You might have seen an appealing TV commercial offering a “free” website for your small business. You know you need to get your business out on the web, and don’t know where to start, so this sounds like a great deal, right? Who could pass on an offer like that?
In the Internet Marketing business –as well as in life–, the old adage is true: if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
Before you pick up your phone and give one of these companies a call, take a minute to actually think about what’s going on. Why would anyone hand you a free ANYTHING with no strings attached?
In most cases these sites aren’t free at all. Most of the time you have to sign up for a service you probably don’t need, or your website ends up covered in ads, or it’s simply impossible to update and optimize for SEO, or, all of the above.
Since SEO is my line of business, I’m most concerned about how free websites stack up in getting your site ranked in the search engines. A large piece of the SEO puzzle is onpage optimization. This refers to changes we make to your website that can have a positive impact on your rankings. I can’t tell you the number of times my team has gone in to optimize a website, only to discover we are limited by the platform and are unable to make the necessary changes.
Site speed is also a big part of Google’s ranking algorithm. When your website is flash based, overloaded with ads, or hosted on a slow server, these factors all also negatively impact your search engine rankings. And often, “free” websites don’t give you access to add the proper tracking and analytics tools, so you are unable to see how your clients are interacting with the site.
So, is a “free” website really worth it? In my opinion, if your site isn’t showing up in search engine results, you might as well have no site at all. My advice is to hire a reputable web design company who can build you a site that is easy to update and optimize. In the long run, the business a good website brings in will far outweigh the cost.