There are a wide variety of methods to building a website for your business or organization. With the options in development languages, content management systems, website builders, and more, a business-owner can easily be overwhelmed with choices. However, regardless of the system you land on, or the language you choose, any website that’s built custom will almost always be the better solution in the end.
This isn’t to say that pre-built websites or templated designs aren’t fine alternatives for some people, though. There are legitimate reasons (budget, time, etc.) for a serious business to use Wix or Squarespace or any other “do it yourself,” website solution. However, our vast experience with search engines and custom websites has shown us that a custom website will almost always be able to outpace a pre-built website for search engine optimization, lead generation, and e-commerce sales.
Let's Define Our Terms
When we say “pre-built,” or “do-it-yourself,” websites, we’re using this label to describe websites that can realistically be exact copies of another website somewhere else. If your site runs on an uncustomizable or rigid template where you simply plug in your logo, brand colors, and then change some words/images, then you will have a harder to generating organic traffic over time.
While there are hundreds of these solutions out there, the most popular ones are Squarespace, Wix, GoDaddy, and Weebly. Each of these website builders offers a very low price point at a few dollars/month, with the understanding that you’re buying a template, changing out your information, and go live with relatively low effort. As the old saying goes, our experience shows that you get what you pay for.
These sites may be able to get a domain up and running for almost no cost (making them attractive to a wider amount of users), Google and other search engines are able to recognize the shared URL and duplicate code across the different sites. As a general principle, Google wants every website to be unique – unique language, design, imagery, and more. Google also gives preference to websites that are standalone – not on a shared root domain.
Most of these website builders host the actual website files on a subdomain of their own website. You can recognize this by how you edit your website. For example, if you’re using Squarespace, your editing URL will likely be something like mywebsite.squarespace.com/something. In order to get the full credit for your unique website, you need a standalone domain.
Conversely, when we say “custom” or “standalone,” we’re referencing a website that doesn’t have to redirect to another site to be managed or controlled – a website that is entirely controlled by itself. Many different content management systems or hard-coded websites will be this way.
As an illustration, most WordPress websites are managed by the WordPress CMS that’s donwloaded and installed directly onto the website server, meaning that your editing URL will look something like mywebsite.com/wp-admin or mywebsite.com/wp-login. It’s this differentiation that indicates to a search engine what websites are likely unique and original, and which are likely copies of something else.
Each business is unique. And while there may be similar businesses to yours, your branding, USP, and more need to be reflected in your overall marketing strategy. Many businesses will separate different elements like print work, social media, and website design, but your brand will be more recognizable and identifiable if your marketing is all similar in nature.
With this idea in mind, your business website needs to be able to be customized to match your overall branding. The fonts you use in your logo should either be matched or be complimented by your website fonts. Same with your colors. While many pre-built websites will allow color changes and logo changes, many of the different web design elements will be stuck in your chosen template. A custom website will all your branding to match throughout.
Similarly, your business will possible need cusotm functions to adequately serve your potential customers. Whether it’s a backend portal to view previous orders or sales receipts, a large custom form for lead an online quote, or anything in between, many solutions will only be available with a custom website.