If you’re thinking it’s time to get started with your first small business website you might have been tempted by some of those pre-made, ready to go website offers. Well that is your first bad idea, for a number of reasons.
The advertisements make them look so easy and this can be appealing when you haven’t got a clue about setting up your own website.
Just to be clear I’m talking about the services offering pre-made websites for – solicitors, plumbers, gardeners – any business. They use set templates, stock photos and content. Just add your details and get a 5 page website – ready to go! All for only $xxx or $xx per month.
What is So Bad?
Everything from the set up to the pricing. If you know nothing about websites and how they work you are just the kind of prey they are looking for!
Let’s look at prices for a start. Most work with an upfront payment to make the site and get it hosted etc. Nothing wrong with that in itself – but for a similar cost you will find loads of small web developers who will do a basic design and setup – and it will be much better in the long term.
What they often don’t tell you in the beginning is that after the first year you will have to pay hosting costs of xx per month. This is where they really make their money.
Most beginners have no idea how much it costs to set up and run a website. It is one of those rare times when people are actually shocked to find out how little it actually costs – at least at the beginning.
For a standard website you have basically three costs.
- You need to register your own Domain Name – the www.Yourbusinessname.com etc. This costs about $12 per year – although with some hosting you get a free domain name for the first year. This cost needs to be renewed each year – or for several years at a time.
- Next you need a hosting account. This is basically the online storage of your site – it makes your site available to view online. Hosting can cost as little as $2 per month but expect to pay about $6 per month for one of the bigger companies. Remember you can change and upgrade hosting as your site grows. Hosting is relatively cheap and one of the basic accounts will be fine for most small business sites needs.
- Design and set up costs. If you are not comfortable doing this yourself you will need to pay someone to do it for you. You can look online for small web developers or try Odesk – who will do this for very little cost. I would strongly advise you to get them to set the website up on WordPress as this will make it easy for you to manage the site yourself in the future.
WordPress.org is the site where this software is supplied – don’t confuse it with WordPress.com – it is a platform for hosting blogs – not what you need.
If you can, invest just a little time and learn enough to get started – it is really easy to get started with website software such as WordPress. There is no coding or anything too technical to get a simple site up and running. Check out a few of the articles on this site to get you started – do not be afraid to learn, it really is easier than you first think.
Back to Those Websites
So now you get the idea that you are not really going to save money with these cheap looking websites, in fact they will cost you more – and not just cash!
One of the big problems I have with them is their setup. The company often retains ownership of the Domain name and they control how much your hosting is going to cost going forward. You are at their mercy – if your website grows and becomes popular and maybe even profitable to you – they have it under their control to some degree. If you go the self registered and hosted route you are totally in control.
Your domain name is your Brand on the web – how people will find you and you need to own and protect it. It’s not just as easy as registering a new name – you will have lost time and web presence if you have to start moving to a new web address.
The other major drawback with this type of pre-made site is how they set them up with stock content and images etc. This is important to how the search engines work and in particular – Google.
For someone to find your site on the web they will need to search on Google or some other search engine. If you use the standard text, images and design from these companies you are going to be at an immediate disadvantage.
Because large numbers of people have bought these designs with the stock information the search engines will sometimes not even add them to their index – they see it as duplicate content. This can lead to you not being able to find your own site in a Google search. If you can’t find it – how will anyone else.
Anyway, I think I’ve gone on enough to get the point across. Avoid these pre-made websites at all costs. You don’t need to spend a lot to get started with a simple self hosted business website. Try it yourself or pay someone a small amount to set things up initially. Don’t get caught out like someone who doesn’t know any better – because now you do!