Tuesday 7 July, 2020

How to turn your website into an investment

When a business is looking to redesign and develop an existing website, or create a new first website, one of the initial thoughts is "how much will a new website cost?".

It’s a fair question, especially if the existing website hasn’t delivered on expectations or promises.

In this article, we’re going to investigate how you can turn your new website design and development into a tangible and measurable investment. Done well, your website will become a cornerstone of your sales and marketing plans. We will also examine:

  1. Why do you need a business website?
  2. What is the role of a business website?
  3. What benefits will a strategically planned website deliver?
  4. What is the full cost of designing, developing and running a website?
  5. How do you measure the success of your new website?

Plus - find out which company is, surprisingly, the biggest threat to your business online!

Firstly, why do you need a business website?

Surely businesses can rely solely on social media in 2020?

Consumer behaviour has changed rapidly in recent years, led by the evolution and advances of platforms and technology. Competition for every click has snowballed enormously.

Many small businesses have turned to social media as their only digital presence. Relying on the likes of Facebook and Instagram audiences to build sales and drive their brand forward.

The trouble is, within social timelines, businesses can lose the attention of prospective customers in a heartbeat. Whereas, a business website provides a consistent and stable platform to present products and services without distractions - once a visitor hits your website you have a captive audience.

Additionally, social media shouldn’t be considered ‘free’ marketing. In fact, a website can prove to be less of a financial burden than making social media work effectively.

2. What’s the role of a business website?

Before we look at whether a website is a cost or an investment, let’s look at some of the ‘jobs’ a business website performs.

  • Sales - First and foremost a website can become your best salesman. A website provides a 24/7, 365 day a year sales platform, engaging numerous visitors worldwide simultaneously.

A successful website should also serve many additional purposes, including:

  • Proof - you may have accumulated scores of five-star reviews across other online platforms, but if prospective customers can’t find a traditional business website will they trust your company?
  • Credibility - customers will expect your business to have a website. Your website provides instant credibility, especially when linked from numerous digital spaces, including; Google Maps and Google My Business, social media platforms, link accumulating and review platforms as well as sourced marketing ventures.
  • Social saturation - social media is an essential marketing tool, leading to some businesses questioning whether they need a website in the first place. However, social media platforms, in particular Facebook, have started to reach saturation point - in 2018 people spent 50 million fewer hours on Facebook than the previous year. And in 2019, analytics firm Mixpanel reported a 38% decrease in the number of online interactions made on Facebook’s mobile app. In 2020, given the current fight for digital space in a world hit by pandemic, social media is awash with businesses trying to get their message read. 
  • Brand home - your brand deserves its own home. Not a rented space on another platform.
  • Return on investment - a successful website will deliver ROI.
  • Your narrative - your own website provides a space for you to control your narrative. Engaging content has the potential to be shared both online and offline.
  • Competitors - no doubt your most successful competitors will also boast ownership of a successful website. 

3. What other benefits can a successful website deliver?

Value of your business

A successful lead and sales generating website adds to the value of your business. Looking for an exit plan? Invest in your website. Businesses with a mature and extensive brand and marketing strategy are more valuable. In fact, a powerful sales and lead generating website that has a documented traffic profile and customer acquisition reporting has its own intrinsic value.

Combined marketing strategy

Developing and nurturing a successful and joined-up digital marketing strategy has its roots embedded in your own digital space, centred around an ‘owned’ website. Owning and expanding your ‘owned’ digital footprints will deliver greater and greater rewards, for example:

  • To maximise the return on investment of Google Adwords campaigns, instantly engaging landing pages with clear calls to action, should be developed and hosted within your business website.
  • Successful social media campaigns will, in part, push engagement to your business website.
  • Relevant video content embedded on your website can be shared for further engagement.

A website provides a space for all this content marketing. Your business’ own space - ready to share with the world. Read more about the benefits of content marketing.

Essentially your business website acts as a hub for all marketing activities.

Websites for local businesses

If you do business locally, your own website is nothing less than essential. A highly ranking website underpins your local digital footprint and ‘accumulated links’. 

Working with local businesses in St Albans and Watford we’ve seen Google page 1 results eroded by ‘accumulated links’ across many business sectors.

To prove this, here are a few examples. Each of these searches is based on local Google searches for local businesses in St Albans, Hertfordshire. Try a similar Google search for yourself in your local town or city. 

Search phrase: ‘restaurant St Albans’ 

Google Page one results include Google Maps listing three restaurants - this is to be expected. But within the first 10 naturally listed results (listings that aren’t paid advertising) there is only one actual restaurant: Bills. Of the other nine listings, it probably wouldn’t surprise you to find out that the websites either feature Google Ads or buy Google Ads. 

Search phrase: ‘hotel St Albans

Google Maps lists three hotels - again the expected result. However, there isn’t a single hotel’s website within the first 10 natural listings!

Search phrase: ‘accountants St Albans

The results from this key phrase search provide results that Google users are probably more familiar with, eight actual accountants in St Albans, such as Visionary Accountants, appearing in both the natural listing and on the map.

But, how will page one of Google results look for accountants in St Albans in a year’s time?

How about one of our services: ‘digital marketing St Albans

Map results include three businesses, however the natural listing includes four recruitment agencies. Our own services are receiving more and more competition from ‘platforms’.

Google is stealing your digital space - it’s time to fight back

In recent years Google has encroached further and further into business owners’ digital space. For example, rather than linking a searcher to a website to find an answer, Google is providing the answer right there in the search results. Or linking a searcher to a ‘link accumulator’ site, that makes money through advertising and listing revenue.

Why? Because it keeps the visitor in ‘Google’s digital space’. Or linked to a website that hosts their adverts.

Google has slowly shifted from a position that has benefited and rewarded business owners: providing website traffic, to a direct competitor for local ‘clicks’.

Google could end up being the biggest threat to your business’ digital presence.

Businesses need to fight back and build defences against the behemoth that is Google Search. Your business website coupled with an expanding digital footprint will provide online marketing security for your future.

4. What are the options and costs to creating a website?

There are various options to create a new business website, these include:

  • Do it yourself websites
  • Selecting a web agency as your design and build partner
  • Using a platform/template driven website
  • Utilising content management tools for website build and content updates

Each of these options has advantages and disadvantages, as well as differing associated costs.

Do it yourself websites

Creating your own website may seem, on the face of it, the cheapest solution. 

There are a variety of ways to put together your own business website. Platforms such as Wix provide sector specific templates and flexible content management tools, while some business owners prefer to use WordPress. 

However, the value of your time or your marketing team’s time shouldn’t be underestimated.

Do it yourself website direct costs: From £FREE (with Wix adverts) to, for example, £15 per month for Tools and Website Hosting.

Hidden costs – time and resources: It takes time to create a website, especially a larger more complex site. 

  • 10 hours for a ‘quick fix’ single page website
  • 80 hours for a medium sized brochure website

As a cost exercise, at £80 per hour, you are looking at a drain on your resources to the tune of £800 - £4000.

Using a web design agency

Some businesses consider the use of a web design agency to be an expensive route. For a start-up this could well be true. In a few instances, we have made the recommendation to business owners to seriously consider the DIY website option.

However, for a more mature business or a company with clear ambitions and marketing goals, using a web design agency reduces risk and provides a professional solution.

It’s essential to pick the right web designer – always ask plenty of relevant questions and research supplier’s technical abilities.

Bespoke website cost: don’t expect change from £1,500 for a good small business website. For a larger more complex solution, budget for £5,000 plus. If you have high expectations and want a much more hands-off role in the design and development of your website, think more in the region of £10,000 plus.

Cheap bespoke websites

Yes, you can get a business website for £500. But ask the web company if it’s a truly bespoke website, or for example, will it be built from a WordPress template. And expect to have a much more hands on role in the development, from supplying text and images through to building pages.

Platform/template websites

For some businesses, a template website is a perfectly acceptable choice. 

There are a multitude of ‘off-the-shelf’ sector specific templates available. These templates can be customised to match your business brand and colour scheme. 

However, you will no doubt come across another website, or a number of websites, that look very similar to your own. 

Template driven systems, such as WordPress, come with various hidden technical and monetary costs. These include; the need for regular software security patches, website speed impact, template limitations and potentially, less than intuitive content management tools.

Platform website costs:

A typical small business WordPress website can cost as little as £500 to £1000 if using a freelancer. An agency that promotes WordPress as their main development platform will charge anything between £1000 and £8000 for a small business website.

From our experience, there are two types of WordPress developer:

  • Those that use WordPress because it gets quick results with relative ease and minimal coding skills.
  • Developers that see the benefits of WordPress for their client’s use case and develop bespoke themes to meet business goals.

5. How to ensure the development of your new website is an investment

Create a marketing plan and business plan for your new website

Estimate what you expect your new website to deliver based on real statistics. The numbers need to add up - will a £3000 website deliver as many enquiries and sales as a £6000 website?

Your website should become part of your regular marketing activity

When planning the budget for the project, don’t just consider the design and build costs. Think about ongoing marketing costs as well as website hosting and maintenance. The ongoing website costs should factor in an accumulating return on investment. It’s important to account for the time that it will take for your digital marketing and search engine optimisation to gain traction and deliver sales, your new website won’t jump to position #1 in Google overnight!

Typical website costs:

  • Website design
  • Website development
  • Copywriting
  • Photography
  • Video
  • Live chat
  • E-commerce gateway

Ongoing website costs:

  • Hosting
  • Maintenance and updates
  • SSL Certificate
  • E-commerce gateway overheads
  • Search engine optimisation 
  • Content marketing
  • Advertising 

Get the website structure right

Before you start your website project or sign on the dotted line with a web designer or web agency, create a website structure plan. Take a read of my article - How to plan the structure of a new website in 8 easy steps.

Measure to provide proof of investment

To prove that your new website is successful, you will need to measure performance. But first, wait for Google to catch up: Google will need to ‘crawl’ your new website and re-rank pages and content. This can take as little as a few days, or, at the upper end, a month or so.

The performance of a website can be measured using a number of different metrics. It is essential to select the key performance indicators (KPIs) that provide an accurate picture of the return on investment. Here are a few KPIs you could consider:

  • Website audience - measure and analyse the visitor traffic to your website.
  • Traffic sources - how did visitors get to your website.
  • Bounce rates - when and why did visitors leave the website and how long did they stay before leaving.
  • Conversions - how are visitors interacting with the website. Measure conversions and interactions, including phone call enquiries.
  • Sales and profit - work out true ‘cost of sale’ for each website sale or enquiry. Factor in the initial website build costs, ongoing marketing and website hosting and maintenance.

KPIs should be measured, at least, monthly. Based on analysis, modifications should be made to your ongoing digital marketing strategy to increase return on investment.

Author: Alec Butler 
Alec is a website designer and digital marketer in St Albans, Hertfordshire.

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