Full Disclosure: We are affiliated with WordPress.com. Even if you go with another provider, it is still important to manage your own website!
By Josh MacEwen
Websites are more affordable than most people think. Furthermore, creation and administration are more accessible than most expect. One of the reasons people go into business for themselves is to be truly independent and in control. In the past, many companies have given up control over their websites as it required coding abilities and a significant investment. Thankfully, things have changed. If you manage social media pages, you likely have the skills to manage your website.
There are many benefits to managing your website. First, there can be notable cost savings. I know people who have paid thousands getting their website built when they could have gotten what they need, and more, for a few hundred dollars a year. A second benefit is that updates are fast and easy. Many providers charge significant sums to make major or even minor updates to a website. Turnaround times can often be days, if not weeks. When you manage your website, it is instantaneous and free. This decreases the chance of typos staying up for years. The last benefit I will mention is the access to information. When managing your website, you can see which of your pages are popular, and how people find your website. This allows you to recognize what can be improved and then get assistance as required.
Regardless of who builds your website, I urge you to buy the business’s domain name yourself. If you do not know what a domain name is, think of it as your name on the web. Dufferin’s is www.dufferincounty.ca. Ours is www.dufferinsspotlight.ca. You must own your name. Just imagine if a dispute arose with our website provider. It could be difficult (if not costly) to get our domain name back, if at all. Also, owning your domain increases security and allows more options if your provider’s web servers go down. We use Google Domains (costs less than $20 a year), but do your research. When you have a perfect domain, you do not want to lose it. The provider could auction it off to your competitor and have it link to their existing website (while still keeping their domain name). Once again, you must own your name.
One of the most complicated parts of managing a website is web hosting. One can build a website, but unless you have a server to host it, nobody will be able to access it outside of the computer it is stored. This either requires you to have your web server (expensive and a pain to maintain), or you go with a provider. In most cases, you should go with a provider and not manage your server. They provide back-up services, security updates, and guaranteed up times. Similar to domain names, it is crucial to do your research in this area. Choose somebody reputable that provides excellent support and implements powerful security practices. All of this may lead you to think website creation is more complicated than I first let on. Thankfully, I have a solution that allows you to forget about web hosting.
We built our website using WordPress.com, and I recommend that you use it too. With WordPress.com, you do not have to worry about web hosting. They take care of all of it. There are many WordPress web hosts, over a third of the web runs on WordPress, but I recommend you go straight to the source. Most people have been in a situation where vendors blame each other when issues arise. IT professionals know the value of having one throat to choke (common industry phrase) when things go wrong. When your website is down, you need it solved immediately. There is no time for blame games. A separate web host provides more opportunities for things to go wrong. Going direct to WordPress.com gets rid of this.
There are other ways WordPress.com simplifies website creation and management, besides hosting. They provide a wide variety of themes to choose from, including those that are mobile-friendly. WordPress.com allows for plug-ins that help you create forms and mailing lists, in addition to search engine optimization. Redesigns are free, which could cost you thousands if you hired somebody. WordPress.com also provides plenty of ways for you to monetize your site. Whether it’s with advertisements, accepting donations, or selling products, they make it quick and easy to implement. These reasons and more are why huge brands like The Walt Disney Company and Mercedez-Benz use WordPress to build their websites.
The last advantage I’ll mention regarding WordPress.com is that it allows you to grow your website alongside your business. You can start with a free package that lets you build a basic website to highlight your products and services. There are limitations, but it can get you started. Paid plans currently range from $6-$59/month. Unless you are selling significant volume through your website, I recommend against the highest priced eCommerce plan. Established businesses and those that heavily emphasize their web presence should go with the Business plan. This allows you to create a professional-looking website and provides access to SEO tools, plugins, and support services. All of this enables you to do more with your website and get more value out of it.
Website designers do have their place, and there is value in learning HTML, CSS, and Java. They can help improve the functionality and aesthetics of a website. Search engine optimization is necessary too, but many oversell their abilities in this area. I have heard too many stories of business owners being convinced to make significant investments in websites that will never pay off. With expenses climbing higher, I see little reason to pay more for less control, especially when it doesn’t make my life easier. When I run into an issue that I cannot solve myself or through WordPress Support, that’s when I will consult an expert in this area. That hasn’t happened yet though and that’s why I am confident most business leaders can manage their website. You try it yourself, for free, right here.
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- Our Podcast: Dufferin’s Spotlight on Business
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