So by now everyone has probably seen the commercials on tv showing how easy it is to get a small business website up and running. And every time I see one I cringe because I know that what they are selling is a product that over promises and under delivers and small business owners are the losers. Two companies 1and1.com and Intuit the makers of quickbooks are offering these easy to build websites. Both of these companies make their money off of the monthly hosting fees they can charge you once you sign up. Plus they offer a whole range of other optional services that make them money as well. There are other companies offering similar plans like GoDaddy and Vista Print but they don’t advertise it on tv.
Now to be fair the prices they charge for hosting your free website is very fair. I checked 1&1.com and their business package started at just $4.99 per month for the first 12 months and then it is $9.99 per month after that. Intuit’s prices are basically the same. So they are reasonable but remember you get what you pay for.
So What’s the Problem?
For small business owners there are a number of problems that they are likely to encounter.
This is an Example of a Bad Automotive Website Template.
1. Your Website is a Template. Template’s tend to look just like what they are. Yes you can customize them to a limited degree. You can change the photos and the colors but you can’t do much more than that. In the end your website will generally look just as generic as it is.
2. Your Website Lacks Interactivity. When people visit a website they want to see more than just a plain static page. The goal of a website is to keep people on the site which means you need more not less. The longer a visitor stays the more likely they are to do business with you. When we design a website we like to incorporate video’s, image sliders, forms, rotating testimonials, sharp looking images, and contact information in prominent places. The templates that are offered lack just about everything that makes a website interactive and attractive. It’s just not a good selling tool.
3. Move it and You Lose it. Once you sign up for one of these easy to build websites you’re locked in. You cannot move your website to another hosting company. The website templates are designed to only work on their hosting platforms. You can transfer your domain name to another host but you can’t keep the website which means you need to start over. (I had this situation arise with a client a few month’s ago. Microsoft recently dumped it’s Microsoft Office Live for Small Business platform and switched to Microsoft Office 365. In the process all of the small businesses that had websites on the platform were told to either sign up for Office 365 at a higher cost and rebuild their website or go somewhere else. So my client hired us to build a new website and we transferred the domain name to a new host so he has total control now. Of course he had to incur the cost of a new website because of Microsoft. On a side note we provided a much better website at a very reasonable cost.)
4. You Cannot Optimize These Templates for the Search Engines. The fact is that most templates have lousy back end systems. You can only pick a single website title for most templates that will then be duplicated on each page you create. The same goes for the description. The photo’s you upload lack the fields you need to optimize them. And you can’t tag keywords within the website appropriately. For SEO purposes such websites are as bare bones as they can be.
5. Hooking Up Outside Programs. There are a number of outside programs that are very useful to install on a website. For example Google Analytics, Google Webmaster Tools, and Bing Webmaster Tools. Programs that help a website to be more easily found and help website owners track traffic to a website. Many templates make installing such programs very hard to do. (I’ve had this situation as well. A client of mine in the real estate industry is using a real estate template offered by iHOUSEweb.com and I can’t install Google Analytics to track the traffic. I’ve talked to the company about it and they say it can’t be done. I’ve also had experience with Vista Print and know your can’t install tracking on their websites either.)
This is an Example of a Custom Website.
These are just some of the problems that I’ve seen and know small business owners are running into when they sign up for such services. But of course these companies hope the attractive price is the only thing you’ll ultimately care about. And if you have very little money to spend and want a website they can help. But if you believe your website needs to make a great first impression for your business and should be utilized as the marketing tool it is then you need to stay away from these guys.
If you’re in need of a new website for your small business and want one that makes a great first impression with visitors call us at 615-890-3600 or email us. We can help you build a website that tells people who you really are and we’ll even give you the first year of website hosting for Free. If you would like to see some of our Website Designs please visit our Website Design Portfolio.