The Benefits of a Custom Drupal Website vs. Free Hosted Websites

In this digital age, your company’s success is largely dependent on the efficacy of your online presence. The question is no longer simply: do you need a website? (You do.) It is now a series of questions: What kind of a website do you want? What functionality is required? How will you get the right eyes on your website? And most importantly: What sets your website apart from a sea of competitors?

While “free” websites are appealing (i.e. websites hosted without charge by wordpress.org or similar providers), remember that in the marketplace, there is no such thing as “free.” Businesses operate to turn a profit, not out of altruism, and hosting companies are no different. You may not be charged fees or pay for your web design template, but there is still a business transaction being made—in exchange for hosting and web design, you are populating the parent website (wordpress.org) with unique content, driving traffic to their website, and providing digital real estate for them to sell to advertisers.

Conversely, if you invest upfront in custom web design, you can create the exact website that you want, with the right look and functions to achieve your desired goals. Complete control and ownership of every detail will remain in your hands, and you will ultimately be better positioned for future growth.

The Benefits of Custom Drupal CMS websites :

1. Freedom & Scalability

As the name implies, a “custom” website allows you the freedom to customize features and functionality that are tailored to your company’s precise needs. This gives you the opportunity to bring a specific vision to life and really put your personal stamp on it. Custom Drupal websites are also scalable and adaptable to grow along with your business and its changing needs. This is particularly valuable if you want to update and maintain your website’s content yourself.

2. One-of-a-kind Web Design

Appearance counts. To present a professional image, you need to not only look good, but also look unique. If you build your website based on a template, there are potentially thousands of other websites that could look identical to yours. When your look is too similar to what’s already out there, your brand becomes obfuscated. (If you were the developer of a new soft drink, would you choose a red can with white lettering?) Your website is like your virtual packaging, and custom Drupal websites offer original web design—both in terms of unique visual web design and custom Drupal back-end code.

3. Ownership

With custom Drupal CMS websites, you own the web design and the code. With hosted websites, they own it all. This presents a challenge if you start out on a free hosted website, and then outgrow it. It is not an easy feat to just “move” your website to a new location. You don’t own the template (the theme or look of your website) or features like ecommerce software, and the hosting website will prevent you from permanently redirecting traffic to a new a website, which may mean you are forced to start over. What starts off as free does not save you any money in the long run. In addition, free hosting is not guaranteed to last forever. There may come a time when the hosting website shuts down, and you’re left high and dry—especially if you didn’t have the foresight to properly back up your content. It’s better business practice to own your own website outright and bypass these headaches.

4. SEO (Search Engine Optimization)

With custom Drupal CMS websites, you establish your own personal history with Google, and you can optimize your content to improve your ranking in search results. If you use free hosting, the template code can make SEO difficult, and ultimately you are driving traffic to the host’s URL (e.g. yoursite.wordpress.com), not one that is exclusively yours. From an SEO standpoint, it is the host and not you who benefits. Google keeps track of traffic and back links—your “link juice”—and you are basically giving away your accumulated traffic history. Your link juice cannot be transferred to a new website, so if you start out on a free hosted website, then your business expands (and you want a custom Drupal website down the road), you will again be in a position where you have to re-establish the success and following that you already accomplished. Further, with regard to professionalism, it undermines your credibility as a serious business to not have your own domain name.

5. Advertising Space

With a custom Drupal CMS website, you have complete control of your online space. You dictate how that space is used, including whether or not you will allow advertising on your website. With free hosted websites, your free theme (template) could contain hidden advertising links that benefit other websites—not only are you giving away advertising revenue to your host (or worse, third parties), but also your say in what is being advertised on your own website is abdicated. Some advertisements contain adult content, which you or your clientele may find offensive/inappropriate.

The bottom line: “You get what you pay for.”

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