1) When you have your own domain name, the address of your web site will be of the form http://www.yoursite.com. On the other hand, if you put up your site on one of the free servers, the address of your web site will be something like http://www.somefreewebsite.com/yoursite/. Which of these two sounds more professional? Which of these two is smaller and is hence easier to remember? I leave you to make the judgement.
2) The only way to make money online is to build up credibility among your customers. Having your own domain name is the first step in doing that. Your customers will feel more comfortable buying whatever it is that you are selling if you have your own domain name. It makes your customers feel that they are dealing with a large, established company, rather than with some fly by night operator.
3) When you have your domain name, you can have multiple email aliases of the form firstname.lastname@example.org. This allows you to assign different email aliases to different functions, all of them pointing to your actual email address. Hence, for example, for questions related to the products and services that you sell, you can have an email address like email@example.com. For questions related to the newsletter that you publish, you can have an email address like firstname.lastname@example.org. For comments/suggestions about your web site, you can direct your customers to email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org. Having different email addresses for different functions not only makes it easier for you to filter your email using your email client program (Eudora Pro, Pegasus Mail, Outlook Express etc.), but also gives your customers the impression that yours is a large, established company with whom it is safe to do business.
4) Many search engines give a lot of emphasis to the home page of a particular domain, i.e. other things remaining the same, a home page of a domain will often rank higher for a particular keyword than any other page. When you use some of the free hosting services, your index.html page is the home page of your site, but not of that domain. Hence in these search engines, your site will find it very difficult to make it to the top 20 or top 30, let alone the top 10 for some of the really competitive keywords. Just think of the amount of traffic that you will lose if this happens.
5) Some search engines are now refusing to spider the web sites which are hosted by the free web hosts. For instance, if you have a site hosted by the free web hosts, you would, until recently, have got the infamous error message saying that too many pages have been submitted from your site if you tried to submit your site to AltaVista. While AltaVista now says that "your URL has been submitted for processing" if you try to submit your site, rest assured that it will not spider any site belonging to many of the free web hosts even though it says that your site has been accepted. Can you afford that?
6) While optimizing your site for the search engines, if you create lots of similar looking doorway pages each of which is optimized for a particular keyword and for a particular search engine, you would need a robots.txt file in order to prevent your site from being penalized for spamming by the search engines. However, if the address of the web site provided by your free web hosting service is of the form http://www.somefreewebsite.com/yoursite/, (i.e. if your site is placed in a subdirectory of the domain belonging to the free web host), you cannot create a robots.txt file for your site. This is because the robots.txt file can only be present in the root directory.
7) When your site is hosted by some of the free web hosts, you will find it very difficult to get it listed in a major directory like Yahoo!. Although Yahoo! will never admit that it won't add a site belonging to the free web hosts, in practice, it will be a miracle if you can get your site listed by Yahoo!!. Listing your site with Yahoo! is difficult enough even when you have your own domain. Don't make your task more difficult than what it needs to be.
If you do not currently have a domain name, are you convinced that you need one right now? The small fee that you pay per year for your own domain name is peanuts compared to the benefits that you get. You can check out the availability of domain names and register new domains at Virtualis.
Sumantra Roy, president of 1st Search Engine Ranking.net, is one of the most respected and recognized search engine positioning specialists on the Internet. Sumantra's articles on search engine optimization have been widely published and quoted in different web sites and newsletters on the Internet. His unique formula for establishing the most appropriate keywords for a site has been used by WordTracker, the most popular keyword research tool on the Internet. This formula is also used by many other search engine optimization companies for establishing the most appropriate keywords for their clients' sites.
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