How low can you go? Can you set up a blog for $20? $10? Free?
Your blog has different parts, hosting, domain name, theme, and plugins. Can you get them all for free, and if you can, is that a good idea?
Your Blog’s Domain Name
Domain names cost money, but there are two ways you can get one for free:
- Free domain with web hosting
- Use a subdomain
When you pay for web hosting, you usually get a free domain name. Sounds good, and if you know your host will still be there in ten years, no problem. The only issue arises if your host goes bust, which is something you won’t hear about until it has happened. It might then be difficult to renew your domain, especially if the host’s fall from grace occurred yesterday. Your host crashing and burning is a risk, but a small one, so this is probably a good way to save $16 a year.
There are three issues:
- It looks amateurish
- Your content could be wiped out at the whim of a Blogspot or WordPress employee if the company decides your site content is questionable
- Blogspot or WordPress could be wiped off the Internet map tomorrow
Site visitors know you are using a free domain and see you as lacking faith in your own site: If you won’t spend a few dollars on a domain name then you must think your site will fail, so why should they even bother reading what you have to say, let alone buy your products.
2. Content Wipeout
Using any third party platform has risks. WordPress.com or Blogspot can change their policies without notice, leading you to be in breach of them. If a competitor complains about your site the company could assign someone to investigate the complaints, or they could just delete your site: Which do you think is more likely?
3. Disappearing Blogspot or WordPress.com
Not a likely scenario, but most bloggers would still prefer to be in full control of their online destiny.
Hosting companies change their policies and offer from one week to the next, and it is impossible to keep on top of them all. This is where you need independent reviews of cheap hosting companies.
The Host Advice screenshot above shows how easy it is to compare free hosting companies and that a few have top user ratings, though disk space is often limited.
You can often find discount codes that reduce the headline price of hosting packages, but the discount usually only applies for a few months.
WordPress.org is the free blogging platform of choice. WordPress.org is different from WordPress.com, which you should avoid at all costs.
WordPress.org is easy to use and has thousands of free themes and plugins you can use to add various functions to your blog. Most hosts offer a one-click installation of WordPress, which means there are no technology barriers between you and your new blog.
Your website appearance depends on your theme, and there are thousands of free themes to choose from. Most free themes are unsupported and don’t update when WordPress updates (about every six weeks.)
Every year there is a new free WordPress theme from the community of developers. These themes; TwentyTen, TwentyEleven, TwentyTwelve, etc. are updated for every new WordPress version, so you will never run into compatibility issues. Every one of this group of themes will load quickly, minimizing visitor dropout.
Paid plugins have lots of extra functions and can save you time, but free plugins work well for small blogs. Check for compatibility with your version of WordPress and the ‘last update’ to avoid problems. This list of free plugins would be an excellent place to start.
The Short Version
There are highly-rated free hosting deals around, and a few even include a free domain name, so don’t bother with free blogspot.com sites. So, yes, you can set up a blog for free. Are you going to run into problems following the free route? Not if you do your research, but you will need to upgrade your hosting to a paid plan as your blog grows.