Just starting out with a new website? Naturally, you’ll be looking for one of the budget web hosting options or perhaps even free. Here are my top recommendations for where to host your website and display your information for the world to see.
To launch your new website you’ll need a domain name, a content management system, and a hosting provider.
A domain name is the name of your website as it appears in the address bar of someone’s browser. A content management system is software that manages the way your website displays the content you provide. And a hosting provider rents space on the hardware needed to get your website out into cyberspace.
While there are some free web hosting options out there you should be aware that there is no such thing as a free lunch. There’s always a catch. As you know, any company that provides a free service is still in business to make money. If they don’t make money then they go out of business.
Some of the ways they can make money out of your website are pretty straight forward. They can put ads on your website, upsell their services, lock you into using their website builder platform, etc.
If you are considering using a website for a business then you should definitely shy away from “free” web hosting.
That being said, we will be looking at a couple of free options that are available to the casual blogger or student as we get deeper into the conversation.
But if you want to be in control of your website and potentially make money from it then you’ll want more than the free stuff. Having your own website is having your own bit of cyber real estate. It’s well worth the small investment.
And even if you just want a plain and simple blog it’s only going to cost a few dollars a month for full-featured web hosting including expert support and better service.
If you’re serious about building your own website then you’ll need your own domain name. The free alternatives belong to someone else and you don’t get to keep a free website should you wish to move it to another hosting provider.
If you need help deciding on a domain name then read this post where I go into more depth on choosing a domain name: “Domain Names and Web Hosting“.
Content Management Systems (CMS)
A content management system is simply the system that manages the way your content is added and displayed on your website.
Some of the free hosting providers (Wix, GoDaddy, Weebly) have their own proprietary content management systems. And, the problem with those systems is that they can only be used on the original platform. It’s very difficult to move your website to another web hosting provider and another system.
The most popular content management system is WordPress which is used by approximately 38% of all websites on the internet. It’s supported by almost all web hosting providers. And, because it’s so popular, you’ll find lots of free tutorials and videos on how to use it.
WordPress vs wordpress.org vs wordpress.com
“WordPress” comes in three distinct flavours: There’s WordPress, the free and open-source content management system that websites run on. There’s wordpress.org, which provides the WordPress system, free plugins, and free themes. And there’s wordpress.com, a commercial enterprise that provides hosting, premium plugins, and themes.
WordPress content management system is free and it’s used by more than a third of all websites worldwide making it the most popular website content management system.
When you use WordPress you’re not locked into using just one hosting provider. It’s relatively easy to migrate your WordPress website(s) from one hosting company to another. And when you migrate to another host your site will usually look exactly the same as before.
This website runs on WordPress.
All the hosting providers mentioned in this comparison list provide hosting for WordPress sites. So you know we’re comparing apples with apples.
All the hosting options we’ll be looking at here are for “shared hosting”. This simply means that your website will share space on the host’s server with other websites. The other, more expensive options, are to have a dedicated server or a huge chunk of a server for your exclusive use. Neither of which would be appropriate or cost-effective for a single first website.
So, this brings us to the discussion of quality hosting. Some shared hosting is better than others. The more websites they cram into a server the lower the quality of the service.
With this in mind, free hosting is never going to give you the same quality as the paid options. And some of the paid services are better than others.
Let’s look at some free web hosting services.
WordPress.com Free Blog Hosting
WordPress.com is a business. And like all businesses they’re in it to make money. However, they do provide a free web hosting service for bloggers who are not for profit organizations or individuals who are not interested in making money out of their website. If you want a free website with just the bare basics then it’s worth considering wordpress.com.
You can get a free blogging website as a subdomain of wordpress.com. You don’t own it, it belongs to wordpress.com. It comes with lots of restrictions including what you can write about. If they don’t like what you say then they can simply remove your website without notice. You can’t place ads on their website or use it for any moneymaking purposes.
But they can place their ads on your website.
WordPress.com does, however, offer a premium upgrade but their prices are rather prohibitive for new website owners. If you reach that stage then, in my opinion, any of the other options listed here will be a better alternative.
We’ll get to almost free budget-priced web hosting in a bit.
WordPress.com Free Hosting Pros
- It’s free.
- There’s no time limit on how long you can keep your free website hosted at wordpress.com
WordPress.com Free Hosting Cons
- You can’t have your own domain name
- Limited choice of themes
- Limited choice of plugins
- Your content is subject to censorship
- You can’t use your free website to make money
- They advertise on your website
- Upgrades (upsells) are expensive
WordPress.com Free Hosting Summary
Although you can have a free blogger’s website at wordpress.com you’ll want to take into consideration all the restrictions they place on you.
Wealthy Affiliate Free Membership
Still considering the free options, Wealthy Affiliate free membership is also OK for absolute beginners. You can start off with a free website on a siterubix.com subdomain and upgrade later to your own domain name.
If you want to get involved in affiliate marketing then Wealthy Affiliate is a great place to start. But please be aware that good education is not free. What you’ll get as a free member is just the tip of the iceberg of what you’ll need to learn to become a successful affiliate marketer.
Another factor to consider, free members can’t host their own purchased domain name. And most companies that you’ll want to affiliate with will not want to partner with you and your site unless you have a website with your own domain name.
That being said, creating a free website on the Wealthy Affiliate platform can be done in just a few minutes. They make setting up your first website brain-dead easy. Choose a name for your site and use the widget below to check if that name is available.
Note: This website contains sponsored links and advertisements. Full disclosure.
Yes, it’s that easy to get started with a free website!
If you’re considering going into the affiliate marketing business then Wealthy Affiliate will not only host your brand new free website, they’ll even give you some basic training. You’ll learn how to set up your website and they’ll teach you the fundamentals of affiliate marketing as part of their free starter membership plan.
Give it a try for 7 days and take advantage of the free website, 10 free affiliate marketing lessons, and 10 free lessons on promoting the Wealthy Affiliate platform itself.
I joined Wealthy Affiliate myself in June 2014, upgraded to premium membership within 3 days and I’ve remained a member ever since.
Wealthy Affiliate Free Membership Pros
- It’s easy to set up.
- You’ll get some essential plugins already installed on the new site.
- You’ll be able to learn the basics of affiliate marketing so you can test the waters to see if this is something that you’d like to continue with to build a profitable online business.
- Wealthy Affiliate does not use the free website to display their advertising.
- It’s easy to transition from free to premium membership so you can use your own domain name instead of the Siterubix subdomain.
- When you upgrade to premium membership moving your website from a free subdomain to your own domain name is push-button easy.
Wealthy Affiliate Free Membership Cons
- The free membership is for absolute beginners.
- The domain name will be something like example.siterubix.com instead of example.com.
- Free members don’t get technical support. If something goes wrong you’re on your own, baby.
- The free website belongs to Wealthy Affiliate, not the free member.
- Limited choice of themes.
- Free members can’t install additional plugins.
- It’s not possible for free members to easily move the website to another hosting provider. Copy and paste could work.
- Upgrading to a premium membership is not cheap.
Wealthy Affiliate Free Membership Summary
If you’ve never had a website before then Wealthy Affiliate free membership will allow you to test the waters to see if you really want to be a website owner.
Of course, there’s no such thing as a free lunch. So, if you want to go further with your learning and build a good website, then you’ll want to upgrade to their premium package.
Even though you could, theoretically, remain a free member for as long as you want it’s not a long-term solution. If you don’t upgrade to the premium membership within about 6 months, your website will be removed from their servers.
Other Free Web Hosting Options
I’m just going to lump the alternatives all together here as they have similar drawbacks.
They’re in business to make a profit so they’ll be upselling their paid services.
They’ll put their ads on your website. And these ads could even be from your competitors.
If they use a proprietary site builder or content management system that’s not WordPress you’re going to have a hard time escaping from their clutches. e.g. A website built at wix.com can only be hosted at wix.com. The only way you could migrate (move) your website to another hosting company would be to copy and paste.
If you’re going to go down the free website hosting path then make sure you use the WordPress content management system from the get-go.
And, if you’re going to be in it for the long-haul, then you’ll want to consider the almost free budget-priced alternatives.
DreamHost Shared Starter Hosting
This is a great place to start. I use and recommend DreamHost and their starter package is ideal for you as a new website owner looking to save costs. For a single website, you’ll get more bang for your buck with the DreamHost Shared Starter hosting package.
DreamHost uses SSD (solid-state drive) fast storage even for its shared hosting plans.
They don’t meter bandwidth so there’s no nasty surprises. Even when your website is wildly popular you won’t have to pay extra for all those visitors.
One free domain name registration credit for the first full year (terms and conditions apply).
You’ll get a free SSL (secure socket layer) certificate. That’s the lock icon in the browser bar that tells people your website is secure.
As your business grows you can easily upgrade to allow for more websites including subdomains.
DreamHost Shared Starter Hosting Pros
- 1-month, 12-months, 24 months, and 36 months options available.
- Free domain name (conditions apply).
- WordPress automatically pre-installed.
- Unlimited fast SSD (solid-state drive) storage.
- Unlimited traffic (bandwidth).
- Free SSL (secure socket layer) certificate.
- Expert technical support.
- 97-day money-back guarantee.
- Recommended by wordpress.org
DreamHost Shared Starter Hosting Cons
- Domain-specific email addresses (email@example.com) cost extra.
- The support ticketing system is excellent and can be used 24/7/365 but Live Chat support is not always available during the hours when most of the US is asleep. As an Aussie, I find this a tad annoying.
DreamHost Shared Starter Hosting Summary
DreamHost is a great place to start your website with an entry level price.
I’ve been using DreamHost for my websites since 2016 and I’m more than happy to recommend their Shared Starter plan for your first website.
SiteGround StartUp Hosting
SiteGround StartUp offers a managed WordPress option for your first website at a competitive price. If you find the techie stuff a bit daunting then “managed” WordPress is the way to go. You’ll not only get expert technical support for your website but they’ll help you with any WordPress problems.
Managed WordPress includes automatic updates of your plugins, themes, and WordPress. They provide server-level security for your site as well as daily backups.
But, as you would expect, managed WordPress hosting is a tad more expensive than the garden variety.
SiteGround offers 10 GB of web space for a single website which is more than enough for most people. It will be quite some time before a new website outgrows the allowed storage capacity.
The automated WordPress installation means that your new website can be launched and fully functional in minutes.
They even provide a caching plugin to make your site load faster.
Free SSL (secure socket layer) certificate. That’s the lock icon in the browser bar that tells people your website is secure.
Free email addresses are included.
Traffic is unmetered so there are no nasty surprises. Even when your website is wildly popular you won’t have to pay extra for all those visitors.
SiteGround StartUp Hosting Pros
- Managed WordPress hosting.
- 1-month, 12-months, 24 months, and 36 months options available.
- 10 GB storage capacity.
- Unmetered traffic (bandwidth).
- Daily backup in case you forget.
- Free SSL certificate.
- Unlimited free email addresses.
- Technical support.
- WordPress support.
- 30-days money-back guarantee.
- Recommended by wordpress.org.
SiteGround StartUp Hosting Cons
- Costs more than unmanaged hosting.
- No free domain name.
SiteGround StartUp Hosting Summary
If you can afford the slightly higher cost of managed WordPress hosting then SiteGround is an excellent choice for you as a new website owner. All the techie stuff is done for you leaving you free to concentrate on adding content to your site.
BlueHost Basic Shared Hosting
BlueHost is one of the most popular hosting providers so it’s BIG. They boast of having over 2,000,000 (2 million) websites hosted on their servers. And over 750 team members taking care of business.
With the BlueHost Basic package you’ll get hosting for one website with WordPress automatically installed, 50 GB SSD storage, free SSL certificate, and a free domain name for one year (conditions apply).
The Basic plan includes email addresses using your own domain name.
BlueHost Basic Shared Hosting Pros
- 1-click WordPress installation.
- 12-months, 24 months, and 36 months options available.
- Free domain name.
- 50 GB SSD storage.
- Expert technical support
- 30-days money-back guarantee.
- Recommended by WordPress.
BlueHost Basic Shared Hosting Cons
- Minimum signup period is 12 months.
- No automated backups
BlueHost Basic Shared Hosting Summary
BlueHost is one of the most popular hosting providers with an excellent reputation. You get all the flexibility, reliability, speed, and security you need to build your website and get it online for all the world to see.