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Here’s a story about cheap websites: When I tell people I’m in the digital marketing business, and take a time to explain my history and credentials, they often reply with horror stories about how they hate their current site, or how their current site is really not doing anything to help their business… and quite often, I hear both.

People report this to me so often, that I just have to wonder, “How did they ever end up with something they absolutely hate, and that doesn’t work for them?”

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Knowing the human nature, I can guess that the main reason is because they found the cheapest solution, and just ran with it. They wanted a “cheap website” and they got it. But did they even understand the problem? The problem they sought to solve was simply “not having a website,” but upon launching, a laundry list of problems they didn’t see coming unmercifully stares them in the face.

You get what you pay for, as they say.

(Where I grew up, they used to say something like, “it’s really expensive to go cheap.” I like that phrase a lot better. 😉 )

Here are 7 risks you take by going with the first cheap provider that crosses your way.

1- You end up paying much more than what the work is worth.

Let’s face it: Cheap website “developers” have no idea what they’re doing. They spend about $30 on a template they downloaded, spend an hour or two installing it and loading content (all of which you provide them), and then send you an invoice for $1,000. At $15/hour — a bountiful salary, if we take into consideration their skills and experience — they’re making a humongous profit of $940 dollars on your ignorance.

Congrats! You just made someone really rich, and they laugh all the way to the bank with an ROI of 1,566%. You, on the other hand, made an ROI of -94% by trying to go on the cheap.

Cheap-O Designs also often charges you $60 – $100 per month on “maintenance,” of which they spend very little doing, and usually only about $7/month goes to Web hosting costs. I won’t torture you with the math on that one, but by all means, be my guest.

In the end, it doesn’t seem too cheap after all, does it?

2- Your business ends up looking disastrous.

The first impression of your business often dictates whether your visitors will stay on your site, or will click away. Also, it will help form an opinion of your product or service in the potential customer’s mind. It’s quite surprising to me that people are willing to gamble their business’ lifespan on this subject.

In terms of visitation, the internet is a free-market, and your visitors are exposed to fantastic design on a daily basis, from the comfort of their pajamas, no tickets required. Do you really think they’ll see your business in a good light when they come to your site?

People are much more discerning in this day and age. You don’t want to be the ugly duckling, when they can just click twice and go to your competitor, who did do things correctly.

3- You end up with a website that doesn’t convert.

Recently, a person I know told me they were frustrated because their website didn’t send any business their way. Building a website that converts and supports your business goals requires working on it within a conscious and strategic framework.

A cheap “designer” is simply not going to care about your business goals… They won’t even ask you! Their goal is to send you an invoice, not to help you make money. As a result, you get exactly that: Your website makes no money.

And what do we call something that requires us to spend capital, yet yields no profit? L-O-S-S.

4- Your site is not ready for the mobile web.

This one is a hot one. I often get asked to consult people on what’s wrong with their website, and this one is among my top 3 most frequent responses. I often wonder if cheap “designers” own a mobile device, because designing for it seems to be the last thing on their minds.

Mobile web users, depending on the subject of interest, are right around 50% of total users, and are sometimes even above that mark. That is half of your potential audience, cringing as soon as they land on your website.

Actually, what they do is just click (or touch) away. Nobody has time to pinch and zoom just to read whatever you thought was important. You don’t consider them, they don’t have patience on you. Boom, that was hundreds or maybe thousands of people you lost the chance to connect with. Forever.

5- You have no way to track the value of your investment.

People just worrying about “plugging the hole” of not having a website forget that in the end, this expense needs to generate revenue for your business. But how can you determine value, if there’s no way to track it?

Recently I met with someone who told me that he doesn’t get any business from his website. I asked him how he knew that, and he replied that he knows exactly where all his calls and emails are coming from, and they’re surely not from his site.

Then, this same person asks me about my services to increase traffic to his website. I absolutely declined to do that, of course. What good would it do to send a ton of traffic his way, if in the end he’ll have no idea (other than asking his clients one by one) where they came from?

(I know many people would have no problem with charging without an interest in the other person’s success, but that’s just not me. I refuse to charge anything unless I’m 100% sure I’m providing more value than I’m receiving… But that’s for another post.)

A cheap “designer” will not care about your investment, as that’s not their job. They know you’re bleeding money by deciding to work with them (see point #1). They will go out of their way to ignore any means you could use to track key performance indicators. Cheap “designers” exist to send you an invoice, not to look out for the health of your investment.

6- Your site is not prepared for future updates.

As cheap “designers” are not involved in the content process (you have to hand everything to them), they will do exactly what you tell them, and will build a site that has iron walls around that list of content you thought you needed upon launch.

A month or two down the line, when you request an extension, they’ll tell you the site can’t do it, and the only way it can happen is by starting everything from scratch. Cha-CHING for them, bad news for you.

A responsible web services provider will discuss future plans with you so they can keep your projections fully in mind during the design and development phase.

7- Your site is not optimized for search engines.

Any web property today should be structured in such a way that search engines can crawl it and rank it for the right keywords. To some people, this sounds as if a nifty little robot is doing a bunch of work for you, picking up things and organizing them as it goes along. However, there are more things that need to happen on your end than on the search engine side for this process to be completed successfully.

When these things do not happen, your website ranks for nothing. Your site may become absolutely invisible to search engines, even when searching up your own brand name. (This was actually happening to a recent client of mine!)

If your own brand name doesn’t come up on searches, I can almost assure you that when people search for what you’re selling, you’re not coming up either. Sales opportunities are lost on a daily basis because of your un-remarkable invisibility powers.

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As you can see, it really is true that it’s more expensive to go the cheapest route. My advice to those looking to develop a new site for their business is… Stop! Think about it for a minute, before you pull the trigger on something you’ll end up hating. You absolutely don’t want to get cheap results, so why go with cheap solutions (or what appear as cheap solutions)?

To your success.

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