08 January 2010

Free Websites

So you need a website, you checked on Google and there are tons of free websites available, wow great! or is it. There is an old saying "there's no such thing as a free lunch" Well on the web as in life  that is very true. A free website is exactly that free.
Parking your site at a free host is often like building a house on sand.  It may be quick and and it may seem easy at first, but I can almost guarantee you it won't last long.
I don't think many people realize the number of disadvantages that go along with creating free websites. Hopefully this article will shed some light on the subject.

Disadvantages of Free Websites

  • Limited web page space
  • Can't add interactive features (chat rooms, message boards, games, online ordering etc.)
  • Search engines often ignore them  A HUGE disadvantage!
  • Your visitors may doubt your credibility
  • May have banners and/or pop ads on your homepage and/or all of your pages
  • Long and hard-to-remember web address (instead of yourdomain.co.za)
  • No guarantees of site availability and longevity
  • No branded emails addresses (you@yourdomain.co.za)
  • No help and support options 
  • Often  not be free forever - watch out for the 30 trial catch

Advantages of Owning Your Own bespoke built co.za website


  • Easy to remember website address (yourdomain.co.za)
  • No banners or popups
  • Easier to rank in search engines (Google, Yahoo etc.)
  • You have more control over the look and feel of your website.
  • Multiple branded email addresses (you@yourdomain.co.za)
  • Plenty of web page space for site expansion
  • No worries of site being removed unexpectedly
  • Looks more professional
  • More flexibility for design and functionality
  • Help is readily available 
Have a quick look at our Web Design page and do the comparison yourself

Many beginners gravitate toward the free websites because they feel that having a professional site built  is too expensive and/or too difficult.
I realize the website building process may be intimidating for you if you've never created a site before. You may be worried about spending your money on something that is unfamiliar and difficult.  I can totally understand that.

Let me assure you that building a profession website is not expensive at all.  The average website costs between R5000 - R8000. Consider the cost of placing one advert in your local newspaper and or community free ads. The cheapest we could find is R450 per advert, we are talking tiny black and white community free ads, which lets face it most people just throw away or use it to line the floor of the birds cage. If like your website this was to be shown to an audience every day you would be looking at R 164,250 a year. Does a website build sound expensive now? I thought not.

Search Engines Will Ignore You!


This is probably the biggest disadvantage of going the free website route - especially if you are trying to make money and attract free traffic to your site. There's no proof that you can never get listed with Google or Yahoo with a free website, but it's evident that the cards are stacked against you.
Search engines are an excellent source of free traffic so you definitely do not want to miss out on the great, targeted traffic you can receive.
Years ago it was super easy to get listed no matter what kind of site you had (free or paid). But now with all the spam techniques going around (particularly with free websites) the search engines have gotten very selective about who they add.
Here are the reasons I believe it's hard to get listed in search engines with a free website:
1. Too small and "unimportant." Most free websites are generally small (under 5 pages) and offer very little information about a focused theme or concept.  They also tend to have more links to external sites than they do to their own internal pages.
Search engines are looking for meaty sites that offer information on a particular theme with a good amount of content -- at least 10 pages.
2. No upkeep. A lot of people that build free websites often abandon them within a few weeks or months which causes a lot of broken links, missing images, etc. 
The search engines are getting smarter and for all we know they may have red flags in their algorithm (the formula that determines page rankings). So when they see that a site is hosted on a free web host's server, they may rank them lower...if at all. 
For example, I wouldn't be surprised if the search engines had a script that says something like: "If site X is hosted at this-free-domain.com then "ignore".
I have no proof of this, but due to the fact so many people email me with this same search engine problem, it can't be a coincidence that people using free websites have trouble getting ranked.
Do a search for just about anything on Google now.  I bet you'll see very few (if any) free websites on natural results (left hand side of Google - under sponsored links sky line)
3. No links pointing to the site.  Because of reasons 1 and 2, most other webmasters and important web directories won't link to a free website
They may not look as professional and people don't want to give a free link to a poorly developed site with pop-ups and banners all over the place.
Plus, they also know that free websites generally have short life spans for various reasons.
Search engines use formulas and can see that no one is linking back to your site so they may ignore it.  These days, the kinds of websites linking to you is  very important for achieving a good search engine rank.
The bottom line:  Free websites get very little respect out here on the Internet.

Have a quick look at our SEO page for more information on Search Engine Optimisation


Free Websites & Ecommerce Don't Mix

It amazes me how many people tell me that they want to start a business website but don't want to spend any money. 
I personally don't know of a single successful website owner that built their business website on a free website.
If you were starting an offline business, you'd plan on investing some money right?  Well, doing business on the web is no different despite many beliefs.  If you don't plan to invest anything to start a business then I'd have to question your business plan.
There are NO SHORTCUTS to success.
You can't expect people to take you or your website seriously if your website address starts with something like is http://myfreesite...Or worse still they just cant find you on the internet.
And if the address doesn't tip your visitor's off, the banners and pop-ups you'll be forced to display sure will.  Also, the  free templates  they provide are generally very basic and lacking a professional appearance.
Think about it. Wouldn't you be a little suspicious if the web address of a business was something like http://members.aol.com/users/myhomepage.html with pop-ups and banners instead of www.companyABC.com? Would you buy something online form a website like that? Or even pay the physical business a visit? Probably not
Web surfers are becoming much more Internet savvy and they can smell a "cheap site" a mile away.  You don't want to lose credibility and potential customers because your site looks cheap.
Not to mention, you can only do some much with a free website So if you want to add shopping carts, order forms and additional interactive features you probably won't be able to do this because most free websites don't offer that kind of functionality.

More Problems with Free Websites that offer Free Hosting

It is quite expensive for these companies to run a free hosting service because the company has to pay for the space and the bandwidth (traffic) to host thousands of web sites. And since they offering these sites for free, some companies find themselves loosing money very quickly.
They try to keep their service free by slapping banners on the member's pages, hoping that people will click and purchase products...but think about it...how many banners have you clicked on lately?
Then some may try to redeem themselves by charging a "small" fee for their service. And of course, if you aren't willing to pay for your site, you can say "bye bye" to all of your hard work.

Almost all free website providers let you know in their terms and conditions that there are NO GUARANTEES when it comes to keeping your site live forever. Which means they reserve the right to remove your site at anytime, regardless of how much work you've put into it.

I hope this article helps you make a more informed decision when starting your business on the internet, if you would like H2L to give you a free quote, just complete our quick enquiry form and one of our team will come back to you within 24 hours. I  think its only fair to end as I started. If your serious about your business online, remember "there's  no such thing as a free lunch"

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