ROI Web Design

How Much Should a WordPress Website Cost?

If WordPress is free, shouldn’t a WordPress website be free?

I look at WordPress as a free plot of land. What you build on it will determine the value of the finished property. The size, calibre of materials and finishes, the reputation of the architect and builder, location (hosting), and marketing all factor into the value of the asset.

What’s the price range?

The range of prices for WordPress development can be baffling to the business owner. Many hosting companies provide free computer-generated WordPress websites, with a year of hosting. And there are many free alternatives like SquareSpace.

Other companies bundle a "free" WordPress website with another service. The website is included in the package and is essentially amortized over the term of the contract.

And then there's the SaaS (software as a service) business model, in which you rent your WordPress site for a small monthly fee.

Theme providers suggest that you can build your own “premium” WordPress site for under $30. Just: 1) Install WordPress, 2) install the theme, 3) write a few pages of content, 4) and then rake in the profits.


On the other end of the spectrum, the most expensive WordPress website I’ve read about1 is one created for The Free State provincial government, South Africa, by Cherry Online Design.2 The website was built on WordPress, with the London Live off-the-shelf theme for $15,366,680 USD. WordPress is free, and the theme cost only forty bucks… so how did it become a $15-million dollar project?

So there you have it: your WordPress site should cost somewhere between zero and fifteen million dollars. :-)

Is it the price you're concerned with, or the cost?

There are many design approaches, but here are two possible scenarios:

1. Based on Price (website viewed as an expense)

One business owner hires a “web designer” to build a new site. The cost is $500. The “designer” pockets $300 and hires someone offshore to knock out the entire site for $200, based upon a one-size-fits-all template, a few free open-source plugins and an hourly rate of $4.00. The designer even manages to find a super cheap hosting package for $2.95/mo. Awesome! The content is the owner’s responsibility.

The price is “very reasonable,” and the customer has the website in a week. It’s a customer maintained CMS (content management system) site, so completion of the project often represents the end of the designer/customer relationship as well.

Two years later, the website owner has yet to receive the first lead or sale from that site. ROI: -100% (a complete loss) Beware of the cost of the lower price.

2. Based on Cost (website viewed as an asset)

Another company looks for a marketing advisor and design/development firm with experience. The discovery meetings are time-consuming, but they enable the agency to put together a very comprehensive proposal that addresses their unique pain points, objectives and goals.

Work begins on the project. More discovery meetings follow, with research, to determine exactly who the ideal customers are, where they’re hanging out on the web, and the content that will reach them. The planning phase begins.

A good site always begins with the prospective customer and then the content that will move that visitor into the sales funnel.

Site maps and interactive wireframes are created, mood boards prepared, and design mockups presented. And then those designs are refined until they are ready for sign-off.

It’s time for the project to “go to code.” A custom child theme is developed on a premium framework, for blazingly quick page loads, fully responsive display on all screens, and top-level security. Where extensions are used, they are premium paid solutions. Front-end UI (user interface) designers and coders work closely together. The responsive break points are carefully tweaked to make the site visually attractive in every screen format. Three weeks later, development is complete and the shell site is approved.

The next phase is content entry. During the design and development, the copywriters have been hard at work, creating informative high-conversion marketing copy that will lead visitors towards a decision that makes them customers. It’s now time to bring UX (user experience) design to the individual page layouts.

The site goes into the beta phase, with QA (quality assurance) and rigorous testing. To make sure every visitor has a great user experience, it’s proofed on Windows, Mac and Linux, iPhone, iPad, Android tablet and smartphone, horizontal screen, vertical screen, etc. It’s checked for page load speeds and link integrity. UI/UX (user interface/experience) rocks! The beta testers were able to breeze through the site to find every content entry requested.

The SEO (search engine optimization expert) has completed the on-page optimization site-wide. The marketing team has the launch posts ready for the blog and social media channels.  All that remains is final client approval and the site goes live.

Following the launch, a set of tutorial videos is prepared, covering all aspects of client maintenance and content updates. Six months of premium support are also included, covering everything from security, backups, software updates, ongoing requests for changes and updates, 24/7 emergency repairs, and technology upgrade protection. And there's one marketing consultation included each month.

Over the next six months, the content marketing strategy included in the proposal is rolled out. A/B tests are conducted on the various landing pages and the copy is fine-tuned for optimal results.

Three months later, traffic and sales are noticeably improved. Within the first year, sales are up by $600,000. The margins are roughly 30%, so profits are $180,000. The price for the site was $12,000 (including premium hosting), plus $1,000/mo. for content marketing over the first 6 months. ROI: 1,000%

A good website should return the initial investment many times over, making the price almost irrelevant. 

A checkbox on a to-do list, or very profitable marketing asset?

For many business owners, a website is a necessary evil in 2015… ya gotta have one. It’s a checkbox on a to-list. Business license: check. Business cards: check. Website: check. They’re not trying to build a marketing asset (yet). There's no strategy or blueprint. They're just trying to save money. And if that’s the mindset going in, those business owners should pursue the cheapest route, so the “expense” on the balance sheet is minimal.

If you’re trying to grow your business and increase profits, that’s not the approach I’d recommend. You want to build an “asset” that fills your sales funnel with warm leads for years to come.

Over the 18 years I’ve been involved in internet marketing, we’ve built just under 400 websites. The range has been $1,000 through $34,000 for WordPress sites. The bare bones budget sites have never been big producers, simply because we skipped right past discovery, research and planning; moving right to construction. And after they went live, there was no marketing or promotion.

I’m going to suggest a minimum budget of $5,000 for a small business WordPress website (more for eCommmerce). And you’re going to need an SEO / content marketing budget if you’re hoping to earn top search engine rankings, a strong social presence, a flood of qualified traffic and sales leads that can be nurtured into paying customers.

1 KirbyWorks, March 20, 2013, Most Expensive WordPress Website Uses $40 Dollar Premium WordPress Theme
2 Memeburn, March 2013 Meet the Government WordPress site the cost R140M.

Platinum WordPress Care plan

Do I Have to Blog and be Active in Social Media?

Do I have to blog to succeed online?

Isn't Attractive Web Design Enough?

I'm often asked if regular blogging and social media are really necessary, if the web designer did a nice job. If you live in a small community like Squamish, where there may be no more than 1 or 2 competitors, you’re satisfied with the number of customers you have, and you're not trying to fish in larger, more competitive pond… the answer would be no. If your business is registered with Google+ Local (formerly Google Places), chances are you’ll receive a first page ranking on Google for your business topic in your immediate geographic area. You can just keep doing exactly what you’re doing. Yippee!

But if any of the following apply:

  • you are targeting several communities,
  • you are going after city businesses or customers,
  • you have more than 5 direct competitors,
  • you’ve already lost market share to the competition,
  • you need to grab market share to offset a decline in the economy,
  • you want to grow your business,
  • directories, news sites and blogs are hogging the front page of search results,

you definitely should be creating and publishing incredibly valuable blog posts very regularly; then distributing and promoting them in social media and other online channels.

What is Valuable Content?

Great content begins with knowing who your audience is. After defining your audience persona(s), an editorial strategy and schedule are prepared, keywords are researched and topics chosen.

Your audience does not want to read your company propaganda or news. Prospective customers don’t care if your company added a new sales person with extensive knowledge in selling widgets.

Nothing could be more boring than reading brochure-style blog posts and social media updates. To create a helpful post, you want to provide answers to questions, share how-to information and improve the lives of your audience, without turning it into a sales pitch.

Here's an example:

A garden supply company wouldn’t do very well using social media to blast marketing promotions for their wheel barrows. Facebook “likes”, retweets and Google +1’s would be highly unlikely. Nobody would be subscribing to the blog feed or newsletter to get more garden tool ads each week.

But if the company created and published a helpful series of blog posts on gardening, and distributed and promoted them in social media,  not only would they attract a readership, but the content would be highly shareable.

The wheel barrow could be included in the list of tools a gardener should have on hand for the project covered by the post. And the accompanying photo of a post on pruning could include the make and model filled with the branches clipped from the bushes.

What Blogging and Social Media Do For You

  1. These tactics build your audience and attract prospective customers.
  2. You can expect an increase in search engine rankings and resulting traffic.
  3. They establish you, the author, as the local expert, building awareness and credibility.
  4. People who love your content are likely to share it with other prospective buyers.
  5. When you provide truly useful information, people will want more. You’ll gain subscribers to your blog’s feed and email updates when posts are released.
  6. Your readers will grow to trust your content. So when you offer a very helpful ebook or whitepaper, some of your readers will willingly exchange their contact information in exchange for the downloadable document. You then have the ability to influence their buying decisions on a regular basis by providing more helpful information in your email newsletter.
  7. Over time subscribers become leads that can be nurtured until they mature into customers.

The Takeway

Blogging and social media build connections with prospective customers in a way that old school marketing never could. You're focusing on being helpful, and on the reader. Most business websites are all about the company, it's products and services. Traditional advertising is all about making a sale... in other words, all about you.

Get back your rankings after Mobilegeddon

The Ideal Web Site (Part 7 of a Series)

The Ideal Website Is Responsive

Ethan Marcotte coined the term late 2008, and in 2011 published the book titled "Responsive Web Design." It was a game changer.  Nearly two years have passed since The Ideal Website series first went online, and responsive web design has become mainstream.

Google loves “responsive”! According to a study released by Google, “What Users Want Most From Mobile Sites Today,” conducted by Sterling Research and SmithGeiger in July 2012,

  • 61% of users said that if they didn’t find what they were looking for right away on a mobile site, they’d quickly move on to another site,
  • 79% of people who didn’t like what they found on one site would go back and search for another site, and
  • 50% of people said that even if they like a business, they will use them less often if the website isn’t mobile-friendly.

Responsive web design is the approach web designers and developers now use to craft sites that provide the optimal viewing experience to users on Mac and PC desktop computers and a wide range of mobile devices. Responsive websites use fluid grids, proportion-based grids, flexible images and CSS3 media queries to deliver content more effectively to all visitors.

A quality user experience means the navigation system re-formats to the device, and takes into account whether the user is using a mouse or finger to point. Panning side to side, and zooming in and out, are incredibly annoying, so blocks of content are formatted on the fly to make the information available by scrolling up and down only. Often, sidebar, header and footer content will be removed for small screens, delivering only what is most needed.

It amazes me how many of the websites I attempt to visit on my iPhone or iPad are still not responsive. #$^@!! The only way I'll even consider slogging through their horrid site is if the information is available no other place on the planet. If your website delivers a crappy experience to mobile users you can expect them to bounce (leave your site immediately) and check out what the competition has to offer. The cost of acquisition — getting those visitors to ever arrive at one of your pages at all — is wasted if they leave.

If your site isn't responsive, and your bounce rate is above 5%,  you may be driving your mobile customers away. Fixing the problem should be your first order of business in 2015.

If you're not sure if your site is fully responsive, send us a quick email and we'll check on it for you.




Platinum WordPress Care plan

5 Reasons Most Websites Will Never Bring In Leads

Baffled By Your Website's Disappointing Response?

The most common question I'm asked is whether a website can actually generate leads. A valid question, considering most small businesses have had their sites for years, without scaring up enough new business to cover the costs, much less deliver a return on investment.

I've compiled a short list of the most common deficiencies.

1) No Eyeballs! Without any traffic, your website is doing nothing for you. The beautiful photos you uploaded, the text you labored over with your co-workers... all worthless.

With Google's algorithm updates, over the past few years, SEO has become a content play. Your company needs a content strategy, with a commitment to publishing regular, relevant content. A serious, "take no prisoners" SEO / content marketing plan, can turn things around within about 5 to 10 months.

2) No UX (User eXperience) Strategy Most sites are built on the cheap, from an off-the-shelf cookie cutter template. Websites are viewed as necessary evils of business — like business cards — and the owners invest accordingly, with bare bones budgets.

It's important to invest  the required time and money in determining exactly who your audience is, how they will be using the site, the kind of content they're looking for, and then creating a site specifically for your customers.

And be very careful about your competitors' sites. Most of them have absolutely no idea what they're doing online... including the bigger companies that are coasting on a reputation they built 10 to 15 years ago.

3) No Content Strategy Not only does content increase rankings and traffic, it increases your authority and credibility in your industry. By publishing valuable content on a regular basis, and promoting it through social channels, you build your subscriber base. Subscribers may download a white paper, or receive access to special content, in exchange for their email address; or they may choose to subscribe to your blog posts in an RSS reader.

Why do you need subscribers? Many leading online marketing gurus believe that the primary purpose of a website is to build your list of subscribers. Subscribers represent "influence", and these people have given you permission to influence their buying decisions again and again.

4) No Conversion Strategy Let's say you hired an SEO, you've got top 10 rankings on Google, you're blogging regularly, you've got someone working social media... Eureka!, you have traffic. Sadly, rankings and traffic alone are no guarantee of leads or sales.

An effective website delivers regular and extremely valuable content on a regular basis. It does not ambush the unsuspecting visitor, pouncing on them, then attempting to hold them in a headlock.

I see this all the time. One hard close after another is delivered, the equivalent to a sucker punch in the gut, followed by a few kicks to the groin. Those aggressive tactics may have worked last millennium, but we have a far more informed consumer in 2014. We have to demonstrate plenty of value before they will ever listen to our pitch.

Trust is earned over time, based upon value received.

5) No Lead Nurturing Strategy One of the most effective conversion strategies uses irresistibly helpful emails, sent out to opt-in subscribers. The emails are so valuable, your readers actually look forward to receiving them each week. They don't try to sell anything. There are no shameless offers. And every email provides a link to even more quality information.

The landing page, for that link, includes a short form that requests contact information, and asks one or two questions. The top fields of the form auto-fill, so it isn't much bother to answer a question and download the white paper or ebook. The questions change, and over time, the CRM (contact relationship management software) collects a whole file of useful information on each subscriber.

Your team begins following these leads on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and LinkedIn. A wealth of additional information is gleaned that way, and it's time to actively engage in conversations with these people, on topics loosely relating to the product or service you sell. Through relationship building, very soon your cool lead becomes very warm.

The Takeaway

Most websites are tendered out to a low bidder, or someone the business owner knows through family or referral. Without a proven marketing strategy and careful implementation, all you have is a website.

Without "eyeballs", it's like a box of brochures in your company's supply cupboard. Completely worthless without distribution and promotion. Even if your site does see the light of day, with a few visitors, it doesn't collect leads because, like most sites, it was assembled to make you happy enough with the look and feel, that you cut the designer a final cheque. To me, that falls far short of the spectacular lead generation tool a website can be. I believe that web design should contribute to profit, not overhead. I welcome you questions and comments.

Get back your rankings after Mobilegeddon

The Ideal Web Site (Part 6 of a Series)

The Ideal Website Converts Visitors into Leads and Customers

At the end of the day, the only reason for having your website is to increase sales and grow your business. It’s not about winning design awards (except perhaps for the designer :-) ). It’s not about about developing a large internet audience. If you can’t convert your visitors into customers, or develop revenue from your traffic by other means, your site has failed to provide a return on investment.

Does your website even have a conversion strategy?

Does it provide unique and valuable information? Is your site worth bookmarking for return visits? Do you offer an RSS feed to enable your visitors to subscribe to updates? Are you using landing pages to exchange valuable downloadable ebooks or white papers for subscription to your list.

If you’re selling something, or wish to achieve a visitor response, do you have effective ad copy? When you change your copy, do you monitor the response in an A/B comparison?

Does your website take the visitor by the hand and lead them through your content with a planned traffic flow strategy? Are you asking for a response at each step or hoping your visitors read their way through all the pages in the process before taking action? Many of our clients are amazed to discover that their visitors were already sold on page one or two :-) . All we had to do was provide a ‘take action now’ button to dramatically improve sales.

Do you have analytics installed? Are you evaluating your stats each week? Do you tweak your content constantly to provide better results?

We believe that:

Design + Traffic + Conversion = Sales





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The Ideal Web Site (Part 5 of a Series)

The Ideal Website Accommodates the Three User Types

Your website will receive three types of visitors:

1) Search-oriented user
2) Menu-oriented user
3) Media-oriented user

The search-oriented user will locate the search field on your site and enter keywords, hoping to be presented with a list of several pages that cover their topic of interest. They will select the one that sounds most suitable. They may then return to the search results to select other pages, or refine their search.

The menu-oriented user relies on a well planned menu and navigational system to locate pages that provide the exact information they seek. Your website’s navigation must be user friendly and logical. Ideally, your visitor should be able to find the page they’re after within 3 to 5 clicks. Home pages that offer a few initial choices in ‘magazine ad’ format, and lead the visitors with a well-planned traffic flow strategy are very affective for these visitors. ‘Breadcrumbs’ are also very helpful, enabling these visitors to retrace their steps to follow different forks in the information pathway.

The media-oriented user doesn’t want to search or navigate through your menus to locate initial information about your product(s) or service(s). These visitors want to watch a short summary presentation on the home page that explains what you’re about and what you have to offer. If they like what they see, they will click the links in or surrounding the presentation for more information. If it looks like they will have to click through a bunch of pages to locate information they will immediately return to the search engine to try another site. The home page ‘billboard’ slider is ideal for providing media to these visitors. (Note: A media billboard is not to be confused with the annoying Flash intros that once took up the whole first page.)

The most effective websites provide excellent searchability, a logical intuitive navigational system and some media to provide a quick summary of your benefits and strategic marketing advantage.





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The Ideal Web Site (Part 4 of a Series)

The Ideal Website is Attractive Enough

Effective Internet marketing follows the 80/20 rule; where 80% of your investment is ‘SEO’, 'content marketing' and 'social media' (promoting the hell out of your website and brand online) and where only 20% is the website itself.

A pretty website without top rankings on Google, Yahoo! and Bing is pretty much useless. It's like having a storage cupboard filled with tens of thousands of the most spectacular CLIO award-winning brochures ever designed and printed, but failing to mail the suckers out.

An award-winning website without traffic just plain sucks. Award winning dazzlers cost more money and take more time to design, so without traffic (sales) they become an even bigger liability.

A drop dead gorgeous website that does not convert visitors into qualified leads or customers has failed as an advertising and marketing medium. Period.

An attractive website is only worth a damn when it provides a positive return on your investment. This is a ‘rubber meets the road’ concept you need to embrace.

Are we against sexy design and design awards? Absolutely not! My own epiphany came about seven years ago when one of our clients received a beautiful award for the website we developed for them. My customer called me to congratulate me on the design achievement, hung the brass plaque on the wall, but then lamented over the site’s poor performance on the bottom line. I reminded him that we had proposed an aggressive SEO and online marketing campaign but he had declined. On further reflection I realized it was my fault. I’m the internet marketing professional, I know what really matters when it comes to ROI and I hadn’t absolutely insisted on a program to drive traffic to their site. I had allowed the client to invest their entire online marketing budget on an award-winning design and there had been nothing left for assuring the site had traffic or the ability to convert visitors into customers.

A good website is ‘attractive enough’ that visitors feel they are dealing with a solid, reputable company. When search engine rankings and other sources of traffic are in place, and the site is generating enough sales to more than offset the cost of additional design, it may be time to revisit the design with a facelift. If your site isn’t in the top ten ranking positions for all of your primary keyword search terms, put your money into SEO, epic content, social networking and link building, not a flashy media presentation few people will ever see.





Platinum WordPress Care plan

The Ideal Web Site (Part 3 of a Series)

The Ideal Website is Very Search Engine Friendly

Over 80% of the traffic on most successful websites will come from being listed on the first page (top-10) on Google, Yahoo! and Bing. The rest of your traffic will typically come from PPC (pay per click) advertising, inbound links from theme related websites and being listed on the second or third page of the top three engines. If your site isn’t listed in the first three SERPs (search engine results pages) your site should be considered ‘invisible’ to the Internet.

Most sites aren’t search engine friendly. They don’t rank well because they don’t deserve a top position. They have very little content and the content they do offer isn’t considered of much value to searchers. Typical ‘toot your own horn’ ad copy on the home and about us page, tables of prices, forms, Flash photo galleries, JavaScript widgets, most short description shopping cart pages, etc. are not good content.

Search engines love fresh unique content that is rich in naturally occurring keywords, internally linked to other theme content in the site. Content should be added at least weekly or even daily. Ridiculously valuable content encourages naturally occurring links from other theme-related websites and trackbacks from blogs. Over time a website or blog will accumulate hundreds or even thousands of posts and/or articles.

Developing quality content involves a commitment. Many companies have several bloggers or a designated writer. If your company does not have anyone with the time to create content on a consistent basis, there are SEO copywriting services and web content writers that will help make your site search engine friendly.





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The Ideal Web Site (Part 2 of a Series)

The Ideal Website Targets the Right Topics & Keywords

One of the biggest mistakes website owners make is targeting keywords that are unlikely to provide a return. Achieving a #1 ranking on Google for a keyword search term nobody is searching for is a waste of time and money. Targeting highly competitive keywords you can't realistically hope to rank for over the next two years may also be a poor investment.

For search engine marketing, keywords fall into two major categories: broad, generic short tail keywords, and branded, regional, more specific, long tail keywords. The stiffest competition is in the short tail keywords.

If you entered the head keywords ‘storage products’ into Google today you’d see over sixty-one million pages indexed. That’s a lot of competition. In the top five you’d find Rubbermaid. For a company with almost unlimited marketing resources very generic keywords may be worth pursuing. We have a client in the Vancouver area. By choosing regional long tail keywords we have been able to secure the top position on Google for ‘vancouver storage products’. The amount of traffic received for their SEO dollars has proven to be a good investment. Pursuing top rankings for ‘storage products’ with the budget we had to work with would have been a poor investment, with little or no returns. If you entered ‘spacesaver storage canada’ today you would discover that these branded keywords also returned a #1 ranking for our client.

Whether you’re pursuing organic rankings or pay per click traffic, selecting the right keywords can be one of the primary decisions that determine your online success. Keyword analysis is the starting point.





Platinum WordPress Care plan

The Ideal Web Site (Part 1 of a Series)

Last week a client asked me to define the ideal website, based upon my 17+ years in the web development and SEO business. I don’t always include all of these components in a proposal or even include them in our own sites. However, if I had to describe a site that would be perfect, where client budget and their personal design tastes and requested features weren’t a factor, here is my definition of the perfect website:

The Ideal Website Delivers a Solid Return on Investment

As a business marketing investment, your website is not on the world wide web as a cultural art experience or to provide free information resource; it’s advertising. Advertising that is effective generates plenty of sales, and it represnts a solid business investment. A business website should bring in more than one dollar in profit for every dollar invested. If it doesn’t your Internet marketing sucks.

Developing a ‘web presence’ without revenue and a positive cash flow is ridiculous and bad business.

The Ideal Website Delivers Plenty of Qualified Traffic

The greatest myth in Internet marketing is: If you build it they will come. I think that only worked in Field of Dreams :-) . Web design, without a solid marketing strategy, perfectly executed, is only going to produce a business liability. (What else would you call an advertising project that costs more money than it ever generates in revenue.) Over 90% of all websites fail. They have little or no traffic. And the few visitors they receive do not convert into customers.

I attended an SEO conference a while back and one of the speakers opened with,

A butt ugly website with a lot of traffic and effective conversion strategy will always outperform a drop dead gorgeous Webby-winning site with little or no traffic. Some of the ugliest sites on the planet have generated millions of dollars in revenue.





Platinum WordPress Care plan