When you need to publish a website to promote a small business, club, or a personal blog, what are your choices?
There are a lot of services out there that let you build a website without having to know the mechanics of HTML or content management systems.
But are they worth it?
Can it be worth paying nothing for a website? And if you do use one of these services, which will give you a reasonable result?
I got this request today:
I’m starting my own supply chain business and want to build a simple and effective web site (I’ve seen Moonfruit.com) Is this a ‘good’ path to head down?
The short answer – it depends on the service.
Avoid Flash Generators
I’ve looked into Moonfruit.com, and it seemed great until I learned that it generates Flash sites, which makes it useless for anything other than an online business card or brochure.
Sites that run entirely in Flash are unlikely to get indexed by search engines, so you’re unlikely to turn up in the search results for any but the most obvious searches (i.e. your site’s exact name). However, if all your marketing is interpersonal, and you just want to give people a business card with your web address on that they can check out, a Flash site may serve your needs.
Here’s an example of a site built on Moonfruit. What do you think?
For the other 99.9% of us, don’t bother. My advice is to avoid Moonfruit – or any other service that spits out Flash.
There’s No Such Thing As A Free Lunch
Many of these services, like Moonfruit, or 1&1 My Website, have a free option. In the case of 1&1, it’s a free trial, after which (the fairly small print says) you start paying £9.99 per month (about $15-16).
Moonfruit has various options from free up to £22.60 per month (about $35). The more you pay, the more “features” you get. The impression I get is that most people won’t need most of these features.
If you do take a free option, expect to be prompted to upgrade quite regularly. These are businesses, and it doesn’t help their bottom line to have thousands of people using free services. They have to upsell you to additional services. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing!
You Should Pay For a Website!
Frankly, I haven’t seen one free website builder that will be worth your time to use. (So far – please feel free to correct me.)
Why? Because they can’t give you the things that really matter.
What Really Matters
- Keyword Research
Before you build a site, you need to choose exactly what the subject of each major page should be. You should identify terms that people are actually looking for online, and for which you’ll be able to rank in the top 10 of the search results. That’s a process that a human has to do. If you skip it, don’t expect to get any traffic to your site.
- Fundamentals of Marketing
Any website should be built with the clear knowledge of who its audience is, what they want, what we want them to do when they come to the site, and how to persuade them to do it. No free service can do that, and if a site is not built consciously with those questions in mind, it is very unlikely to convert any visitors to customers, followers or fans.
You have GOT to get people to see your site. Letting visitors add your pages to social networks like Twitter and Facebook can help. But if you’re going to compete in the search results for any term worth having, you’ll need other sites to link to you. Again, this link building is something that should be done by people.
What Doesn’t Really Matter
The mechanics of creating a website have become easier and easier over the years. Ten years ago, I hand-built every web page using nested tables (if you don’t know what I mean by that, you really don’t want to). It was a time-consuming, laborious and pretty skilled job.
Today, you don’t need to know how to craft a web page from first principles in order to make a web page.
Frankly, you need a good reason not to run your site on WordPress. I have the skills to build websites from scratch, but this site runs on WordPress. Why? Because it lets me write and edit content more easily than any other system, it has thousands of free and useful plugins that mean I don’t have to code stuff myself, and it’s great for SEO.
It’s Built for You will give you a professional WordPress theme, great help and guidance with set-up, and hosting. See my review here.
Hosting is cheap. Creating web sites is actually pretty easy. Depending on whether you need a business site or a personal blog, you have a lot of options.
You probably don’t need to hire a professional to do it for you, if you’re willing to face a small learning curve.
If you do need professional help, here’s a video about the package we’ve put together, which explains all the critical factors in more detail.
My advice is:
- Use a service like WordPress.com or It’s Built For You, which takes care of the hosting and WordPress side of things for you.
- Take the time to learn about SEO. Keyword research and link building are essential.