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own HTML/CSS design and add in the special SBI tags, you’re stuck with choosing from less than a dozen really lame and outdated themes (mid ’90s).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 Toban Wiebe

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.
This entry was posted in Lifehacks. Bookmark the permalink.

62 Responses to A Negative Review of Site Build It (SBI)

  1. Jetrent says:

    Thanks for the good honest review. I wish I had the smarts to abandon SBI early on like you did.

    Instead I worked my fingers to the bone on my SBI site and wound up with bony fingers.

    I currently have a SBI site Konafriends.com which just had it's 4th birthday and makes about $100 per month after thousands of hours of work.

    If your readers would like to read another fair SBI review, I started a blog about it at http://my-sbi-experience.blogspot.com/ because my site is listed in SBI's top 1% directory of sites and I'm getting tired of answering emails from people who seen my site in SBI's directory and want to know how much money I'm making.

  2. Pingback: Site Build it – Don’t Buy It « Make Money Online for Beginners

  3. Wintson says:

    You posted on PD for Dummies and said you got banned from Steve Pavlina's forums, but it doesn't say you are banned. Does that make you a liar? I would have to say yes. How could you actually say something so outrageous, like you got BANNED from the forums for writing a post that you didn't like SBI? That would be ludicrous and I have proof you are not banned on SP PDFSP forums, so how can I take anything else you say seriously?

    • Toban says:

      Perhaps I have been unbanned. In any case, my account had stopped working and I could only view the forums when logged out. Whether that counts as "banned" or "disabled" is irrelevant, the point is that I was prevented from using my account and posting.

  4. Vince says:

    Here's a little more mellow negative review:
    http://brandbuildit.com/wordpress-vs-site-build-i

  5. Joerg says:

    Hi Toban,

    After reading your self portrait I was reminded of: http://www.frtommylane.com/stories/birth/twins.ht
    It's some room for thought.

    And thank you for your review of SBI. I did go back to them to see what their attitude regarding a business plan is. In a nutshell: too many variables.
    If it's too many variables how will anyone succeed except a few lucky ones like the ones winning the lottery?
    This Business Plan Avoidance isn't SBI specific though. Whenever I ask (like the one who made $150,000 last month: he should know what he did, what resources he used and how much money he spent to make this income) there is no answer.
    You hear it all the time: When you fail to plan you plan to fail.
    Who would want to fail?

    Thanks again and best regards

    Joerg

  6. Rick Hart says:

    I totally agree. Site Build It has just gotten too far behind the curve. Too bad. Because they really do offer a great education for a beginner.

    Just wish they would update a few things, like the templates and the FTP interface.

    I share a lot more on my http://www.sitebuildit-review-blog.com site.

    Rick

  7. Pamela says:

    I agree SBI isn't for everyone. You need to be some one who is willing to follow the action guide and put in a LOT of hard work. I've tried setting up websites before but never got the traffic that i do with SBI within 1 year I was earning £$150 a month and that grows every month.

  8. Clayton says:

    Sitesell, Ken Evoy and Renegade marketer, Ann Sieg pow-wow up a fantastic following by confusing MLM newbies about "Internet Network Marketing." Their clever newbie scheme is likely derived from the book, Science and Influence by Dr Robert Cialdini. Cialdini's book is mentioned in the Renegade ebook ($67).

    Renegade author, AnnSieg and Ken Evoy of SiteSell, bridge MLM trust and credibility by telling

    newbies desiring to become Internet Network Marketers, how that traditional methods of MLM have never worked, because it didn't work for Ann and other Renegades that had a rough go at it.

    Mr SiteSell and the Ann Renegade are supposedly the Online MLM experts now, because they have had thousands of affiliates writing "Scam or Legit?" articles building their passive income.

    Ken Evoy uses the testimonies of Work at Home Mothers, WHAM members in his newsletter campaigns, to glorify and promote the SITESELL conferences, instead of their Network Marketing meetings, which he says to skip.

    In one of the training articles on Network Marketing at SiteSell, Social Turtle Ken Evoy, tells Network Marketers to "skip" the MLM corporate events.

    After much programing and debriefing, enlightened and penniless InterNetwork Marketers,

    are finally conditioned to believe that: "my business is my website and any network marketing company that I am associated with is part of my 'monetization mix'.

    When Renegade MLMers get to SiteSell, Ken Evoy suits them up with the name, "InterNetwork Marketers." This is really just a euphemism for Network Marketers trying to make it at Sitesell.

    Two or three MLM token site testimonies are used to perpetuate the racket at SiteSell, but

    these converted renegades seldom mention anything about sharing in or building Network Marketing distribution networks, just retail residual sales.

    "InterNetwork Marketers" arriving from Renegade book sales are sent on Sieg and Evoy's "Trail of Tears," which is SiteSell's Renegade Reservation (the deserted and pathetic Network Marketing Forums).

    After much pre-selling and conditioning, the SiteSell setup soon becomes obvious. $300 is forked over and these Savage MLMers, and other Traditional Network Marketers arriving at the reservation, are taught to lose their marketing ways and use the Affiliate Five Pillar Program.

    "InterNetwork Marketers" are stripped of their beliefs of making passive residual income from Network Marketing and instead are conditioned to promote Renegade books and SiteSell for

    affiliate pocket change.

    Multi-level affiliates and network marketers alike are paid on this $67 Renegade book, and $75 from

    SiteSell for perpetuating this sad MLM affiliate racket. ANN Sieg knows that SiteSell Network Marketing forums are deserted. She also knows that deep down Evoy probably despises network marketers.

    If you are not a Network Marketer, I would say that SiteSell for SITE BUILD IT, the webmaster forums, and other great tools is not a ripoff.

    http://www.scam.com/showthread.php?t=28672

    http://mlm-lies-exposed.blogspot.com/search?updat

  9. Lizette says:

    Everything said regarding SBI technology is true. I subscribed for a year, then didn't renew. I moved my sites to cheaper hosting. I'm technically competent and found the tools too limiting and slow.

    But the major benefit for me was learning about marketing, sales, what works, what doesn't, what is a customer, what is a niche, absolutely EVERYTHING about making money from a website. Until I joined SBI for a year, I was a clueless mug in this regard. I am a techie but completely hopeless with business. I credit SBI training for every cent I make on the web these days. And I'm still learning and only just getting it right. I floundered around for years before joining SBI. My income went from approx 1 cent a month to a few hundred dollars a month over the span of a few months. because of what I learnt with SBI.

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  12. I had 2 SBI! website and was happy with them but I did not like what I personally done with my own sites so I shut them down. I do have to say this, if you can NOT afford $0.83 a day ($300 a year). then you need to evaluate your life style then. if you can not afford to start a business then you don't qualify to start a business of any kind. it takes money to make money. I will be buying another site from SBI! and already saved the name for my site called http://multi-level-marketing-for-beginners.com I already have written a page called "Wealth from Flat Broke". $300 for SBI! and what it has to offer is CHEAP! I see more SBI! sites in the top search of google (only search engine I use) that most any other web host out there.

  13. Mandy says:

    Thank you for this review Toban. Starting a website(not just a blog) is something I plan on doing and for awhile, I thought that SBI! was the only way for me because I don't know any HTML. There is a lot of options out there for new people like me if you are willing to take the time to look for it.

    Well after reading reviews from previous SBIers as well as others who did it on their own, I am pleased to say that getting SBI! is something I will not be doing! There are many who like SBI and that's great but I much prefer going at this on my own.

    By taking a little extra time to do research, any newbie to websites can find all the information they need to start their own site without having to shell out $300 a year for just one site. Many web hosting sites offer site builders that contain templates that look far better then what you see on a SBI site and you can create your own using coding. Not to mention you pay less for more with a hosting site.

    One of the hosting sites I'm considering is Hostgator and if I get the Baby plan, I will get unlimited bandwidth, unlimited domains all for $230 for 3 YEARS! I can make, for example, five websites for $230 whereas five sites with SBI would cost me $1500.

    As for keywords, there are many great keyword tools out there that are free and at least with hosting sites, you can leave and get your site(s) transferred to another hosting site. I've read from previous SBIers that is pretty much impossible to do with an SBI site.

  14. JamesB58 says:

    I've been SBIer since 2007 but I've had enough and will move my site. It gets a lot of traffic and makes money but the whole sitesell thing is just too much of a cult. I reviewed http://www.howcultswork.com/ and about everything you read applies to SBI.

    Man, I'm actually afraid to post this under my real name. I guess that says it all.

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  17. Reesie says:

    Well, I'm trying to use a Joomla & Hostgator combo for my music portal site because SBI doesn't offer enough media storage — but, I'm pulling my hair out! I retired from 30 great years as a business consultant to focus on my writing and music. I created an SBI travel advice site "by the book" (I'm not an SBI affiliate — just not my thing.) as a test run, before doing my music site. I chose SBI because it appeared to let me focus on writing with a content focus, and aside from what I call "hokey" graphics, the strategy made better business sense than any of the "magic trick" garbage I could see right through elsewhere on the web. I don't know a lick of html, and don't want to, so I used the building block tool to create my pages, and yes, one of SBI's kind of boring templates. To my amazement, my site was profitable the first month I went live (with only 60 pages), By the second month, I had 10 #1-Google pages, and 20 in the top 10! I now have 30 in the top 10. The income (I only threw on Adsense) has then paid all of my overhead to start-up my music — and still is. And I haven't touched the site since I first went live! I just collect the money. That's the good story — back to the bad story. I so want to call up SBI and see if there isn't a way to move my entire music portal site to SBI — or find a Joomla SBI! I spend most of my time doing tech crap instead of writing and uploading music! ARGHH@#$%^!!!!! Bottomline, while SBI isn't near as pretty as Apple, they are Apple to me and everything else is Microsoft! I know it's not right, but I curse the Bill Gates of the world on a daily basis! More Steve Jobs and Ken Evoy please (maybe Steve can channel some style finesse to Ken, but you can't have everything)!!!

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