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We have two sites, one which uses free hosting and one which uses paid hosting. The site with free hosting is taking a while to get indexed by Google, while the site with paid hosting was indexed really quickly. Both sites are very similar in design, content, and keywords.

This made me wonder whether using free hosting has any effect on the rate that a site gets indexed and, ultimately, on its search ranking?

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Please use sentences and punctuation when asking questions. It makes them easier to read and more likely to be answered. You can edit your question to improve it if you wish. –  Nick Jul 14 '11 at 12:34
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Question made to be more readable, etc. –  John Conde Jul 14 '11 at 13:03
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Google wrote a bit about the subject: http://googlewebmastercentral.blogspot.com/2012/03/keeping-your-free-hosting-service.html

If a free hosting service begins to show patterns of spam, we make a strong effort to be granular and tackle only spammy pages or sites. However, in some cases, when the spammers have pretty much taken over the free web hosting service or a large fraction of the service, we may be forced to take more decisive steps to protect our users and remove the entire free web hosting service from our search results.

Basically, you should be fine with a well run free webhost. However, if your's has a lot of spam, then your site may be blocked. You can get a pretty good idea of the quality of the free host by searching google for site:subdomainprovidedbyfreehost, and seeing how many of those sites are spam.

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The fact that the hosting is free won't make a difference whatsoever. How it will affect SEO is free hosting providers usually cram more sites on the server then the server can realistically handle. As a result the websites on it will be slower then most other websites. Since page loading speed is a factor in Google's ranking algorithm being on a free host will indirectly hurt your SEO.

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The only major concern about free hosting I can think of is the ads they force onto your sites (depending on how the links are coded -- i.e. if they're forcing backlinks to malicious sites) and also the domain (e.g. yourname.com is better than yourname.freehost.com) which although not necessarily a technical flaw, to the average visitor it looks more professional.

I also think that with Google Apps & Webmaster tools, you won't be able to sign up unless you have your own domain. I'm fairly sure that free hosts don't allow your own domain -- however Wordpress.com and Tumblr do allow you to assign domains to your accounts.

Since hosting is so cheap today, it might be worth getting even one of the $4/month plans just because from experience I haven't touched a free web host since the early 2000's because free hosts tend to place huge limitations.

edit just to clarify about the Google Apps/Webmaster config, having a domain is not a requirement to be indexed by any search engine. I'm just saying if you wanted to access the extra features, having your own domain is must.

Also, if you go with a paid host, you do have more leeway with your code and layout/features meaning that you could add more SEO friendly capabilities to your site, which might not be permitted or blocked by the free host.

Still, Google's indexing can take a couple of weeks to pickup your site at first, so patience always is key. Afterwards however the indexing varies based on a ton of factors such as update frequency (i.e. a blog gets searched more than a static site), reputation, content type, and more.

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