Free is not always without a price, as the owners of over 11 million web sites found out when their sites were banned en masse by Google.
Google took the unusual step of banning all of the web sites after reviewing the 11 million+ sites hosted under subdomains of the the co.cc domain. They found an overwhelming majority of the sites to be low-quality, spammy sites. Rather than weeding them out one at a time, the search engine giant simply wiped them all from their database. The .cc ccTLD has been offered by domain registrars for several years as an alternative to standard .com, .net and .org top level domains.
The .cc extension is actually a ccTLD (country code top level domain) for the Cocos (Keeling) Islands off the coast of Australia. The domain name co.cc is registered to a Korean company that offers free and low cost web site hosting. Unfortunately, this business model attracted a huge number of spammers who put up poor quality web sites. Many of these sites are autoblogs. Autoblogs are built with automated systems that publish content taken from other sites, with or without the original authors’ permission. Google’s recent specifically targeted wen pages with low-quality or duplicated content and lowered their rankings or filtered them out of its search results.
“Banning” is a severe punishment mostly used for web sites that clearly violate Google’s Webmaster Guidelines. When a site is banned, all of its pages are removed from Google’s index, which means the web pages will never show up in Google’s search results.
The Korean company that runs the co.cc web site offered subdomain hosting. That means that you could register a free or low-cost subdomain and set up a web site. The subdomain is an optional part of a full domain name. It comes before the actual domain name. www is the most common subdomain, but any valid combination of letters and numbers can be used to create a subdomain, which allows an almost unlimited number of stand-alone web sites to exist under a parent domain name. For example, mydomain.co.cc could be set up as a separate web site from the co.cc parent domain.
Not all free hosting is necessarily bad, but before you use free hosting you should check out the reputation of the company who runs it and investigate the types of sites that they allow people to host. You can do this by simply using the “site” query command in Google and take a look at several of the pages that show up in Google’s search results.
For example, if co.cc had not been banned, the following query for all of the pages in Google’s index under the co.cc domain would have returned the number of web pages found in all 11 million+ web sites.
However, once a domain name has been banned, you will see zero pages in Google’s index.