Most of us have seen the commercials that advertise Do-It-Yourself Websites. The commercials make it look so easy – Choose a template, add some content and images and publish, and your customers will find you! Unfortunately, for many of the people who come to me for help after they have spent a lot of time and (yes) money, it isn’t really that easy. Here are a few questions to ask yourself before you make your decision:
1. How Free Is It?
When I see a glitzy commercial offering me anything free, I have to ask. If it is free, how can they afford to produce the commercial and put it on TV? In the cost of free websites, someone has to have designed and coded the templates, added the images and done the many other background things that make a website work. How are they being paid?
A couple of years ago, I got a call from a travel agent, who had tried to publish her free website. As she was signing up for the site, she was exposed to page after page of “upgrades.” By the time all was said and done, she had spent over $300 on upgrades, and her website had a banner at the top with ads by her competitors.
It would be smart to investigate what you actually get for free, and what you will ultimately pay for. What are the hosting fees? Once you design the site on these platforms, can it be moved to another host? If you run into a problem, what will technical support cost? Also, be careful of the upcharges that are displayed on these “free” sites. Sometimes the default is to purchase the add on – you have to uncheck the box or you will be charged.
2. Will Anyone Find my Website?
While content is by far the most important component of any website, there are other background component that Google and other search engines look for when they decide how close to page 1 your site gets. Most of the platforms offer you the opportunity to optimize things like meta descriptions, alt tags for images, title tags, etc. But if you don’t know what these things are, or how you should use them, your site may not fare well on search engines. Also, if you are not familiar with Google+ Business pages and other important links, you might be missing very important signals that Google looks for.
I was recently approached by a business owner, who had done his own website. However, even when he typed the name of the company into Google’s search box, his website did not display. When I looked at the website, I discovered that he had not included his address (or even what state he was in). Most importantly, the name of his company never appeared printed in text. He had not even added an “alt” tag to his logo image. Even with all of his hard work, his website was invisible to Google.
3. Will the Website do the job I want it to do?