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Free or Cheap Websites Help Competitors Eat Your Lunch

When it comes to web-hosting and website creation, there is a lot of advertising and marketing pushing free services or services that are so inexpensive that they aren’t representative of the true marketplace. Mark Claypool explains why its best to pay for a professional website.

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Pick your cliché. If it’s too good to be true, it probably is. You get what you pay for. When it comes to web-hosting and website creation, there is a lot of advertising and marketing pushing free services or services that are so inexpensive that they aren’t representative of the true marketplace.

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These are often efforts to lure you into other services that cost much more, or monthly fees that add up over time. Or, they are things that will take so much of your time that you’ll wish you had just paid someone to do it for you.

Think about it. What can you really get for $100? Or $500? Honestly, can you build an ­effective website for free on your own? Those who can are true professionals. Those who can’t either hire these professionals or, unfortunately for them, use free or ultra-cheap services. And that’s going to be a problem. Here’s why.

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Purpose: Driving Traffic

Free or ultra-cheap sites will ­almost certainly not perform the way shop owners intend them to.

Let’s revisit the purpose of a website. It should have only one main purpose: driving traffic to your door and getting cars for you to fix. Some of the other things might be nice, but they should be icing on a well-developed website cake. Here’s what it takes for a website to bring in more cars for you to fix:

A site that’s optimized for search ­engine indexing. This means that a search engine should be able to land on your site and easily tell exactly who you are, what you do and where you do it.

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This, as I’ll ­explain in more detail in a bit, is a science that takes hundreds of hours of study to understand and a commitment to keep up with the hundreds of changes search engines make to their ­algorithms each year. A truly optimized site will show up on searches the public uses to find the services you provide — not for you by name, but by the ­actual services you provide.

A well-designed website must be professional looking and make a great first impression. Colors must match, and there must be effective “calls to ­action” that direct a visitor to do something you want them to do. You want them to pick up the phone, call you, get directions and request an ­appointment or estimate. These are the things that must be easy to find, right on the top of the homepage, and be eye catching enough to get the ­visitor’s attention.

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What You Don’t Know

I’ve said it ­before, and I’ll say it again: This is not like the movie Field of Dreams. Just ­because you build a website doesn’t mean people will come to it — it’s much more complicated than that. Free or cheap will likely set up your new site for failure.

• Do you know anything about search engine optimization (SEO)?
• Do you know what title tags are and how many characters should be in an effective one?
• Do you know what a meta ­description is, how many characters are recommended by Google and how these can ­improve your click-through rates?
• Can you build a site map?
• Do you know how to verify your site in Google’s Webmaster Tools?
• How about your h1 header? Is it written correctly so that it fulfills its all-important SEO role?
• How about keyword usage? What are the most used terms the public uses to search for the ­services your shop ­offers?
• Do you know how to build backlinks and what anchor text you should have in them? Do you even know what all these terms mean?

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This is SEO 101, and if you don’t have answers to those questions and build your own site for free or cheap, you’ve missed the boat.

Penny Wise…

You can spend little or no money and end up with something that doesn’t bring you business. A poorly optimized site will sit there, visible only to those who know you by name. A truly well-designed and optimized site will cost you more, but not all that much when you consider that it will bring you more customers. Get two or three cars to repair from your website and the rest is gravy. When building a new website, you should hire a professional who ­really understands SEO (and few do).

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The Weakest Link

Your website is only as strong as its weakest link. If your site isn’t optimized, be it a new or old site, it ­likely isn’t ranking well and is costing you ­opportunities every week. But even a blind squirrel finds an acorn once in a while. In this dog-eat-dog world, that means your competitors are potentially ­eating your lunch. Enough clichés for you? If the job is worth doing, it’s worth doing well.

Article Courtesy of Shop Owner

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