“If something looks too good to be true, it probably is.”
As business web professionals, we’ve been seeing more and more “free-website” options every year. Giant international companies increase their market share and spend millions of dollars on advertising their “free-websites”.
How are they paying for this advertising? How are they investing in their product when they’re not charging for it?
Simple… They’re counting on you to sign up for free, and in one of the oldest sales tricks in the book – they then up the price. They advertise “free-websites” but they don’t talk about the long term costs, hidden fees, and the short term damage a “free-website” can do to your company’s reputation, or the ultimate bait-and-switch of “free-websites”: That you don’t actually own the site you build with them.
As a provider of Business Websites to clients across Canada, we’ve heard a lot of (very valid) concerns from business owners. When you start a business, you have to carefully allocate your investment capital. It can be very attractive to save money by reducing the amount of money spent on a new website when you’re starting out. After all, you just need something simple to announce your presence to the rest of the world right? You’re going to be marketing through other channels, your clients aren’t really going to find you using the web anyways, and there are lots of low-cost options out there that will do what you need for now…. Sound familiar?
This type of thinking is perfectly understandable – but can be very costly.
In our experience (and we’ve been at this a while now) your business has a far better chance of succeeding, with a professionally built, mobile-friendly website that is SEO optimized and contributing towards driving sales. Failing that, we think you are better off with NO web presence at all, than you are to use a low-cost, “free-website” solution.
5 Reasons Your Business Should Avoid the Free Websites
- First off, there’s no such thing as a free lunch. Be careful. Because once you get signed up for a low-cost or “free-website” the hidden costs begin. From overpriced hosting and domain name registrations, to huge costs for small changes to the websites themselves. Did you know that the cost of so-called “free-websites” can end up being comparable (or more!) than the cost of a professional website over time?
- Even if you find an actual “Free-Website” without the hidden fees, the set-up screams “amateur” to your customers – and worse to Search Engines, which are the major source of traffic to your website. If your website can’t be found, then what’s the point? And when it does get found, if it makes your growing company look like some one-person operation based in someone’s basement, then that is worse than not having a website at all. At least with no website, potential clients can imagine you’re professional and trustworthy!
- Some of these “free-websites” place advertising on your website, whether you like it or not. That’s one of the ways they make their money. I think my personal favorite was the Pesticide Advertisement in the middle of the Organic Honey Producers “free-website” that I saw. You have no control over these ads, and conflicting products (and even competitors!) could be advertising ON YOUR SITE, to your customers.
- With a professionally designed and built website, you own your online presence. With most of these “Free-Websites” you are effectively leasing the right to use them. When you quit paying them – the website disappears. In some cases, they will package it up and sell it to a competitor. Imagine putting years of work into your brick and mortar store, and your landlord says “Well, the old lease rate was free – but now I want $3,000/month or I’m selling your location, sign, and inventory to your competitor.” This is what can happen with “free-websites”. Your domain name, your design, your content and even your search engine results can disappear with the flick of a switch.
- Search Engine Optimization (SEO) – its growing more complex every day. Chances are you have a general idea of what it means; you understand that your site needs to be optimized so that Search Engines (like Google) can find your website. But this is a difficult and ongoing process as the Search Engines continually use new and different pieces of information to rank websites. With a “free website”, you don’t get the benefit of proper Search Engine Optimization. You’re getting templated layouts, and often incomplete SEO. These details that make a huge difference to being found online, are overlooked entirely or difficult to configure with “free-websites”. So, while you may not pay a lot up front for your new website, you will pay eventually or you’ll be throwing your money away since no one will end up seeing this “free website” of yours.
You’re an Expert at Your Business
Another question to consider is how do you calculate the cost of running a “free-website” since you’re the one that will be doing it? Do you really want to spend your free time fighting with text editors and gimmicky tools in order to “move that thing over there”? Wouldn’t your time be better spent operating your business, where you are an expert?
Your website is a powerful tool for connecting with customers, in this day and age – it may very well be your most powerful tool for connecting with them. It’s the public face of your business, like a tireless employee working 24/7. Shouldn’t the message it sends out be one of excellence, professionalism, of commitment to quality, and of trustworthiness?
If you’re not willing to invest in your own business, why would someone else? Use your website to send the message to potential customers that you are a professional company. Tell them with your beautiful optimized website that you are ready to provide them with a quality service and that you take the role of connecting with them very seriously. Leave the creation and promotion of your website to professionals ( like us) and focus on what you do best.