You might be fond of the saying, “If it’s free, it’s for me.” However, that’s not the case when it comes to using a free website builder for your business site. If you are launching a business or wanting to refresh your website, run — don’t walk — away from those free website builders. You will only be frustrated in the end and will have wasted valuable time on a website that needs to be redesigned.
When you set out to create a website, you have options:
- Hire a web design company to handle the entire process from domain name acquisition, providing hosting services, and building the site
- DIY: Purchase a domain name, choose a hosting service, and build your own site
- DIY: Free website builder
Did you know, in 2020 a whopping 36% of businesses did not have a website? It’s almost as if these owners are telling the world they are no longer in business.
What is a Free Website Builder?
A free website builder can refer to two areas: A free service that allows you to create your own website online, or a free tool that helps you build your own website.
- The Free Website Builder Tool: This is usually a plugin that you can use to build your own site. For example, Divi is a popular page builder. It has a free option (with limitations) and a paid version (more functionality). If you were to create your own WordPress website, you can install the Divi plugin and start using its drag-and-drop editor to create pages on your site.
- The Free Website Builder Service: This is a service like Wix, Weebly, GoDaddy, WordPress.com, or Google Sites, where you can sign up for the service for free and get your site online using their templates and tools. There are so many limitations to free sites that a business owner really needs to think long and hard whether to choose this route.
This article is focusing on the services, not the building tools.
Here are the reasons you should not use a free website builder for your company.
1. What’s in a Name: No Custom Domain With Some Free Builders
The domain name you choose for your site needs to represent your brand. With domain names, short and sweet is the best. You want to make it as easy as possible for potential customers to get to your site. This is why a custom domain is important. However, not all free website builders allow for a personalized domain name of your choosing.
The WordPress content management system powers about one-third of the internet’s websites. While WordPress is always free, you do not want a free WordPress.com site. You want a self-hosted site (WordPress.org).
So, what’s the difference? With a free WordPress.com site, your website’s URL will look something like this: myonlinebusiness.wordpress.com — not very professional looking. Plus, it takes too long to type it in, and it takes even longer to tell someone how to find your website online.
With a self-hosted site, you or your designer buys a domain, secures a hosting service, and builds a site on that custom domain. As an example, this is self-hosted WordPress.org site on a custom domain.
Google offers businesses a free website. While anyone can create a free site, it is one of the options when you sign up for a Google My Business account. If you create a free website on Google Sites, be prepared to have a terrible URL. It would be something like this: sites.google.com/youronlinebusiness.com. Not really how you want to promote your business or company.
As one Google consultant told a room of business owners during a GMB presentation: Google Sites is there if you do not have a website, but you really do not want it to be your main site.
2. Free Websites Contain Ads
There’s a saying in the tech world: If you do not pay for the product, then you are the product. This quote usually refers to social media platforms that sell your data and earn money off your online behaviors.
However, there’s a bit of truth with these free website builders, too.
For example, if you build your site using the free tools from Wix, Weebly, or GoDaddy, your website will contain ads letting the world know they, too, can build a free website using the service … just like you did! The GoDaddy Website Builder will display an ad at the very top of your site.
In exchange for allowing you to create a free website, they will advertise to your visitors. Some are prominently displayed and others are more discreet. However, it signals to your audience you are not willing to invest in a professional website.
It can be tempting to avoid the cost of website design and the ongoing hosting and maintenance costs associated with having an online presence, but you risk having your company look amateurish.
3. Free Websites Limit What You Can Do
The goal of the services offering free online website builders is generally to move you from a free or basic plan into a paid business plan. As a business owner, you understand the saying, “There is no such thing as a free lunch.” Everything involved with website creation costs money.
So, if you go with a free website, expect to have to pay for enhanced services. You have already seen you will likely not be able to have your own domain name. You can expect major limitations on how much disk space you you will have on the servers (photos take up a lot of storage). You will also be limited on how much data you can transfer to potential customers (this is called bandwidth). Some plans only allow 500 MB of storage and 500 MB of bandwidth. That’s not much.
If you want to take payments online, you will run into issues unless you go with a premium plan. So, forget about any plans for online stores or accepting a credit card payment.
Often, you are not able to use a tracking code like Google Analytics, so you have no clue what your site visitors are doing on your site. They also tend to limit your search engine optimization options, too. When your SEO efforts are restricted, you have less ability to get your website recognized in search engines. SEO tools are very important for your website.
Perhaps the biggest limitations might be with the design of your site and number of pages. You might only have a handful of templates from which to choose, or the drag-and-drop page builder will have limited functionally, which will restricting the design of your pages and your customization options.
4. Don’t Use Facebook as a Free Website Builder
Many business owners like the ease of creating a Facebook business page. Because you can monitor how many times a post has been liked or shared, it gives owners a sense of how well different messages are resonating with customers.
Facebook allows to you post videos, create articles (like a blog), do a video livestream, create events, and so much more. Facebook is a great tool for a business, but should owners use a Facebook business page to replace a legit website?
No, and the reason is simple: You do not own your Facebook page. Given the political and medical climate in the United States, people are finding themselves banned or suspended from social media platforms for the silliest reasons.
So, what happens to your company’s Facebook page if you get locked out of the platform for any length of time? How do you communicate with your customers?
Think of social media as a home you rent, and your website as a home you own. On Facebook, you can get kicked out at a moment’s notice. That’s not the case with a professional website.
5. With Free Website Builders, Who Owns Your Content?
When you create a website on a proprietary platform, like Wix’s free website builder, the terms of service indicate you cannot export your website, its pages, or any files. If your content is not portable, do you really own it?
Imagine you are new in business, don’t have much extra money, so you decided to save a little cash by going with a free website builder for now.
You painstakingly build up your site over time, your business picks up, you have some extra money for a website. Sorry, you might not be able to export that data. It is stuck on that free platform.
Key Takeaways When Considering a Free Website Builder
Given all the costs of a website (domain, hosting, backup service, themes, content creation, photos, videos, etc.), it can be tempting to choose a free option. If you go this route, you will be severely limited.
- You will not have a professional polished look because of ads on the site and a long and funny-looking URL;
- Your ability to sell products or do business online will be hampered;
- Even if you have design skills and design experience, a lack of advanced features could hold your site back;
- You might not be able to export your content to a new, professionally designed site; and
- It can be tough and inconvenient for your customers to find your new site when your URL changes to a custom domain.
The problems of a free site mostly arise after you build a site, not at the start of the project. So, choose which route you follow wisely. These free, popular website builders are OK for personal websites, but not for business sites.
How Goliath Creations Can Help You
Having a website that is easy to navigate, functional, and visually appealing will help your business grow. Having a professional web designer create your website will help it stand out from the crowd and attract new customers. It’s important to have a website that is easy to use because nobody likes using websites that are frustrating to operate.
Some of these points are lost when you are trying to build a website without really knowing how. Your business will be better off when you focus on where you can provide your customers the best value, and that’s probably not behind a computer designing a website.
If you have a website already, sign up for a free video website audit from Goliath Creations. If you don’t have a website or have a free website, we can use that time as a free strategy session to discuss what it will take to get a professional site up and running to generate more traffic, more leads, more customers, and more sales.