Navigating the ecosystem of e-commerce is often challenging, especially if you don’t have experience creating or managing a website. If you’re a service provider, one key question is whether to create your own website or utilize existing platforms to market your services. This isn’t an easy decision so we share four pros, cons, and tips to help you make an informed decision.
In this post, let’s dissect this topic with practical guidance on domain registration and web design, as well as critical pros and cons to aid your decision-making process.
Should you create your own website?
Let me start by saying that trying to create your own website isn’t all that hard. In the early days of the Internet, when I first got my start, websites were hard-coded using HTML (which controls the structure of the website such as frames, tables, and images) and CSS (which decorates your structure using things like colors, fonts, and other design elements like bold typeface). This was a painstaking process and the number of people who knew how to code was limited, so it was expensive to create your own website. Plus, every time you needed to change something, even something as simple as pricing, a developer had to go into the code, find the original code from among potentially thousands of lines, then update the information.
Today, almost anyone who can use Microsoft Word can create a website using tools that make it so you don’t have to write a line of code to build a website. We’ll talk about this in the next section.
Understanding the basics: what is an online service platform?
Before you create your own website, it’s vital to know what an online service platform (service website) is. It’s a digital space that allows for interactions between service providers and customers. Essentially, it serves as an arena where visitors can discover and learn about your services. This type of website allows you to share positive reviews, highlight your expertise (such as your certifications, media reports, prior clients, or results achieved for your clients), and begin the process of gaining customers (lead generation).
Examples of popular online platforms for selling services range from third-party platforms including social media sites like Facebook and dedicated e-commerce websites such as Amazon. Having this basic understanding helps you decide if creating your own website is right for you.
Weighing your options: creating your own website vs using third-party platforms
When planning to sell services online, it’s important to evaluate all available options. These often include creating your personal website or utilizing third-party platforms. Some folks rush into using a third-party platform because they think creating their own website is overly complicated and expensive. And, I’m not knocking a third-party option, but you should go into the decision with your eyes wide open. Here are a few pros and cons for both:
Create your own website
- Pros: Complete control over all elements of the design and features. For instance, a change in the Facebook algorithm can (and did for many) reduce their success on the platform. I’ve even had clients complain that Facebook or Twitter capriciously removed their profile from the platform so they lost contact with customers and prospective customers.
- Cons: Requires patience to learn a new skill or hire a web developer. However, with the tools available today, creating your own website is very doable if you’re willing to spend some time figuring things out and deal with a little frustration. In fact, I build Market Maven myself and I’m not a developer. I even wrote an ebook to help your DIY your own website. Here’s what you need (you can learn more about this from my ebook along with images to guide you through the process):
- a domain name for your brand that closely matches your existing brand name or one that works well for both
- hosting from a reputable company offering nearly perfect up-time and fast speed as a means to store the content and then serve it up to visitors. I don’t recommend website builders like Wix and Squarespace. We’ll get into my rationale later but most experts agree with me.
- Content management system (CMS). I use WordPress, which is the same decision made by thousands of website builders, including some of the biggest brands. This provides basic functionality such as headers, footers, blog pages, search bars, menus, and much more.
- a template that looks the way you envision your finished site will look. There are thousands of templates out there. Some are free, others involve a small cost, and, a new option I’m seeing out there, some involve a subscription you must renew annually. I had to tweak my website to get the exact look and feel I wanted but you can likely use an out-of-the-box template without too much problem, at least initially.
- you need a few plugins to provide functionality beyond your CMS such as forms, social sharing buttons, and security
Using third-party platforms:
- Pros: No need for tech experience; fast, and easy. Some are even free.
- Cons: Limited customization so your website lacks personality and differentiation from your competition, has potential fees, and is hard to switch to another platform. The free website builders are the worst when it comes to cons. The biggest problem with these platforms is your website is basically invisible to Internet users as they have terrible SEO (search engine optimization). That means users searching for businesses like yours can’t find you without inputting your business name. Organic traffic, which comes when your content shows up near the top of search results, is nearly absent when using these platforms. Since organic traffic accounts for the lion’s share of visits to your website (53% and growing in 2020), you’re dooming yourself to failure before you start.
Your choice in this context depends on your needs, budget, and the level of commitment you’re comfortable with.
How to register a domain name for your website
For today, let’s settle for discussing the first task you face since you need to choose a good domain name regardless of your choice to create your own website or use a third-party platform. Your domain registration is like your address and it’s the way users find your content, just like your physical address.
Registering your domain name is an essential step when building your website. Here’s a simplified guide:
- Select: Choose a domain that reflects your brand in a positive light.
- Search: Use online tools to see if it’s available. Try not to fall for the trap of using the .org or .net if the .com isn’t available as you’ll likely lose traffic to the company that owns the .com.
- Buy: Purchase the domain through a trusted registrar. Some third-party platforms offer a free domain but make it hard to transfer the name if you leave the platform. Domains aren’t that expensive, so I always recommend that you buy yours through a registrar. Also, consider buying a few, including the .org, .net, .info. Some registrars offer a package for all four for a lower bundle price.
Moreover, consider anonymous domain registration to keep personal details private from whois databases. This helps prevent spamming and preserves your privacy while maintaining professional credibility. And always remember that the right domain can make all the difference in setting you apart from competitors.
Pros and cons of creating your own website
Creating a personal website to sell your services online is quite an adventure, full of opportunities for creativity and learning. Yet, like any journey, it comes with its pros and cons.
- Full autonomy: You directly control the creative design, functionality, and features such as payment methods.
- SEO opportunity: With effective search engine optimization strategies, you can reach more potential clients over time.
- Credentials Booster: Having a professional website gives your business credibility.
- Time investment: Building a site from scratch requires dedication and time management skills; updating content will also require an ongoing commitment.
- Learning Curve: Web development involves technical knowledge that might prove challenging if you’re not already familiar with it.
- Costs Involved: Domain registration fee, hosting expenses, as well as possible payments to web developers or SEO professionals all add up over time.
Before venturing into this project, consider these complexities. Balance the freedom brought by having a custom-designed online space against financial constraints or lack of technological know-how.
Ultimately though, creating your own website can offer long-term rewards for your brand identity, so long as you manage it effectively.
One thing we’ve not mentioned is the aspect of competitor analysis. This is needed to ensure that if you’re getting into a particular market niche with your new website, you know who you’re up against and what they have to offer.
Rigorous research is always wise, whatever venture you’re embarking upon. And if you don’t have the time or resources to tackle this yourself, it’s worth paying experts to assist you.
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Hausman and Associates, the publisher of MKT Maven, is a full-service marketing agency operating at the intersection of marketing and digital media. Check out our full range of services.