Why has Search Interest in Free Web Hosting Declined Over Time?
I used to be quite big in the free web hosting industry. After all, I did run my own free web hosting company from 2007 to 2009. Today, I thought I’d check up on a few forums that I used to post on and essentially where I used to get my leads. Back then, for me at least, it wasn’t about making money. It was about providing a reliable web hosting service and supporting it in any way that I could. It became my first ever project and passion. You’d think, as being an SEO, that I got most of my leads from Google, but it wasn’t. I used to get my leads by signing up on relevant forums and contributing to discussions to make a name for myself.
Whilst I was in my senior years in secondary school, I tried to run this free web hosting service. It was amazing at first, because I had a forum community that backed me at the time. They were voluntary staff who I’d give free web hosting to in return for their help. The business model was to make money from Google AdSense by basically forcing community members to add my Google AdSense ads to their website. For the majority of the time, I was working at a garden centre every weekend, trying to pay for the upkeep of 2 dedicated servers running on cPanel/WHM. I was paying up to $500 per month at one point. With the GBP being worth double that of USD, it was affordable and doable as I rented those servers in the US.
Free Web Hosting Downward Trend
So, that was then. The industry was on a downward trend according to the following Google Trends graph, but at the time, my web hosting service was averaging 30,000 unique visitors per month. It was significant enough for me. If you look at the chart below, I looked at the top 3 ‘free web hosting’ related terms, and as you can see in May 2015, interest has almost dropped to insignificant levels when in comparison to 2004 – 2009 periods.
Why has search interest died for ‘free web hosting‘?
Free web hosting used to be quite popular, as well as free forum creation services, which started to sprout up from 2005 on-wards. I used to be a real big fan of Invision Free in 2005, and that was a massive forum creation service that allowed anyone to create discussion boards on any particular subject. I remember at the time, Invision Free had around 100 active users on their support forum concurrently. If we look now, there are only 2 members online. I think in this respect, free forum hosting has died in favour of Reddit, Facebook, Twitter and other social discussion sites that have made self-hosting outdated when discussions can be created on aggregate websites like Reddit. In this same aspect, people aren’t creating pages anymore like they used to. And if they are, they are being more serious about it by purchasing paid web hosting. It’s more reliable, the level of support is higher, and it’s really cheap. However, just from looking at Google Trends, it appears that there are simply fewer people today wanting to create web pages compared to when it was really big in the 2004-2007 period where business was really booming. People just aren’t as interested as they were before. It makes total sense.
Would I start up a free web hosting business in 2015?
Probably not to get rich. I’m not saying you wouldn’t be able to make money out of it as there are still people searching for free web hosting, but it’s simply not as lucrative as it once was. I remember, even back in 2007, the free web hosting industry was saturated by so many people trying to do the same thing as me, that it became almost too competitive. My service offered that edge of being reliable because there were web hosting business folding almost every minute, with people complaining that they hadn’t backed up their website and that they had lost all their hard work. If I were to ever go back into the web hosting business, it would be for paid hosting because you can still make money in that industry with relative ease and with good knowledge of the market. It still shows a similar decline to free web hosting, but the volume and conversion opportunity is still high.
Sure, you could argue that there are still free web hosts out there raking in the money. That’s a given. However, there aren’t as many free web hosts being created as there were previously. The interest has just died. One of the forums that I used to get most of my leads from is ‘FreeWebSpace.net’. That place has died when viewing it now. It doesn’t help that it’s a forum and also a forum about free web hosting. Forums have somewhat died down over a certain period (in favour of Reddit) and so has free web hosting; therefore, that site has diminished to a stage where there is very little activity and discussion. It’s a shame, but that’s just the way the world works. People will jump on the bandwagon and get off when they need to because something else has come along.
Expansion into Paid Web Hosting
A lot of the free hosts that I remember which are still in existence today are hosts that expanded into the paid hosting market. For example, x10 hosting, the first ever paid, and free web host, that I signed up for in 2006 expanded into VPS, reseller and shared hosting (paid). They likely still exist because of this very fact. So it’s funny how this market has gone. You’d think because the internet has become more popular, there’d be a far larger pool of people wanting to create websites. The reverse, however, is true in this respect, because fewer individuals are now searching for web hosting in general in 2015 when compared to 2004.
If you disagree? Let me know why in the comments. 🙂