Larry BraunerI was surprised to learn from the Google Keyword Tool that a large number of people are searching on Google for free web sites, despite the ease of buying low-cost domain names and web hosting that can avert the shortcomings associated with free web sites.

Disadvantages of Free Web Sites

The three main shortcomings of free websites are:

  1. Lack of Control - You have less control of both the feature set and the security of free web sites than those hosted on paid web hosting services. For example, few free website providers will permit you to use your own domain name or obtain a dedicated IP address. On top of that, free web site hosts can delete your web site capriciously and without notice, leaving you with little recourse.
  2. Service Limitations - Free web sites may overly restrict allotted storage capacity, bandwidth, number of pages, etc.
  3. Host Advertising - In many cases, free web sites contain the host’s ads, making free web sites look cheap and unprofessional.

Valid Uses for Free Web Sites

Despite my reservations about free web sites, there are free web sites and free web pages I consider quite valuable.

At the hub of your web presence and social media, you ought to have web sites or blog sites that you control, as I asserted in Not Ready for Social Media Marketing.

However, extending out from your hub can be many outposts on free web sites that extend your marketing reach. Here are types of free web sites that enable you to extend your web presence far beyond your core web sites:

  • Social Networking Sites - Your member profiles on Twitter and social networking sites like Facebook and LinkedIn are free web pages on free web sites that help you connect with people.
  • Micro-Blogging Sites - Tumblr, Posterous and Amplify are free micro-blogging web sites for adding text, photo and video content that’s search engine friendly and accessible to users who follow you.
  • Social Bookmarking Sites - Many social bookmarking sites, such as StumbleUpon and Business Exchange, let you create profiles that are free web pages on free web sites and that tend to rank well in search engines.
  • Content Sites - Free content sites like Squidoo and Hubpages are communities of free web pages that behave somewhat like free web sites.

WeeblyAnd yes, there are free web sites that you fashion more or less as you like. Hosts for these free web sites include Build Free, Google Sites, Weebly, Webs and Yola, as well as a long list of others.

WebsFree web sites make sense if used in the right context. They should only be used as part of your marketing hub if you can’t afford to pay about US$100 per year to host web sites that you own, and you control.

What are your experience with free web sites?

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20 Responses to “Do Free Web Sites Make Sense?”

  1. Chuck Bartok on November 21st, 2010 11:46 pm

    Larry, As I mentioned on the Facebook response to this post…

    There is absolutely NOTHING that should stop an aspiring Entrepreneur from securing the Control of their OWN Blog or Website.

    The real problem seems to be a lack of TRUE desire or Focus. Business persons put their Business as a Priority because it should be their Subconsciously Driven Authentic self.

    Burn the Boast on the Shore and Move forward….
    That attitude will at least assure success to cover expenses.

    ~~smile~~

  2. Jeff Beeman on November 22nd, 2010 6:13 am

    Great Article and falls right in line with my current efforts for online marketing and social networking. Went down the FREE Blog path for several years with little to no success. Seeing immediate improvement in ranking and visits with my current Blog and domain I invest in and have control over. It can be done even on a shoestring budget!

  3. STRAIGHTALK on November 22nd, 2010 8:56 am

    Good day Larry Brauner,

    You have opened a can of worms.. since so many people think that FREE websites are the way to go.. but what they fail to realize is that all websites are based or at least should be based on how your data is stored or saved for you..

    If You DO NOT have the ability to gather your data then that website is not the correct place for you.. Surprisingly I have found that even SHARED HOSTING has these disabilities too.

    What do I mean, even shared hosting is not the way to go if you feel that your Organization is Important enough!

    When You or Me build a website We need to have it located in a place that You have FULL 100% control.. That the only way your data could be lost is if You don’t pay for the services not due to limitation or violations of terms.

    When most people wake up to this reality then we will start to see better websites and systems that don’t get hacked!

    Anyways I liked your article like most do.. have a great week Larry Brauner!

    Norman Flecha
    STRAIGHTALK

  4. Rick Falls on November 22nd, 2010 1:10 pm

    Hey Larry,

    Free is definitely not the way to go for those who choose to be in a REAL business.

    However, if someone wants to test the water and get some content out there about their business, fr**ee can be a good way to start.

    I noticed that you didn’t mention wordpress, is that on purpose, or is it an oversight?

    Oftentimes, I’ll even suggest fr**ee when a potential customer says they can’t afford it, and that fr**ee usage typically leads them to understanding the usefulness and validity of having an “owned” internet presence.

    Just thinking out loud.

    As a justification, I help people make an entrance to, and or improve their local internet presence so that’s where I’m coming from and why.

    Thanks for the thought,

    Rick

  5. Guy Siverson on November 22nd, 2010 2:05 pm

    In apparent contradiction to Chuck I would suggest that the real problem is how many free options are available on the Web which makes it look like a viable way of doing business. However, when you get to the bottom of it free is not normally free.

    Even with my own product there is a “free” option which is quite nice to secure for business building on the Web, but the real power is in the paid versions.

  6. Larry Brauner on November 22nd, 2010 2:41 pm

    @Rick I didn’t mention Wordpress.com or Blogger, because in that part of the article, I was discussing extensions from the hub of the web presence.

    I assumed that the hub of the web presence would be a web site or a Wordpress blog site, and that once you have a self-hosted Wordpress site, you’d prefer to create additional ones rather than resort to a free blogging platform.

    My reasons for not using free blogs would be similar to those for not using free web sites.

  7. Ilka Flood on November 22nd, 2010 4:47 pm

    Hi Larry,

    Having been on both sides, I would definitely go with the “paid” version. The most important reason for that is that you want to convey a professional appearance. If you use free stuff, that kind of implies that you are not really serious about your business.

    Ilka

  8. Rob Anderson on November 22nd, 2010 11:25 pm

    The real answer to the question depends upon the purpose. If you just want a web presence and don’t plan to generate business that justifies having a paid website why bother?

    Similarly if you are looking to maximize your conversions and that means real money in your pocket then you need to weigh up whether you think a paid version is going to more than cover its costs. Of course there are different levels of paid and I have seen as many business owners overspend as well as underspend.

    The reason we went down the route of building a custom wordpress platform was to provide businesses with the option to buy low cost paid sites.

    We found most brick and mortar business owners either didn’t have the time /skills to build a decent free site that would get ranked and convert for them, or the cost of hiring someone to use free software to get an outcome was far from free.

  9. Paula Mary on November 23rd, 2010 7:52 pm

    Hey Larry,

    I do use Yola.com. I have a ministry site there and yes I do admit to being confused at times about the vision that God has given me. The free site has given me time to work this out and come into alignment with the purposes of God for me. All in His time.

    Blessing
    Paula Mary

  10. Evan on November 24th, 2010 4:12 pm

    Here is a great list of 50 free and useful websites that was published on Business Insider today:

    50 Free And Useful Websites To Be Thankful For

  11. Larry Brauner on November 24th, 2010 4:20 pm

    Thank you, Evan, although these aren’t the types of free web sites I was referring to.

  12. John on November 26th, 2010 9:29 am

    Larry - All of your points are valid about free websites and despite the drawbacks associated with free websites. I think it’s mainly people that are kind of new to the whole process of developing a website of their own.

    It can be very intimidating or scary to go out and buy your own domain, pay for web hosting, go into your cpanel and set up everything they way it should be, especially if it is your first rodeo. With free websites you just sign up and everything is already properly set up for you.

    I love free websites and from my experiences I never had any major issues with any of them. If you’re new to running a website these free sites can help build your confidence and get you ready for when you want to own your own site.

    I think free websites do make sense, especially if you are a beginner. I still have many free sites out there now that are still valuable assets to me. Sorry for the long comment.

  13. Tia Peterson on November 26th, 2010 1:22 pm

    A small business owner or anyone using the Internet for business needing a website needs to make the minimal investment to have their own site hosted and designed.

    In the grand scheme of things, if you want to make more than $25K a year from your business and you aren’t willing to invest just 0.004% of that in a website, you aren’t ready.

    Great post.
    Cheers,
    Tia

  14. Rajesh on November 27th, 2010 3:25 am

    I do not recommend free sites for any business. However I use a few free websites to send links to my business sites.

    Rajesh

  15. Jeffrey Baril - Source Blogger on November 27th, 2010 10:46 am

    Hi Larry, and hello to your community here.

    I’d like to share a quick story with you of something that is happening to me now on Google (Blogger Blogspot).

    About a year and a half ago, I created an affiliate site for Inbox Dollars that uses a Blogger template.

    I simply pay the $10 annual fee for giving its own domain. (I may than make up for it with referrals) This is a feature that Google shares with GoDaddy. You can simply request a custom domain right through the control panel. (settings tab>publishing tab)

    Recently, Google decided this was a “Spam Blog” and deleted my site! Even after I entered the CAPTCHA information, there is still not a guarantee the site will be reinstated.

    This the 3rd. or 4th. time this has happened with many of my Blogger template blogs with the time to restore taking longer and longer to occur.

    If that is not selling point to host your blog off of their system, I don’t know what is.

    Thanks, Larry.

    Jeffrey Baril of Source Blogger
    “Determined to make you a better blogger!”

  16. Sebastian on November 30th, 2010 3:50 pm

    I use free website as part of my online marketing; they are expendable and replaceable they are not the core (I own that), and I think that this is the way it should be or you are asking for a world of pain.

  17. Steve Barbarich on December 1st, 2010 10:56 pm

    Even if best things come for free but I say, not all. Like what Larry stated, there are really many shortcomings from free websites. It’s not that bad to buy domain names if it is secured. Free and great sites are dew so be vigilant in using it.

  18. DUI Lawyer in San Francisco on December 6th, 2010 3:38 am

    Free websites is not a good choice if you wanted to build a successful online business. It is good if you pay for a domain name to make sure that you can earn more than having a free website which is sometimes a waste of time. It is more convenient for an online business to own a domain name in order for the easy market.

  19. Brian Sundquist on December 6th, 2010 7:33 pm

    Thanks Larry for the post. I do use FREE web pages in my business. It gives me a way to place ads and pictures, since I’m a newbie to all of this. The FREE websites are getting more powerful, like Blink or Weebly. They are easy to set up and better, as the programming that goes into the whole pages/databases/etc.

  20. web design Hertfordshire on January 19th, 2012 10:04 am

    Thanks for posting this. All i wanna say is that free web site publishing sites like weebly or webs is useful for a newbie in web building. I my self made a website of mine using adobe dreamweaver and published it on webs. This really gives an idea about publishing using pro account.

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