Free websites are not always what they seem. Find out why getting a free website is a bad idea and can end up costing you more time and money than starting out with a small paid plan. Be warned: the following story is not for the faint hearted!
Let me start with a story.
Once upon a time there was a small business owner called Bob whose business was growing but didn’t have a website.
Since he was just starting out, he googled ‘how to build a free website’. He got pages of ads for free website builders that made loads of wonderful promises about their service …
“build a stunning website in 5 minutes”
“easy drag and drop templates”
“build your own high-quality blog, website or online store”
Ooh, he thought. Sounds perfect!
He signed up and built a good-looking website using one of their templates, pressed publish and lived happily ever after.
He couldn’t use a good web address.
His website ended up being called www.bobsshop.FREEwebsite.com and he couldn’t change it unless he paid for a custom domain name. It looked unprofessional on his business cards and people couldn’t remember it when searching for him online. He couldn’t even create a branded email address. firstname.lastname@example.org just wasn’t going to impress his customers.
It all made his business look less credible.
AND it also made his business look less credible to the search engines.
Google likes to show good helpful websites in its results. Free domains are given less authority and shunted to the bottom of the results pages. Bob’s website just couldn’t compete for traffic.
So, he had to
Pay for a custom domain name through the FREE website service, which cost him £15 plus £6 a month to upgrade his FREE account.
FREE WEBSITE COST SO FAR: £15 plus £6 per month
His website ran slower than a snail in syrup
His website was one of hundreds on the free server all sharing the same resources. Sometimes his website took a full 20 seconds to load! (we generally think a website taking over 5 seconds is loading slowly – when waiting for a screen to load I swear time actually slows down). His website visitors would just click away.
AND Google didn’t think much of this either. Google doesn’t like slow websites as it likes to show fast helpful sites in results. Poor Bob’s website lost more authority and got sent further down the results page.
So, he had to
Like it and lump it. The free service didn’t offer any other servers.
He ran out of room
Bob had big website plans and lots of information with gorgeous pictures to get online. But he only had a limited amount of free storage. He even found he couldn’t add more than a set number of pages.
One day, he decided to run a campaign to get more traffic on his website. He did increase traffic but got a big warning that he had reached his bandwidth limit.
So, he had to
Upgrade again to pay for more bandwidth and storage for an extra £2 per month
FREE WEBSITE COST SO FAR: £15 plus £8 per month
Bob became a money earner for the free website service
Free website services need to make money. Because Bob didn’t pay for their hosting service he needed to earn them money another way.
His website included a sticky (always on screen) ad for the free website service – very unprofessional. People knew his website was free and it reflected on his business.
Irrelevant ads would spring up on his site with no warning so the website company could make money out of his content. They were often ugly and distracting and once even advertised his competitors!
He started to get marketing messages from other companies – often the terms and conditions of a free website state that the company can sell your email address, personal information and web address to other companies.
His website became part of a link farm – links were added to his website to bump up scammer sites, fake drug and gambling sites. Obviously Google hates this and downgrades sites that do this.
So, he had to
Like it or lump it or close down his website.
He couldn’t sell on there
Bob had a pretty 5 page website, but he wanted it to actually do a job. He wanted it to earn him money. But the free website service didn’t include adding a shop.
So he had to
Upgrade to their business package to add an online shop with online payments at £18 per month
FREE WEBSITE COST SO FAR: £15 plus £20 per month
But he still couldn’t get it to do…
Add all his products
See site visitor numbers and analytics
Integrate with his social media and listbuilding software
Bob was now paying £20 per month plus £15 a year for his domain name and still not able to do what he wanted to do…
So, he decided to move away to a paid service
But he couldn’t. There was no easy way to export his website from the free service to move it to a paid service. After all, it isn’t in a free website service’s interest to provide him with a nice easy tool to move away from them.
So, he had to
Pay a freelancer to move his website for him which cost £150 and even then the website looked very odd because he had used the free templates. He then had to learn new website tools to rebuild his site.
FREE WEBSITE COST SO FAR: £15 plus £20 per month plus £150 for a freelancer to move the thing!
But don’t worry, there is a happy ending
Bob escaped the clutches of the Free Website Service to live a long happy online life with many sales and much website traffic. He learnt new easy website building tools that meant he was in total control of his website and online business. And lived happily ever after.
The Free Website Service disappeared in a puff of smoke and took many websites with them as they got shut down without warning or backups.
Even now, in the depths of night, if you listen carefully, you can still hear the ghostly screams of dead websites echoing through the abandoned internet.
Costs of Bob’s free website
Upgrade to custom domain £6 per month*
Custom domain through the service £20*
Upgrade to shop service £18 per month*
Extra bandwidth £2 per month*
£150 paid to freelancer to move the website away from the free service
2 laptops as he threw them out of the window in a rage
Untold missed opportunities as customers were turned off by his naff website
(costs based on 3 well known free website services)
It’s often cheaper and far better to start as you mean to go on with building a website. Starting out with a free website is a bad idea and can actually end up costing you far more. Invest a little time and money early on to set up on a paid service. You won’t encounter the problems Bob did and you will learn how to use tools that will enable your website to grow and earn as your business develops.
Paying for hosting can start at as little as £2.95 a month and doesn’t come with the limitations of the free services. Need more services, don’t like the customer service or want to upgrade? You’ll be free to move wherever you like. You are in control!
A little investment goes a loooong way.
Want to know how to start building your website the RIGHT way? Check out my How to Build a WordPress Website mini course or my How to Build an Online Shop mini course and don’t fall for the BIG website scam that goes bump in the night.
Sleep safe ,