If you’re not paying for a service, you’re the product being sold. This is true for radio, television, facebook, and free websites. In most cases, information about you is sold to third parties (like advertisers). That’s not the really bad part, though. The really bad part about free websites is that you, your website, and your brand can be held hostage and even tanked at the real owner’s whim, and there’s nothing you can do about it.
How free websites work
When you get a “free website” on a site platform like Weebly, Website Tonight, Wix, Yola, or any of the others, you’re not getting your own website. You’re getting a subdomain—a “room” inside their website. You’re adding pages to their website, and when many others join you, it pushes the site up in the search engine rankings. That’s not necessarily bad. Here’s what is.
You can’t move your website from there. What? It’s YOUR site, right? No, not at all. They own it. The domain name belongs to them and can’t be moved. If you want to move your content, you might be able to, depending on the contract you signed (you did read that thing where you signed away your rights, didn’t you?). They might even own the content you created on your “free website.” Even if they don’t own it, it is a pain in the tail to copy and move it to another site, and you won’t be able to move your domain name. You’ll have to get a new one.
Free websites are bad
When those companies go out of business, or decide to delete your content, there is nothing you can do about it. You’ve spent all that time telling people about your website; it’s on your business card, your letterhead, maybe even your signage, and all of a sudden, it’s gone. You’ve worked hard to drill into people’s heads what your url is…all of your marketing materials…all of that has to be changed. You have no control over any of that happening, and it can ruin your business that you’ve worked so hard to build.
Okay, so what are you supposed to do? You can’t afford to spend five grand on a website, and you’re not tech-savvy enough to set up your own blog or website on your own webhost. Good news! There is a third option, and while I provide it, many others do, too, and you’re welcome to go wherever you like. What is that third option?
Hire someone affordable to set up a simple site or blog for you, so you get control over your domain name. You own it. It’s not part of somebody else’s website. It’s yours. As long as you pay the domain name registration on time every year, and the hosting fees, it can be yours for life.
Have the affordable person put your website or blog up on their webhost. You can move your website to a new hosting company if needed (it rarely is if you trust the person). Or, if you want to be sure you have total control, have them set it up on your own hosting account (it’s more expensive that way, but it’s an option). You could also get your own hosting account and set up a WordPress blog yourself, even if you think right now that you aren’t capable of doing that. If you need help, you can always reach out for it.
Why say what free websites are really doing?
Some might say that I’m just saying this because I set up sites and blogs for pay. I want to be clear. It is true that I do set up sites and blogs for people, for pay. My husband and I started building sites for people because we saw people getting robbed when it came to website construction. It’s just wrong. But that’s not why I’m saying this. Even if we never built a single site again, I’d still tell people what we know about those “free website” places. That’s why I said upfront that yes, I offer this, but you’re free to go anywhere you want.
I do offer subdomains to writers whose work I edit, but not to everyone. They own their content and can move it anytime they like, of course.
I’d be willing to handle the hosting and domain name registration at cost, just so people aren’t getting messed over by the “free website” places. For that matter, I’d be happy to see people going to someone else. Would it be nice to land some clients at $1,000 each by saying “Don’t go with the freebie sites, they are bad?” Sure, but, again, that’s not what this is about.
This is about YOU. This is about you not getting screwed. As long as you don’t get messed over, I’ll be happy, whether that means you pay me to set you up with a website or a blog, or to host a blog you will handle yourself, or whether you go with someone else, just as long as you escape those “free” website building places that can cost you everything. There is a difference between price and cost, after all. If setting up a site involves one of those places, where you don’t know the owner, free websites are bad for you. They’re not free at all.
Share the truth about free websites
Those companies dominate the search engine results pages because of their sheer size, what with alllll those people who are after freebies, creating content for them, creating pages for them on their website (that’s what your “free” website is, after all, just pages on their website), and boosting them to the top, there is no way that anyone who speaks out against them will ever rank highly in the search engine results pages. The only way the word will get out is if people like you link to it and share it with others. Don’t let your friends get screwed, either. I care about you enough to share the information with you. Please care about your friends enough to do them the same favor.