If you are a Wisconsin based business with no budget for a custom built website, you may be in luck.
Google and a number of Wisconsin based partners from around the state are offering free websites and domain names for 1 full year.
Here is the link to take part in that program: http://www.gybo.com/wisconsin
Now, here are some interesting facts provided by Google:
- 47% of Wisconsin businesses do not have a website
Source: Google/IPSOS, Survey of businesses with less than 250 employees, June 2011
- 97% of internet users look for local goods and services online.
Source: BIA/Kelsey, User View Wave VII, March 2010
- 1 in 5 searches is local, which means someone is looking for a product or service nearby
Source: Google user data, April 2010
- Three out of four smartphone users have contacted a business they found on their phone
Source: Google/Ipsos, “The Mobile Movement: Understanding Smartphone Users,” April 2011
- Over the next three years, businesses that make use of the web expect to grow 40% faster than those that don’t.
Source: BCG Report, “The Connected World: The $4.2 Trillion Opportunity,” March 2012
In summary, if you do not have a website, you will lose sales and growing your business becomes much more difficult.
So you may be wondering why in the world would a web design firm be promoting free websites from another provider. Truth is we want to help small business owners understand the difference in value between free and paid website services. A free solution may be adequate for the short term, but a custom crafted website by a professional is optimal.
Let me explain why that is…
Free solutions are…well…free
Here are some of the pros and cons of a free website solution versus a site designed by a professional website design company.
Please note, I have not personally signed up for the Google program and have not created a site with this service. However, I have over 17 years of experience creating websites, and I understand where the gotchas are.
Let’s take a look…
Potential Pros of a free site
- Free for one year – great for a new business with no budgetg
- Urged to get listed in Google Places (a must for any business) – though you can do this yourself anytime here: https://www.google.com/business/placesforbusiness/
- Great way to get started with a website and experience managing your own content
- If the website is setup well, it provides a taste for how a website can attract new customers and clients and increase your sales
Potential Cons of a free site
- Free hosting simply does not offer the best in performance and support. This means your site may not load fast as it could, and if you need help, (e.g. your site is down / offline) responsive and effective support services may not be available to you. Honestly, fast and effective support can be hard to find with paid services, unless you know where to look.
- Design matters. This cannot be overstated. An unprofessional website can be worse than having no website at all. If a website’s first impression is poor, it will affect your sales. Please, no clip art, no Comic Sans or Papyrus fonts.
- Blog – a free service may not have a blogging platform, and this is a bad thing in 2014. Blogging simply offers the best “free” opportunity of getting your website ranked into the search engines. From my experience, blog posts are more effective than static pages.
- You will be limited by the design options and layouts being offered.
- Free / hosted solutions are going to have limited capabilities. The opportunity to add new abilities and enhancements to your website may be impossible.
Examples would include image galleries, product catalogs, e-commerce solutions for selling products online, social media sharing / connectivity, testimonial management, etc. All the things that grow in importance with your business over time may require a more robust solution.
- A free website may not give you granular and specific levels of control over your page’s content.
Quick example: Say you want a specific testimonial to be placed within the sidebar of a specific page. It may not be possible if you are unable to separately manage your sidebars at the page level.
- Learning curve. It takes an investment of time and effort to create a business website. Ask yourself if you have the time. Again, an incomplete or unprofessional site is not helpful to your business.
- Though the Google program comes with a free domain name, I would highly recommend spending the $10 – $15 and purchasing your own domain name outside of this program.
Why? Because when you are ready to migrate your site to another provider, you are not encumbered with trying to extricate your domain name from the free service. This process can be frustrating and consume time, so buying your domain on your own is money well spent.
- Content may not be portable. When you use a free service, you may be locked into their proprietary software.
So like many things in life, you get what you pay for. But that being said, if you have some time to invest and can’t afford a professional solution, check out Google’s free website plan to see if it is for you.
If you have any questions about creating a website for your business, even the free Google site, just drop me a line using the form below. I’m happy to help.