There’s an important question raised in today’s USA Today about small business websites.  In the “Ask an Expert” column, a reader says she is planning on redoing her company website using a free or low-cost service.  Steve Strauss lists 7 Deadly Small-Business Website Mistakes, but fails to mention that using a free or low-cost service will most likely mean you’ll be committing several of these sins.

1. Most free or low-cost website builders allow for minimal depth of content, so they end up being little more than the billboard referenced in Sin #1.

4. For the most part, the free and low-cost website services don’t provide you with a way to customize your site enough.  There may be exceptions, but the sites we’ve seen using these services generally don’t have social media connections built in and they may be impossible to add on.

5. Most websites created at free and reduced website hosts are not very search engine friendly.  In some cases, there is no way to alter page titles or meta data, which means your site probably won’t rank high and in some cases we’ve been unable to find these sites entirely when searching for the company name, which is generally the easiest result to rank high in. 

6. Most of the create-your-own-from-template sites lack a way to add video.  While we don’t consider lack of video to be a deadly website sin, video is becoming more widely used and is something will want the flexibility to add in the future, without having to redo your entire site.

In addition, we’ve found that some of these sites end up owning the rights to your domain name and you might have to give the name up to move to a more robust website.  These days, giving up your domain name can be about as damaging to your business as changing your phone number and not having calls to the old number forwarded.  It is not something you want to deal with. 

Bottom line.  Free or low-cost solutions may be better than having no web site at all, but there may be a higher cost to your business (in lost sales) than you may be aware of.

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