A Negative Review of Site Build It (SBI)

Site Build It! (SBI) is an all-in-one website creation, hosting and marketing tool from Ken Evoy’s SiteSell Inc. It makes it simple for someone to create and market their own income-producing website. I ordered SBI in March of 2008. Ultimately, I came away disappointed.

The Hype

There’s a lot of hype about SBI on the internet. A Google search turns up an avalanche of positive reviews, mostly from affiliates. It’s hard to even find a negative review! Add to this that other non-affiliates say good things about it. Even blogging king Steve Pavlina strongly recommends it (and probably makes a fortune doing so).

I think the affiliates generate most of the hype—there are swarms of them out there. SiteSell relies 100% on affiliate marketing for its sales. The affiliate program offers a $75 commission per referral, lifetime renewal commissions and 2 tier income. This motivates lot of people to become affiliates and push SBI as a miracle product for creating content-based income websites. All these sales websites effectively drown out any negative reviews in the search engine results.

After my experience with SBI, I was shocked that there weren’t more negative reviews out there. This motivated me to make my own contribution.

A rare negative review

I don’t think SBI is a scam, but it’s not for everyone. The actual value in SBI is the education, not the technology. It could be useful for someone who doesn’t know much about computers or the web. But for someone capable of installing software like WordPress at their own host (which is really easy), SBI would be more of a hindrance than a help.

Here’s my point-by-point review:

Appearance

I’m not sure if it’s a conscious effort on their part, but everything from SBI looks like it’s from the infancy of the web. The main SiteSell website sports a design that I would date back to the late ’90s. The administrator interface is the worst—it looks ancient (early ’90s) and it’s terribly ugly. Fortunately, these are unimportant cosmetic issues that have no bearing on the success of your website. Unfortunately, the SBI themes are no better. Unless you can make or find your own HTML/CSS design and add in the special SBI tags, you’re stuck with choosing from less than a dozen really lame and outdated themes (mid ’90s). This is a big problem, because first impressions are so important on the web.

My rating: 3/25

Educational resources

SBI’s strength is in education. Someone who knows nothing about creating and marketing a website may find their Action Guide handy. Then again, with a bit of patience you could find all the information you need for free online (in fact, the Action Guide is free). SBI just boils it down and explains it in simple terms so you don’t have to do the research. The weekly email newsletter contains informative articles and links to good forum threads. The forums have a great reputation: there is a very helpful and supportive online community. You can even get free forum access (read-only) by signing up for the affiliate program. Yet I can’t fully endorse the educational resources: they’re often simplistic and fluffy, aimed at very novice webmasters. Personally, I would just do my own research at a few different sources. So, while there is some value in the educational resources, you can access them for free or do the research yourself.

My rating: 18/25

Technology

For market research, SBI has a useful brainstorming tool for doing keyword analysis. It uses Wordtracker‘s keyword research service (SBI users get 25 queries per year). If keyword research is important to you, you could just use Wordtracker’s free trial or subscribe for one month. Or try a free alternative like Keyword Discovery.

The built-in blogging functionality is downright awful, but you can get around it by installing whatever blogging software you want on a subdomain (eg. blog.domain.com). However, there’s a catch: SBI won’t host it, so you have to buy separate hosting.

There are some handy tools like a Google Sitemap generator and automatic search engine pinging, but these features are free (and better) with software like WordPress or Joomla.

The control panel (Site Central) is pretty basic, without many features. It does make things simple, but it’s terribly limiting for more advanced users. File management is also pretty cumbersome—you can’t create any directories, so all of your pages have to sit in the root folder. I would avoid SBI due to these constraints alone.

My rating: 8/25

Price

In my opinion, SBI is outrageously priced at $300 per website per year. And if you want a blog or forum, you have to pay for 3rd party hosting on top of that. In comparison, domains only cost $8 per year. Hosting for a single domain costs $60 per year, or $100 for unlimited domains. Throw in a free software tool like WordPress and you have a way better setup for a fraction of the cost.

My rating: 1/25

Summary

If you find yourself lured by the sales talk, don’t bite. The SBI features and tools may sound impressive, but you have to compare them to the alternatives. I’ve found free alternatives that are much better than SBI’s offerings. The only thing of value that they offer is education, but they put that out for free. There’s no reason to buy the product. If you’re still undeterred, at least try WordPress so you can compare them and see the difference.

With a score of 30%, SBI gets a big red FAIL:

Appearance: 3/25
Education: 18/25
Technology: 8/25
Price: 1/25

Total: 30/100

A better way: Open source over proprietary technology

Being disappointed with SBI, I tried out some free open-source content management systems (CMS). The top three are Joomla, Drupal and WordPress. Joomla was pretty good, but I found it a bit hard to learn and too bulky for my needs. I haven’t tried Drupal yet; it’s the most fully featured, but the hardest to learn. WordPress was just perfect—easy to install, very intuitive, and a great selection of themes and plugins to make it do just about anything. I was very impressed—WordPress blows SBI out of the water!

Open source is better—Firefox is one of the best examples. In addition to the CMSes I mentioned above, there are plenty of high-quality open-source web applications, such as phpBB, MediaWiki, Movable Type, etc. If you’re worried about support, the free forum support usually suffices. If that’s not good enough, you can hire someone from Elance. Open source software is constantly being improved and bugs are fixed almost immediately. Best of all, you don’t pay a cent. It’s simply a smart idea to use flexible open-source technology as opposed to restrictive proprietary technology.

Final verdict

If you’re computer or web illiterate, your best bet is to skip SBI and hire someone to make a website for you. If you have the skills (or the potential to learn the skills) to set up WordPress or another CMS at your own host, then do it. It’s easier than ever to set up a great looking website for under $75/year. In this age of free software and cheap hosting, I foresee a dark future for SBI.

My experience with SBI was one big letdown. I transferred my domain out well before my subscription expired. I strongly discourage using Site Build It, no matter how good the affiliates make it sound. SBI is so bad, you couldn’t even pay me to use it!

Further reading

Update (March 25, 2009): there has been an explosion of negative reviews of SBI after Lis Sowerbutts’ negative review triggered a massive comment war which saw Ken Evoy and his minions battling Lis and her internet marketing friends. I’ve added a few of the new links to the ‘Further reading’ section above.

About Autor

I’m an undergrad student ultimately aiming for an economics PhD. In a nutshell, I’m an atheist, market anarchist, and paleo health enthusiast. In other words, I reject God, Government, and Grain.
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