How Much Does A Website Cost?

Hire a Web Design Company (Cost $2,000 – $10,000+ per year)

Who this is right for:

If you have a unique vision for your website, you can work with a web design company. You will get the most hand holding with this option, as the company should be experts at website design and able to provide useful insight on how your website should be built. This all comes at a higher cost, as web design companies charge anywhere from $2,000-$10,000+ depending on how complex you need your site to be.

If you do decide to go with this option, we recommend that the design company builds your website on WordPress. Since there are thousands of web developers who know the ends and outs of WordPress, if you leave the firm who built your site for any reason, you will be able to find someone else to take over. You will also have more control over making edits to your site if it’s built on WordPress.

Strategic SEO Decisions to Make Before Website Design and Build

Wider strategic questions that should be answered:

1. How do we communicate our mission statement online?

After you identify your classic marketing ‘value proposition,’ next comes working out how you communicate it online.

Are terms describing the customer problem/your solution being searched for? Your value proposition might not have many searches; in this case, you need to create a brand association with the problem-solving for specific customer needs. (Other ways of getting traffic are discussed in: “How to Do SEO for Sites and Products with No Search Demand”).

How competitive are these terms? You may find that space is too competitive and you will need to look into alternative or long-tail variations of your offering.

2. Do we understand our customer segments?

These are the questions that are a starting point in your research:

  • How large is our market? Is the potential audience growing or shrinking? (A tool to assist you: Google Trends.)
  • What are our key personas — their demographics, motivations, roles, and needs? (If you are short on time, Craig Bradford’s Persona Research in Under 5 Minutes shows how to draw insights using Twitter.)
  • How do they behave online and offline? What are their touch points beyond the site? (A detailed post on Content and the Marketing Funnel.)

This understanding will allow you to build your site architecture around the stages your customers need to go through before completing their goal. Rand offers a useful framework for how to build killer content by mapping keywords. Ideally, this process should be performed in advance of the site build, to guide which pages you should have to target specific intents and keywords that signify them.

3. Who are our digital competitors?

Knowing who you are competing against in the digital space should inform decisions like site architecture, user experience, and outreach. First, you want to identify who fall under three main types of competitors:

  • You search competitors: those who rank for the product/service you offer. They will compete for the same keywords as those you are targeting, but may cater to a completely different intent.
  • Your business competitors: those that are currently solving the customer problem you aim to solve.
  • Cross-industry competitors: those that solve your customer problem indirectly.

After you come up with the list of competitors, analyze where each stands and how much operational resource it will take to get where they are:

  • What are our competitors’ size and performance?
  • How do they differentiate themselves?
  • How strong is their brand?
  • What does their link profile look like?
  • Are they doing anything different/interesting with their site architecture?

Tools to assist you: Open Site ExplorerMajestic SEO, and Ahrefs for competitor link analysis, and SEM rush for identifying who is ranking for your targeted keywords.

Technical areas to consider in order to avoid future migration/rebuild

1. HTTP or HTTPS

Decide on whether you want to use HTTPS or HTTP. In most instances, the answer will be the former, considering that this is also one of the ranking factors by Google. The rule of thumb is that if you ever plan on accepting payments on your site, you need HTTPS on those pages at a minimum.

2. Decide on a canonical version of your URLs

Duplicate content issues may arise when Google can access the same piece of content via multiple URLs. Without one clear version, pages will compete with one another unnecessarily.

In developer’s eyes, a page is unique if it has a unique ID in the website’s database, while for search engines the URL is a unique identifier. A developer should be reminded that each piece of content should be accessed via only one URL.

3. Site speed

Developers are under pressure to deliver code on time and might neglect areas affecting page speed. Communicate the importance of page speed from the start and put in some time in the brief to optimize the site’s performance (A three-part Site Speed for Dummies Guide explains why we should care about this area.)

4. Languages and locations

If you are planning on targeting users from different countries, you need to decide whether your site would be multi-lingual, multi-regional, or both. Localized keyword research, hreflang considerations, and duplicate content are all issues better addressed before the site build.

Using separate country-level domains gives an advantage of being able to target a country or language more closely. This approach is, however, reliant upon you having the resources to build and maintain infrastructure, write unique content, and promote each domain.

If you plan to go down the route of multiple language/country combinations on a single site, typically the best approach is subfolders (e.g. example.com/uk, example.com/de). Subfolders can run from one platform/CMS, which means that development setup/maintenance is significantly lower.

5. Ease of editing and flexibility in a platform

Google tends to update their recommendations and requirements all the time. Your platform needs to be flexible enough to make quick changes at scale on your site.

Design areas to consider in order to avoid future redesign

1. Architecture and internal linking

An effective information architecture is critical if you want search engines to be able to find your content and serve it to users. If crawlers cannot access the content, they cannot rank it well. From a human point of view, information architecture is important so that users can easily find what they are looking for.

Where possible, you should look to create a flat site structure that will keep pages no deeper than 4 clicks from the homepage. That allows search engines and users to find content in as few clicks as possible.

Use keyword and competitor research to guide which pages you should have. However, the way pages should be grouped and connected should be user-focused. See how users map out relationships between your content using a card sorting technique — you don’t have to have website mockup or even products in order to do that. (This guide discusses in detail how to Improve Your Information Architecture With Card Sorting.)

2. Content-first design

Consider what types of content you will host. Will it be large guides/whitepapers, or a video library? Your content strategy needs to be mapped out at this point to understand what formats you will use and hence what kind of functionality this will require. Knowing what content type you will producing will help with designing page types and create a more consistent user interface.

3. Machine readability (Flash, JS, iFrame) and structured data

Your web pages might use a variety of technologies such as Javascript, Flash, and Ajax that can be hard for crawlers to understand. Although they may be necessary to provide a better user experience, you need to be aware of the issues these technologies can cause. In order to improve your site’s machine readability, mark up your pages with structured data as described in more detail in the post: “How to Audit a Site for Structured Data Opportunities”.

4. Responsive design

As we see more variation in devices and their requirements, along with shifting behavior patterns of mobile device use, ‘mobile’ is becoming less of a separate channel and instead is becoming an underlying technology for accessing the web. Therefore, the long-term goal should be to create a seamless and consistent user experience across all devices. In the interest of this goal, responsive design and dynamic serving methods can assist with creating device-specific experiences.

Closing thoughts

As a business owner/someone responsible for launching a site, you have a lot on your plate. It is probably not the best use of your time to go down the rabbit hole, reading about how to implement structured data and whether JSON-LD is better than Microdata. This post gives you important areas that you should keep in mind and address with those you are delegating them to — even if the scope of such delegation is doing research for you (“Give me pros and cons of HTTPS for my business” ) rather than complete implementation/handling.

13 MUST-HAVES FOR SEO-FRIENDLY WEB DESIGN

Reality check: Google doesn’t care if your website looks pretty.

Web design matters. It matters a lot. You want your website to capture your audience. Customers are more like to convert on a website that’s modern and professional. But the search engines aren’t basing rankings on how pretty your website is.

If you’ve spent much time on Google, you’ve surely encountered plenty of ugly websites near the top of the rankings. Maybe one of those ugly sites is even outranking you. It’s enough to cause any business owner a panic attack. After spending all that money on your eye-catching new website, you end up outranked by something that looks like a 10-year old designed it twenty years ago.

But here’s the thing: your website can’t be just pretty. Pretty only converts if your potential customers find it. Ugly sites with lots of visitors generally perform a heck of a lot better than beautiful sites with no visitors.

That doesn’t mean you should stick with that outdated website though. A new website that uses best practices and data-driven design will almost always outperform the old thing. But if you want the new website to perform, you need to focus on a lot more than what it looks like.

Cue SEO-friendly web design. Although SEOs and web designers are sometimes pitted as enemies, quality design in today’s digital landscape requires harmony between the two. Web design without an eye for SEO is like letting a blind man assemble your Ferrari’s engine.

What exactly does SEO-friendly design look like? Here are 13 elements that should be included in just about any new website.

1. RESPONSIVE DESIGN

We don’t need to go into the whole “age of mobile” thing. If you don’t already know the importance of mobile, then you’ve got a lot of catching up to do. Today’s SEO-friendly website is responsive, meaning it looks and functions great on every device. With mobile usage going up and search engines putting more emphasis on mobile-friendliness, it really doesn’t make sense to design a website that isn’t responsive. Even Google says responsive is best.

2. THE RIGHT CONTENT MANAGEMENT SYSTEM

Content is king. You can’t rank well in search without content. But simply having the content isn’t enough. You have to be able to manage and present that content in a way the search engines can see it. Just about every website needs a content management system. Whether you use WordPress, Drupal, Magento, or something else, you’ll have a lot more control over your content—and a lot more success in the search results.

3. CRAWLABLE AND INDEXABLE PAGES

The search engines can’t rank what they cannot see. You could have the most beautiful website with the greatest content in the universe, but it won’t mean a thing if your pages aren’t crawlable and indexable.

A web developer has to know how to launch a website so search engines can start crawling and indexing immediately. Otherwise, you might find yourself with a great site that no one can find.

4. FRIENDLY URL STRUCTURE

Which of these links would you be more inclined to visit:

Well, if you’re looking for a web designer in Minneapolis, you’d probably pick the second one. But if you’re looking for a surprise, you might click on the first. As you can imagine, the search engines don’t like surprises. They want to serve up results that answer a user’s query right away. SEO-friendly web design must have a logical URL structure.

5. QUICK LOAD TIME

People hate waiting. So do search engines. If your website doesn’t load fast, you’re going to lose customers. You’re also going to lose traffic. Google has been testing multiple variations of a “slow to load” label in mobile search results.

As you can probably guess, any type of caution message is going to hurt your click-through rate, which is eventually going to hurt your rankings. Make your website fast or watch your customers run away.

6. FLASH…NOPE

Don’t use flash. Search engines hate it. A lot of devices don’t like it that much either.

Okay, maybe that’s a bit harsh. There may be some cases where flash is acceptable. But if you want to be SEO friendly, you have to steer clear (or at least provide an alternative). If you must use flash, keep these rules in mind:

  • Don’t make the whole site flash
  • Don’t use flash for navigation
  • Don’t put your text in flash

7. LIMIT JAVASCRIPT

JavaScript lets you do a lot of cool things with your website. But some developers get carried away. We’ve even seen extreme cases where all content on a site loads with JavaScript. That’s about as SEO-friendly as calling Google and telling them you don’t want to be indexed. It’s okay to use JavaScript, but don’t overdo it. The search engines don’t have that much tolerance.

8. OPTIMIZE THOSE IMAGES

Web design needs lots of huge beautiful images, right? Those images sure can look great, but make sure they’re optimized. Images need to be compressed as much as possible (without sacrificing quality, of course). Otherwise, they’ll slow down your whole site. Remember how much fun it was in 1998 when you tried to open an image file on your dial-up connection? Today’s customers aren’t going to stick around to watch your image load pixel-by-pixel.

And don’t forget the alt tags. Every image should have an alt tag that tells a little something about the image. Some developers make alt tags almost impossible to add, and others default all alt tags to the company name. Not exactly SEO-friendly, eh?

9.SOCIAL MEDIA INTEGRATION

Social media is kind of a big deal. There’s pretty big positive correlation between high search results and social media activity. Your website needs to be integrated with social media. This doesn’t just mean slap a few links in the footer. Make it easy to share products, posts, and pages. Actually connect those social profiles to your website. It will increase your visibility and get you more attention on all fronts.

10. USE BREADCRUMBS

You like to be able to get back where you came from, right? The search engines certainly think you should be able to. Breadcrumbs (those little trails of navigation) are generally an SEO best practice. They make navigation easy. Search engines love easy navigation. They’re even showing breadcrumbs in mobile search results. Do you have to have them? Nope. There are times when it might not make sense. But if you have several layers of navigation—and especially if you have an ecommerce website—then you probably need them.

11. CLEAN UP YOUR CODE

It can take a lot of code to make all those awesome things happen on a website. Which brings up two points:

  • Good designers don’t cram sites so full of stuff that it’s impossible to tell what’s going on
  • Good developers know how to minimize code and still make things happen

The more code you have, the more convoluted things get for the search engines. Everything may render properly on the frontend, but the search engine crawlers might see some pretty crazy things thanks to your bloated code. Or they might not be able to see anything at all.

12. MAKE NAVIGATION EASY FOR EVERYONE

Your visitors have to be able to find where they need to go. So do the search engines. Yeah, we already talked a little about navigation with the breadcrumbs, but there’s a lot more to the picture. Your menus need to be useful. Your pages need to be properly linked together. If your users are confused by your navigation, then chances are the search engines can’t figure it out either. And guess what happens when the search engines can’t figure out how to navigate your site.

13. USE THE RIGHT ELEMENTS AT THE RIGHT TIME

Your users may not notice if your coding is out of order. But the search engines probably will. It’s essential to call elements like CSS and JavaScript at the right time in the code. If you don’t, things may end up rendering the wrong way for the crawlers. Don’t expect the crawlers to try to figure it out. Heck, they might even move on to the next site before they’ve had a chance to see your whole homepage.

SEO-FRIENDLY DOESN’T USE SHORTCUTS

SEO-friendly web design isn’t an easy thing or a quick fix. It’s certainly not a matter of simply installing an SEO plugin on your WordPress site. For a website to be truly SEO friendly, it takes careful planning, smart designing, and expert coding. If you take shortcuts, it’s going to end up being much harder for people to find that fabulous new website.