Free Website Content
When Something is Free Online
What are consumer expectations when
something is free?
Realistically, consumers subconsciously assume free
means free, and while that might be the initial intent
rarely is it the case.
What Exactly Does Free Mean?
Very few things these days are free in the real
sense of the word. There are very few free items that
do not have any strings attached.
Why do Companies Offer Things for Free?
Companies or individuals may promote a free offer
or service for any number of reasons. From branding
to ad revenue, companies often use "free"
to attract attention or interest. As a consumer, it
is important to realize what "free" might
Reasons Things Are Free:
Companies may offer something in exchange for
a link back to their website. As the web becomes increasingly
more competitive, linking can effect more than just
search engine placement, and providing a product, service
or information free of charge in exchange for a link
can be a good business decision. Often, publishers will
create articles like this one and make it available
for syndication, with the stipulation being that the
author resource box that follows the article remain
intact, providing links back to the author's website.
Bottom line, authors often make content available for
syndication in exchange for links back to their websites,
which they benefit from.
Some companies provide a product or service
free of charge and generate money from advertising.
Perhaps they sell banner advertising on their website.
A free product draws web traffic so that the number
of visitors seeing the advertisement increases. The
more visitors a site attracts, typically the more revenue
generated from the ad space. Perhaps a software application
is free of charge, but has embedded advertisements.
When ads are clicked, the software developer earns a
percentage of the revenue paid for serving the advertisement.
Goodwill Branding / Public Relations
On occasion, companies will provide a product,
service or information free of charge. If the offering
is extremely magnanimous or socially sensitive, they
will often receive significant press exposure, generating
free publicity for their brand. Pepsi Cola sponsors
a number of athletic events and generates enormous amounts
of brand loyalty and positive PR with their target audience.
Sometimes companies or individuals will provide
something free in exchange for contact information.
Ebooks are often provided free of charge if you provide
an email address. The contact information may be sold
at a later time or be used to market related products.
It is important to check website privacy policies to
determine how personal information can be used.
Companies will often provide a light version
to gain attention for fee-based products or services.
This often allows potential customers to see a product's
or services potential. The hope is that providing something
free will generate both brand loyalty and interest in
fee-based options or services.
The Problem with Free
If a business or individual is truly providing something
for free, there is a cost involved. Whether time, resources
or services are consumed to provide the free item or
service there is an expense involved. If the cost is
at any point greater than the benefit or perceived benefit
of offering the free item or service, the business or
individual will likely review options to better balance
the cost-to-benefit ratio.
Companies or individuals that provide a free
product may continue to provide the item free of charge
but discontinue the support. If the item is something
like software, the expense has already occurred. By
providing the item without technical support or customer
service they can reduce their staffing costs. The only
ongoing expense to provide the item free of charge would
be ongoing hosting costs, which are usually relatively
small. If the item is critical to a business or individual's
operations, the value of the item will be lost if technical
support or customer support is no longer available.
Businesses may simply discontinue offering the
free item or service without notice.
Individuals or companies may begin requesting
donations, compensation, volunteers or a benefit listed
above in order to continue to provide the item or service
free of charge.
Often free items are of reduced or inferior
quality. Cost-conscious businesses or individuals often
try to minimize the expense associated with free items
and will use less expensive materials for free items.
There is value to "free" just
be sure that you know what it is. Next time something
is offered for free, evaluate the quid pro quo and determine
what you are giving in return, because very little is
ever really free.
About the Author:
Sharon Housley manages marketing for FeedForAll http://www.feedforall.com
software for creating, editing, publishing RSS feeds
and podcasts. In addition Sharon manages marketing for
a wireless text messaging software company.
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