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Free Hosting: A Good Place To Start?
by Duncan @ Sex FreeX Links

It is always difficult to judge precisely how much 'quality' your incoming traffic is going to generate. This can greatly depend on the source of that traffic. Believe it or not, it can also depend quite heavily on which type of hosting you use too.

Where do you want to draw your traffic from? Does quantity always equal quality? How would having free hosting effect where you can submit for traffic?

These are all the sorts of questions any new or would-be adult webmaster should be asking, but apparently most fail miserably to do so. I know. It's exactly what I didn't do for over seven months. Therefore, there were some large and nasty shocks in store, and it took a great deal of time and research to put things right. Many others have simply failed to recognize their errors, and just give up without making a penny. Put in its simplest form, the bottom line: paid hosting will cost you money up front. Free hosting won't. However, free hosting can cost you money long term. Why?

Here are some of the pitfalls, and pros and cons you may wish to consider before you launch yourself into the heady world of adult webmastering.

Paid Over Free?
A large number of free hosts make their money (to pay for the bandwidth you use) by taking a portion of your traffic. Redirecting them to THEIR advertising on 404 pages. In some cases this can be as high as a massive 20%. That's 20% of YOUR potential customers being lost. And additionally by placing their banners in the prime real estate spots on your pages - top and bottom. On EVERY page! So there's even more of your sales potential distracted from your own ads.

Free hosts also have a bad reputation, in general, for downtime. The amount of time that surfers can't access your site. While paid hosts normally enjoy a 99.9% (or better) reliability, too many free hosts have much lower figures. When a surfer hits you during downtime, it doesn't matter how good your site is, they will never see it. You lose them forever. That's just cost you even more in lost potential revenue.

Free Over Paid?
So, if so many free hosts are basically ripping you off, why would you want to be associated with them? Okay. Not all free hosts are so devious. Of course they all have to make their money too, but that shouldn't mean that you have to lose out on income.

One option is the free bannerless hosting route. There are some around that have a reasonable way to make their cash without taking a share of your hard earned cash or redirecting your traffic. One such host is TGP Freehost. They use the 'sponsor referral' option by providing you with a selection of sponsor programs, and are paid a referral override on your sales. The same as if you referred another webmaster. Any sales you generate means you keep ALL the cash you've earned. And, just as importantly, they don't use redirects (unless you have made an error in your URL address - which isn't their fault).

Naturally you would be well advised to read the rules, terms, FAQ's, and any other text you find on these sites before making any decision, should you choose to go free hosting.

What About Traffic?
Traffic is always a sticky issue. That depends entirely on your own plan or strategy. Where are you planning on getting your hits from, and what kind of surfer are you targeting? Let's take a quick look at how free hosting could help or hinder you.

TGP's - Let's face it. TGP traffic is the pits unless you are giving away more free stuff. Like freezines, or whatever. There are literally thousands of these little cloned sites, as well as some major players, around the net. They will accept almost anything from anywhere. So free hosting isn't a problem in the main. The two biggest problems are a) popular TGP's rotate out galleries too quickly, or only let you submit once, and b) TGP's that rotate slowly don't have many visitors. While some are making money this way, it's kind of a catch 22. But great for free hosts.

Top Lists - Top lists are a strange thing. I get the impression that they'd accept a tube of Smarties if you put it on a page, and submitted it as softcore, hardcore, or whatever. And unless you have plenty of traffic to start with, in order to get up the list, they seem an odd way to go when starting out. Free hosting seems fine.

Link Sites - This is probably where most of your long term traffic will come from. In my own experience it would be fair to say that around a half of all link sites refuse to accept submits from free hosts; And the number is rising fast. Even my own site, Sex FreeX Links, which is actually on a free host (bannerless), has a stipulation about them. The fact is that link sites hate them. a) because of their reputation of 'cheating', b) the drop-out rate of so called free 'webmasters' is so high, and c) so many of them don't last more than six months. That means a whole slew of dead links to be sifted and shifted off the index pages. That's bad if you're a link site owner, and worse if you're on a free host. Although again a reputable bannerless site may be accepted, under certain conditions.

The Big Guys - Don't get me started on the 'big' guys. If you happen to be on a free host, even a reputable one, beware. You probably have two chances of being listed: Fat chance and none! Some Persian moggy, The Realm, and that Green bubble thing certainly seem to have a powerful stranglehold going, and have it in for free hosts in a massive way. Let me explain.

You, and fifty other webmasters, share a domain with your individual subdomain extension. One makes a cock-up, or simply gives up 'tending' his/her site. That annoys one big guy, who tells the others, and hey presto - you're all blacklisted! Right or wrong, it's true. And not necessarily with any reason given. Cute huh? This actually happened to me on day one! I share the domain 'rawhard.com'. If you look it up in Richie's blacklist you'll find it just like I did (but too late). That means I won't get listed in ANY of the big players directories. So beware! Check first before you take a free host address.

What's The Conclusion?
Well. If you have the cash to burn, on the off chance you don't turn a profit fairly quickly, the logical option is to look for good, low cost hosting. That's for sure. And there are plenty of them out there. However. If you really are strapped for cash (and I sympathize), do your homework BEFORE you start uploading your stuff to a free host.

Find out who will accept your site. Find out how the free host makes his money. Does he take your traffic? A portion of your income? Find out about the downtime. Don't ask them, ask some of their webmasters. Post to the boards and ask others for their experiences, and how good or bad it was for them, and why.

My pride and joy at Sex FreeX Links works for me, but with restrictions. It's something I'm prepared to tolerate, and I've made that decision for myself. It may not be the same for you. Just find out as much as you can about everything you can. Only that way will you know if free hosting is your way forward. Remember. It's a balancing act. Get it wrong and it could cost you in lost income.
 
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