In brief, it depends on the business needs. Looking at the free options is a good place to start.
A small site requires work at building, marketing and maintaining. Free marketing and technology tools are available. The actual building and maintaining come at a cost of labor.
So whether the site is actually free depends on how the business values the work that goes into it.
This article assumes that “free website publishing” actually means free technology and marketing.
The soft-dollar cost that goes with the labor is sunk into the existing wages and salaries.
Building a Free Website
Companies that offer free websites have come and gone over the past two decades during the growth and convulsions of online publishing. A few that keep going include:
WordPress is by far the largest and most stable of the five. Blogspot, which is owned by Google, is less sophisticated than WordPress. It also has an uncertain future with a company that is getting more aggressive in killing products that are unprofitable or not profitable enough.
Wix, Web and Weebly don’t have as much history as the other two.
In all five cases, a user can create a free presence on that site and promote an address such as MyBusiness.Wordpress.com. If the business wants simply MyBusiness.com, it will have to pay a fee to get it.
At that point, free is no longer free.
Some businesses use Facebook as a free online publishing platform. In that case, the site address (also known as a URL) is usually www.facebook.com/MyBusiness.
Free Website Marketing
Social media is the best way for a business to get free website marketing. Common and popular free sites include:
People may argue about the value of each one or debate which one is the best. In truth, the value of each one often depends on the business.
Most businesses find that Facebook is the most effective social media platform because of the size of the audience and the technical capabilities.
It also is true that a business gets out of a Facebook page what it puts into it. There are no guarantees that a page will get anything more than likes rather than clicks to the business website and transactions that increase revenue and profit.
The same is true of the other three options.
Two other free options have potential as well: YouTube and email marketing.
YouTube is the second largest search engine on the planet after Google itself, which owns YouTube.
Email marketing had a great run in the 1990s, but social media is often more effective. But it doesn’t mean a business shouldn’t have email newsletters.
Companies such as MailChimp offer free email newsletters to small accounts. Others such as Constant Contact offer free trial agreements.
Another “free” way to market a website is via traditional marketing. Use the site address with:
- Business cards
- Storefront signs
- Existing paid marketing
Free Website Maintenance
Maintaining a website is free only if the business doesn’t count the value of the labor that goes into the site.
It is certainly possible to build a site and never touch it again. But a growing business can’t rely on a static and out-of-date website.
That being said, it’s possible to avoid paying anything on technology and marketing in the future using the suggestions above.
Other than not doing any work on the site going forward, the next best thing is doing as little work as possible by incorporating the maintenance into other duties.
For example, if the business needs a press release, post it on the site in addition to sending it to the media. A retailer with product photos can store them in a gallery on the site for future use in the store.
Free website publishing will give any small media business or independent writer/publisher an easy and inexpensive step into the online business. The resulting skills and experience will build a foundation for a larger, more robust online presence when the time and budget are available.