Free Websites: You Get What You Pay For!

This past week I have had a run of people come to me with websites they got free from a vendor/product line/professional organization, not happy with the site’s performance. I have often given the advice to business owners that if you have no website at all, get something up and running. But I retract that advice when it comes to free websites. Here are just a few of the problems we have encountered:

    • Minimal Access or No Access to Website – A lot of these free sites are built off templates. You are stuck with their template. When someone comes to us wanting to change something, add more content or add functionality (like e-commerce), there is nothing we can do. If there is no access to website files or ftp access to the site, you are stuck with your current service.
    • Who Owns the Content? – Owners come to us because they want something changed on the site and the free service won’t do it. After investigation, we find out that the reason changes are not allowed – the business owner does not own the content of their website. The business owner thought they were getting a great deal, free website, didn’t have to do anything, they even supplied the content. Guess what? The vendor gets to keep it too.
    • Do you think your site is unique? – Keep in mind, if the free service gave you the content, they gave it to everyone else too. Search engines will only rank, let alone index, one set of content. I would bet the free service is the one getting most of the search traffic.
    • Who really benefits from your site? – A couple of things here. First, most of the free services let you use your own domain name, but the domain name was just forwarded to the site. The actual address of the website pages all referred back to the free service, not the business owner’s domain, meaning that all the page rank reflects back to the free service not the business owner.
    • Problems with leads – A lot of these free services offered some kind of form or demo to collect leads. The main complaint we heard from the site owner was no leads from the website. However, they had never tested the form on their site to make sure the leads went back to them. Cybervise has tested their forms and found the leads, instead of going to the site owner, go to a general sales queue and we got phone calls following up on leads, but not from the business owner who hired us. If you have something like this on your site, I would check it right away and check it again periodically.
    • SEO, Forget It! – I already mentioned no access to website files or ftp access, it’s pretty hard to optimize a site when you can’t access the site files. What’s even worse, most of these sites are setup for one title tag and one meta description per site. This is a huge handicap for Search Engine Optimization and will not be easily overcome.

Having a website is a necessary part of doing business in 2020. Stop being cheap, get it done the right the first time. Let your vendor or professional organization sell their websites to everyone else in their membership and then you can differentiate yourself by launching a real website.