We've all heard the phrase "You get what you pay for" and deep down we
all know it is true. But as small businesses operating on a low budget,
it's easy for us to get into the habit of going for what's free when it
comes to our websites. The problem is "free" or "cheap" for hosting and
other foundational resources comes with major limitations that are
costing you much more than you are saving.WhimzieQuiltz.com
is a small business website that has done a great job with messaging.
It's clear what this business does (design and create custom quilts),
what its unique value is (free no-obligation designs), and what the
goal for the site is (submit a design request). The messaging is
consistent, personable, and convincing. The calls to action are
prominent and inviting on every single page. But ...
... there are
some major technical problems being caused by the free or cheap hosting
that it being used. Most problematic is that the content is not being
hosted on the actual domain. The primary domain for the site is at
However, the content is all on
and is being pulled from this secondary website and being displayed on the main site using frames.
a result, the URL doesn't change as visitors browse the site. If you
are on the home page, it's http://www.whimziequiltz.com/. If you're on
the about page, it's http://www.whimziequiltz.com/. If you're on the
gallery page it's http://www.whimziequiltz.com/. And thus the search
engines have only indexed one page for http://www.whimziequiltz.com/.
Additionally, there are no unique page titles that show up in the
browser window to help visitors know where they are in the site.
free hosting domain does have unique URLs for each page as well as
title tags, and these have been indexed because the search engine bots
read them in the code even if people can't see them. But all of those search results are going to the wrong domain.
there's an ugly banner obscuring the content at the bottom of the page
which detracts from the message, design, and credibility of the
website. Biting the Bullet and Paying For Good Web Hosting
and many other problems that come with free and cheap hosting, could
easily be avoided by biting the bullet and spending a little money on
your website. I'm not even talking an expensive investment, I'm talking
$120 a year tops. That's not much when you discover just how many sales
you are actually losing due to a less than functional website.
are plenty of inexpensive hosting plans out there from which you can
choose to suit your needs. Look for a host that uses cpanel for it's
admin interface; cpanel is very easy to use even for the least
technically minded. If you are looking to use WordPress software to run
your website, be sure to choose Linux hosting. WordPress does not run
on Windows servers without hours of finagling from a knowledgeable
programmer. Other things to be sure it includes are:
- Email addresses
- FTP access
- Log files (needed for some analytics programs) and stats
- Ability to add sub-domains
- WordPress/blog software compatible
We use Bluehost.com
for our own company website (we're a small business too!) as well as
for all of our hobby blogs. As a marketer with only a little technical
background, I purchased my domain and hosting through them and was able
to install WordPress myself from my control panel and set up my website
with very little help. The account only cost me $95 a year. Bluehost
has many great features, good support, and has been very easy to use. Make Use Of Open Source Software
source software like WordPress, Joomla, or Drupal are content
management systems that you can install on your website for free to
easily design and maintain your website. There are templates you can
use and modify, plug-ins for just about any need, and great forums and
help sections for support. These programs, not the hosting, are where
you can save money but still get great value.
We use WordPress.org
for our company website, our blogs, and almost all of our small
business client websites. While it is technically blogging software, it
works very well for creating static sites, or a combination of a static
site with a blog. Some of the key WordPress features I like include:
- Easy to add and update posts or pages
- Tons of different design templates available
- Plug-ins for any need imaginable
- Great support and help information
- **Very search engine friendly
are not the same software. Wordpress.com provides free blogging websites like the Whimzie Quiltz blog: http://whimziequiltz.wordpress.com/
. Wordpress.org provides software with much greater functionality for use on a domain and hosting account that you own. Easy to Design
are tons of great templates available, and more are added regularly.
With just a little bit of technical knowledge, you can replace theme
images with your own, edit colors, and make the template your own. Now,
people are even starting to create templates with an editing page that
allows you to change colors and upload images without going into the
code. WordPress Themes
allows you to search based on features such as color or number of
columns. Look for a theme that has at least two columns and ensure that
it is widgetized (which means that it is set up for you to
automatically add and use plug-ins).Easy to Customize
One of my favorite features of WordPress is the thousands of plug-ins
that are available (for free) for almost any need. A few that I love and recommend are:Recommendations for Whimzie Quilts
Quilts already has solid content, a great product, and a clear and
compelling message. Now we just need to fix these major issues with the
way the site is coded and hosted so that it will perform better not
only in the search engines, but for visitors on the site. Spending some
money on a hosting accounting and rebuilding the website using
WordPress.org and a WordPress template is very do-able and will solve
all of these problem areas.
Using free or very cheap hosting
actually costs you more money than purchasing a decent hosting account.
By spending just $100 a year on hosting, you now have access to great
free software like WordPress that you couldn't use before. You will
gain so much value by using good hosting and software: a search engine
and visitor friendly site, a site that looks and functions better and
is thus more credible, a site that is much more flexible, and one that
is much easier for you to manage. What's not to like?
October 10, 2008
Jackie Baker is an internet marketing analyst with SiteLogic Marketing (http://www.sitelogicmarketing.com) where she focuses on auditing websites as well as SEO, social media, usability, and information architecture consulting. She comes to the industry from a marketing/PR and website development background. Jackie maintains an active presence online through her blog RegardingHorses.com (http://www.regardinghorses.com) where she shares her love all things equine, particularly therapeutic riding.