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I make no apology - this is another warning post!

A friend of mine Skyped me from Spain the other day and suggested that I make some sort of public protest about large companies that offer free online website building.

He'd just heard from a friend who'd been caught out by a very well-known company - with a very unexpected bill.

I know it's hackneyed - but if you're offered something for free - you can be sure that there's bound to be a catch. No one gives stuff away for free.

My chum's friend had bought herself a domain name for her new business and almost by return received an email offering a free website to go with it. She was not coming down with cash so she took the soft option and went with the suggestion. She managed to build her website - although the task had taken a great deal more time than she'd expected it to. So she was horrified when she received an email saying her new website would be deleted if she didn't pay a certain monthly fee.

You'll get trapped with no way out

I've heard many tales about how difficult it is to remove yourself from being tied in with large companies. One customer was even paying large marketing bills to one company - only to find that these fees were not helping her business enquiries one little bit. Deciding to move her domain name away and start afresh, there began a nightmare which went on for a long time. She tried phoning but couldn't speak to anyone to action this (different person each time she tried) - emails went unanswered and she really had nowhere to go.

They own your content

Many people who start with a free website and then want to move to a different service, find it impossible to move their site content and find that the content including photos is copyrighted.

Are you an experienced SEO expert?

Do you know how to get your new website seen in the search engines? - I tell you, it's a whole industry in itself.

Many online website builders have limited scope for SEO and will often provide only very basic search engine optimisation for free but demand hefty charges for any further work - which you most definitely will need.

Google unfriendly

Any web designer worth his salt will work with Webmaster Tools to work on the optimisation on a website. Unfortunately, with many website builders, it's not possible to verify the sites and gain access to vital stats - like monitoring site down time, crawl rates, broken links, sitemaps and search traffic.

They are exactly what they are

Online site builders look cheap and off the mass production line - you may think your customers won't be clever enough to work out the difference, but they'll certainly know something is very odd about it. Would you spend money on someone who didn't appear to care about his own work?

Please contact me if you'd like to discuss a new website - I won't put any pressure on you.