PART 2 OF 2
Moving on, the most drastic issue most entrepreneurs find with free web services is the provider’s advertising. Free website providers reserve the right to advertise on your site. That’s the trade off for your site being “free.” If you agree to their terms you are agreeing to an open ended contract where someone else is deciding what is appropriate to advertise on your personal website. For instance, WordPress.com will let you build a free site. WP.com places ads on all free websites. For a yearly fee of about $30 you can eliminate these ads. To solicit ads on your own you are required to receive 25,000 views per month. After that, to sell your own ads, you have to apply their Ad Control, funny how they outright call it “control”. If approved you agree to split any ad revenues 50/50 with them. You find the advertiser, they get half the cash. In my conclusion I’ll share the cockroach story.
BUILD YOUR OWN SITE
Another option is a to “build your own site” with WordPress or one of a variety of website builders. Be advised, WordPress customization is complicated, as are some online page builders. For some people the customization comes easily but, in my experience with small business owners, web design is not their expertise and the project becomes another time-consuming, frustrating task. Some site builders are easier to use than others, but can still be time-consuming. Do you have the time and energy to devote to this project? Again, do some research, ask associates and read reviews. You need to know, when building your own site, a hosting package is normally not included.
A web host is simply where your site will sit on a dedicated web server (computer). A professional hosting company is of utmost importance. A site can be hosted on most any computer server, but if the power goes out, you want your site to remain available for all the world to see. Professional hosts employ 24/7 technicians and generators to ensure their hosting will withstand any technical or power issues. Hosting should range from $3 to about $12 a month. The amount of server space needed for your particular site can greatly affect the cost. The more complicated the site the more space that is necessary.
When designing and maintaining your own site you are responsible for maintenance which includes updates, backups and spam filters. WordPress, as with most software, offers frequent updates. Plugins and themes (templates) also require occasional updates.
Plugins are add-on applications that offer functionality to WordPress sites. Some free sites do not allow the use of plugins, limiting functionality within your site. If you plan to sell products, plugins can be an essential tool. There are also several very effective SEO plugins that allow for simpler Search Engine Optimization.
WordPress.com does offer an upgrade to their VIP program to enable plugin usage. That program fee starts at $3750 per month (no that’s not a typo), which kind of wipes out the whole “free” idea. Theme choices are also limited and extremely over-used. You can opt for a “design upgrade”, offering expanded customization, for just $30 per year. All you can really customize are simple attributes like the color of your site, even though it’s no longer free.
Another issue with many free sites are analytics. Analytics are used for tracking traffic on a website. In most free sites the most common and accurate analytics software is made unavailable. Analytics can require that coding be added to the backend of your site, which is often not allowed and requires some very basic coding knowledge.
In conclusion, I’ve been designing and maintaining websites for about 15 years. In that time I’m sad to say that I have never had a business client have a positive experience with a “free” website. One non-profit lost their domain name for seven years. Another was advertising a kid’s Halloween event and discovered a video ad with bugs, cockroaches, jumping on a young girl’s face in a dimly lit hallway. The ad was placed at the top of her Pumpkin Patch page. These are just two examples of personal experiences with free website services. Obviously I don’t recommend them.
I have a comparison sheet available for download, click here.
In my next post I’ll attempt to educate on how to hire a web designer, what to pay for and the process that launches your website live for all to see.