This should be the million-dollar question. “Why should I pay for a web presence?”
Don’t worry; it doesn’t cost that much in this case. In fact, the answer to that question doesn’t cost anything since its free. I’m giving it to you for no charge.
So the question prevails. Why Should Someone Pay for a Web Presence, a Site, a Profile or something if there are so many free options? And if it’s a company with a tight budget, it’s even more true.
Well, call me biased, but I’ve got a different way to look at this subject. Care to spend a few minutes to read this free article about the importance of a professional web presence?
Thank you very much. I appreciate your time.
Is it really Free or do You Pay for a Web Presence?
So, let’s start from the beginning. First of all, there’s no such thing as free. Humm… I guess this can be not very clear. Let’s elaborate more.
What I mean is that no one gives something free without some reward. Even if it is about feeling good about themselves. There’s always something to take back from our actions. Helping a friend or a stranger can and should be disinterested. But sometimes we expect to be rewarded in the future if we need help. The bottom line is that no one feels thrilled if given all the time and not taking something back. Even if it is a simple “Thank You”.
On so-called free services, eventually, there’s something that those companies are getting. Maybe it’s in the long tail and not immediately, but a company doesn’t survive from the air. A company needs to make money. And that’s not a bad thing.
What Are You Paying For The “Free” Web Presence?
Well, there are several things that a company can do to make a profit from a so-called “free” service. Please, be aware that I’m not against these practices, since they’re legitimate and have their place in the market. What I want is to make clear on what “Free” means:
Yes, it’s the ultimate way of making some money from “free” services. These companies “offer” you hosting space and sometimes, even the domain name or subdomain name for you to create your site or profile, whatever web presence with them. They ask for no money at first to do it. But there’s something they want you to give them back: traffic for their advertisers.
How are you going to do it? Simple. Whenever someone searches for your brand, in particular, you deliver a business card with this URL on it or even do some advertising campaign online or offline, driving traffic to their site (it’s not yours, remember?) these companies have traffic to deliver their advertising campaigns.
Better yet, imagine that you’re a plumber with a site promoting your services and it shows up in that same site another ad from a competitor driving traffic away from you. Far fetch? It happened to me years ago, and some of my clients reach me even today with experiences just like that.
Even if it’s not your competitor, it’s some other brand distracting the people who reach your site and eventually lose potential customers like that.
This is a goody-cutie word for something that it’s offered as free, but then along the line, you’ll be charged for special features, capacity or whatever. It’s like a free app that you download from an App Store, but you’re charged to use each one when you want to use some outstanding beautiful picture filters. Get the idea? It’s the same for these services.
A good example for something along this strategy is a service like Twitter or Facebook, where you’re not charged at the beginning and at first, there was no publicity whatsoever, but their goal was to get volume. Many users allow them to have venture capital or investment funds aiming for higher future value. Nevertheless, it’s a risk, and it’s not “free” since you’re paying with your content, traffic and especially your business reputation or trust. If you ask me, that’s huge.
Sometimes, companies provide “free” service to cross-sell other products and get your goodwill and trust to pay them for those other products or services. For example, Zopply belongs to a small network of services under the ExclusivePixel, Lda umbrella. Zopply it’s not free, but other services within the group are offered as free to get awareness and loyal subscribers, promoting our paid services like Zopply or sendXmail(s). We even cross-sell these products by integrating them on our plans with sendXmail(s) email marketing services, for example.
This one is a little underground but exists. In this case, the focus is to get data or information and then integrate with their complementary services. For example, to register for a “free” account, you accept a certain number of conditions that gives them the right to re-sell your business information to other companies. They’re in the information business which is also legal but barely in this case.
Well, I could continue with a few more strategies to explain this business so-called “free”. But these are the main goals to have an idea.
The 5 Huge Risks With Free Web Presence Services
Let’s face it. Some businesses, due to lack of budget or even objective, can use these services. It’s outstanding, as I’ve mentioned earlier and sometimes, the only option. But you must be aware of some risks that you’re going to take with that decision.
1 – Brand
The first is a pretty huge risk. Your brand is your face, your name, your identity as a company or a professional. So, when you put your brand on the line, you should be prepared to face the consequences of that decision. In this case, with a free service, you’re abdicating of any control about the future of your site.
If tomorrow the service changes dramatically, you’ll need to accept or change to other providers losing everything you’ve accomplished until that moment. Sometimes, you can even lose content, interactions, comments, ranking and so on if this provider doesn’t even have an export feature. So make sure of that before registering.
2 – Reputation
Registering for a “free” web presence provider, you’re pawning your reputation against the quality and consistency of this service. First of all, you’re going to be limited to a few templates, which are the same for all other users.
You’ll be able to upload your logo, your content and edit some things, but not much more than that. And that means no differentiation. You’re one more in the crowd. Think about what that will do for your business. In other words, you’re invisible.
3 – Expertise
Even if you try to invest on your site, improving the way your web presence shows on search engines, for instance, you’re limited by the fact you’re working on a standard platform with severe restrictions to what you can edit or mess with the code. And saying that is a lot for your aspirations in being found.
4 – Platform
Using an automated platform gives you speed to create your web presence, but that means you’re limited to those same features. Most of these platforms are based in Adobe Flash, a closed code source, meaning that it is bad for search engines to crawl and the new mobile OS is restricting the use of this rich-media coding. So, it may be shiny at first, but bad for the long run and your business objectives.
5 – Communication
There are so many other dangers for your business web presence, but I’m focusing on the last of these primary risks. And this one is due to the way you communicate with your clients through this service. Usually, this kind of services doesn’t support hosting your business domain name or is a feature that you need to pay an extra if you don’t have a professional domain name for your web presence that also means that you’re not going to be able to have personalized email addresses for your co-workers and even for yourself.
Have you considered the image your business makes when you’re sending an email to clients and suppliers using free webmail like Gmail or Hotmail/Outlook? What would they think about your professionalism, your reputation?
I think I’ve covered a lot by this post. You get the idea.
Again, I need to say that I’m not against these “free” web presence services. In fact, they’re valid for specific projects that require a fast and swift way to publish something online. But I’m strongly against creating a business web presence using a free service for the reasons pointed out and so much more.
What are your thoughts about this topic? I’m opened to discuss the reasons with you.