Hello, my name is Jay Somerville, I’m an expert Web, Marketing and Social Media consultant with 20 years of experience.
Today I’m writing about one of the fastest growing segments in web technology and that is DIY websites for small business.
Please read the rest of this article and at the end decide if you’re harming or helping your business.
All the websites and software companies that offer these services all say the same thing, “Easily create a professional website in minutes”. It takes only seconds to find them and you’ll see statements like “millions of customers”.
I own a small business myself and I get it, I guess, small business people want to save money and do it themselves BUT at what cost? Apparently the statistics show that only 1.6% of do it yourself websites are successful.
And it’s not just software or wizzywig type programs, almost everyone knows someone down the road, brother, sister, friend etc. that claims to be an expert in the field of digital marketing. Is it really true that websites have become so low on the pole and so invaluable that anybody can do it?
Experience shows me this is far from the truth.
Consumers Know the Difference
My wife was looking online for a shutter and gutter company to replace on our home. After hours she became frustrated. When I asked what’s wrong she said:
“pretty well all the local websites I looked at were hocky, ugly, unprofessional looking sites that scared me into to even wanting to engage with them. Finally I found one company from a city 20 miles ways that was the only one I felt I could trust to come to our home and get a quote.”
I don’t want to demean these business and list all the sites she looked at, however I’m pretty sure the general public knows what I’m talking about. All those shining buttons and moving graphics and the black backgrounds that make reading the text next to impossible.
I guess many small business owners feel that to create their own website is a major accomplishment, but I wonder if they realize what people like my wife really feel.
The irony is the one small business that did it right was 20 miles away. When I myself looked at the website I noticed right away on the bottom of the site, “Developed by XYZ Web Company.”
What’s Really Involved to Develop a Successful Website?
Start with professionals that are in the business, have a team and have been around a minimum of three plus years. I don’t mean the person that works full time somewhere and moonlights web design on the side.
Most small business offer some type of expertise that people don’t mind paying for. As in my example of new gutters, why would I go through all the hassle to figure it out myself and save a few dollars yet risk my own house? What if I made a mistake and caused water damage to my home. For the same reason small business want us to pay for their expertise why should it be any different in the web industry? No, your house won’t leak water but losing customers and/or not gaining them is pretty paramount when you’re running a small business.
Here’s a list of the bare bones minimum to create and run a successful website;
1) Register the right domain. If you’re working with a consultant they will guide you as to what domains will work best for you relevant to;
a. Your legal business name.
b. Whether you should get a .com and .ca or more.
c. Keyword richness in the domain.
d. Ease of remembering the domain.
e. Setup and pointing of your domain to the hosting provider.
2) Hosting. A host is not just a host for your website, don’t be lured by just the cheapest price. The sites you find that say unlimited storage and bandwidth (assuming you understand this) are misleading you and when you read the fine print it clearly states they have the right to cancel your account if it causes any problems on their shared server and much more. Yes, we’ve done this and in a short time they were trying to get us on a $300.00 a month account. Did I mention how important it is to back your website up regularly?
3) Developing the Website. I’m not going to get into a lot of details, however the key point is to first understand what type of website you want;
a. Proprietary. This method gets you locked in with only one vendor.
b. Open Source. This method will not get you locked in, however you need to understand all the types of open source platforms, which are the best and how to set them up including the database.
c. Wire framing Navigation and Data Flow. Another critical step to understand how you want your customers to engage on your site. Understanding what types of pages are the most important, naming the pages, the hierarchy of pages, types of forms and security. In other words are you asking for information that is personal and sensitive? If so, you need SSL. How many times I’ve seen applications online with SIN, birthdate, spouses, you name it, with no encryption.
d. Designing. This is the stage where you add your logo, colours, add images, footer, header etc. You need knowledge of Photo Shop or similar to create the correct graphics.
e. Content Writing. Now that you have the pages you need content. Assuming you understand search engine algorithms you will need to write a good story that covers all you do and make sure it can be found in search engines. And of course it needs to be really good copy with calls to action etc.
f. Once finished you need to upload it and perform quality testing from making sure there are no typos, the forms are working, SSL is installed and a full backup.
g. After your site is up it’s never done, the search engines come back to your home page every 48-72 hours looking for “freshness”, that is new engaging text and not just on the home page, your Blog and News pages.
Hold it! They said it Only Takes Minutes, Right?
I included only the very basics of developing a website and I’m pretty sure you can now see it takes much longer than that, it takes tens of hours of planning and content writing and then you need to be an expert in SEO and social media but that’s for another story. It takes MUCH LONGER than a few months in web design and SEO to qualify as experienced. Would you call a home builder with two years’ experience an expert? I’m pretty sure you wouldn’t, it’s no different in my industry it takes years and years to get the right to be called an expert.
The Cost of DIY Website Just may be the End of your Business
After being in business since 1995 I tried almost every marketing tool you can imagine and yes I used traditional media too, however the very best and most cost effective means to grow my business was a professional website with search engine optimization.
This is not bragging, but we have customers in eight countries around the world and all because of owning and operating a professional website.
I encourage business owners to realize why they went into business themselves and that is solving a problem for others using their own expertise, let professional web designers guide you in the same way that can lead to success in your business.
Websites typically cost 1500-3000, finance it, or put it on a credit card if you don’t have the money, whatever it takes as this decision could cost you your business if you choose to DIY.
Click this link to contact us should you like to to HIRE A PRO and actually work on your real business!
Sincerely. Webacom Media
PS: We have noticed a number of comments on Face Book when you see ads from the DIY type of companies, here are just a few comments direct copied/pasted.
“No thanks I already have a beautiful stunning website with a private domain and it’s been going 6 years, I rather not have your crap and pay extortionate fees when all i have to do is renew my domain every 5 years”
“Yes. Create your own “stunning” website with your amateur skills and general lack of expertise. What could possibly go wrong? Everyone uses the web and everyone’s an expert! Lots of people use a car. Does that mean they all know how to make one? *sigh*”
“Not ” free ” at all , took me weeks to make my website finally had something i was proud of then at the last minute before publishing i was told i needed to upgrade to premium for my web to go live and so people could see it :@”