‘Free website builders’ is a term that gets searched for A LOT … in fact, thousands upon thousands of times a month, 12,000 searches to be exact. Sometimes free or cheap website builders are called SaaS which means ‘software as a service’.
But before you go and hurry after the free or the cheap consider the following.
Our guess is there’s lots of folks interested in having a website for their business but before you make a decision…read our Bloom Digital Marketing blog, we weigh up the pros and cons of building your own website (a so-called ‘free website’) and getting one built by a professional website developer or digital marketing agency.
As we know, an online presence is vital for pretty much all businesses. A study in 2018 indicated that 97% of customers search the web for products and services in their local area. This indicates that most customers expect you to have a web presence.
‘Free Websites’ – The Options
When we talk about ‘free websites’ what we really mean is you as a business owner, signing up to Wix, Squarespace, Go Daddy and a myriad of others which give you a limited set of templates and tools to build your own website.
If you are a new business, or are just about to launch a business, then you may feel an ‘off the shelf’ ‘out of the box’ or ‘cookie cutter’ website is the most cost-effective method of getting your website built and ‘live’.
Off the shelf website companies present you a number of templates and it will have pre-built integration. You select a template and then populate it with content including images, text, logos and similar.
Depending on your confidence level, this is totally do-able if you have fairly good technical skills.
Professionally Designed Websites – The Options
Web developers and designers are professional entities that can build you a website from scratch.
They will build a website that is created just for the purpose of your business, and one that will align with your goals, processes and requirements.
A custom WordPress website is a website that you fully own. You own the code and it ‘lives’ on your own website hosting server.
Bespoke websites can also have elements added to them at a later date so as your business grows, you have that flexibility. This could include calendar booking systems, e-commerce & product ordering, payment options and more.
The web developer and designer will do all the heavy lifting with creating the website, freeing you up to do other things, such as run your business!
When Is A ‘Free Website Builder’ A Good Idea?
Many businesses start out with an off the shelf website.
It tends to be at the very start of the business, when cashflow is tight, or it could the business owner is putting ‘a toe in the water’ to see how things develop.
Therefore, there is a place for free website builder software. It tends to be a quick process and a relatively straight-forward one in terms of getting everything in place before it goes live.
What we would say is that here at Bloom Digital Marketing, some of our customers have come to us having gone down the off the shelf route and have come to us for a custom designed website.
They have maybe encountered the drawbacks of a ‘free website’ of which there are quite a few.
What Are The Drawbacks Of A ‘Free’ Website or a DIY website ?
- You Don’t Own It – If you sign up to any of the companies listed above, the biggest drawback is you don’t own the website, they do. It’s their code and normally a closed system. While we’re not suggesting any of them will go out of business, but if they did, then you might have to wave goodbye to your website.
- Templates Limit Your Creativity – The templates produced are for mass use and as such you’re totally limited to how that website looks. In fact, your competitor might even have a similar design to you, which means you are not distinct enough, even though you are way better than the opposition. Most of the time you can tell quite quickly if a website is a DIY and that can put potential customers off. If they leave your site quickly then that signals back to Google and can affect you ranking.
- The Features Are Limited – By this we mean they can be restrictive as your business evolves. These companies may include website features but are they any good to you? Will they help you develop and grow your business? Or will they just slow down your website’s functionality? If things are sliding and jiggling around they can affect website speed and the user experience.
- Support Can Be Tricky – If anything goes wrong with your website and you can’t fix it, then getting the right support can be challenging. You are simply in the queue along with hundreds, maybe thousands of other customers.
- Limited or No SEO – One of the key factors to help you find new customers is to have an effective Search Engine Optimisation strategy. Unfortunately, with DIY websites, you may not get the results in Google that you need and even if you can access the backend of the site you still need to understand SEO. Without search engine visibility it’s like to building a shop in the middle of nowhere. Which means you are potentially losing out on a number of customers. What you need is a website which makes it easy for your customers to find you organically.
- Updates Are A Pain – Sometimes the only way a problem is resolved is through updating a plugin to the Content Management System. WordPress websites run with maybe 10+ plugins (bits of software). This is can be time-consuming and frustrating if you are doing it yourself and you can break your website.
- Security Issues – As a rule of thumb, managed websites are more secure. If you are doing it yourself even with a custom WordPress installation, managing the security is essential and believe it or not websites which are not maintained are liable to be hacked. Think of it like leaving your windows open or the door unlocked. A web agency knows the latest software vulnerabilities and when to make updates and when not. And hacking can happen to anyone,even very small business websites.
What Are The Advantages Of A Bespoke Website?
- Bespoke Website Have Great UX and UI – Web developers and designers know that search engines such as Google want people to have a great User Experience and User Interaction on a website. There are numerous factors involved which web developers and designers know to put into the website build.
- The Coding Up To Date and Relevant – this is great for Search Engine Optimisation as finding and indexing keywords is much easier. Bespoke website developers the latest W3C HTML and CSS coding standards.
- Web Pages Load Faster – as Google’s MASSIVE algorithm change looms in May 2021, speedy load times will be crucial.
- You Can Get Your Website Built For Your Business Needs – experienced web designers and developers will spend time with you and discover what you want your website to do. Get more leads ? Tick! Sell more products? Tick! Get up those search rankings? Tick!
- Screen Size Is Everything – bespoke website creators will invest time to ensure your website functions superbly on all screen sizes.
- Your Website Grows With Your Business – as your business grows, your website will need to adapt. Future expansion and changes to your website can be handled by the expert Bloom team, for example. These changes can be carried out as smoothly as possible, while you get on with running your business.
- Landing pages – bespoke design allows for development of landing pages. These help to convert those clicks into sales and the quality of landing page creation from bespoke designers is second to none.
Search Engine Optimisation
An important area that bespoke design has in its favour is Search Engine Optimisation and how to please Google so that it shows your website high up in the website rankings.
With some free website builders, an SEO strategy sometimes cannot be fully implemented.
One of the key factors to help your website climb those search rankings and maintain a good position is to have a bespoke SEO strategy in place from the beginning. This includes at the design stage, throughout the build and development, in the coding, programming and beyond. This way, SEO is planned in rather than something that is done after the event. Putting in the effort with SEO in the beginning means you can save time, effort and money on paid ads like Google Ads, for example.
And as mentioned above, Google’s massive algorithm change in May will be dealt with effectively and effectively by bespoke designers as they can adapt if needed.
SEO includes having an effective keyword strategy which needs to be positioned correctly within the website both in terms of content and ‘under the hood’. A custom website build will take this into account from the start.
In The End, It Boils Down To … The Cost
As we approach the end of this blog, one thing we’ve not discussed in depth is the cost implications.
The cost of not doing it professionally can be significant. We have had many clients with websites which look OK but actually do not show in the first 50 results on a Google search for their main product or service.
For start-ups, the cost-effective way of having a web presence would be to go down the ‘free website builder’ route. The upfront costs are manageable, and it means you get a website ‘off the ground’ sooner rather than later. However, you would need to compliment this with good social media presence, ads and Google My Business to name but a few.
However, as tempting as this sounds, it is not just the financial costs that need to be considered. We mentioned earlier in this blog that we have customer who’ve gone down the DIY website route and have later come to us so they can have a better online presence and credibility.
This is because they’ve realised the drawbacks of a ‘free website’ and actually, the bespoke route would have been the better one to follow after all.
Yes, it costs more, but you are paying for expertise, skills and knowledge. Chances are you will save many, many frustrating hours if you opt for the bespoke option. It can be a very lonely place when you don’t know how to fix a problem and you’re not getting the attention you need.
Cost comes in the form of success, too. Chances are the bespoke website will get you the leads and conversions in a fraction of the time, therefore paying for itself within a few months.
And finally, visibility is everything. Search visibility, or the measurement of how many people traffic your website in gets, is crucial and it can be done organically with a bespoke website when you work with a web agency or professional website designer.
In the end, only you can decide what to do and what fits your business and this blog might help you make that choice. get in touch with us and we can help put you on the right path.