Free websites are great for personal use when your budget is limited but they’re not all they’re cracked up to be when it comes to using them for your business.
With free websites, you often don’t own your domain name or web space. As well as causing problems at some point in the future, there are several short term disadvantages you should consider.
- Often your free website has a web address with an extension like wordpress.com or weebly.com. This not only makes your web address extra long and difficult to remember, it doesn’t sound very professional.
- Often, without a yourcompanyname.com domain name, you’re more than likely also using a Gmail, Hotmail or Yahoo email address. Does this really create a professional, I’m-in-it-for-the-long-term image for your business?
- Often with free website hosting, you’re probably advertising other businesses on your website. And you have absolutely no control on what’s being advertised even if they are competitor sites. Does that really make good business sense?
- If your free website is content managed (you add content and make your own changes), are you able to back up your database file to your desktop computer or to your email? In some cases, the answer is no.
- If you’ve uploaded images and other media files to your free website, can you access them through a file manager or via FTP? In most cases, the answer is probably no.
When you eventually decide to have a professionally designed website for your business, you’ll need a domain name and hosting account that provides full access to all your web files (pages, images and other media) and if you need a content managed website, you’ll need access to your database too.
If you’ve regularly been adding content to your free website and blog for a number of years, it’s going to take a lot of time and effort to move everything to its new location.
Some problems you will encounter
- Your database will need importing to the new installation. If you aren’at able to export it from its current location, you won’t be able to import it to the new location.
- All your images and other media files will need uploading again. If you don’t have access to your files on your current website via FTP, this wille be a long process.
- Internal links to images and other media files (especially those located in dated upload folders) will be broken. You will need to relink them all.
- Any hard links using the full URL to pages on your website, will probably be broken and will need to be relinked. Another long process if you have lots of pages.
- Any back links to your site from external websites will also be broken but because you don’t own the other sites (or even know who’s back linking to you) you won’t be able to fix them. This means anyone coming from these sites will no longer be able to get to your site.
- Regular visitors will no longer be able to get to your new website unless you redirect them.
- You will need to change your domain name and email address on all your marketing material
Instead of choosing a free hosted website, it’s better to start with something that can be easily developed and/or moved later on.
Domain names are not expensive. You can purchase domain names for as little as $11 per year
Web hosting can also be very affordable. You can purchase web hosting for as little as $3-10 a month depending on your needsd.
There are also several free CMS options available with even the lowest priced hosting package, and if you don’t have the budget for a professionally designed website straight away, there are thousands of free or cheap templates to use in the meantime.
If you can’t afford under $100 a year for your website, you probably shouldn’t be running a business.
If you do need to move your website to a new web host at a later date, at least you will have full access to your database and all your website files via FTP, making the move much easier, less costly and less stressful for both you and your web designer/developer.