The Best Way to Move your Website Off a Free Hosting Account

If you used to have your website hosted on a free host (where they link to your site with their own domain name included, something like this: http://www.example.com/user/yourname/yourcompanynamehere.html, and then decided to set up your own domain you will need to redirect visitors from your old free host account to your new domain. If you don't set up some kind of redirect search engines will penalize your new website for having the same content. The only other solution is to buy a new domain, but then you'll have to write entirely new content.

For more information on why a free hosting account is never a good idea, see Internet Web Hosting Scams on this site.

Most free hosting companies do not provide 301 redirects, which is the preferred method of redirecting a website. You can set up a meta refresh tag however Google says a meta refresh is not the preferred method to redirect a website (see other options below). Whatever method you use, you also need to set up a meta tag telling the search engines to no longer index your old free site.

In order to make these changes you will need to know how to FTP into your old site files (ask your host for instructions or find instructions online on how to set that up) and you will also need to know how to edit the html code or hire a webmaster to do this. The following code may not work on some not set up for HTML, in which case you need to ask for help on how to write the following code.

How to Move your Visitor to your New Website

Log into your site builder program on your free host and remove all the text from your home page except for this short message:

<p align="center" style="font-size:120%">
We have moved. In a few seconds you will be taken to our new website
<a href="http://www.YourDomainGoesHere.com/">Put the Name of Your Site Here</A> </p>

How to Set up a Meta Refresh Redirect to Your New Website

Now you need to FTP into your free host site and edit your home page file, adding the following to the head tag. This tag moves your visitor within 0 seconds to your new site, which is what Google recommends to simulate a 301 redirect. Do the same with all your other pages making sure to change the link to each of those individual pages.

<META http-equiv="Refresh" content="0; URL=http://www.YourDomainGoesHere.com/">

How to Tell the Search Engines to No Longer Index Your Old Pages

Also need to add the following to the head tag of every page you want redirected to your new domain. It tells the search engines to no longer index your old pages but do-follow the links:

<META name="robots" content="NOINDEX,FOLLOW">

Test to Make Sure the Redirect is Working

Now log out and put the address of your old freebie site into your browser and check it out. It should move you from your old site to your new domain in the seconds you specified. If not then check your code as you may have set it up wrong.

If it is working correctly then the search engines should eventually pick up your new site and drop the old one from their index. Don't cancel your free account till a few months after you have this set up correctly to make sure all search engines have picked it up (some don't refresh their files for a month or more).

Set up Canonical Tags to the new domain

Another option is to tell search engines that you want the new site to be indexed is to set up canonical tags in the head of each page using the new site's URLs. This method may enable you to retain your keyword ranking and domain authority, but it's not as good as a 301 redirect.

Update Google Search Console

After you get the new domain set up be sure to update your Google Search Console account with a change of address request for the new domain name and be sure to read all the instructions.

Another More Technical Option

This one is more technical: hiring a 3rd party to set up a redirect like CloudFlare. They will redirect your old domain to the new one. if you don't know how to do this you may want to hire someone who understands this method.

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