Get Online: The Problem With Free Websites

Get Online for Free

Every now and then we see another genius internet business plan - "Lets give away free websites!" The idea is a simple one: Lure people in by offering them free websites so you can quickly grow a large base of hosting customers that are locked into paying you. Often we've been asked what we think about the strategy of 'free websites.' Especially since we are also a hosting company, would it not make business sense for us to offer free websites as well?

From our point of view, giving away something for nothing has never been a good business strategy. We are only interested in businesses who are serious about success and I don't know of a single successful website business that started out as a 'free template.' The old saying 'there are no free lunches' is as relevant online as ever. You need to ask yourself: Why is it free? What are they really wanting in return? If you can't answer those questions then rest assured you are giving them something, you just don't know what it is yet.

If you signup for a free website template you will compromise on a combination of the following:

• Generic template layout. When you are choosing a website template, how many other people are choosing exactly the same site? They might be called 'custom websites' but there is often very little that is custom about them, apart from choosing a background colour and uploading your logo into the banner. That isn't 'custom.' Internet users are increasingly savvy and can smell an el-cheapo website a mile away - not good if you want to be taken seriously.

• Inability to add new functionality; membership areas, image display sliders, product features, video, interactive elements etc.

• Little control over the layout. You'd better really like that template because there is no changing it down the track, unless you want to start over.

• Most search engines ignore them! What is the point in having a website if you have no traffic and can't do a SEO campaign to get any traffic because you are on a free template structure?

• You don't own the site. You can't host it elsewhere. You can't back it up. You can't upgrade it.

• Hidden on going costs. Be very careful how much the on-going hosting costs are going to be. Whenever I look at free website companies it's often very difficult to actually find out how much the hosting costs are! They don't tell you, or they offer you 12 months free and then it will just be a small monthly cost. You need to know what it's going to cost and shop around to see if that price is actually a fair price considering the point above.

This is just the tip of the iceberg with regards to free websites. In the end it is your choice and many people simply do not know enough about websites to make an informed decision. They simply see a working website, not too different from their competitors, and it's free! They saved themselves maybe $1000. Many of these people come to us a year or two later saying: 'The free website idea was a silly thing to do - I just didn't really know.. I thought since it was free that it couldn't hurt.'  If you are serious about the success of your business then forget about $5 logos and free websites. Or give the free thing a go and we'll talk to you in a years time.

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Posted in Website Design