My Friend Built My Website (The Real Cost Of A Free Website)

We all know somebody, a friend or a relative, who offers to build our company website on the cheap. Should you take them up on their offer? What is the real cost of a free website?

We recently had a new client in our office for a consultation. I mention him because this scenario happens more often than you might think. He had a website that was built for his business that was built by a graphic designer. When you open the page, it looked really nice. Good colors. Good layout. Clean and uncluttered. The site’s top navigation had 9 pages typical for many business sites: Home, Projects, Services, About Us, Our Advantages, Our Team, Our Clients, Our Blog, and Contact.

You might be wondering why a website created by a graphic designer and with the mix of content mentioned above might need to come to our agency for help. Let me explain what he had been using for his company website for over a year.

97 words, 575 characters, 11-12th grade reading level

  • Home — There were only 97 combined words on all 9 pages. Of the words that were there, the Home page featured a piece of equipment that the business does not carry — and never has.
    • The next section on the Home page introduces the site visitor to “many different kinds of solutions…” But, there is not a single solution mentioned.
    • The next section on the Home page says that the team, “brings
      our clients the most amazing projects.” But this company does not deal in projects. It deals in equipment.
    • The next section tells how many projects the team has completed.
    • The following section displayed four social media icons, but the business didn’t have accounts on three of them. The one social media account they do have is not connected to the icon on the site.
  • Services — The link to the Services page was dead.
  • All of the following pages were dead links: Our Advantages, Our Team, Our Clients, Our Blog.

As is often the case, the site was built and handed off to the business owner. He and his team thought they would learn how to make the changes, learn the skills to write the content themselves, and be able to get the professional pictures they needed to represent their business. A year later they were still using their unfinished website and hoping that it would not distract prospects or undermine the company’s trustworthiness, reliability, and confidence.

I wondered, how much did that website cost that company in lost reputation and lost business?

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If you choose to go with a free website, be sure to understand the important elements that must be completed. Be sure that all the links work, that all the words and messages are accurate, the pictures are well-lit, sharp, and not pixelated, and that the site itself looks professional — like your business. You’ll want to make sure the elements of search engine optimization (SEO) are in place so Google, Yahoo, and Bing search engines can deliver potential customers to your new site.

What if all those factors are not 100% ship-shape? Below is a scenario that reflects a conservative estimate of the hidden costs of a website that is incomplete and/or not visible on Google:

  • Average service call is $200
  • One service call per week for your new website (52 x $200) comes out to $10,400 per year
  • Your “free” website lives for 3 years, a conservative estimate (3 x $10,400), comes out to $31,200
Maintaining your “free” website might cost you $31,200 in lost revenue during those 3 years. And, that $31K is not taking into consideration the amount of money lost from possible referrals that could have resulted from those service calls that were not made over the 3 year period.
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