6 Reasons not to use a Free Website Builder
You’ve seen the adverts on TV that you can have your business online in no time with a free website builder for just $1. (thought it was free??)
In that 20 seconds they show you how easy it is to build a website using GoDaddy or Wix A few clicks later your site is online and then you just watch your business grow. So easy that Sergio Aguero of Man City can build one.
If its that easy and good to use then why don’t any of the top websites around the world and within your line of work use them?
Here are the 6 reasons why you shouldn’t use a free website builder.
6 Reasons not to use a Free Website Builder
1. You Can’t Move Them
The main reason these hosting companies offer free site building tools because it puts your website on their hosting platform. Good for them but not so much for you if you ever decide to move your site to another server. Sorry. Your site was made on that hosting company’s platform and it’s going to stay there. These sites are not transferable because they’re not really made with open-source web design coding and conventions.
2. Can’t Perform SEO
Want to add search engine optimisation features to generate more search engine traffic? Good luck with that, too. Yes, they’ll offer you the basic META tag fields for adding titles, descriptions and keywords but try adding ALT tags and renaming image files and you’ll find you can’t. What’s that? You don’t know what an ALT tag or META is? Thats what they want
3. Can’t Use Third Party Tools
Want to add a cool new widget or embed a Facebook widget or social media sharing button from a third party service. Uh…no. The Internet is an amazing place for free and low cost plugins and widgets that can add exceptional functionality to your website as your needs expand especially if you’re using a hosted WordPress solution. With these proprietary sites you’re stuck using only the limited tools they offer in their tool boxes.
At this point I’m using Wix as the example, (sorry not sorry Wix)
4. Wix Makes It ‘Easy’ To Build A Website
If you think building a website as an ‘easy’ task then you’ve started off on the wrong foot. I like to think I know what looks good but if I tried to design a home it would look shocking – I’m not a builder and would never pretend to be one, so, why should you pretend to be a website developer when your business depends on your website?.
If it was ‘easy’ to build a website that works then there wouldn’t be hundreds of thousands of blog articles about search engine optimisation (SEO), content structures, on and off site reputation management and conversion optimisation.
I think most companies, particularly small to medium ones, do not spend enough time on their website brief. Quite often it’s because they don’t know what to ask about or the web agencies don’t take the time to ask the right questions. Business owners shouldn’t necessarily know what questions to ask – your business is your speciality, you should be able to trust your web developer to ask the right questions.
Wix makes it easy to jump right in, throw together a web page and publish it. Before you do that you need to stop and think, and work out what your business needs for your online presence.
You need to consider how your content is going to be structured, what image sizes you upload, what page titles you will use, the header text for each page, the calls to action that appear in search engine results (SERPs) as well as conversion optimisation. As well as that you need to ensure you have implemented some online tracking so you know how it’s performing, and set up essential Google tools to get insights from your website that may drive your marketing decisions.
Yes, I’ve seen expensive websites without Google Analytics installed – a fundamental oversight you shouldn’t really get when spending thousands of dollars. I’ve also had someone call me to make their website more visible. They spent $100 on their website with some random overseas company. How much business has that ‘cheap’ website cost them? It probably turns out the website has cost them thousands in lost business – there’s a worked example below.
“This is why it shouldn’t be ‘easy’ to build a website. What looks good doesn’t necessarily perform well.”
Whooooaa! That’s another benefit I hear you shout! Hiding complexities in website development is not necessarily a good thing. Wix makes it easy to design websites like brochures and they’re not. What you see isn’t what Google sees. Although Google does take user experience into account it’s mostly around content and mobile friendliness and things like that. One of the most basic elements Google cares about are how your page titles are structured and what they tell about the page, yet for a few Wix websites I’ve seen, there is no attention paid to this despite Wix supporting SEO settings for pages.
Google doesn’t really care if your button looks nice, or your image is stunning. The search result below is quite typical when you don’t know what to do. There’s no call to action in the result, and the description doesn’t say what the page is about. If this is one of ten similar results I’d probably click on a more enticing one.
By hiding these complexities it makes it very easy to get really proud of your new website and go and shout about it to the world. You better keep shouting as that may end up being the best way to get your website found as Google may not find it.
You need to be aware of all the trickier bits that make up your web presence like SEO, off site business listings, reviews and more. A recent chart by specialist company MOZ showed your website only makes up an element of your online presence – there’s backlinks, business listings, citations and your website. Without all of those you may not get found by your customers, so unfortunately your pretty Wix website will fall short of the mark.
I’ve seen briefs and quotes that don’t reflect the most basic functionality a company needs, and they often treat SEO as an ‘optional extra’. It is not. It’s essential and often implementing simple steps will make a huge difference to your visibility.
6. Wix Hosts Your Website
If your website starts performing slower than normal a decent web host is a good place to start. If a website is based on one of the open source content management systems like WordPress or Silverstripe there’s a whole bunch of hosting companies wanting your dollar to host your website. Some are great, and some are bad.
Generally I don’t like the idea of using a proprietary content management system whether its a platform like Wix, or one developed by your agency. If you fall out with the third party or outgrow them you’ll more than likely need to start again. Whilst WordPress isn’t the only available platform, I’ve had business owners ask me if it’s a decent option or does it ‘only’ get used by bloggers? Techcrunch use WordPress and Mashable used to use it – I can safely say their sites are probably bigger that yours.
When you develop your website using Wix you have no place to go – they host your website and you can’t go elsewhere, which brings me to the next point.
7. Wix Isn’t Free – It May Be More Expensive Than You Think
Wix is a very attractive initial platform as the base offering is free. It’s a very effective sales technique that gets customers in the door. Mailchimp use a similar technique but even Mailchimp doesn’t allow you access to automated email sequences in their base offering – this is an essential part of email marketing.
With the free plans you have Wix branding on your site, and the little icon shown in the browser bar will be a Wix logo. You also can’t add in Google Analytics tracking until you get onto a premium plan.
Premium plans start at a mere $4 or so per month so it’s not expensive by any means, and they go up to $24 per month.
When you start adding functionality Wix has an ‘app store’ so you can choose which apps to use. There’s loads of apps to choose from and many start with a ‘freemium’ offering with more functionality provided at a price so head back to that website brief and factor in what you want into your costs.
The largest cost of using Wix for many people is a hidden one.
It’s the cost of websites built by users who may not know what makes a website really work, therefore it doesn’t get found, or it doesn’t function well. That lack of functionality is probably costing you business.
I compare this loss of business to a garage owner who had a cheap website built several years ago. It couldn’t be found.
When a new website and offsite business listings were put live he was inundated with work. If you imagine he built that website in Wix (like some of his competitors have) without understanding the important elements of search engine visibility, the scenario below is an extremely conservative estimate of the amount of work lost:
• Average workshop job is $200
• One job a week comes through a new website = 52 x 200 = $10400 per year
• Old website was live for 4 years = 4 x 10400 = $41600
That cheap website has cost him $41600 in lost revenue during 4 years.
In the USA, the average car repair cost in 2011 was $305.56, and I can safely assume that more than one job per week is brought in as a result of being found online. You can then consider the ongoing total customer value with regular servicing, road fitness tests and more, it’s perfectly feasible to think that this cheap website cost him a lot more than the face value.
5 customers per week at $305.56, over 4 years is $317,782.40 in lost revenue due to a bad website, and this is without value added upsells.
It is possible to build a decent revenue generating website using website builder platforms. The biggest problem is, website builders make it easy to create a website that you think is great and it has given a lot of people the perception of having a good website when that’s far from the truth.
Websites are not brochures and they shouldn’t be treated that way.
To bring revenue from a website you need to think of it as an online presence, ticking all the right boxes, and invest time and money to get it right.