You may have seen the commercials on TV or ads showing up in your Facebook feed claiming you can use a magical website building tool to create your company’s website, completely free of charge. This sounds too good to be true, doesn’t it? That’s because it usually is.
I may catch some flak for it, but I have to expose a dirty little secret: The free website building tools you hear about aren’t really free.
While the promise of a free website can be enticing, there are always hidden costs involved that aren’t so obvious. If you’re not up on the latest website technology, you could be severely disappointed if you think you can launch a results-producing website at no cost.
Let’s take a look at the hidden costs of so-called free website building tools that you should take into consideration before creating or upgrading your company’s website.
Domain and hosting
A “free” website doesn’t include a totally unique domain name (www.yourcompanyname.com, for example). You have to pay extra for that.
In addition, you may incur monthly hosting costs, depending on what type of package you select. If you want to add more pages to your site, you have to pay for it. If you want more storage for your images and content, you have to pay for it. The list goes on.
I have also seen companies charge a monthly fee to have their advertisements removed from your website. If you’re building a website for your business, removing these ads is essential for a professional image. You weren’t told about this hidden cost in the advertisements.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
Recently, while editing a client’s website using a popular website building tool, I came across a rather disturbing message meant to scare unsuspecting business owners. While I won’t mention the company by name, you’re probably familiar with their commercials featuring a high-profile competitive driver in racy outfits.
The message stated, “You’re not in Google search results, yet. Use our free Search Engine Optimizer to get started.”
This simply wasn’t true. My client’s website ranked #1 in Google’s search results for a few relevant keywords. Using scare tactics to fool unsuspecting customers is a completely despicable practice.
As long as you submit your website to search engines – most website builder tools do this automatically or it can be done manually – you will show up in search results. How high you rank in the search engines is another matter.
If you’re not familiar with doing a keyword analysis and following best practices to create content for your site, it probably won’t rank as high as you’d like it to. Building a website involves far more than knowing how to upload a logo and select a font size. Search engine optimization (SEO) is critical, so you’ll want to seek assistance if you don’t have experience doing it yourself and, you guessed it, that’s another cost!
There have been leaps and bounds in do-it-yourself website building technology. Overall, this is a good thing. However, there will be a learning curve if you’re not familiar with using a website building tool, also referred to as a content management system (CMS), to edit your website.
Getting the hang of things and taking full advantage of the features and functions will take time and time is money. If you’re already strapped for time (aren’t we all?), building your website may take you away from more critical responsibilities.
Free templates are just that: templates that everyone can utilize for free. Unless you have graphic design experience and the necessary tools, your website isn’t going to stand out from the crowd. Stock photos and straight-from-the-box templates will cause your site to look like all the others using the same template. Your website is your most important online asset – don’t take a shortcut.
If you want to create a professional website that’s a cut above the rest, I suggest you work with a graphic designer who has web design experience. This, of course, is a cost you weren’t told about when you were pitched a free website.
Some companies that provide “free” website building tools offer custom design services, but buyer beware. I read an online review from a dissatisfied customer who actually paid one of these companies $3,000 for them to customize his website! It was the same basic website with a few novice enhancements.
He would’ve been much better off using a local marketing company to deliver the site he wanted at a fraction of what he paid. The money would’ve stayed in his community and the business he hired would have a much better understanding of the local market, helping deliver a customized site that would drive more business.
Avoid getting burned
Now that I’ve exposed the dirty little secret of the “free” website industry, I hope you realize some of the hidden costs. There’s nothing wrong with using these website building tools, but understand that they’re not really free; know what you’re getting into.
Although using a “free” website building tool may seem like a no-brainer, hiring a marketing professional to deliver an effective website that will get your business found online is more affordable than you think. Let my company help mitigate the hidden costs and achieve your online goals. Send me an email today or give me a ring at (248) 808-0405 to discuss how we can help.
|Brett Heitz | Such Great Heights Marketing|
|Brett is the President of Such Great Heights Marketing LLC. He is passionate about providing marketing services that help small businesses in Detroit and Southeast Michigan grow. You may reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.|