Just as SMBs struggle to differentiate themselves from their competition, web design companies are numerous enough that it takes something extra to stand out. Some companies compete on price, others on services. The value-added proposition for Hibu? A focus on all – well, most – things local for small and medium businesses.
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|Reviewed by Expert Market:||01/03/2019|
Hibu serves a range of businesses, including mortgage companies, import/export brokers, realtors, therapists, bookkeepers, HVAC, movers, insurers, and cash-for-gold businesses. Their focus is on local business, and their services are geared toward getting high-quality local traffic.
There’s something of a caveat, however: they’re not geared toward ecommerce, so if you’re complementing your brick-and-mortar storefront with an online presence, you’re better off with a competitor like Shopify, Volusion, BigCommerce, or GoDaddy. They don’t have quite the same emphasis on local marketing, but these companies offer SEO services alongside their ecommerce capabilities.
What Makes Hibu Unique?
Few digital companies boast an 80-year history. First founded in the UK as a division of Post Office Telecommunications, it eventually became Yellow Pages, then Yell, then – after a leveraged buyout and the acquisition of key competitors like Yellowbook in selected territories – Hibu. Convoluted as it is, that history has its advantages. Not least of these is that the company offers print marketing services in tandem with their web products. These include:
- Online listing and review management
- Social marketing
- Search marketing
- Display advertising
- Search optimization
- Directory services
Going Mobile with Hibu
Most web design companies recognize the importance of mobile sites as part of an online marketing strategy, and Hibu is no exception. That’s the good news (especially since Google penalizes websites that are not mobile-responsive).
Now the not-as-good news: in contrast to their competitors, which setup your website’s backend to ensure compatibility across a range of devices (this is the approach taken by GoDaddy, Wix, and Volusion, among others), Hibu requires the building and maintenance of a separate mobile site.
This approach has some advantages. For example, sites typically perform better and with fewer glitches on mobile. But it also has drawbacks in terms of added expenses and duplicated effort if you’re updating your site since everything needs to be updated twice.
Hibu provides four categories of SEO services.
- Off-Page SEO: Your site is built and tagged for SEO compliance.
- On-Page SEO: Site copy, photos, and other elements are tweaked to ensure SEO compliance, and checks are performed for duplicate content.
- SEM: Search Engine Marketing relies on paid advertising on search engines to boost site visibility.
- Social: Your company presence can be extended to Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and Google+ so you’re reaching your customers where they are.
Hibu’s customer support generally earns high marks. However, they have an enormous customer base, and – as we’ve seen with competitors like GoDaddy and Web.com – that can lead to long wait times. You also won’t find the same level of support that you’d get from a smaller company, or from higher-tier plans at larger competitors with dedicated account managers.
The Right Source for Novice Designers?
The answer here is a qualified “Yes.” The company handles hosting and domains in-house. The initial design, which is handled in-house by Hibu, goes very smoothly by most reports. Your involvement in the process is vital (as with any other company) not only in terms of choosing a site design and layout, but also with regard to assembling appropriate site content.
The larger issue comes later in the process. Once your site is up and running, updating isn’t quite as easy as advertised. This may stem in part from the fact that Hibu, unlike companies like GoDaddy, Wix, or Web.com which all assume you’ll be doing most of the design work yourself, handles design in-house. Many customers find their content management system cumbersome. Taken in tandem with the touch-and-go nature of their tech support, that can make updating something a challenge.
This need not be a deal-breaker. It’s worth asking yourself how often you intend to update your site before you start.
Hibu Pricing: Worth the Money?
Unlike competitor websites, Hibu is far from transparent about their pricing. Each service listed comes at a price. The largest is an up-front design fee, which averages between $400 and $600 (depending on available promotions). Hosting averages out to $100 per month.
Hibu’s design costs are competitive. Their hosting, however, is not. Once you’ve accounted for the price of other services, your cost per year can be higher than you might expect. As high as some companies’ top-tier plans, in fact. But, the difference is that Hibu’s pricing includes services like graphic design which typically cost extra and can add up quickly.
Hibu Pros and Cons
A la Carte Pricing: Hibu’s up-front costs make it seem expensive on the surface but when you factor in all that’s included in the plans this isn’t the case.
Ease of Use: As mentioned above, updating your website with Hibu takes time. However, if you seldom need to make immediate changes to your website than this won’t be a problem.
Ownership: You don’t own your domain (unless you’ve had the foresight to purchase it ahead of time) or your site. You are, in effect, leasing both from Hibu. Many customers report that domain transfers are difficult and site transfers more or less nonexistent, effectively locking you into the service for the duration unless you start from scratch with another provider. Similarly, unless you’ve claimed your presences on directory sites, review sites, and elsewhere ahead of time, you’ll have to wrest them back from the company if you leave, since they “claim” those listings on your behalf.
Promotions: Two of the company's services -- display advertising (banner ads) and directory services (essentially, ads in the Yellowbook print directory) -- aren't nearly as effective as others. Banner ads have a notoriously low click-through rate and therefore low conversions; that problem is only compounded by the widespread availability of ad-blocking plugins for many browsers. As for directory services... well, when's the last time a paper directory was your first stop when finding or researching your vendors? And after the Google “Farmer” update, online directories don’t carry the same SEO “juice” they once did.
The Bottom Line: Is Hibu Right For Your Business?
For a first website, Hibu’s ease of building and hosting makes them attractive. Their focus on local marketing is also done well. They’ve changed with the times to retain a sizeable customer base, and their reviews are generally positive.
However, the cost of the service tends to weigh against using them for a redesign, and their services aren’t suited to working on third-party sites, so they wouldn’t be a good choice for outsourced SEO and SEM. They do offer promotions on design that can take the sting out of the upfront design cost, but we suggest getting a quote to ensure you’re getting a good deal.