While I mentioned genealogy websites in the post title, the following applies to any website, not just genealogy websites.
There are basically three types of websites out there: Free, Freeium, and Premium or Paid websites. There’s a fourth type that is really just full or mostly full of ads. I will start with the clickbait mostly or all ads websites. You have most likely run across these on a fairly regular basis. They are less popular these days, but I run into them sometimes. In worst case scenarios, the site is 100% ads and 0% non-ad content. I find any site that has too many ads as in 10+, which frequently includes Find-A-Grave these days, is overselling.
Free: the site has no charges for using any of the site. They tend to fall into a small to fair amount of ads or affiliate links as a way to cover costs.
Freeium – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Freemium: a site or service that offers some services for free and other services for pay. Find-A-Grave falls in this category. The majority of its services are free. The only service that costs right now are sponsorships. For $5.00, you can remove the ads from a memorial. Here’s an example of a Sponsored memorial: https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/62638154/billy-gene-johnson. Note, there are no ads on the memorial page. By comparison, https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/62638154/billy-gene-johnson has several ads. In general, most Freeium sites offer numerous options. In the broadest sense of the definition, Amazon is a Freeium site. It offers free ebooks and a handful of other goods or services for free. Out of the 1,700+ ebooks I have on Amazon, over 95% were ones I got for free. Some are permafree and others were briefly on sale for free.
Premium or Paid: Goods, services, etc. are only available for pay. Depending on the good or service as to if it’s a one-time fee or a subscription service. In some cases, both are options. Most major genealogy companies tend to fall in this category. Ancestry may occasionally offer free limited access to a handful of its databases for special events, most of the time you need either a monthly, 6-month, or yearly subscription to access the main site. Worse, if you want to access several of the sub-sites: Newspapers.com, Fold3, Archives.com, you have to pay extra for their site. You might be able to get some of the services as part of a more expensive subscription on Ancestry, but often it’s cheaper to subscribe separately for whichever additional site you want.
The downside to most freeium or premium sites is the unwillingness to reward customer loyalty. Many of the companies offer a new customer discount, but they usually limit how long you can get the cheaper rate. A great example of a company that goes above and beyond is BillionGraves. When they offer a discount for a customer who is upgrading from a free account to a paid account, they will renew at the same discounted price you signed up for. This holds true as long as you keep the paid account active by renewing. Plus, you can also earn free months on BillionGraves through transcribing images and/or uploading photos.
What’s a shame is the lack of customer loyalty incentives most companies no longer offer. Again, there are a few exceptions. It’s much cheaper to keep me as an existing customer than it is to gain me as a new customer. Yet, most companies care more about gaining new customers without rewarding existing customers. I am working on a separate post on why companies should not only care about customer loyalty, but also do things to encourage it. Your company needs new customers, but they also need to encourage existing customers to stay.