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?

Licensed from DepositPhoto.com/iriana88w
Licensed from DepositPhoto.com/iriana88w

 

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?

PLENTY.

 

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.


 

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