Web design has really come a long way since the early 21st century when entertainers started creating their own sites. It used to cost tens of thousands of dollars to create a custom site, making website design not financially viable for most working actors. Now those same custom sites that were cool just a few years ago are outdated and clunky, don’t work on mobile devices, and are starting to collect dust. Fortunately, in 2016 there are myriad options for entertainers (and anyone else) who want to have their own site, and many of these options are FREE.

Free (or Freemium) vs. Paid

freemium-models-featuredThere are now dozens of sites that offer FREE sites to anyone. There is actually little various between these sites as they almost all offer Drag & Drop creation, 50-500 MB storage, up to 1 GB bandwidth, some kind of analytics, and a wide variety of templates and themes. Now let me clarify… these sites employ a FREEminum model. So each will provide a sub-domain (e.g. http://tanagermedia.wix.com/home) that helps them advertise for themselves anytime someone types in your domain name. And nearly all of the FREE site builders also advertise on your site, usually a banner in the footer area. They are called FREEmium because they have limited enough features that once you start getting comfortable with them you’ll want to upgrade to get your own domain name, more space on the site, get rid of ads, etc.

The Players

Since web design started shifting towards a more blog-centric model about ten years ago WordPress has reigned supreme in the free website market with over 75 million sites, 37 million for FREE version. However, over the last five or so years both Wix (73 million) and Weebly (30 million) have made a strong push to dethrone WP. There are also new kids Jimdo (15 million) and IM Creator (5.7 million) who are also making an impact in this market.  Other FREE site builders include: Jimdo, Light CMS, Moonfruit, SiteBuilder, Sitey, Voog, Web Flow, WebNode, Webs, Website Builder, and Yola.

 

You’ll notice that SquareSpace is not listed here. That is because while they have 1.8 million sites on the web and are one of the fastest growing builders for entertainers, they don’t currently offer a FREE option for their services (packages start at $8/month).

SEO and My Experiment

One thing that matters that isn’t provided with FREE website builders is Search Engine Optimization, or SEO. This is the code that makes it easier for people to find your site once it is placed online. You can improve the rank of your site (how high it appears in Google search results) by adding metadata (i.e. keywords and description), linking to it from other sites (i.e. social media, IMDb), and ensuring the code has no bugs. To discover which FREE site builder provides the best SEO I intend to build a website with exactly the same content using several of these services. I will link them all to and from the same sites online (presumably this website) and then play the waiting game. After 1 month, 3 months, 6 months, I will record which ones show up highest in search results and make that data available to you.

Recommendation, Who to Use

Currently, most of the FREEmium builders are very much the same in what they offer, so you’re o.k. going with any of them. WordPress is the largest player but its FREE editor is probably the most difficult to navigate. You’ll quickly want to upgrade to a paid version if you go with them. Wix, Weebly, and Yola all offer premium templates, a drop-to-drag editor, and sufficient storage space and bandwidth.  Do you have a favorite?  If so, mention it in the comments below.