Website builders have become an integral part of digital marketing over the past decade. As more businesses move online, the demand for easy-to-use, affordable website creation tools has skyrocketed. Website builders empower entrepreneurs, small businesses, and marketers to quickly create professional looking websites without needing to know how to code. This has dramatically expanded access to having an online presence.
In this 10000 word article, we will explore the key roles website builders play in digital marketing. We will look at how website builders have evolved to cater to marketers’ needs. We will also discuss the benefits of using website builders for digital marketing, as well as some of the limitations to be aware of. By the end, you will have a thorough understanding of how website builders are impacting digital marketing in the modern business world.
The Evolution of Website Builders
In the early days of the internet, building a website required knowledge of HTML and CSS code. The first mainstream website builders emerged in the mid-1990s, such as Microsoft’s FrontPage and Macromedia’s Dreamweaver. These tools made it possible for more people to build basic websites without needing to manually write code.
However, these early website builders still required a fair amount of technical knowledge. They were mainly used by web developers and web designers, not everyday business owners. The websites produced through these builders also typically had a very generic look and feel.
In the early 2000s, a new generation of website builders started to gain traction. Companies like Wix, Squarespace, and Weebly introduced drag-and-drop interfaces that allowed anyone to build a website. These platforms came packed with themes, templates, and design elements that enabled easy customization.
These new website builders democratized website creation for the masses. They targeted entrepreneurs, small business owners, bloggers, artists, and other non-technical people who wanted an online presence. The big selling point was the ability to create a website in just a few hours or days, without needing to code.
Some key developments that enabled these easier-to-use website builders include:
- Drag and drop interfaces for adding and arranging content
- Curated templates and themes for visual design
- Responsive design features to optimize websites for mobile
- Built-in ecommerce capabilities for selling online
- Integrations with domain registrars to purchase a domain name
- Hosting included, removing the need to find a web host
Additionally, website builders have continued to evolve by expanding their feature sets:
- Adding more robust content management system (CMS) capabilities for managing sites
- Integrating with email marketing, CRM, and other marketing tools
- Allowing for deeper customization of site functionality and design
- Launching business-specific vertical platforms such as for restaurants, hotels, or photographers
The constant evolution has made website builders a flexible, attractive option for a wide range of digital marketing needs. The learning curve has been greatly reduced, empowering those without technical expertise to capitalize on the power of websites.
Key Benefits of Website Builders for Marketing
There are a number of compelling benefits that website builders offer digital marketers:
Quick and easy website creation – The speed at which you can get a site up-and-running is a major advantage of website builders. Most boast the ability to create a website in a single day or less, which enables marketers to quickly establish their online presence.
Intuitive drag and drop interfaces – No coding skills are required with website builders. Their drag and drop interfaces and pre-made templates enable you to put together professional looking websites by simply pointing and clicking.
Affordable pricing – Paying a web developer to custom build a website can cost thousands. Website builders range from free options to plans less than $30 a month, making them an extremely budget-friendly solution.
Responsive design – Websites made with leading builders are optimized for mobile responsiveness. This allows your website content to adapt seamlessly across smartphones, tablets, laptops, and desktops.
Access to expert templates – Website builders offer an array of professionally designed templates across many niches and industries. This enables marketers to quickly build a on-brand site.
Built-in analytics – Key builders integrate with analytics tools like Google Analytics to help you track and analyze traffic and visitor behavior. This supports data-drive marketing efforts.
Robust content management – Users can easily update site content on the fly through the website builder CMS, without needing developer support. This facilitates maintaining sites long-term.
Ecommerce capabilities – Many website builders provide easy workflows for creating online stores. This allows marketers to sell products or services directly through their sites.
Seamless domain setup – Platforms integrate domain registration and setup into the website creation process, facilitating getting a branded domain.
Customer support – Leading website builders provide varying degrees of customer support resources, including documentation, chat, email, and phone assistance. This helps troubleshoot issues.
Active user communities – Vibrant online communities exist for popular website builders where users share templates, themes, and discuss best practices. This provides inspiration and learning opportunities.
The combination of these benefits allows digital marketers to establish their online presence faster, easier, and more affordably than ever before. Website builders open website creation to a whole new segment of entrepreneurs, small businesses, and marketers who lack design or technical skills.
Limitations to Consider
While website builders empower non-technical users in many ways, there are some inherent limitations to be aware of as you evaluate options:
Limited customization capabilities – You are mostly limited exclusively to the tools and options presented within the website builder platform. There is little ability to deeply customize functionality and design outside of what they provide. Advanced users may find the customization constraints challenging.
Potential for generic-looking websites – Some website builder templates are used widely across the web. It can be hard to achieve a truly unique design without extensive customization. Sites may consequently look very generic and templated.
Can feel restrictive over time – As your digital marketing needs evolve, you may find that your website builder makes it difficult to support new capabilities you want. Switching platforms or rebuilding on custom code may ultimately be needed.
Security vulnerabilities – Website builders can sometimes fail to patch vulnerabilities in their systems exposing sites to potential exploits. They may also suffer performance issues or outages. Uptime and security is fully dependent on them.
Vendor lock-in – Once you build a site on a specific website builder platform, it can be difficult to migrate away in the future. You may not be able to export all your content and design assets off their systems.
Search engine visibility challenges – Heavily templated website builder sites may be prone to duplicate content issues. More custom-built sites may have SEO advantages in some cases.
Lack of full design control – Website builders control which design options are available. If you want specific functionality the platform does not support, you may be out of luck.
Performance limitations – Website builder sites typically won’t perform as well or scale as well as fully customized sites. Performance depends on the builder’s infrastructure and scaling capabilities.
These limitations don’t negate the significant benefits, but are important to factor into your selection criteria. Evaluate which tradeoffs are acceptable for your business needs as you assess website builder options.
Selecting the Best Website Builder
With the website builder market expanding rapidly, how do you select the right platform for your digital marketing needs? Here are some key criteria to consider:
Core features – Review the website builder’s core features like templates, drag and drop editor, ecommerce tools, forms, etc. Ensure they align with the site capabilities you require.
Ease of use – Assess the user experience and learning curve required to master the platform. Opt for an intuitive builder to speed up your site building efforts.
Design quality and customization – Evaluate the design themes and customization capabilities. Look for high quality modern templates that still allow flexibility.
Scalability needs – Factor in your current and future traffic needs. Seek a builder that can easily scale with your business growth without slowdowns.
SEO optimization – Choose a platform that allows you to customize metadata, URLs, etc. to optimize for search engine visibility.
Security provisions – Understand how the website builder monitors threats and implements patches and fixes. Uptime history is important too.
Customer support – Check out the available customer service resources and respond time guarantees based on the level of help you may require.
Price – Compare pricing tiers not just on monthly cost but also domain registration, ecommerce fees, and other add-ons to calculate total cost of ownership.
Reviews – Read or watch hands-on reviews assessing the pros and cons of the builder from actual users’ perspectives.
By carefully weighing these criteria with your specific digital marketing goals and budget, you can zero in on the ideal website builder for your needs. Be sure to take advantage of free trials to actually test out the platform using your own content.
Top Website Builders for Digital Marketing
The website builder market has exploded, leaving new users with an overwhelming number of options. I will summarize some of the top website builders specifically suited for digital marketing purposes:
Wix – Wix is likely the most popular website builder today with over 200 million users. It offers an extremely easy drag and drop editor and a vast library of templates across niches. Wix also has strong ecommerce features and integrated email marketing. The main downsides are the large Wix branding and ads on free plans.
Squarespace – Squarespace emphasizes beautiful, professional looking websites. It focuses on simplicity but has powerful design capabilities like image galleries and animations. Users praise the modern templates and responsive sites. Downsides include the limited free plan and lack of phone support.
Weebly – Weebly makes it fast and straightforward to publish websites, blogs, and online stores. It has an intuitive drag and drop interface while still providing significant design flexibility. Weebly also integrates email marketing, SEO tools, and more. Some disadvantages are the basic free plan and limited ecommerce options compared to competitors.
Webflow – Webflow caters to users wanting more site design control without coding. It has robust animation tools and interactions missing in other builders. Webflow generates clean, lean code. However, the learning curve is higher and you must pay for hosting. Its power comes with more complexity.
Shopify – Shopify is the leading ecommerce-focused website builder. It streamlines creating online stores with powerful features for products, inventory, and order management. Shopify offers hundreds of themes and integrates with major payment gateways, shipping carriers, and POS systems. It lacks strong blogging features. Pricing can also get costly for high volume merchants.
These represent just a sample of the popular options worth considering. The best one depends on your specific priorities, budget, and type of website you want to create. Those focused solely on online stores may gravitate towards Shopify, while bloggers may prefer Weebly. Take time to properly evaluate your needs.
Incorporating Other Digital Marketing Tools
Modern website builders integrate into a broader digital marketing technology stack. When used alongside other tools, website builders become even more powerful:
- Email marketing – Link website forms to services like MailChimp, Constant Contact, or AWeber to centralize contacts and email campaigns.
- Social media – Incorporate social sharing buttons and feeds into sites to amplify reach.
- Analytics – Connect platforms like Google Analytics to analyze visitor interactions in depth.
- Live chat – Install live chat plugins to engage visitors and capture leads in real-time.
- CRM – Sync website contacts with CRM systems like Salesforce to manage relationships.
- SEO – Use SEO tools like Moz, Ahrefs, or Semrush to optimize on-page elements.
- PPC ads – Track website conversions driven by Google/Facebook ads back to performance.
- Site search – Add site search tools like Algolia or Swiftype to help visitors easily find content.
- Surveys – Embed survey forms from Typeform or SurveyMonkey to gather first-party data.
- Automation – Connect builders to tools like Zapier to automate workflows with visitors.
This amplification with complementary technologies is key to maximizing return from the core website investment. Even simple connectors to email and social can dramatically boost results.
Driving Business Growth With a Website Builder
At the end of the day, the measure of an effective website is the business results it produces. Website builders empower digital marketers to generate real ROI in many ways:
- Generate new leads – High quality websites establish credibility and trust with visitors to drive lead generation through calls-to-action, lead capture forms, live chats, etc.
- Shorten sales cycles – A website is often the first touchpoint in customer acquisition. An effective site provides the information buyers need to move them further through your sales funnel.
- Lower customer acquisition costs – Websites operate 24/7 as a sales and marketing engine. They allow you to reach, engage, and qualify prospects at scale and lower CAC versus one-to-one sales.
- Improve retention – Useful, engaging websites help retain customers longer through self-service access to support, account management, and ongoing communication.
- Build brand awareness – Websites showcase your brand identity, offerings, and messaging to large audiences of potential customers.
- Sell directly online – Ecommerce websites empower businesses to sell products and services to anyone, anywhere through online transactions and payments.
- Compete digitally – In today’s world, all businesses must have an online presence to remain competitive. A website builder levels the playing field.
While every business and industry has different goals, establishing a core website presence provides the digital real estate to execute diverse strategies to acquire, engage, and retain customers. Even simple websites built quickly through user-friendly builders can become the foundation of marketing success.
In closing, website builders have dramatically expanded access to creating professional websites. They enable any business, regardless of technical skills, to establish an online presence in an affordable, easy way. For digital marketers, website builders provide the tools to quickly turn websites into lead generation, sales enablement, and customer engagement engines.
Leading website builders like Wix, Squarespace, and Weebly allow you to create great-looking, feature-packed websites through drag and drop interfaces and templates. However, be aware of potential limitations around customization and scalability based on the platform chosen. Evaluating your specific goals and needs is important in selecting the right builder.
With the ability to easily connect other marketing technologies like email, analytics, and live chat, website builders become even more powerful. Ultimately, they enable marketers to drive real business growth by generating traffic, leads, and sales online. In today’s digital world, website builders have become an essential tool for marketers to gain competitive advantage.