Free Websites are not Free.

“You pay for what you get, and you get what you pay for! If you’re just dipping your toe into owning your own business or a hobbyist looking to share your opinions online, with family, friends, or even the world…buyer beware! If your business is looking to sell online or to build a website presence, a free website can be incredibly dangerous.

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What Is a Free Website?

Free websites are provided by sites like WordPress.com free plan or through other popular do-it-yourself plans like Wix, Square Space, or Weebly. As we mentioned, these are great solutions for personal blogs, portfolios, hobbyists, or perhaps very slim startups. However, we suggest steering away when it comes to your business sites. Even your website builder with GoDaddy or some other hosting company for a couple of dollars a year is not adequate and will not bring you the growth needed to become a viable profitable company.  

Additionally, some self-host their WordPress website through free online hosting sites, which is also risky if you don’t know what you’re doing.

Here are our top 10 reasons why making an investment into your online appearance is imperative! 

1. Free Does Not Really Mean Free.

Some websites that advertise as free, are just a free trial. So, once you have spent hours on the site that you struggled so hard to create, they require a payment to keep what you built which stops you from losing all that work you’ve done.

They can get tricky with the wording of the agreements that no one really reads. You might be getting a functional site for free, but there may be caveats that you need to pay for “optional services” like a faster server to make your site loads reasonably, or you have to pay for SSL services which you really must have, or Google warns visitors that your site it is potentially dangerous. 

Some of the other “gotchas” can include; limiting media hosting, limited bandwidth, limited visitors, all of which can leave you getting invoices for traffic that you have been successful in promoting to your site. They may even charge you a fee to move your site later if you can move it at all. Read those agreements really carefully. 

2. Free Websites Generally Perform Poorly.

To make it easy for you to build your site with a drag and drop interface they need to design the platform with an incredible amount of code. This makes the coding used for their “website builders” very bloated, making the sites perform poorly. A slow server means a slow website, and a slow website leads to poor Google rankings. Viewers will not wait for a site to load if it takes more than 3 seconds. Studies indicate 53% of mobile website visitors will bounce from your site (they will leave and go to the next one). 

In addition, these free sites are often difficult to scale due to limitations on hosting or hard drive space.

3. Often you cannot use your own custom domain. 

You do not want to send visitors to myfreewebsite.wordpress.com. This is not the way to brand a business, and visitors that see that will have a more negative opinion of your business as a result. 

4. You may have ads showing on your site. 

Companies do not provide free sites out of the goodness of their hearts, they do it to make money. If you are not paying them, someone else is. They use ads to generate revenue and every visitor to your site adds money to their pockets, but you get none of it. 

If part of the plan for your site was to sell ads, a free website will not allow that. 

5. You may not own your data. 

Part of having a good website is the ability to get data, information, on your clients. You may not be able to set up good analytics. This tells you who is visiting your site, where they are from, and how they are reaching your site, and more.  Transferring this data to another site or platform down the road might be impossible. 

6. Your site might get shut down.

Often, buried in the Terms and Conditions section of their contract, there may be a clause that states that they can cancel the service at any time without notice. So, if their business model does not work, you are out of business! 

7. Your data is their data.

If they are generating revenue from your site, or from ads, (and sometimes even if they are) they are selling your information. This information is everything on your site, but more importantly, your visitors.   For example, a form being submitted provides all that information to the hosting company as well. When you pay for hosting that is (normally) not the case. 

8. Search Engine Optimization is limited. 

You need to use their themes, feature, functions, and plugins. There is no way to add software that will enhance your ability to optimize the site to be found on Google and Bing. There is no point in having a business site if people cannot find it, without good SEO it will not be found. 

9. Zero Customer Support.

Once you start building your site if you need assistance, good luck! If you can reach anyone, you will likely be speaking to someone from another country who has limited communications skills and reads from a script. They will send you to their knowledge base where you can sift through information and try to find your answer, maybe watch a few videos and after 90-minutes or so you may find your answer. Then another question arises, and you need to search for a solution again. This can be exceptionally challenging, frustrating, and take an insane amount of your time. 

10. Limited Security on Free Websites.

These free websites usually have poor security, reading to hacks, and outages. Your free site is likely hosted on a different, older, and slower server than those customers that are actually paying customers.

Because hackers have learned that free websites are much easier to attack, you are more likely to encounter malware injections, which will damage the computers of visitors. You do not want customers to find out that your site is what infected their computer. 

Conclusions.

FREE WEBSITE companies have learned that if you invest the time it will take to build a site, you are less likely to trash it and start over. If you design the site and want more functionality, privacy, and security then you need to upgrade and pay for the site. If you later want to upgrade the site you cannot migrate the data, you have to start over.

“You pay for what you get, and you get what you pay for…buyer beware!”