Firstly, we’re not talking about the amount a client pays a web designer to rebuild the website. We’re talking about how rebuilding a website for an existing and successful business can cost you thousands in lost leads, revenue and may contribute to employment positions in the company being no longer required to satisfy the downturn in business.
Some of the below principles also apply to new businesses and can have a huge impact on the success of the new business.
We previously worked with a client who have multiple locations and run a multi-faceted service-based business with many specific services provided. They would be considered a medium sized business (above 50 employees).
We built a substantial website for the client which at the time of launch, was considered state-of-the-art. Several years passed and whilst the website had been in service for a while, it was still looking great. Due to the software we used to create it (back in the 2010's), it didn’t have the capacity for the client to be able to log in and make changes as and when desired, but it had an SEO technical score nearing 100% when their competitors were well under 80%. A huge competitive advantage!
We performed many changes and updates on the site throughout its life cycle, but we knew the client wanted to be able to make changes themselves as they had employed a marketing resource internally who had requested access (which we were unable to provide due to the software used to build it).
When a maintenance update on the site was required recently (due to the software it was created on no longer supporting a font integration because of a new licencing restriction), we advised the client of this along with an estimate for the number of hours it would take us to complete. Until this font integration update was completed, we could no longer make changes to the site and advised the client. Fortunately, over the number of years whilst it was in operation, it was the only critical update required to be performed on the site.
Along with the notice to the client that this font update was required in order to continue working on the site, we also provided a quote for the site to be completely rebuilt using the new web design software we had implemented when Adobe Software (one of the largest software companies in the world and the number one software provider to the graphic design industry) decided to no longer provide support for their product.
The new custom site we proposed to rebuild would be current for 2023 and have a lot of integrated features developed so the client could add articles and projects, add or remove staff, create events and news using a comprehensive content management system (CMS). This would enable the client to add content as they wish and the ability to log in and make changes to the static web pages with an editor function.
The current website had been worked upon monthly over its lifespan to focus on SEO and improve/maintain their Google position in search across over 30 different phrases which was a combination of the service they provided and also the geographical position of the multiple outlets.
When we first designed the site, the organisation had approximately 15 employees and had now grown to over 50. Nothing short of an incredible achievement by the business owners.
Of the 30x Google search phrases we tracked and monitored monthly alongside improving SEO on the site, the website held approximately 10 number 1 positions, 14 positions in the top 3 and the remainder no worse than page 2. This was the result of continuous work and improvements made monthly (as part of an ongoing SEO package) to ensure the website was ranking highly across many search phrases related to the different services provided by the business.
After advising the client of the cost to perform the maintenance on the existing site (as well as scoping an alternative quote to perform a rebuild onto the new platform (giving a natural increase in speed due to the newer platform and also the added functionality to allow them to make updates and changes inhouse), we were met with an email a few weeks later that informed us that the business had started to develop their own website internally and that the site which had been receiving continual improvements in SEO for a number of years had already been changed over.
We wished them all the best and parted ways as we understood this now met their requirements to be able to service their website inhouse. This would give them the ability to make any change they desired immediately and save them on the cost to perform the maintenance upgrade (a few hours) or to rebuild the site on the new platform with the added functionality.
Unfortunately, one area they didn’t plan for in transitioning the website, was SEO. The expertise needed to plan for such a change isn’t something learned from a textbook but something that is learned with experience.
Ultimately whilst the site retained a similar Google search ranking for the main service of the business (because the home page doesn’t change its URL/address – e.g., domain.com.au), every other service category has now dropped from Google indexing altogether as the page previously indexed by Google no longer exists.
This is due to the individual page addresses now being different from the one which was previously indexed and ranked on Google. Each alternate service which was previously a number one rank (or top 3) had dropped completely from the listings and is nowhere to be found. Ouch.
It remains to be seen (having only written this article a few days after the change) but it is likely that this main service which has retained the ranking for that keyword search will ultimately drop off in the same way as all the other services in the coming weeks. Google gives some grace to changes made on websites to allow sites to retain some legacy ranking after being number one in rankings for so long, but unfortunately the SEO technical score is unlikely to be at the same or better score than its predecessor and will likely use other keywords that were not used in the same way as the previous site to optimise ranking in search for.
Businesses cost money to run. Overheads are prevalent and we can understand why a business may seek a more cost effective or better fitting solution to meet its needs.
Unfortunately, if your business uses Google Search as one of its only marketing practices, planning a website transition or rebuild in detail is required to prevent a rank drop in as many search queries such as this. In this case, approximately 30 search queries.
Professionals can cost a lot, and building websites has been heavily marketed recently to be simple with online builders such as Wix, Squarespace (and others) which can make web design easily achieved by anyone. What these builders fail to address in their marketing, is how your self-built website will rank in Google Search.
Building a website that performs its function and takes a team from 15 to 50 in a few short years through impressive Google results amongst an industry that is over-serviced - that takes knowledge, planning and experience.
Working with a website such as this (which is a dominant competitor in its industry) is a business asset and rebuilding requires planning and attention. Changes to a business’s website ranking (or a complete delisting) can literally cost the business thousands upon thousands of dollars in lost leads and revenue and potentially many jobs. Building a website for a side hustle can be a fun and learning experience. Building a website that needs to perform or could cost you tens of thousands of dollars, needs to be given the attention, planning, knowledge and experience it deserves.