We see it all the time: Unsuspecting business owners lured to digital shipwreck by this all-too-tempting siren song:
“You don’t need a professional,” the sweet whispers sing. “You can build a beautiful website all by yourself, for cheap, right now!”
That’s it! You think. I’ll save thousands. You pick a gorgeous theme. You upload your favorite photos. What could possibly go wrong?
If you don’t know your way around these seven pitfalls, building your own website can backfire on your business, your brand, and your bank account — ultimately costing much more than what you hoped to save by doing it yourself.
Next thing you know, you’re calling professional help to the rescue faster than you can say “free website service.”
So before you rush to build your own website in hopes of saving money, make sure you know what those DIY web building services won’t tell you:
1. You won’t have the time. Do you know how to help your visitors find what they need, and inspire them to connect with your brand — all in a matter of seconds? That’s how quickly most people will bounce away if you don’t pull them in with the right message.
Just as you could learn to build your own gondola, you could learn marketing, branding, customer behavior, copywriting, SEO, photography, videography, design, information architecture, html, CSS, and database management.
Unless these skills are already in your wheelhouse, the most cost-effective way to spend your time is on your business. But that doesn’t mean you can’t be involved in the creative process. In fact, a good partner will work closely with you to understand your vision and bring it to life.
2. You lose control of your content. Always read the fine print. In many cases, when you upload content to a free website service, your website provider gets to use it any way they please — without your permission or notification. If that makes you uncomfortable, it should. A professional partner, on the other hand, will be as protective of your branded content as you are.
Speaking of ownership rights, this is one area where hiring a professional is worth every penny. If you are planning to use any images or video on your website that you did not create yourself, working with a professional can save you thousands in potential fines — and hours of your time — avoiding intellectual property issues.
3. Your site might be hard to Google. Anything that makes it harder for customers to find your website on Google is bad for business. Yet most DIY websites do just that, thanks to sluggish load times, weak analytics and serious limitations on SEO (that is, Search Engine Optimization — the art of making your website as easy to find as possible.)
As of this post, the most popular free website builders offer basic SEO tools, but they don’t provide the level of control you need if you’re serious about SEO. Most glaringly, they don’t support automatic 301 redirects. That alone can wreck a site’s searchability — even if it used to be a top result!
Of course, real SEO is more than tools and rules. Google reads every word on your website, and its standards are constantly evolving. Good content writers keep up with these standards. They know how to write websites that will get ranked well by Google and still ring true to brand voice.
If your business depends on search traffic, consider working with a certified Google Partner, like GodwinGroup. After all, what’s the point of having a website if nobody can find it?
4. You could ding your brand image. Even our designers agree that DIY website themes look better than ever. But there’s a lot more to your brand image than a pretty theme. More often than not, it’s hard to make your brand look professional without, well, a professional. Here’s what you might run into:
- Maybe your email address doesn’t match your domain name because your web service didn’t support that option.
- Maybe there’s an ad for another company (or worse, your competitor) on your home page.
- Maybe something about your site just feels out of sync with the ever-changing nuances of the web.
Don’t think customers won’t notice. Big or small, red flags like these are a great way to spook people into questioning the quality of your brand, and even the security of your site.
5. Speaking of security… DIY website building services tend to be more vulnerable to hackers. This puts the integrity of your brand, the security of your personal information, and the security of your customers’ information, all at risk. Unless you’re a superbrand like Target, customers are not likely to forgive and forget if something happens.
Another issue? If your free site gets hijacked and turned into something offensive (or just plain inaccurate), fixing it can be pretty tricky. Because, as we’ll see next, you won’t have much support if something goes wrong.
6. You won’t have support. Support services cost money, so free or freemium website services either don’t offer support at all, or they offer it at a very steep price.
But why would you need support?
- Foiling hackers. Since DIY websites are less secure in general, anticipating and dealing with this issue alone is an ordeal in and of itself.
- Doing backups. Site backups are an industry standard for protecting web content. But not all free or freemium website builders support backups.
- Protecting your domain. If your DIY site goes down, even for a moment, you could lose more than just your content. You could lose your domain name. Imagine, every investment you’ve made in promoting your website (business cards, signage, etc.) becoming suddenly outdated.
Why would your website go down? It could happen for any number of reasons. But one that most people don’t think about is the fact that most DIY website companies are really just startups. If they don’t stand the test of time, they’ll go down for good and your site will go down with them — with or without warning.
If your business needs a website, you will need support. If you don’t want to be stuck doing it yourself, make sure you have an in-house web team or a professional agency you can depend on.
7. You’ll miss out on what matters most. If you haven’t invested in a marketing strategy for your brand, creating a website with an experienced marketing team is one of the best opportunities there is to do so. When you work with experts in branding, customer behavior, and story-driven content, they will know the questions to ask to pinpoint the most compelling aspects of your brand. Every decision they make as they help you build your website will be made with your customer and your goals in mind. That’s why the value they bring to your brand will benefit your business long after your website goes live.