Planning your website budget beyond the build
Planning a new website will almost certainly be constrained by having a budget. But a website only makes up a part of your digital strategy, and the success of many of the decisions that are taken either during the website planning process, or during the build will be dependent on having sufficient budget to implement them beyond its launch.
In this article, I've written a summary of some of things you might need to consider as additional costs beyond the launch of your new website.
You might be asking why you need budget for additional development before you've even launched your website. The reality is during a project there are aspects of how the website could be used that could be overlooked or forgotten (hopefully not by your agency!), or it might be that they only come to light based on feedback from your visitors. There's no substitute for getting real feedback from visitors, so it's reasonable to expect to want to explore some changes to your site after its been launched.
Given that budgets are usually one of the primary constraints (although time can also be a factor), there will often be a wish list for a second phase of a website project. This might include things like integrations with other systems (often deemed non-essential for a first release), perhaps extending the site with multi-lingual content or changing the way certain things work as the new site starts to bed in alongside other business operations.
A website is nothing without traffic, and while you can expect organic traffic from visitors who already know about your business or the strength of your existing reputation, you'll almost certainly need to build your audience. There are various ways to do this, with the most popular choices listed below.
Search Engine Optimisation
Search engine optimisation (or SEO for short) is all about improving your websites profile in the organic or non-paid search engine listings. Search engines are constantly changing their algorithms and marketing teams or a digital agency partner need to be on the ball to react to these. Search engines are looking at three main areas when ranking your website, and each of these can only be built or managed over time:
- Good quality content
- Technical performance (speed)
- Inbound links from other websites
As new content is added, or other sites link to your content, there's a need to ensure there are no broken links across the site and that those links come from reputable sources. While new content invariably adds profile and authority to your website, pages that include lots of images can add technical weight to the site impacting on performance. Managing these 3 points over time not only supports reducing technical debt, but of course support strengthens your visibility in the search engines.
Some sites, notably eCommerce sites will need an element of paid search to drive traffic to them. Google Ads are now available in a variety of formats to draw visitors to your site, and these will require budget to set up your campaigns as well as manage them based on the data and analytics reports they provide. This is in addition to your actual ad spend which could be up to several thousand pounds a month.
Social Media Marketing
Social media marketing is a must for business, although which channels you favour will be dependent on your audience and where they tend to spend their time. More than likely though, you'll need to be managing content and communities across more than one social network, and this is where having access to social media software such as Sprout Social can be a huge timesaver. These tools allow you to schedule content, bring all your messaging into the same platform and provide detailed reports on level of audience engagement and growth. As a Sprout Social Agency partner, the benefits this can offer companies are wide ranging and ensure your social media activity is on point and constantly delivering value to your audience.
There are literally hundreds of services available as subscriptions that can support your website and wider marketing efforts. These might include:
- Email marketing
- Landing page/conversion tools
- Instant chat or real-time support
- Uptime or performance reporting
- Review services (eg. TrustPilot or Feefo)
- Additional analytics, such as screen recordings
Most marketing services work on a software as a service (Saas) basis and offer several tiers, typically priced in US Dollars. Subscription levels are generally priced between $29 and $99 per month (£22 - £80 based on exchange rates at the time of writing) depending on the features that are needed, but can extend into hundreds of dollars for more advanced services. Some of these subscriptions might even be bundled into some form of website support package by your digital agency which can make using them significantly more cost effective.
Reporting and Feedback
Most websites will launch with Google Analytics to track and measure visitor activity. However, collecting the data is only part of the story! This data is useless without analysis and comparison and many businesses fail to use this vital data effectively in their business decision making. There are several basic metrics in Google Analytics that are easy to access, but distilling the data and making practical comparisons to easily share with management can be less straightforwards.
There are plenty of reporting tools such as SE Ranking or Raven, that can combine your Google Analytics data with various other sources to give you a picture not only about your website visitors, but also where your site stands against your competition, and how this varies over time.
Maintenance and Support
Websites can often be alikened to cars that have an ongoing need for servicing and maintenance. While websites don't technically suffer from wear and tear, they do suffer from an equivalent problem known as technical debt. Technical debt can grow when a website or software remains static, while its surrounding environment is subject to continual change. Technical debt isn't necessarily a bad thing - all websites will have some element of technical debt, but like a financial debt, it can become problematic if that debt is not paid back.
The easiest way to minimise technical debt is to ensure your website is kept up to date with new releases and security patches. Depending on the content management system (CMS) or development framework you use for your website, these updates might be available every 3 -4 weeks, and while many systems promote 'one-click updates', this doesn't necessarily mean updating it is as simple as a 'one-click'. New features can break certain functionality, and it's not impossible for upgrades to fail. Ensuring databases are backed up, users are briefed on new features and the updated site is fully tested will often require the knowledge and expertise of a developer to ensure technical debt is effectively managed and minimised.
Website maintenance packages from your digital agency are typically the best way to avoid technical debt and ensure you have a defined service level agreement for getting help when you need it.
As websites get bigger and do more, its likely that many will use a mix of infrastructure for their hosting, perhaps using services from the likes of Cloudflare, Amazon Web Services or Google Cloud. Hosting environments can scale up and down based on demand or server resource usage, and websites can take advantage of low cost storage for images or downloadable assets. But cloud services are typically billed by the minute, so the monthly cost of these services will vary based on usage, and almost certainly increase over time as a site grows.
Related to cloud infrastructure can be the use of APIs, or Application Programming Interfaces. APIs are essentially how different web services talk to one another, and some popular APIs such as Google Maps, may incur extra cost beyond a certain usage level.
This was intended as a brief guide to some of the additional costs that you might need to factor while planning your website budget or managing your website. It's impossible to accurately predict what the actual costs might look like, simply because there are so many different factors to consider; ambition, internal resource, and website scale are just three of the factors with the greatest influence.
At A Digital, we've bundled together a number of third party services into our website support contracts which when combined with our own expertise, provide exceptional value for money to ensure your website can deliver on its goals and support your strategy for growth. We also rely on our unique website planning process known as Going the Distance™ to accurately identify all the different aspects of your website and how it will work within your wider business to deliver effective results.
To talk about a new website project or explore a digital marketing campaign, please drop us an email through our contact form. You can also try out our digital scorecard to benchmark your current digital performance and how this could be improved to deliver better results and future growth.
Andrew is the founder of A Digital and wants and believes that technology needs to be an enabler, making a positive impact on the way people live and work.