I’ll be honest, most digital agencies are ripping you off.

It’s a painful truth of our industry, and one that makes us cringe on a daily basis. Most ‘agencies’ are no more than cowboys looking for a cheap buck. One way or another they are ripping you off, be it on price or quality. Today we explore what you are actually investing in, give our recommendations for the smartest value for money website investment you can make.

The Classic Website Outsource Scam ($500 – $8k sites)
Easily the most common scam is the agency that knows nothing about the complexity of websites. These are outsource operations who hire people that churn out websites for next to nothing in locations such as India, Pakistan and the Philippines. Outsourcing is not the problem (although you often get what you pay for), it’s the fact that these agencies don’t understand the core principles of effective digital marketing. This leads to a number of outcomes, including:

1. Ineffective Design
Good website design takes a lot of planning. There should be multiple teams of experts working together to plan the layout of each page. Designers, content writers and strategists are all experts in their field. Together they have the knowledge and experience to know what makes a great, effective site.

2. Terrible Coding
Paying a cheap developer is like hiring an unlicensed builder — they can build a wall that looks good, but inevitably it’s going to fall over. If you’ve used one of these outsource operations you’ve probably had to ask for a million things to be fixed. They never fix them properly, slapping together code instead of rewriting it. The results is a myriad of issues that compound overtime, eventually leading to the site being buggy, or even crashing.

3. Visual Editor Plugins
You know you’ve been duped when developers use visual site editors. They promise that these ‘drag and drop’ style page builders will make editing pages easy, ad while it is in a good idea in theory, it’s never actually that simple. Agencies that use these almost always do so to cut corners and avoid writing solid code, which means terrible code, and should be avoided at all cost.

4. Security Flaws
WordPress websites get hacked more than any other site content management system, or CMS. When poor quality developers build sites, they don’t know how to plug these holes. In fact, they often use loads of external plugins, many of which contain flaws that are easily hacked. Using simple script, hackers create automatic ‘bots’ that crawl the web, seeking out apps with vulnerabilities that can be used to gain access to a site. These types of ‘bots’ infect hundreds of thousands of sites every day, compromising businesses, sensitive data, as well as the reputation of a business. The results of hacks can be devastating.

This is just a small list of the problems you can face with a cheap site, the list is virtually endless. While it may seem like a good idea to ‘test’ a cheap website first before investing more, you hardly ever see the flaws straight away. Only after you’ve invested money into the site will the cracks start to show, leading you to spend more money to fix the site, if it’s even possible.

If you are serious about growing your business online, investing in a top quality site that is robust, secure and, above all, effective, is of critical importance.

How Much Do Quality Websites Cost?
Creating a website is like building a house, a mansion or a sprawling estate, more work requires larger investment. However, for the sake of simplification, let’s assume we are looking at building a standard lead-generation website (not ecommerce). We’ll assume the site has under 10 pages, with elements including:

  • New visual identity
  • High converting sales copy
  • High definition imagery
  • Wireframe planning
  • Multiple rounds of design styles
  • Fully WordPress CMS integration
  • On-page SEO planning and implementation
  • Analytics & Search console activation
  • Conversion tracking setup
  • Security hardening
  • Lead backups
  • Point and click feedback system

Ideal Outcome – Hire Reputable Agencies
Truth is at the higher ends, you get what you pay for. However, as you would expect, a website redesign from an experienced agency costs the most. Just like using the best home builder in your town will cost a premium, it comes with hiring experts.

The outcome is worth it, you end up with a website that competes with the biggest brands in the world. It can elevate a small brand to being competitive with the big players. Some of our clients saw their results jump from a few orders here and there, to having to expand within just a few months of the new site. That's a big difference!

Working with an agency goes much further than design. They'll customize your website with outcomes in mind. It's like a cross between hiring an artist and a sales expert all in one. The aesthetics are only a small part of web design. Agencies spend equal time on the content, user-experience, conversion rate optimization, and everything else that makes your website a valuable asset to your company.

What sets an agency apart from most freelance web designers is the amount of strategy that goes into building a powerful and effective lead generating machine for your business. Plus, agencies have more resources at their disposal — from experts in all areas of design, content creation, and marketing to advanced tools that help with the entire process.

Big Agency Pricing
If you go to a big agency, you can expect to pay between $30k to a $100k. These big agencies use their superior image to convince you to pay exorbitant prices. Sure, they have big offices and lots of staff, but that does not mean they produce high quality websites. The sites may look good, but they’re not necessarily effective, and does not warrant the immense cost the agencies charge. In fact, it’s appalling how often these sites fail the fundamental basics of web design.

So how much should you pay?
The sweet spot comes from website specialist agencies. Specialist agencies charge anywhere from $15k for a basic but effective site, to $35k for a high-end, top quality product. The total cost for your site depends on its complexity and the number of high-converting landing pages your products require. We’ve explained high converting landing pages in this article (click link).

Despite the vast quantity of agencies out there, there a far fewer than you would expect to choose from. From our internal research fewer than 1 in 10 agencies that offer web design actually know what they are doing. No wonder so many customers get ripped off.

What does a high end website look like?
The real metric for high quality websites lays in the results. Does the site deliver on your core business goals (in this case leads)? How do you evaluate an agency to find the right one for you?

There are two core metrics we recommend to evaluate their competence:

1. Case Studies – Results UpSwing
Case studies may be curated, but they are honest. They have to be, since it’s easy to check facts online, or by sending a couple of emails. When evaluating case studies, look for the upswing in core metrics. Some agencies will try to hide behind soft metrics (e.g 300% more visitors). These are flimsy at best. The sort data you really want to see is improvement in lead volume — this is hard irrefutable data. This is what you want for your business. If the agancy can do it for others, they should be able to do it for you.

At JMarketing we take case studies very seriously. We show you what works, why it works, and real-world examples of where it worked. You can view some of our case studies here [link].

2. Awards
Website awards are adjudicated by experts, These people know exactly what to look for in a quality website. It’s important to acknowledge that awards don’t necessarily mean a website has been effective. But an agency with multiple awards should definitely be considered.

3. They talk in terms of strategy
You'll spot a fly-by-night agency or freelancer a mile away if you frill into the strategy. What you want to hear from them is the reason for each element they place on the page, what works and what doesn't. Remember you are hiring them for their expertise and knowledge, you should want them to stop you making bad decisions. That's what a great agency does.

The Sniff Test
Finally, and arguably most important, a good agency needs to pass the sniff test. After chatting with them, do they understand your product and talk with confidence about how it should be presented? It might sound obvious, but don’t be taken overwhelmed by technical mumbo-jumbo; a good agency speaks your language.

It's time to level-up
If you want to take your digital marketing to a new level, it’s time to chat. Send us an enquiry and we’ll get back to you promptly. We provide expert recommendations and insights, and are proud to display our case studies and awards that our expertise.

If your business is worth investing in, then you need to get in touch. It’s as simple as asking how your results could be improved, we will take it from there.

Enquire with JMarketing here

Joshua Strawczynski

An expert in influencing consumer behaviour online. Josh is an award-winning digital marketer, business manager and best selling author. He regularly appears in the media, providing insights into using influence tactics to enhance marketing strategy effectiveness.

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