Zoho Sites is an “instant website builder” that allows you to create visually appealing websites in minutes using an intuitive drag-and-drop tool. No experience is required. You can even create your site for free and get free hosting as well.
There are three upgrade options that provide additional features such as basic e-commerce tools. Note: if you have purchased any of Zoho Corporation’s other software suites, you already have access to Zoho Sites.
The Zoho Sites builder is part of Zoho Corporation, which currently services over 25 million customers and owns three lines of products: ManageEngine, WebNMS, and Zoho, a suite of cloud-based business applications.
- Why Zoho Sites?
- Using the Site Builder
- Increasing Customer Engagement
- Publishing Your Site
- The Google Connection
- Uptime and Downtime
- Plans and Subscriptions
- Pricing and Billing
- Help/Customer Support
- Conclusion: Is Zoho Sites Right for You?
Why Zoho Sites?
You don’t need any web design experience or technical knowledge to build your website. You start by selecting a design template from Zoho’s collection. All of the design templates are responsive, or mobile-friendly. That means your site will look good on any screen size or device, including smartphones. Using the drag-and-drop editor, you can customize your template to reflect your business’ needs and your design preferences. The themes are all professionally designed. Rest assured: your efforts won’t look amateurish.
Zoho Sites has numerous time-saving features that will make your life easier after your site launches.For example, if you create an online store and need to make frequent updates to products (pricing, models, etc), all you have to do is create the update in the database. All pages on your site that feature that product will automatically update.
If you’re creating an online store, not just a web presence for your brick-and-mortar business, you can easily add basic e-commerce features and integrate with useful apps. For example, some Zoho Sites packages include a product gallery, where you can list the items for sale. You can connect your site with PayPal so that your customers can check out easily and securely. The included multimedia tools, such as slideshows, image optimization, and support for videos allow you to leverage a variety of visual marketing techniques to showcase your products.
Zoho Sites gives you unlimited file storage and bandwidth, so you never have to worry about running out of space or your site being unavailable due to heavy traffic loads.
Many site builders, especially those that are free, offer you their services in exchange for being able to place ads on your site. Often you don’t get any input on the ads that are shown on your site. For users of the free version of this website builder, the only space you give up is a small spot in the footer of your website. That’s where the Zoho Sites logo and a link that says, “Create a Free Website” will appear. This is tasteful and unobtrusive and shouldn’t distract any of your visitors.
Using the Site Builder
Signing up for a free Zoho Sites account is as easy as providing an email address and password. You’re immediately redirected to the themes page, where you can choose your design template. There are over a hundred themes from which you can choose from, and despite the presence of a section for responsive themes, Zoho does claim that all of their themes are mobile-friendly.
You can browse by industry as well. The themes are grouped by business or hobby sectors like Art/Photography, Furniture, Fashion, Construction, Real Estate, NonProfit, and Music.
Once you’ve chosen your theme, you’re led to the drag-and-drop editor where you can customize your theme according to your tastes and website objectives. Whether you change just the images and text or you do a complete overhaul, you can do so easily.
At the top of the editor are four tabs: elements, forms, apps, and commerce.
The elements tab lets you do things like adjust your fonts, change your layout, add images and multimedia features, and create new pages (called tabs) for your site.
The forms tab is where you would create online forms to collect contact information from your visitors. Options include a newsletter subscription sign up page or a Contact Us page.
When creating a new form, you can use one of the pre-built form templates, alter a provided template, or create one from scratch. If you’re creating a basic contact form, you have the option of embedding the name, email, phone number, and comment fields directly onto your site. You can access the data you’ve collected from the form in the Manage > Contact Manager > Form Data area of the site builder. If you have another tool for handling this data, you can export your data to import into your data management suite.
With an upgraded site builder subscription and a subscription to Zoho’s Customer Relationship Management (CRM) suite, you can use the site builder to build forms collecting data that gets fed into your CRM system.
Getting contact information from interested site visitors is critical for your marketing success. So take time to think creatively about what you could offer a site visitor in return for their contact information.
The Apps tab is a plus: it lets you integrate your site easily with social media, payment services such as PayPal, APIs such as Google Maps, and more. Note: you may not have access to a specific feature, even if it appears in your toolbar, if you haven’t upgraded your plan from the free version to the appropriate paid subscription. For example, the free version does not allow you to add comment boxes or PayPal integration to your site.
The Commerce tab is where you would list or manage the details regarding the products you’re selling (if you’re building an online store). While users of all plans can see this area, you can only use this feature if you’ve upgraded to the Professional version of Zoho Sites.
When you’re done building your site, you can preview your site by hovering over the green Publish button in the top right corner. Curious what your site will look like on tablets and smartphones? You can preview that as well.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
By default, your site is not added to search engines. You’ll need to register your site manually with search engines before it can be found.
The site builder does, however, include basic Google tools, which allow you to manage your title, description, and keywords for SEO on a page-by-page basis. (This is the information that is displayed on a search engine results page.)
If there are any pages that you don’t want to be indexed, you can set the
robots.txt file for that page to hide the results from Google.
While using Zoho Sites doesn’t require any knowledge of HTML or CSS, those who are acquainted with either of these languages can use the HTML/CSS editor to further customize an existing theme, add custom code, and personalize a site.
Increasing Customer Engagement
Engaging with your customers is easy with Zoho’s support for blogging and social media. You can easily embed a blog onto your site. This allows you to create blog posts and engage in two-way dialogue with your visitors via the comment box feature. Social media integration makes it easy to push updates to Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn pages.
If you’re looking to get started with email marketing, you can utilize Zoho Sites’ forms feature to create beautiful and functional forms to gather sign up information from your visitors. You can also set up event registration pages. And you can create and run online surveys to capture visitor feedback. (From a marketing perspective it’s a good idea to regularly capture feedback from your site visitors.)
Publishing Your Site
To publish the site you’ve built, you’ll need to do one of three things:
- Register for a new domain
- Map your existing domain if you have a domain registered with another host (Zoho Sites is only a domain reseller, not a registrar, so you can’t transfer your existing domain to Zoho Sites)
- Get a free subdomain (such as
If you’re using the free version of Site Builder, your site will run on the free ZohoSites subdomain. To serve your site using a custom domain, you’ll have to upgrade to a paid Site Builder plan.
Zoho Sites offers dynamic content management, which means that as soon as you update something and publish your site, it is live right away. However, if you ever need to unpublish something, you can do so with just a few clicks. One benefit of the premium site builder subscription, is that it allows you to revert to an earlier version of your site at any time, since Zoho Sites automatically backs up each of your pages.
Purchasing a Domain from Zoho Sites
Because Zoho Sites is a domain reseller, you can purchase a new domain for your site from Zoho at any time if you’ve also upgraded to a paid Zoho Sites subscription. If you do, each domain name comes with 25 email inboxes. (You can purchase additional inboxes.)
Domains are nonrefundable.
The Google Connection
Zoho prides themselves on their easy integration with Google’s suite of apps. In addition to single sign-on, where you can use your Google account to also sign into Zoho, you can:
- Add a customized search bar to your site
- Use Google Analytics to get insights into your visitors, traffic patterns, content performance, email marketing, and e-commerce.
- Display affiliate ads to increase revenue coming in from your site
- Use Webmaster Tools to monitor your site and diagnose any issues you might see.
Uptime and Downtime
Zoho Sites offers unlimited bandwidth, so no matter how much traffic your site gets, it will always be available to your visitors. The company also guarantees an uptime of 99.9% excluding scheduled maintenance and updates (however, they promise that all updates and maintenance periods will be publicized in advance).
Plans and Subscriptions
Using your Zoho Sites account, you can create up to five websites (you can purchase a license to build additional websites on annual bases).
All users can create an unlimited number of pages, allocation of storage space, and galleries/slideshows, a blog, support for hidden pages, two forms, two sets of dynamic content, and a limit of 10 MB per file.
For those needing more features and looking to upgrade, Zoho Sites offers three different plans from which you can choose:
- Basic: In addition to the features you get with the free edition, you get to use a custom domain with the site you built, no ads, you get 301 redirect service so that old site URLs (if you have them) lead to the related new page url, and support for other dynamic features and three more forms. Your storage limit also goes up to 100 MB.
- Standard: On top of the features that come with the free and basic versions of the site builder, you get the ability to use SSL certificates (though you have to provide the certificate itself), support for newsletters, password-protected services, support for five additional forms, and an additional webmaster account.
- Professional: At the top of the list is the professional package, which gets you everything in the free, basic, and standard versions. However, the biggest additions that you get with the Professional package are e-commerce features. In addition to PayPal integration, you get a member portal and ability to display up to 25 products. You’ll also get additional support for more authors, ten additional forms, and additional dynamic content.
Pricing and Billing
When purchasing a subscription to the site builder, you have the option of paying on a monthly basis or a yearly basis. However, if you to pay upfront for an annual subscription, you’ll get two months free, regardless of the plan you choose.
If you’re unsatisfied with the package that you’ve purchased, Zoho will work with you to resolve any issues you’re facing. However, if that’s not possible, they will give you a full refund within the first 30 days and downgrade you to the free service so that you don’t lose your data.
If you’ve purchased an annual subscription, Zoho Sites offers a 45-day money back guarantee.
Additionally, if Zoho ever removes, breaks, or discontinues functionality that was available when you signed your contract (regardless of whether it’s a monthly contract or an annual contract), you can contact them to receive a pro-rated refund for the remainder of your contract.
You can downgrade your subscription at any time from the Zoho accounts area.
Hidden in the middle of Zoho’s Terms of Service is the clause that says that your account must remain active. Otherwise, they’ll delete your account. While they do not define specifically what “active” means, Zoho deleting your account means that you will lose all of your data.
Zoho Sites has staff offering email support 24 hours per day, five days per week. For critical customer service issues, they also offer telephone support. They promise to respond to all support tickets within 24 hours. You can escalate using an email address dedicated to escalated incidents.
For those looking for self-help resources, Zoho offers the following:
- A user guide, feature a complete how-to on using all of Zoho Sites features
- A section of FAQs
- Video tutorials that cover the most important functions of Zoho Sites
- Blogs, which are the go-to sources for news on feature additions and announcements
- Community, a message board where you can post questions, get answers, and help other people solve their issues
Conclusion: Is Zoho Sites Right for You?
Zoho Sites is a solid site builder that lets you create mobile-friendly, professional-looking websites in just minutes. Its easy-to-use drag-and-drop editor means that you don’t need any design experience or technical knowledge. You can start today. Zoho has removed any obstacles that might keep you from realizing your website vision. Special features like the HTML/CSS editor allow those with some technical skills to customize the appearance in a granular way.
If you’re on a budget, you can’t go wrong with the free version of Zoho Sites. You do give up a very small amount of real estate at the bottom of your site to display the Zoho logo and a link to their product. Also, your site can only be reached with a Zoho Sites affiliated subdomain. However, for just a couple of dollars a month, you can remove both restrictions, making your site appear more professional. Those who opt to pay upfront for an annual contract can save a bit, since you’ll get two months free.
However, for those who are looking to do more than building an online presence for their business and open up an ecommerce store, Zoho Sites might not be the best option. While the company’s higher-tiered subscriptions offer some ecommerce features, such as PayPal integration and a product gallery where you can display up to twenty-five items, Zoho Sites does not offer enough. You don’t get a dedicated checkout process, and Zoho Sites does not support integration with a majority of the payment processors in existence (save PayPal, but like we previously mentioned, this feature only comes with the top-tier Professional account). Furthermore, if your product catalog exceeds twenty-five items, you won’t be able to display all of them. With all that said, businesses who are looking to sell just a few items, such as a small selection of business-branded paraphernalia, can still give Zoho Sites serious consideration when it comes to site builders.
Finally, while Zoho Sites boasts an unlimited allocation of disk space and bandwidth for your site, their Terms of Service indicates that the company may limit your usage if they feel that you’re abusing your resources. The company does not define what this behavior might consist of, but this clause is certainly something to consider if you’re interested in building what will become a popular site.