- Choose a free website platform that offers templates or a drag-and-drop builder to reduce your website-building learning curve
- Buy an affordable domain name to make your free website look more professional
- Opt for website alternatives when you want to reach a larger audience fast and interact with your clients
Small businesses should have a website in today’s world, but professional websites don’t always come cheap. Small business owners can spend an average of $2,000-8,000 on a professionally built website. The good news is that you can create a free website for your small business on your own (with just a few limitations). Depending on your business website builder, you can also upgrade to select features for a small fee or opt for a more advanced alternative.
Read on to start building an effective online presence on a budget.
3 steps to create a free website
Creating a free website for your small business can be easy and affordable due to the plethora of website builders that offer free plans. A website builder is a user-friendly platform that helps beginners with no web design experience build beautiful sites. You can feasibly build an attractive, simple website that drives traffic to your brand without spending a penny.
The biggest caveats: Many free versions of popular web builders (like Wix) place ads on your site that don’t bring in any revenue for your business, and you also won’t be able to choose a completely custom domain name—the free domain option will usually include the name of the web builder, such as yourdomain.squarespace.com.
If you want a custom domain (yourbusinessname.com), you’ll need to pay for a web hosting service to register and maintain your own domain year after year, which can cost $20–50 annually, on average.
It can be worth investing in a custom domain to make your website URL look more professional and memorable. First, search registrar sites like GoDaddy and Namecheap for your desired name and what it’ll cost to claim it. Depending on the name you choose, pricing can be as low as $5 for the first year.
After registering your domain name, you’ll need to pay a separate service to host it. Web hosting providers like Bluehost keep costs low by hosting many websites on their servers. This is a great way to start hosting while you’re still growing your traffic.
Creating your own website—with or without a custom domain—is a great way to make your business easy to find. If you want to sell products or services online, a free site can also do the trick. Use the following three tips to bring your free website to life.
1. Choose the right template
When you’re not a website design pro, templates are the easiest way to create a functional and professional-looking site. Some of the best free website builders like Weebly, Wix, and WordPress offer free website templates and/or a drag-and-drop editor that snaps every element into place.
If you want to run an online store, seek a website builder that offers e-commerce features without a cost. Square Online, for example, lets you build an e-commerce store with unlimited products for free. The tradeoff? You pay a 2.9% and 30-cent credit card transaction fee when you make a sale.
For e-commerce websites, having an SSL certificate, which allows for more secure data, is essential for protecting your clients’ credit card information and other personal details. A website builder that offers free SSL certificates can also help you rank higher on search engines since they help authenticate your site.
Always consider ease of use and functionality when selecting your site builder. Explore and research some of your favorite websites, and imagine your desired features to help you choose the right one for your needs. Don’t hesitate to trial and test out multiple options before settling on one.
2. Customize your website content
Once you sign up for your website builder and select a free template, you can start adding content to your site. Unsplash and Pexels offer free, high-quality stock images and videos that you can plug into your template.
To keep costs low (or free), write your own content rather than hiring a freelancer. Keep these copywriting tips in mind:
- Include keywords throughout your business site to boost search engine optimization (SEO); for example, for a pet care business, use keywords like “dog boarding” and “dog grooming”
- Organize your text with headers to make content easy to navigate; try to also use keywords in your headers
- Keep paragraphs to four sentences or shorter to improve clarity and readability
- Avoid overly technical or complicated language; you want your site to appeal to all types of visitors
Tip: For ecommerce websites specifically, be sure each product has a clear written description and high-quality image.
3. Consider investing in select website features
Before you go live, consider reviewing additional website features that may benefit your website but perhaps aren’t included in the free website builder. It may be worth purchasing some specific upgrades for your site. For example, if you own a hair salon, an appointment booking widget on your home page might streamline your processes and add to a great guest experience.
Supplements to traditional small business websites
Creating a small business website isn’t the only way to build your online presence. Consider the following marketing tools to create a supplementary online network.
Yelp Business Page
Claiming your free Yelp Business Page offers support to many of the same perks as a website. It houses your business information—like address and operating hours—showcases photos of your business, and displays your unique services or products. Data shows that 97% of people make a purchase after visiting Yelp, so it’s important that your page is complete and updated.
When you claim your Yelp Business Page, you’ll build confidence with current and potential clients who are looking for your product or service. You can directly interact with customers by responding to their reviews and photos, effectively managing your online reputation. Clients can message your business and request quotes directly through Yelp, allowing you to provide more convenient and effective customer support.
Social media pages
Creating business pages on social media platforms can help you reach different audiences on sites that have varying purposes and functionalities. Social media marketing offers an opportunity to engage those customer bases at whatever point and frequency they’re visiting each of them. Social media posting is especially helpful for small business owners who have the bandwidth for short, update-style posts—sometimes from the convenience of their mobile device—but maybe not for long-form content marketing.
If you want to open an online store, you may drive more traffic to your brand by setting up shop on an e-commerce marketplace, like Etsy, rather than your own site.
These stores aren’t always 100% free, but they put your products in front of a high volume of shoppers. E-commerce marketplaces like Big Cartel require you to upgrade to paid plans if you want to list more than five products, while platforms like Etsy allow unlimited listings at a fee of 20 cents each.
Market your small business
Building a free website for small business marketing is possible when you know how to leverage the right resources. Take advantage of free site builders like Weebly, Wix, or WordPress; free stock image sites like Unsplash and Pexels; and strategic SEO practices that help your web pages shine—all without requiring a premium plan.
To build upon your online presence, consider setting up a Yelp Business Page or social media page(s) for your brand. Then boost traffic for your business and on your web pages using these tips for attracting more customers.