Quick and Easy Websites, and Free stuff
“Quick and Easy” – most of us like this idea, especially for things we either don’t like to do, or don’t really know how to do. After all, it means we should be able to get our task or project done, and move on to things that we really enjoy, or that we excel at doing. Or maybe you are one who likes the notion of “DIY” or “Do-it-yourself” and look for resources that let you do things your own way. If you are looking to begin establishing your own presence on the Internet, there are many excellent resources available that help you get started quickly, easily, free or on a “DIY” basis, such as social media like Facebook, Google and its many internet and computer tools, numerous blogging sites, and more. You can get started and get connected, find more information, and establish a website on the Internet in more ways than ever.
I remember wayyyy back in 1996 (I think that’s like 100 years in in Internet time) when I was working for Hewlett-Packard and we we were preparing to move to another state, I had tried to begin my house search via the internet. The Internet was new to most of us then, but at HP we had already been using it and building content on it for some time. Our customers were already using it were demanding content, and we were delivering. So I had high expectations of what I would find in my own searches. As I’m sure you’ve guessed, there was little available at that time. All we could do was connect with real estate offices, look at a few listings – most without pictures – and exchange email messages with hungry sales people. I had to give up on accomplishing anything meaningful via the Internet, and resorted to the old-fashioned way: traveling to our future home town to conduct a two week house-hunting trip. Meh.
Now it’s just, um, a little bit different, isn’t it? All I have to do now is type “homes in [fill in your favorite town]” in the search bar of my browser, and I get at least 9 ads on the first resulting page, and more than 10 pages of “organic” search results. And I can sign up for countless email newsletters delivering me available listings for any area I choose at whatever frequency I want. Wow. I’m overwhelmed – there is so much information and there are so many resources out there today. Did you know that by December, 2010, there were 255 MILLION websites out there, with 21.4 million of them having been established in 2010 alone? That’s nearly 9% of the total added in just one year.
So, perhaps you are thinking of establishing your own website, too. if you want to get started you’ll find tons of “free” and “quick and easy” options. You’ll also find by trial and error that some are not really all that “quick-and-easy” nor are others truly free. Many are free initially, but in order to get something really useful you have to buy additional services, apps, tools, features, etc. It makes sense though. After all, we all have to make a living to pay our bills and enjoy life. But it means the age old adage “buyer beware” is something you have to keep clearly in mind when shopping for services and tools via the internet. For example, you may find a resource that offers websites promising “get started with just 5 clicks”, or “in just 5 minutes”, and so on. It may even be offered for “FREE!”. Just realize that there is almost always more to establishing a functioning website that gets you the traffic you want than a quick and easy setup. Here are some things to watch out for:
- Get started with your web site in 5 minutes, 3 easy steps, etc.: While it may be true that you can get started in that short amount of time or those few steps, that’s all you’ll get: started. Whatever you use to get started, you still have to learn how to use the tool to create a working site. I know a lot of people who have tried to establish a new web site this way, only to leave it started, but unfinished because it takes too much time to learn, or there are insufficient help resources available to get past the inevitable learning stumbling blocks.
- Free or really cheap initial price: There are many resources that get you started with this promise, but once you get in and get your new site initiated, you’ll find that you need to buy this app, or that service, or upgrade to the “standard”, “premium” or “pro” version in order to accomplish that next, important step. If you add up all the extras and hidden costs, many of those free or cheap options will end up costing you more than if you had begun working with a professional or normally-priced service in the first place. Then you are either stuck with a resource that will cost you more, or you find yourself writing off all the time you had just spent getting started, to just have to do it all over again with someone else.
- Services that will backfire on you: Then there are the services that tell you that you need their help, but end up causing more problems that they solve. One of these are “link building services” or “backlink services”. They offer to set you up with dozens, hundreds or even more links to your site for various prices. I’m sure many deliver on those promises. If you search on this topic you’ll find dozens, maybe hundreds of services. But all the Internet marketing experts I know say “don’t buy links or backlink services” because it can cause the search engines to blacklist your site as a spam site. That takes a lot of work and time to recover from, and it will decimate your search results – in fact, they’ll stop coming from any search engine that blacklists you. As a website developer, I see these link-builders hitting my web sites all the time, and I implement a special service to block them. They are spam. So don’t buy into it.
- Flash web sites: these sound good and look great when you are finished, but they won’t work on any of Apple’s mobile iOS platform devices such as iPhones and iPads – the most popular smart mobile devices in the world. If visitors make it to your site using those devices, they simply won’t see anything. They will instead be greeted with a message from Adobe telling them they need to download Flash software to view your site, which they can’t do. That’s more that 104 million device owners and Internet browsers you can’t reach.
- Getting locked in: If you take advantage of a “quick and easy” or do-it-yourself website service, you may get locked into it by that perfect domain name that you got through them, but can’t keep if you decide to use some other service instead. Actually, if they are a truly legitimate service, they will tell you somewhere that the domain is actually yours, not theirs, and there is a way for you to keep it. But they will bury that information to keep you there, and may charge a premium to “let” you keep it. I know someone who just had that very experience, and he lost his domain name in the process. Domain ownership is actually pretty cheap and pretty easy to do, but it can be confusing to figure out initially. If you have someone to help you and coach you through it, or is willing to set it up for you in such a way that your ownership is clear and manageable, that’s a valuable resource, and worth the fee they charge to do it.
- It may be easy to get started, but you still need site content: This is one thing you can’t get around. If you don’t have a good site plan you’ll waste a lot of time and you won’t have a good site. If you don’t spend the time developing and entering useful content, you won’t get traffic. Taking the time up front to create a simple site plan including a content list and a site/link layout (or “wireframe”) means your site building process will result in a better site, and you’ll get it done more quickly. Creating useful content that provides help for your web site visitors will go a long way to getting – and keeping – the traffic you want. If you want to get excellent search results you will also have to spend many more hours tuning your site to get those results. And you will probably have to spend extra money for apps, tools, services or even experts to get it accomplished. Creating a good, effective and high traffic site takes work.
- Time: you can’t get around this one either. To build a site that gets traffic and keeps it requires time and patience. Time to build it, time for the search engines to list it, time for people to discover it, and time for people to fall in love with you and your site enough to share it with others.
These are just a few things to be aware of, and I hope that helps you in your effort to begin establishing your own presence on the Internet. The main thing to remember is: be patient. Stick to it. You’ll get there.