Email and Blog Title for your WordPress installation. Click Finish.

WordPress will be installed to your hosting account with the options you selected. When it is complete, you will receive a conformation email.

End of GoDaddy’s answer to your question.
**********************
If any of that is confusing, just call their 24 hour support at (480) 505-8877.

Note that some hosting companies place restrictions on what you can do with WordPress. This is why they install it for you rather than let you install it yourself. You can install it yourself, but, in that case, they will not help you if you have any problems with WordPress.

I have found the restrictions — the ones I know about, at least, because I am sure there are many others I have not encountered — to be significant. They curtail your ability to optimize your WordPress site for search engines, for example, by blocking modifications to the .htaccess file. Among other things, this stops you from using the “permalinks” feature in WordPress, one of truly great things about WordPress.

In my experience, they also prevent you from using the latest version of WordPress. For example, 2.3 is available free for download at wordpress.org, but I know two major hosting companies that use 2.1 or 2.2. This keeps you from using new features like the static home page and the Advanced Visual Editing panel.

I believe these hosts have these restrictions for security reasons. They don’t want to allow more access to servers and the code that runs on them than they have to for fear that WordPress will be hacked and used to send out spam or other such mischief. Fair enough. But if this means your ability to optimize a site will be compromised, it seems like good guys are suffering because of what the bad guys are up to.

Not all web hosts have these restrictions.

Hopefully this answers your question.

Once you have installed WordPress, you can go to a site like http://themes.wordpress.net/ and find a theme you like and then check out the McBuzz WordPress tutorial here: How to Download, Install and Activate a New WordPress Theme
http://mcbuzz.wordpress.com/2007/11/28/wordpress-tutorial-how-to-download-install-and-activate-a-new-wordpress-theme/

If you don’t want to use FTP software, you can use GoDaddy’s file manager tool in the account control panel. They will help you with that, too, if you give them a call.

Best wishes,
Mark

Have you checked out Jumpline for webhosting of a WordPress blog? I have all my WP blogs on Jumpline. It’s great!! I wrote a review for Jumpline check it out at http://www.everythingwebrelated.com BTW they are currently offering a free three month trial. At least you could sign up for an account and test the host out and then post your review of it. Just a thought.

Thanks, JoNathan. I will check it out. As hosting goes, I’m partial to http://pair.com. I’ve never had a bad experience with them and their tech support is generous with their time whenever I have any trouble with a WordPress installation.

Leave a Comment