By John Swaffield on 6 April 2012 @ 3:50 PM.
There are plenty of businesses that offer free tools or low cost services that allow you to create your own website. However, using these services to create a site for your business is rarely a good idea. Despite their slick advertising campaigns and promises to publish your website in just a few clicks, the end result can be very generic and disappointing.
The attraction of creating a website yourself is easy to understand. Most businesses recognise that a web presence is necessary to attract customers and get their marketing message across. But sometimes there is a perception that getting a site built is expensive. In tough economic times, any opportunity to save money is attractive.
The reality however is a poor website can cost your business far more than you save. 'Create Your Own Site' services have been around for years but they have not replaced the need for professional web designers for many good reasons.
All these types of services are based on similar models. You start by choosing a template and colour scheme. You choose from a choice of stock photography for your industry and pre-written text for each page.
The most basic packages are cheap but a website will not bring any benefit to your business if people don't visit it. To attract visitors you will have to upgrade to a more expensive package that includes search engine optimisation (SEO) services / flexibility.
However, the most effective SEO tactics change over time as search engines update their indexing algorithms. A low cost, pre-packaged SEO service cannot provide the same quality optimisation as human experts.
A good SEO company will go beyond a pre-packaged service by:-
A website is not the only way to reach online audiences these days. 73% of Britons regularly used social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter in 2011 . A good web design company can help you exploit the potential of social networking sites too.
In 2011, 45% of Britons surfed the web using mobile devices such as smart phones . Upgrading to a premium package that includes templates optimised for mobile devices can be three times as expensive as the basic package and suddenly the service doesn't seem such a good deal.
Before you decide to create your own site you should contact a couple of web design companies to talk through your requirements. You might be surprised at how little an equivalent site costs and they can advise you on how to get the most from your internet marketing strategy.
The graphics and content provided in a template based site won't be unique to your business and the photos you choose will probably have been used on similar sites. This means your site will have a generic look and feel and won't reflect what makes your business different.
Having similar content to other sites will mean search engines penalise your site by ranking it lower in search results. Therefore your site will not be so easy for visitors to find and less people will visit.
You could re-write the content yourself but this is a specialist skill. Professional web authors will incorporate the optimum frequency of search engine keywords into your content so your pages are ranked highly, whilst still marketing your business effectively to visitors.
Writing strong content for the web takes practice. Visitors have short attention spans and don't want to read too much so content has to be short and to the point.
How you write something is as important as what you write. Badly written content will turn visitors away.
A good web design company will do more than just build a site for you. They can write effective marketing copy, work on your branding and design a visual identity for your business.
A web design company can implement online Pay Per Click advertising campaigns to drive traffic to your site. They can coordinate your website and social media promotions with email marketing or printed adverts and brochures.
They will work with you to define what search terms should return your site and target local or niche markets.
Of course, you could try to do some of this yourself but a web design company will have different specialists including designers, content writers and marketing experts, who all excel in their individual fields.
By trying to do too much yourself, you may end up not doing any of it particularly well.
A basic website that doesn't reflect your brand or effectively communicate your current services is a lost opportunity. You are probably most effective when you concentrate on what you do best: running your business.
Collaborating with a web design company will combine your business expertise and market knowledge with the web design company's specialist skills and experience.
A good web designer will listen to your individual needs and provide a customised service. Your site can be built with a content management system, which means you don't have to rely on the web design company to update all of the content for you.
There are lots of aspects to designing a website. The choice of fonts and colours all help portray a meaning and identity, such as trust, good value or high quality. By choosing a design from a template, you may not communicate what your 'brand' stands for and your website will look very much like others.
Your website is your business's online face. It is the first thing new customers will see and first impressions count. If you think about your favourite sites, they will have been thought out, designed and tested. They probably stand out and won't have been based on a generic template.
A well designed website will communicate your values and services to a customer before they have even contacted you. It can differentiate you from your competitors and give your business a competitive edge.
When you use one of the "Create Your Own Site" services, you will be just another customer. You won't be able to pick up the phone when you have a problem and have a conversation with someone you know. Normally you would be directed to first line technical support who will try to resolve your problem with standard resolutions and it may be difficult to escalate your problem to higher level support.
If your site has been built by a reputable company then you should get a much more personal service. It will be in their interest as well as yours to ensure your site is up and running as smoothly as possible. A specialist web design company has probably helped lots of businesses like yours and is well placed to offer advice and support that is unique to your situation.
When you buy cheap web hosting you generally you get what you pay for. If a company is offering low cost or free services then they will have to cut corners somewhere to make a profit. Often this is done by hosting as many sites as possible on a single server.
As a result, website outages and slow loading times are common complaints and affect how visitors perceive your business. Visitors won't care that a slow loading site is not your fault. They will just take their business elsewhere.
Your site should reflect your business's unique selling points. By trying to cater for a broad market, a 'Create Your Own Site' service cannot do this as effectively as a team of web developers.
Having a website is now just one part of exploiting the internet. Social media, Pay Per Click advertising, Search Engine Optimisation and email marketing compliment each other. A web design company can tie them all together so you have an effective digital marketing strategy.
Nevertheless, using a web design company does not guarantee a good site. You still need to research potential web design companies, look at their portfolios and ask other businesses for recommendations.
However, with the right web designers your site should really stand out and give your business an edge over competitors.
1. According to a survey by InSites Consulting http://www.mediavisioninteractive.com/blog/index.php/social-media/social-media-grows-uk
2. The Office of National Statistics http://www.ons.gov.uk/ons/publications/re-reference-tables.html?edition=tcm%3A77-226727
This content was published by an author that has no affiliation with Clubnet Search Marketing, we will sometimes publish content from guest bloggers and the views, opinions expressed within these guest posts are those of the author alone and do not necessarily represent those of Clubnet Search Marketing.