Why You Shouldn’t Use A Free Domain Name

January 15, 2014

Most of us understand that having an email address that ends in gmail, hotmail, yahoo or any of the other free providers is going to make your business look less professional. A free domain name for your website gives the same impression. When you choose a free website builder, you will be given a generic domain name like www.username.moonfruit.co.uk or username.wix.com which is going to tell everyone that you didn’t invest anything into your website. Similarly, if you have a free blog, you’ll be using a domain name like username.blogspot.com or username.wordpress.com.

You might be surprised to learn that the impression it gives is not the only argument against using a free domain name. All websites build up reputation and search engine rankings over time. These rankings are associated with the domain name, so the person that owns it will ultimately benefit.

“I’ll just start off with a free website/blog and pay for one once I’m earning more.”

There is nothing wrong with using a free one to start with, but you need to be aware that if you do not own the domain name, you probably won’t have full control over it. This means you may not not be able to set up proper 301 redirects (what is a 301 redirect?) when you move to your self-hosted website. Unfortunately, you will have to start from square one with building up your search rankings. The best way to move to your self-hosted website with a new domain name is to start afresh with a new website and new content.

Even your blog will be better off starting with a fresh slate. The absolute worst thing to do would be export your blog from WordPress.com and import it into your self-hosted WordPress website. If content can be found in more than one place on the internet, this creates a “Duplicate Content Problem”, which can affect your search engine rankings and result in loss of traffic. In the worst-case scenario, Google might see the duplicated content as an attempt to manipulate search engine rankings and penalise your website.

The best approach would be to insert plenty of links to your new website from the old one. Let visitors know you have moved and direct people there. These links will help to start build some search engine authority on the new website, especially if the old website was high ranking. After about six months, close your account with the free website provider, but take an archive of the content – you could reuse some of it at a later date.

Purchasing a domain name and web hosting is so cheap these days, it’s worth the small investment to make sure you own and are in control of your website from the start. If you don’t yet have your own domain name, read my tips on choosing a good domain name.