Don’t Rely on Free Sites for Your Small Business Website

A small business website is absolutely essential today to acquire, retain and create loyal customers. Self- hosted websites, or sites that you pay to have hosted online, are the smartest, safest option for most businesses. Why?

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Once upon a time, there lived a young couple who were eager to make a home for themselves. They were newlyweds, and with all the enthusiasm of newlyweds, they set out to find a house they could afford. But they couldn’t find anything, not even a fixer-upper, that was within their price range.


A friend suggested they rent his aunt’s home. His aunt was going into a nursing home and didn’t want to sell her house, but was willing to rent it. “Don’t worry,” the friend said, “When auntie dies, I’ll sell you the house at cost, at this very low price, so you will have it forever.”

Now he was a good friend…a great friend…so the couple never got the agreement in writing. Friends don’t bail out on promises, do they?

The house hadn’t been updated since 1952. It needed new windows. It needed new doors and a new roof. The lawn was ugly and bare. The inside and out needed paint and new carpet. The couple set out with a will, doing the painting themselves, even installing new windows.

They did a lot of work on a home they were sure would be theirs someday.

Now you know what happened next, right? They were just renters. The old aunt died, and suddenly the nephew realized he had a valuable, newly painted and fixed up property…to sell. The asking price was way outside what the couple could afford. They complained, but too bad. Out they went, the house was sold, and they moved on to their next apartment.

The story I’ve just told you is true. It happened to a relative of mine. And it goes to prove the old adage: NEVER build on rented land. In other words, if you rent a property, don’t invest in it! Whoever owns the land gets whatever improvements you’ve made on it. Period.

Now what does this have to do with a small business website?



The Importance of Owning Your Own Small Business Website

How many small business owners do you know who rely on “rented” property for their websites? I’m talking about the businesses who insist that their Facebook page is their web page, even going as far as printing the URL of their Facebook page on business cards and brochures in lieu of a web address.

Others build websites on free hosting platforms. They’re doing the same thing–investing in rented land. They have no guarantee that the site host won’t discontinue the platform.

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I went through that exact experience with ivillage. Do you remember ivillage? It’s faded from memory, but back around 1999 it was the bee’s knees. I had my email account with them and set up several free websites for hobbies and my freelance writing. Then they decided to discontinue their free web hosting and email service. Ooops. Gone. My stories, everything I’d published online vanished. I had to scrambled to copy it all down before the site was removed.

Ditto with Yahoo Geocities. Remember Geocities? A great source for free websites…until Yahoo decided to discontinue their free service. Then they moved to SiteBuilder, and I had my business site hosted with them for over a decade. THEN they decided to shut down their service on that software, too. They’d still offer hosting, but only with their templates or your files. They discontinued the easy to use software that let me run a great retail site.

Can you see a pattern here? As a small business owner, I absolutely need a strong, robust and well-optimized website. I have several sites now, two of which I host with Web Design of Palm Beach. (I highly recommend them, by the way. Great service, reliable hosting, fair prices, USA-based.) I now own my own land, so to speak, so the “house” I build on it in terms of my blog content and other content is mine.

Relying on a free web service, free blogging platform or worse, a social media website to host your online presence is like the couple in my story making repairs and improvements to a house they don’t own. At any moment, the homeowner can snap his fingers and kick you out and take what you’ve invested. It’s his right and your tough luck.

You do realize, of course, that a social media site or another platform can do the same with your business site? And then where would you be? You’d lose all that time and money invested in your site. You’ll have to throw away the business cards, bumper stickers and t-shirts printed with your “website” address because it wasn’t really a website at all.

Invest in yourself. Own what you build. Although at first it may seem like a strain on your wallet, in the long run, it’s money well spent to build and own your own small business website.


custom image you tubeIf you’re ready to build your own small business website, hire a professional marketing writer to craft engaging, search engine friendly text.  Invest in professional writing services for a better return. Contact me, Jeanne Grunert, “the marketing writer”, for great service and superior writing that gets results.

5 Tips to Create a Customer Focused Website

Why This Website Wows, and 5 Tips to Make Yours Wow, Too

Five years ago, I tried to make jam for the first time. I’d received a bag full of persimmons from a neighbor and had no idea what to do with the fruit. So I opened my cookbook up and followed the recipe to make jam. Unfortunately, if you know persimmons, you know that one under ripe persimmon can spoil the entire batch of jam.  I must have had several unripe persimmons, because the jam not only curdled, it tasted like fiery gasoline mixed with lemon juice. Yum, yum. I threw out the entire batch, jars and all, and swore I’d never make jam again.

Until July 4th, that is, when the wild blackberry bushes flanking my driveway yielded not one, but two quarts of luscious blackberries. I felt brave. But my cookbook didn’t have a good recipe for blackberry jam! What to do? Search online for one, of course.

And what website did I stumble upon? The Ball Canning and Recipe website.

And this, my friends, is a website that WOWS – and I’ll tell you exactly why, and not just because I made an awesome batch of tasty jam.
Blackberry Jam

Why the Ball Canning Website Work

Here’s the website: Ball Canning.

These are my top 5 reasons why this website works to acquire, retain and create loyal customers for the Ball Canning Company.

  1. It’s super EASY to navigate. Many times I enter a website and find myself poking around odd corners of the site looking for what I need. I end up on virtual dead ends and digital alleys. With this site, everything I needed as a home cook was just one or two clicks away….easy!
  2. It made canning SIMPLE.  I’m new at canning. This was the first time I’ve ever tried to make jam with blackberries. Pectin? What the heck is pectin and why do I need it? Why are there several kinds on the shelf at the grocery store and which one do I need? The Ball website seemed to anticipate my neophyte questions and answer them easily and quickly.
  3. The tone in the text was just right…neither too advanced to confuse me nor so simple that I felt talked down to. Instead, the copywriter made me feel like he or she was taking me under the wing and guiding me through the steps of the recipe…like I had a trusted friend in the kitchen!
  4. The site had handy calculators that meant I didn’t have to think – the site did all the thinking for me. Plus it was fun to play around with the buttons and dream about making strawberry jam next.
  5. Speaking of fun, Ball makes canning your own food seem like a blast. The pictures on the website made me want to run out and buy new Ball jars – colorful ones. The entire site encouraged me to try new things and delight in my thrifty, creative canning projects.

What is the secret that makes this entire website work so well? The Ball corporation knows and understands its target audience – people like me who are new to canning. 

My neighbors are country women; they grew up learning how to can food. They know intuitively how to make all sorts of tasty, delightful things. They don’t need this website. They like the recipes, but the pectin converter? The explanations? That’s for the likes of me, a former Manhattan executive who never learned to cook who now loves to explore home cooking and crafts.

The secret to a great website is to always keep the end user in mind. The target customer, your marketing manager might say.  The entire website, from start to finish, should be about the visitor – not about you, not about your products.

Ball’s site could focus on its nifty caning jars, it’s useful jar lifters, or its canning products. All well and good. But that gets boring, fast.

Instead, they focus on ME and my PROBLEMS – my problems were:

  1. I’m new to canning and making jam.
  2. I’m confused about this thing called pectin.
  3. I only have 2 quarts of berries and the typical recipe calls for more; how do I adapt it?
  4. How do I convert the amounts to my smaller quantity?
  5. I need an easy recipe to feel successful!


As a business owner, you may be doing a lot of your own website work or blogging yourself. To make your website work FOR you, not against you, use these tips and tricks:

  • Write up a simple visitor profile to help you imagine your typical customers. WHY does he or she come to your website?
  • Now, what content can you add to HELP him or her SOLVE PROBLEMS?
  • What benefits do your services offer?
  • Can you provide examples, such as testimonials, of helping people who have had similar problems?
  • How can you convey this through pictures (images) as well as through text?

Ball Canning does it right. Their website was a pleasure to use. I hope yours is, too.

Oh, and the jam? Delicious. Simply delicious. (Recipe is on my blog, here – Wild Blackberry Jam)
Cornbread Blackberry Jam