The choice of hosts can be influenced by what you want to create and accomplish. Many photographers simply want somewhere to display their amateur photos to anyone who'll look.
Nothing wrong with a free Blogger or WordPress site for this. At a more basic level, there's nothing wrong with a Flickr or Facebook account.
Another good solution for a real website, free or paid, is Yola.However, if you want a real website with full control, a WordPress site is a good alternative.
There are several different types of hosting available, those that cater for the less experienced webmaster have the least flexibility and control. Again, it depends what you want to create and accomplish.
If you want to gain maximum traffic from the search engines (SEs), particularly Google, you'll need full control in order to optimise your site. Ideally you need a host that provides cPanel as your control panel. This will have Fantastico which in turn allows for the auto install of many web platforms including WordPress, Drupal, Joomla, CopperMine Gallery, a couple of e-commerce platforms, forums and a heap of other scripts, totalling about 40, from memory. There will also be an online site builder available through Fantastico and possibly another through the host's offering in cPanel.
So, ya see, the question is far more complex than "What's a good host?"
I've recently given Crazy Domains a go for domain registration and hosting and all seems to be OK to date. The price is OK. Crazy Domains is Australian.
I also have hosting and domain registration with SmartyHost, an Australian host. Although they provide FTP access to the server, there is no cPanel and the control panel that they do provide is a bit restrictive. Anything extra that you want, you have to pay for and it's not real cheap.
I also have hosting and domain registration with HostForWeb in the US. They are very good. HFW provides 24/7 e-mail support with the promise of 15 minute response time, far better than SmartyHost with office hours only, and you can imagine the backlog on a Monday morning. The level of support is a big issue if you intend to go beyond the basic, where you're likely to have some difficulty.
Location of the server is said to be an issue with SEO for Google, but I really doubt that it would make a measurable difference to the type of sites that you and I would build. But that's why I've recently gone for Australian hosts.
The amount of storage and monthly transfer are considerations, and cost for size. Most hosts will have at least three plans. The smallest plan will likely do you for now, but check it's size carefully and don't get confused with Kb and Mb. You might like to check out the plans and cost for HFW and Crazy Domains, getting a good handle on what you get for your money, and compare these with any others.
But I must stress that it depends on questions such as:
* Your skill level and how much you're willing to put into learning.
* What you want to build and how you intend to build it.
* Your intentions and expectations for the website.
Just a word of caution for anyone intending to build a website: Many people enter into the task believing that if they build a website, it will appear in Google and the visitors will come flocking. Not so! There's more to it than that!
Here's a simple, yet potentially effective way to have a viable web presence:
* Create you Facebook account. You probably have this already.
* Create a FB fan page called something like Laurie's Greatest Images.
* When you publish to your fan page, it will show up on your FB account, notifying all your friends. Work your friends for all you can and get friends to like your posts.
The other day I responded to a FB friend request from a young lady in South Australia. She seems to be at the centre of a network of about 1,900 friends. I need to be working this association for all I can, promoting my various FB pages which in turn promote my several websites and blogs.
I guess that what I'm trying to say here is that although choosing a host is an important decision and setting up a website is an important task, they are but the beginnings of your web presence.
There's nothing wrong with a flash website if that meets your needs. For me, I wouldn't have a flash website for all the tea in China. Reason? Search engines can't read flash. If the SE can't see your site, it can't index it so you'll never appear in the search results in Google, Yahoo, Bing etc.
But if your business model or hobby plan relies on gaining traffic by means other than search, then the use of a flash website isn't an issue.
The same goes for a site built on frames, though Google claims to be getting better at reading frame based websites. But I still wouldn't touch one.
WordPress is a great alternative. You can get a free WP site. That is: free hosting, free subdomain, free everything. But if you want to expand the site, you have to start paying, though I think the fees are reasonable.
You can also put a WP site on your own hosting, which is probably what you'd want, if you went the WP way. You buy your domain and hosting and get a free WP site put in your hosting package. If you have a look at Crazy Domains, you'll see that they provide cPanel which incorporates Fantastico among many other services. Fantastico can give you about 40 different scripts including WP at no extra cost.
SEO (search engine optimisation) is a huge subject! SEO is the business of optimising your website to appear in the SEs (search engines) for given search terms. You must know what people will type into the search box if they want to find what you offer.
There's only one William Thomas Blogs in the whole of the Riverina, so of course, for the search, William Thomas Blogs Riverina, our William Thomas Blogs will come up #1 or close to it. Trouble is, the only person who searches on William Thomas Blogs Riverina is our friend, Bill Blogs. So if Bill wants to sell landscape images of the Riverina and surrounding districts to the people of his geographic area, then he needs to optimise his website for the search terms, riverina landscape photos, landscape images riverina, landscape photography riverina and all the possible variants using that set of keywords.
Optimising your site, one page at a time, for your given keywords, is the essence of SEO. There's on-page SEO, which involves your text content and off-page SEO which involves backlinks (links back to your site from other sites).
So, what's the page about? It's about Landscape Photos, Riverina.
There are several places in a webpage that are critical to include the chosen keywords. Domain Name billblogs.com.au is not a good choice except to Bill's ego.
The domain name should be something like landscaperiverina.com.au or riverinaphotography.com.au. You probably need a .com.au domain because this is a commercial website in Australia. The SEs care about that information.
The domain name and the site title are the most important places to include your main search terms in order to inform SEs what the site is about. These two follow on to the site's pages.
The URL for a story might be landscaperiverina.com.au/juicy-oranges/ or landscaperiverina.com.au/juicy-oranges-riverina/ and the page title might be Juicy Oranges or Juicy Oranges of the Riverina or Juicy Oranges - Riverina.
Your site title should contain your chosen keywords. Here's an opportunity to use a couple of different, yet related keywords in a key spot. If the domain is landscaperiverina.com.au, then your site title might be Riverina Landscape Images. Leave your name right out of it, unless it happens to be Steve Parish or some other famous name.
So, on both the site's home page, with the site title, and the story page, with the story title, you've told the SEs what both pages and the site in general are about.
Now it's time to reinforce this with your text content. Include the keywords in the page heading and some subheadings.
The keywords should be used in the content as you run down the paragraphs. Don't stuff keywords in unnaturally. Just write naturally.
But don't write all about "they," call them "oranges or juicy citrus fruits or citrus products." This, of course refers to the oranges story.
For the home page, write about the Riverina in the same way.
Note that SEs can't see photos. They know they're there and can pick up on the surrounding text, but read only text. Always include a descriptive description, alt text and caption with your images, using your keywords for that page.
Your alt text might be oranges, your description might be Juicy oranges and your caption might be Juicy oranges grown in the rich, red soil of the Riverina.
Let's say you put up an album of eight photos with your oranges story. You might have 200 to 300 words, up to 500 or maybe 800. On rare occasions, 50 words would be the absolute minimum but don't get into the habit of skimping on content.
You can have a html website and use a flash album or slideshow. This way, the SEs will see your text content, but any text placed in the flash album, such as the description and caption, will be invisible to the SEs.
I must repeat: The stuff I've written about above is just a minute introduction to SEO and matters only if you want search engine traffic. If you intend to get your traffic by other means, then optimising your site for search engines is irrelevant.
SEO is a much bigger subject than photography, though you can practice SEO at a basic level, just as you can take snapshots with a $150 P&S.
SEO is a mixture of science and art.