So you want a website that you can easily customize and keep updated yourself? A lot of people choose free website builders like Weebly, Google Sites, Yola, Wix, or others to create a website. But like a lot of things that are free, the value is limited.
Why should you invest your time, and perhaps more significantly for a small, emerging business, your money, in a professional website?
Many clients meet with me after first building a website with Weebly. It offers many great templates and even allows you to import your own, has an easy drag-and-drop user interface, and it will even host your site for free, including if you install it on your own domain. In short, Weebly gets sites off the ground quickly and easily.
But after a while, it isn’t enough. And here is why.
The Downside of Weebly Sites
Weebly is cheap and user-friendly, but there are some significant drawbacks. In my view, here they are from the minor to the most critical:
- Many of the features they advertise are only free to Pro Account members. This covers things like being able to insert a video player and removing the unprofessional looking Weebly ad at the bottom that says “Create a free website with Weebly”. A Weebly Pro account will set you back $4 a month, which is more than website hosting costs.
- If you want to display ads with their AdSense modul, Weebly will take a hefty 50% of your revenue. You can add the code in yourself if you’re familiar with HTML and have accesss to the code by becoming a Pro paid member.The module-style way of building really limits customization. Let’s say you add a photo, and then later you want to add a caption. You’ll need to reset the whole thing and select the photo & text module, instead of the plain photo module.
- To truly create a unique and professional look and feel, you’ll need to make changes in HTML and CSS.
- No community features. Unless you consider a contact form “community”.
- Poor ability to optimize for SEO. Clients have complained to me about ranking low for their keywords even in non-competitive fields, and even when using Weebly’s SEO tool.
So is a website built with Weebly truly free?
If you have lots more time than money, sure, build your website with Weebly. As far as free websites go, they are one of the best site builders out there.
But if you plan on growing into a fully-customized, robust website, you might want to consider building your site in via wordpress.com, which is also free, and will easily import into self-hosted wordpress (wordpress.org) when you’r’e ready to grow. WordPress.com doesn’t allow for the plugins that make WordPress so wonderful. But hey, no free lunch, right?
If you plan on advertising on your blog, WordPress.com makes much more financial sense. Via WordAds, WordPress allows you to put ads on your blog via several partners. In order to keep this service free, they run some ads on your space, but you can opt out of this by paying an annual $30 fee.
But if you have even a small budget, you can create some beautiful basic websites with plug-and-play themes on WordPress.org. For a longer term investment in the future of your web presence, WordPress is the easier, safer bet.