BEFORE WE BEGIN (this is a WordPress focused article)
Most of the principles described in this article are geared towards WordPress Business Website (WP) – website setup but they do apply in general to other web-technologies as well.
The only specifics related to WP are when we are talking about wordpress.com vs. wordpress.org, specific website hosting selection and local development setup.
The remaining descriptions would principally apply to websites in general.
wordpress.com vs. wordpress.org
To keep it short and sweet, you would use wordpress.com if you want your site hosted with them and you would pay hosting and have some limited possibilities of what you can install and have in your website. If you want full control then you download WP from wordpress.org, install it on your server and you are free to go wild.
Are websites DEAD?
You have probably heard some online marketers saying “websites are dead”, websites are “this and that” or they are “old school”, they are boring and unattractive and so on.
This kind of rhetoric is common in marketing when they try to take a marketing “angle” to sell you something similar which they will give it another name so it seems like “something new”. People like NEW and they pay more attention when something NEW is mentioned.
Online marketers often establish “us versus them” position to gain trust because they are “with us” and wish us well, against the others (who may have questionable motives).
Some marketers even use unethical NLP programming to bypass your conscious intellectual red-flag service to directly gain access to your subconscious emotional decision making mechanism stimulating a quick buying decision mode.
One example are sales funnels – where some are glorified as magical money making machines where in reality they are just sequence of web pages called “landing pages” or “sales pages” crafted for a specific use case of focused selling.
In essence they are websites because they are made of the same “material” (i.e. web pages). In fact, they are made as front-end selling points (responsible for some 20% of sales – to get the customers “through the door”) while your website is the back-end (and back bone) of your business (responsible for 80% of sales where the real profit happens). So the font-end can be somewhat profitable and sometimes operate even at a calculated loss, while the back-end ensures profitability and long term success.
The truth is that both, sales pages (landing pages) can be developed along your website which makes it even easier to operate and maintain because your payment processing and CRM are already built into your website so you do not need to maintain the sales, payment processing, customer acquisition and customer management in two (if you use landing page service as ClickFunnels, Lead Pages or similar) but in one place (your website).
The CASE for websites
Websites are NOT DEAD.
With the advancement of the internet and the ever growing number of internet users by the day, websites are more important than ever.
They are the MOST important online asset you could have. I do not see that changing soon. Since when do people live in their homes?
When will homes become “old school” or “outdated”? People will always need a place they call home.
Similarly their websites are their “online home” or “online business home”.
Some will say “I do not need a website, I have a huge following on Facebook” (or some other platform).
My question to them is: Do you own Facebook? Do you have any say in what Facebook does or what direction it may take a month from now? Are you 100% sure Facebook will not ban you one day?
Well, even Facebook would not be able to answer that, let alone us.
The fact is that if you rely 100% on third party platforms to conduct your business, you could lose your business overnight.
It has already happened to many others and it will happen to many more to come.
I am not saying you should not conduct your business on social media platforms. Absolutely do. But I am saying that regardless which one you use, you still need a website which you call your online home.
Your website is the FOUNDATION of your business and it is at the center of your marketing efforts.
It is a MAIN HUB connecting all other online assets you are using in order to present your business and grow it. It has to be built properly and strategically in order to be effective. It also needs to be monitored and maintained (optimized) in order to perform as desired in our business.
Your website ensures information and intel flow from and to other channels (insert image here). It sends information to social channels and gets visitors from them and keeps those visitors engaged until they reach a “buying mode”. Until then you had to build trust and clarity regarding your product / service and encourage them to buy from you.
Did you realize that Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and Tik-Tok are actually websites? Yes, that is why websites are not dead and they will not be for a long time. Do you know that Facebook is making billions by actually tracking every user’s move (scroll and pause), every click, every comment (and scores its sentiment), every share, every purchase, customer satisfaction score (and much more) we make on the platform? Its algorithm evaluates and makes decisions based on user behavior and serves ads in front of us (based on our preference, behavior and purchase history) that many companies pay to be placed on Facebook and all other social marketing platforms.
Now realize that your website is your platform where you can do similar things, invite visitors (by sharing content), watch your visitors navigating from page to page, scrolling, clicking, filling out forms, reading your content and allowing you to communicate with them via phone calls, email, your social channels and so on. Do you understand the power of your website now and how it can change your business? Can you afford to not have one? For how long?
WordPress (WP) website
WP has really evolved over the years and has become one of the most popular choices for websites since it has been expanded to handle lot more than initial blogging platform was able to.
In my opinion it is fairly easy platform to learn for new users who would maintain content on it
In terms of building it out with features which are needed, it may need different level of expertise to set your website up properly.
One argument and misconception that I see often people talk about WP is that WP is free and how could a WP site cost a lot of money when it is free.
To illustrate this simplistic understanding of some let’s assume you build a WP site with all free components (theme and plugins) in the next section.
One thing to be aware of (to consider)
Before we begin, I want you to examine the problem in the picture below:
Let me point out just couple of comparisons. The left car has regular brakes, while the sports car on the right has ABS brakes (which are much safer and have a shorter braking path). The pink car on the left has a 4 cylinder, 80 HP engine, while the sports car has a V12, 800 HP engine. Can you imagine what the difference in acceleration and speed is with the two cars above?
It is similar with websites. It is even harder to see the difference. Two websites can actually look identical if they both use same the theme and layout (as opposed to the two cars above that look very different). Both website can have the exact same looking contact form. But one just has a form which collects user input information (where you as the owner have to manually do something with the data). The second website has a the same form that is connected to its CRM (contact management system), The CRM is putting the submitted visitor’s info into a proper list segment, which has an automated indoctrination email sequence which let’s the visitor get 10 emails over the period of the next 30 days, which educates, agitates, and calls to action (sells your product / service) on your behalf. All this is happening automatically, without the business owner having to do anything manually.
Similar functionality could be that when the visitor submits the inquiry form you or your team member gets an instant SMS notification with the inquiry content and call-link which calls the prospect right after you are done reading the inquiry. So the prospect gets a call back 1-2 minutes after the inquiry. What kind of impression would that leave on your prospect? They would certainly have respect for this kind of response and view your company as a serious one. These are only couple of examples similar to the car comparison above.
We need a better way to evaluate two item we are comparing than the two-car example above. A more telling way of comparing the two cars would be some kind of benchmark score assignment to get a better idea where the two cars stand in relation to each other. So maybe something like the image below would give us a better understanding of the difference between the two:
Now the black piece of pie is the remaining space for improvement where we see that the first car did not reach 50% of the benchmark while the sports car went over 90% of the benchmark. Similarly we can prioritize website features and assign them a score based on prioritization depending on the website / industry niche and score them as we did with the cars.
For example, here is a list of website features for different website functionality. I made a simplified list with some kind of category grouping:
BUSINESS WEBSITE FEATURES [FUNTIONALITY]
-  Quality hosting (easy backups + staging site) [INFRASTRUCTURE]
-  Mobile (first) adaptive / responsive (need 2nd website version ?) [DESIGN]
-  Load speed [INFRASTRUCTURE]
-  Landing / Sales Pages (focused product / service) [LEAD GENERATION / MARKETING / SALES (FRONT-END)]
-  Sales pages (w/ integrated payment processors) [MARKETING / SALES (FRONT-END)]
-  Contact Form (SMS notification) [COMMUNICATION]
-  Products & Services [SALES (BACK-END)]
-  CRM (Customer relationship management – lists, intel, segmentation, incoming channel) [COMMUNICATION]
-  Analytics – (traffic, referrers, bounce rate, time on site, pages per visit, demographics) [INTEL]
-  Chat / Bot (Automated responses / Email / SMS notification) [COMMUNICATION]
-  SEO optimizes quality content (ranking keywords) [FINDABILITY / MARKETING]
-  Customer support (ticketing system) [SUPPORT]
-  GDPR and ADA compliance [LEGAL]
-  SMS messaging and alerts (staff + visitor) [ALERTS / SUPPORT]
-  Call Calendar (Email / SMS notification) [COMMUNICATION]
-  Good search functionality (custom) [INFRASTRUCTURE]
-  Autoresponder email (automation + follow ups) [COMMUNICATION / MARKETING / SALES (BACK-END)]
-  Automated content distribution (to several social channels) – OR at least manual [FINDABILITY / MARKETING]
-  Heatmaps and recordings [INTEL]
-  Click to call button (show during business hours) [CTA]
-  Intuitive navigation (website structure – sitemap) [DESIGN / INFRASTRUCTURE]
-  CTA – call to action widgets [CTA]
-  Access levels (for staff / customers) [INFRASTRUCTURE]
-  Editorial process or w/o one [MARKETING]
-  Desktop notifications (notification bell) [MARKETING]
Now we can assign points to functionalities and evaluate how each functionality is fulfilling its purpose and how we can improve them or if we need to add additional functionalities.
The Simplistic Scenario (FREE website)
Let’s examine a FREE website scenario. Nothing is free and if you are not spending money you will be spending time. Which is more valuable? You decide.
Ok, let’s start: domain and hosting you have to pay so let’s go with a $15/yr domain and $25/mo hosting. These two cost you cannot avoid (and you should spend at least $20-$50/mo for a somewhat decent hosting). If you can spend $100+/mo for a dedicated server, even better. If you are one of those who think you know a better deal with $3/mo hosting then this article is probably not for you.
Let’s say you have installed your WP site, selected a theme and added 20 plugins to accomplish your goal. Now, the work begins: you have to configure the theme and all the plugins you have installed and activated. You have to build your main pages and add media to them, make them look nice and ensure they look good on different screen sizes.
If everything goes w/o any issues, you are golden. If your are able to add good content and get people to visit your website, even better. If you know anything about SEO and you are able to rank some of your content on search engines to get organic visitors to your site that is great. Now if you have a compelling offer and you convert visitors to subscribers and then to customers than you have made it.
In order for all of the above to happen, many things need to be done right. In reality this is almost never the case and especially not the case in the first try. Rather, it is a first step in the process which needs to keep evolving over time (all the time). That means that the FREE website you have just built needs some love and attention (on a daily basis). Running a live online website is at least a part-time job for a one webmaster, if not a full time job and depending on what you want to do with it, it could become even a team effort (which is the case for many companies).
The More Realistic Scenario (paid website)
Before you start building your website it goes a long way to do some planning and develop a strategy for building your website which will save you a lot of time, energy and money in the long run. Depending of what you discover in your planning phase you may find out that you need some features and functionalities which you cannot get free so you will have to go with paid themes / plugins.
Some you can pay once and for some you need a paid subscription service because you may need support for a specific plugin / theme when things go wrong. You have to troubleshoot any potential plugin conflicts and test if they perform as expected. If some of them fail you have to find replacement for them and test again.
You may also discover that the paid solutions out there are missing some specific features that your WordPress Business Website needs in order to provide the desired functionality – that means your website may need some customization or programming which will bridge the gap of just using out of the box software.
Programming is one thing and use cases for business solutions is another and you may discover that you need someone who understands how to translate desired business solutions into a development requirements – that is you may need a project manager (here we see how quickly building a WordPress Business Website can become a team effort). You may not understand the significance of this yet, but believe me when I tell you that you have many plugin software’s which are not designed well because the developer may be a good programmer but not a good business person so the software may lack some very needed features.
Now when you are adding up paid themes and plugins plus the expertise, manpower and time needed to set everything up properly you see why WP sites are not FREE anymore. I even worked on a WP site that was allegedly paid $60K (yes, sixty thousand USD). That is far from free.
Yes, you can install WP in minutes, I actually made a demo video where I install WP and load it up with sample e-com products creating an online store, in just 50 seconds. Then what? The point is what do you afterwards? Again, website is the beginning, not the end of the project.
An Ongoing Process
In fact it is more common that some things in the website building process will go wrong and will need to be evaluated and re-thought, re-done and evaluated and tested again and again. It is an agile and repetitive process. Is is an ongoing process because the website has a life of its own and it is a living thing – it is really LIVE online. It is live because people are visiting it and interacting with it by clicking links, reading text, watching videos, submitting their requests via your website form, getting emails from you in their inbox and so on.
Back To The Simplistic Scenario
I have seen people build a website and then they wonder why they do not get any traffic / visitors to it, let alone any sales. This could be compared to driving to work and staying sitting in the car and then wondering why you got fired from the job (because you never got to work). In other words, website is just the first step (alas the most important) of your (online) business. I said alas (unfortunately) because you cannot avoid it.
Website is a foundation of your business of same importance like a foundation of your house. You cannot omit it. A house without a foundation would quickly crumble. You need to have the online foundation (i.e. WordPress Business Website) in order to build everything on top of it and around it. I said “online” because regardless of what you do – your website is the online component of your business even if you have a physical location as a brick and mortar store.
Your WordPress Business Website also acts as a glue connecting all your other online channels together (social media channels, video, landing pages, payment processors and so on). There is no way around it and sooner or later business owners will have to realize it. I am baffled with the number of businesses which are still without a website because they probably do not realize its importance and what the cost of lost opportunity is. If it is just $3K month (let’s say one small project), that is $36K a year which could cover their rent if they have a physical location. If they do not realize it soon, they may get out of business very quickly.
Some people have the wrong impression that once they pay someone to build their website, they solved their problem. Their new website should then somehow magically bring new business to them. When this does not happen some get mad and may start blaming the website developer. In reality they do not understand the whole process and the step they are on after the WordPress Business Website is ready. They do not understand that they have the next step to make.
Now you have a website. If you do not keep working on it and do not do anything with it from this point on, you cannot expect much to happen. This could be compared to buying a car without the intention to ever put gas in it (and I am not talking electric cars here) – this strategy will no get you very far. As your car needs gas to move, so your WordPress Business Website needs content and work to produce results.
One Important Thing About WordPress Business Website
Few sentences about WP security, the importance of regular updates, backups and maintenance of your WP site. This is very important since it protects your online asset from getting destroyed. Yes, it happens. Besides that, if the maintenance is not easy, it will create additional, unwanted work for you. Any changes you want to make to your live site would ideally be tested in a staging environment first.
All the above requires the right decisions are made in order to make it as painless and smooth as possible avoiding it to become a maintenance burden. This is specially true when it comes to more complex websites with a lot of features.
Business owners should have proper understanding of the project scope, what they are getting when the project is done and also need to have a clarity what is expected from them. The developer (or team) has to explain it to the business owner what the business owner needs to provide to the developer(s) and in which time-frame in order for the website project to move in a timely manner and be done in the desired time-frame.
Again: your website is the beginning, not the end. But in order for your WordPress Business Website to be the “proper” beginning, a correct steps need to be made, not any. Once you have done it correctly, the other work can begin (automation, mailing, SEO, paid traffic, analytics, KPI’s, heat-maps, optimization, etc.). Then, and only then you will have the proper online foundation and branding for your business.
CTA - Call To Action If you want to discuss your WordPress Business Website project needs, fill out this form and schedule a call so we can go over your requirements to see if we are good fit for the project. In case you are a one-man operation and you would like to go through this process of building your WordPress Business Website properly, consider joining my Winning WordPress Websites Weekend Workshop (coming up soon as it is in the prep-phase and will start in a second half of November 2022).