As Covid started, most industries had to act fast to adapt. Businesses started trimming the fat almost immediately after the world went into lockdown. “Are we using this service?” “Why are we paying for this system?” “Is there a better, cheaper way to do this?” Owners were forced to look inward at their own business in order to stay afloat.
‘Trimming the fat’ could look very different depending on which industry we are talking about. For example, brick-and-mortar retailers were forced to commit to selling online. These businesses needed to make quick decisions on the best way to build out an online space that their customers will actually use. Today, there are hundreds of different platforms and techniques available to help you reach your goals. How can you make the correct decisions without any insight into the web? Even if you take the initiative and try to learn everything you can, you may still make the wrong decisions. You’re a business owner, not a web developer. At this point, you either roll the dice or ask for help.
Stopping the leak before it starts
Throughout the pandemic transition, there has been a huge increase in stories of companies wasting thousands of dollars on strategies they don’t need. Marketing companies were not immune to the pandemic and are selling their services harder than ever — Not always in the most honest of ways. Below, we will try to pinpoint a couple of services where we see people consistently getting “taken for a ride”.
In 2021, domains are cheap and easy to get. For a domain that has not been used it should not cost you more than $50/year to get it, excluding some ‘premium’ domain extensions like .io. Services like Rebel and Porkbun make it even easier — you can often find domains for under $5/year. On these websites, there are hundreds of domain extensions that you can choose from. You can always find something close to what you are looking for. We almost never recommend buying a top-level domain for thousands of dollars or bidding on a domain. Unless you have a very specific reason for needing that particular domain, I would avoid going down this path.
SSL, or “secure socket layer” certificates, are widely misunderstood for what they do. The SSL certificate is a piece of code that helps provide security for online communications through a website or application. These communications can be things like form submits, live chats, or other actions that connect to a server. Without an SSL certificate, attackers could potentially steal information being sent across the website. This can be extremely detrimental to business as this could mean your customers’ personal details could be compromised.
This sounds scary to anyone looking to open an online business. It would be easy to sell a $200 certificate for “added security” so you would not have to worry about the above.
However, you can get extremely good SSL certificates for free! If you are a smaller business or startup - never pay a cent for an SSL Certificate. Now, there are some instances where larger companies will need to buy more expensive certificates for a more complex setup but generally, these are for specialized instances.
Think of this as buying an HDMI cable for your new TV. You can spend $200 on the gold-plated HDMI cable (yes they exist), but how much more effective is that going to be compared to the $10 cable that you can buy from Walmart?
We use a service called Certbot to manage all of our SSL certificates. It’s a free service that makes managing SSL certificates easy. One line of code can update every certificate on the server.
SSL Certificates should not be expensive or hard to set up in 2021.
Google Ads & Bing Ads
Are you tracking your ads? Almost any time we start working with a client we ask about analytics. We need to know what’s working and what’s not and the only way to do that digitally is to track the data. Otherwise, you will be needing to start from scratch to figure this out. If you are spending money on Google ads or Bing ads and are not seeing clear results or know where your money is going, that is a problem.
Time and time again, we see people on hosting plans that are either way too powerful (and expensive) for what they need or are underpowered for their level of traffic. The sweet spot for your business is hard to identify if you're not sure what to look for.
For startups & smaller businesses you should not be spending more than $30 a month for hosting. Most websites could run for even less than that without any negative effect on website users. This price can scale up fairly quickly depending on how popular your website is or how many ‘expensive’ features are added to the website.
Always make sure that your server is able to expand. Who knows when you're going to have a viral article or post? It will become clear you will need more juice when your website starts to become slow or returns errors (especially 500 errors!) when there is increased traffic. Don’t spend too much on hosting until you really need it.
It’s easy to waste a lot of money designing stuff. Without the right plan, you will be stuck in revision hell until you land on something that maybe visually looks good. Even then, without planning and research you could completely miss your mark without even knowing it. Consistently we get asked, “do you do logos?” It’s a big red flag for us when we hear this. The visual elements to any brand will be one of the later steps to complete. There is a lot of legwork between starting a brand and producing a logo. Don’t waste time and money on a logo before you’ve established why you need it, and what it needs to represent for your business.
SEO (Search Engine Optimization) can be powerful. It can also be one of the shadiest industries out there. It’s extremely hard even for someone in the development industry to cut through the mud to figure out what works and what does not. Search engine algorithms are constantly changing and will look at different factors over time to determine the rank of your website.
There is no magic bullet that will make your SEO 80% better overnight. You will likely have to do smaller tasks and fixes to gradually achieve what you are looking for. There are definitely good SEO companies out there. Once again, you will have to be careful you are getting advice from the right people. Ask around - do your research!
There are lots of ways companies can save money — if they start asking the right questions. Bringing on an experienced team with marketing expertise can save you time, money and even your sanity.
Don’t be the guy to ask your brother’s sister’s mom to build your website. Ask a professional for help... And be sure to get a second opinion.