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"Free" websites are offered by many companies on the Internet so why should you pay a designer when you can get a free website for your small business? Well, we have all heard the saying "there is no such thing as a free lunch" and it is very much applicable here.
First of all we must ask why anyone would offer to provide a free website? Why would they base their business on giving stuff away for free? The answer is that they no matter how you look at it - they don't. It may look free but there are always several conditions attached. We shall discuss some of these here.
If you are considering using one of these "free" website offerings you may have to be prepared to accept lots of stuff that is not appropriate on a business website. The problem we web designers have is trying to convince people that this could be damaging to your business both now and in future.
You have to think ahead. Do you have any ambitions to make your business successful? Would you like to be in a position to expand your website if this happens? Do you want to have full control over your website so that it can be set up in such a way that customers and clients can find it when searching in Google? Do you want to avoid displaying your competitors' ads on your website? If so then do not use a free website provider.
Free websites often come with a set of problems that are not good for your business. We have listed some of these here.
Domain name is not for your business
If you have a business you should have your own domain name. Free websites often come with domain names like www.yourbusinesname.attheprovider.co.uk. Everyone who signs up for such a service will have a similar name with the www.xxxxxxxxxxxxx.atyourfreeplace.co.uk bit common to all. If your business is serious then you need your own domain name, i.e. www.yourownbusinessname.co.uk and nothing else.
SEO on free websites
SEO (search engine optimisation) is the process of building websites that can be found on the search engines when people enter their key words when searching. If you sell velvet teddy bears then obviously you want your website to be near the top of the list when someone searches Google for "velvet teddy bears".
Most free providers offer some means of doing SEO on these websites. The problem is that the process is extremely complex and you need to know a bit about website design before you can be successful at this. They may tell you a wee bit about it and pay it a bit of lip service but free websites built by people who do not know about SEO are extremely unlikely to generate any targeted traffic. That is a fact that no one can change.
Your "free" website may carry adverts that are damaging to your business
Most free website providers will display ads on your website. This is how many of them make their money. The problem you have is that some of them use what is known as "contextual advertising". This is a process whereby they display ads that are in context with the website content. In other words if your website is about shoes then don't be surprised to see ads about shoe companies being displayed. So if you are selling shoes yourself, well ... !
Featured websites not showing ads?
Quite often the free website providers will invite you to click on some of their featured websites and they will not include ads. This is because they will generally feature websites from clients who have paid for the upgrades to remove ads.
Chargeable upgrades may be required
Most of the "free" website providers also depend on you eventually paying for for some kind of upgrade. This may be to get your own domain name (as mentioned above). You will almost always have to pay to have ads removed from your website. The provider's objective is to get you hooked into their service in such a way that leaving it will cost you money and give you a lot of hassle. Sorry folks but that's the way it is. "There ain't no such thing, etc."
Is your free website provided by a web design company?
You may also find that your free website provider is basically a web design company. Why would they do that? Well the answer is quite simple. They know that it is difficult for amateurs to create an aesthetically pleasing website without any training. Quite often they get so far then realise that they need help but they are already committed to this provider. Guess who gets the job?
This website and it's content will almost certainly never be yours to move elsewhere. If you have a problem and you realise you need your own web space you may have to cut your losses and start again.
Intellectual Property Rights
It may not seem like it but this is extremely important! Some free website providers have terms and conditions that require you to sign away all or some of your intellectual property rights related to the content you place on your free website. Read their terms and conditions very carefully.
They may also provide you with free graphic components and "building blocks" for your website. These will always belong to them. you are only borrowing them and you cannot take them with you when you eventually have to move.
No warranty of service or continuation of service is provided
Some of these free website companies are small concerns and start ups themselves but even those that are more established provide little or no guarantees with regard to continuation of service. In other words they reserve the right to "pull the plug" at any time. If you read their terms you will almost always find a statement like, "We reserve the right to cancel your free website account for any reason and with or without notice". Be careful.
Finally, we have to say that there are some free website builders out there that offer a good service. You can get a free website as long as you are willing to tolerate the advertising and conditions. This is fine for hobbyists or personal websites but if you need a professional website for your business our advice would be to seek the help of a professional web design company.
Check out our offers and get a professionally designed website for as little as £299. This can eventually turn out to be much cheaper than your "free" website.
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