We are faced with answering this question all the time. Mostly after someone has invested money or a lot of time using a builder for it to not perform as they were expecting or being impossible to find in the search engines.
Like anything, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. The larger build-it-yourself websites have good marketing to make someone feel they can easily build a site and also bring someone a sense of accomplishment. There are many issues with builders, but the most important is know-how with programming and even more importantly being found in the search engines.
Most of the top builders will have a section explaining how well they do with their SEO tools as professional developers scoff at how they are misleading their technology. Then after several months or years, those same builders will tout a new and improved SEO solution that fixes the broken version that they claimed was great at the time. This cycle continues and these builders have a lot of drawbacks when it comes to search engines. They have excessive code for anything YOU MAY use, offering all the opportunities for everything and the kitchen sink. With this mentality, the code gets in the way of translating non-professionals creating a site through tools to make it look somewhat professional. The other main issue is that search engines do not like duplicate content. Right after that, they do not like duplicate code. It comes across as something overly replicated and the spiders will fail to delineate your site from the others.
Because of how difficult it is for the search engines to properly scan your content in a builder, it is hit or miss of what they see and what they do not see. The first thing we do is take a sentence or two of original content from the site and use a search engine to find it. If they cannot locate the exact content, that is a major red flag. If they can, but it is spotty of them to categorize you correctly, missing main sections or phrases, that is a red flag as well. There is too much code in the way of your content and too similar code to other sites for the search engines to give you the best opportunity to be indexed correctly. These builders start a leg down as their code will never validate (blog link) to successfully communicate to the search engines from the jump.
The builders also cater to very simplified sites. If your business needs any kind of specialized function or anything over a brochure site or maybe a simple store, you will fall short with the builders with functionality as well. They are casting a large net on the most common of solutions and are doing a bad job of it. The question we usually ask when people are frustrated with a builder underperforming is since the business owner isn’t a professional developer, what software or aid could we use to replace their knowledge and know-how? This may be a frustrating question, but it illustrates the right idea. If they are relying on the search engines to bring leads, you want a developer that can create a site that promotes that, not a gimmick that makes you feel like you can cut corners and be as successful.
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