Many prospective clients call me asking lots of questions. One question that comes up often is “what is the difference from building a free (or cheap) website and hiring a professional designer to build a website?” Here is what I tell them.
Problem 1: You never own your website
Most free and cheap website builders are custom programs that allow you to create a website on the fly. The company makes this software available only to their customers. You are limited to what the software can do. You normally cannot hire a professional designer to customize it for you. A lot of times there are a few “upgrades” which you can pay for at a monthly fee. In reality, if you are paying anything, you are just “renting” your site for a monthly fee. When it comes time to move your site from the site builder, you can’t. You can only hire a professional to copy and paste the contents into a new platform that you can actually control. If you can’t afford the monthly due’s anymore, your site is stripped from the internet and can no longer be accessed. You can’t download it and save it for a later time.
Problem 2: The Agent Your “currently” Speaking With, Knows Nothing About Websites or SEO
I happen to know a few people that work at these cookie cutter web design places. Do you want to know what they brag about? Making sales bonuses and meeting their quota before the end of the week. Yes, they have a quota to fill or it goes against their performance as a telephone agent. The most any of these phone agents know about web design is how to sell you a website. They don’t know HTML, they don’t know CSS or PHP, and most importantly, THEY DON’T KNOW SEO! They can tell you what SEO is and fluff up what they are saying with big words and smooth talk, but get into anything technical and they don’t know a damn thing. The next time you call, you won’t get the same person. Is that who you really want building your online presence?
Another problem is, if they do offer SEO services, they offer a computer generated SEO service at a monthly fee. That computer is normally using very old SEO practices. The most effective SEO parts can only be done by a human. Most SEO is all about content and how we say things and structure our website. There is no completely right or wrong way to do it. It’s up to the discretion of your SEO and what they feel will get clicks.
Problem 3: One Size Does Not Fit All
Cookie cutter site builders are “one size fits all”. Every business is different. Even if you have a restaurant like all the other restaurants; you do things differently. You want an atmosphere that is different and your food taste different. You don’t want to appear like everyone else because you are not everyone else. Your business is ran by you and unique to you. You should have a website that reflects this. Highlight what YOU want to say on your site, not what a generic template “has available”.
Lets face it, cookie cutter sites are GENERIC. They are made in a way that will work for a restaurant or a lawyer. They look generic and it’s easy to see that on a lot of sites. Professionalism in your field should be conveyed thru your website in your way.
Problem 4: You Are the Product
If you think your getting a great deal because it’s “free”, Think again. Why would they offer this for free? Out of the kindness of their hearts? It costs a lot of money to build these sites and site builders. There is always an angle. They are making money on it in so many ways; for example: thru selling ad’s on your site, nickel and dime’ing you, using your information to sell to other people for advertising purposes and more.
Consequences of Building a Free (or cheap) Website
Often too many times, new startups will invest their money in all kinds of things they need and for some odd reason beyond me, cheap out on the website and advertising. Unless you have been living under a rock, it should be obvious not only to you, but everyone who uses the internet that people use search engines like google and bing to find a local business. If you are NOT getting found in search engines like google and bing, you are going to have a super hard time getting new clients to find you. If your a lawyer and your site looks unprofessional and unorganized, what does that say about you and your services? Your business could be missing out on tons of potential contacts because your site does not function or look well.
Often too many times, I’ve seen small business startup and fail. I’ve known a friend who was a chiropractors who tried to “build their own site” with digital palm trees swaying in the background and no SEO. I watched that same person have to move to another state and work for a bigger firm because they were not successful on their own. If your going to start a business it is imperative that you have funds to pay for a professional website and some advertising.
Advertising companies spend billions of dollars on graphic design and marketing. Why? Because how a product (or website in this case) looks, has a dramatic impact on whether that person will pick it up and buy it. Something as simple as your logo, changing the font, changing the location of text, and changing the color can make a huge difference.
Treat your online business just as you would your brick & mortar business. It is the first impression, the front desk, the information station and your sales funnel. Don’t become a sales product. Hire a professional web designer who will work with you to build your business.
Professional web designers know what works on a website and what doesn’t. They know the right colors to use on your site. They know where to place things correctly and the right call to actions to use. They know what works specifically for your type of business. They also try new things to see how people interact with a site. You don’t have to have $10,000 dollars to build a professional site. You can find yourself a professional web designer at a pretty reasonable rate. There are lots of freelance web designers who work from home and have rates starting at just a few hundred dollars. Call around, get a few quotes. You never know who you will find to design your next awesome business website!
Here’s another web designer who agrees with me and brings up a lot of key points about “FREE” websites that I don’t mention in this article.