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Know How Much You Will Pay for that "Free" Website before Starting
The Sprocket Report
When an entrepreneur is just starting out and there is simply no money, a free website may be the only option. But know the trade-offs and plan to trade up as soon as possible.
Truthfully, a free website-builder may be appropriate for the short term. Eventually, however, every successful business will need and want a customized, feature-rich website. If you need to pinch pennies until then, here’s what to expect and what you’ll want to add as soon as possible.
Do you need a specific domain name?
You can build a free website without buying your own domain name, but your URL will be something like www.mycompany.freesite.com. A web address like that does not exude professionalism. Domain names can be very inexpensive, so go ahead and get one.
It is getting harder these days to find a “perfect” domain name that hasn’t already been taken, so you may have to get creative or use one of the newer extensions instead of the familiar “.com.” Be aware that some extensions are more expensive than others. An untraditional extension shouldn’t hurt your website’s SEO, but it may be harder for folks to remember.
Some website builders offer less-expensive paid options that let you use your own domain name. Others may advertise themselves on your website or limit the size of your site rather than charging you. Consider the pros and cons before choosing.
Will you need email service?
Because a business email address is something like @mycompany.com, folks don’t realize that email services are actually separate from website services. Some places will bundle limited email services with their hosting or with a domain name purchase, so check to see what’s available and if it’s enough for what you need.
Are you okay with advertising on your site?
While the range runs from subtle to showy, all the top tools display advertising banners on their free websites. If you don’t want their ads on your site, find out which paid upgrade lets you remove them.
How will you measure website analytics?
Google Analytics is still free, but most DIY web-builders also offer on-platform access to the data. Check to be see if the platform you are considering does.
Did you know that you don’t own “your” website?
Just like Facebook and Twitter, you don’t own what you post on a free website. If the tool ceases to exist, so does your website. It has happened.
Will the learning curve be worth your time?
“Knowing enough to be dangerous” really applies here. The happiest users of free web tools just want a few simple pages. Once you start getting fancy, limitations can be frustrating and work-arounds can be a time suck. By that time, free is no longer a bargain.
Can you grow gracefully?
If your new business is successful, you’ll want to add functions to your website. Check to see that your chosen web-builder has ecommerce capabilities, a blog tool or any of the other functions on your wish list, even if you have to pay a little more to get them. The biggest drawback to a cheap website is when you are unable to add plug-ins or capabilities and you have to start all over again from scratch with another platform. If you’re already at that point, you’ll want to consult with a web professional to learn your options.
Launching a business is challenging and entrepreneurs often find it difficult to afford their first website. If a free site-builder really is your only choice, at least make that decision with your eyes open. Also, talk to us. We can help you plan for a site that you can afford now and that will grow with you later. After all, we're entrepreneurs, too!
Photo by Andrea Piacquadio
This article is an update to “The Truth about Free Websites” dated 4/27/2015.
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