Jesse Dolan: There is a use case for an expensive, fully custom website. Like 99.9% of businesses out there aren't going to need that, but you can't say that it's not needed for anybody. We could probably talk for an hour if we get super organized on the bullet point list of why something like WordPress used to champion it, is a smart choice for businesses that you can do pretty much anything you can even dream up on that website. Moral of the story here is there's no reason to not look at that as your first option.
Welcome back to Local SEO Tactics, where we bring you tips and tricks to get found online. I'm your host, Jesse Dolan, joined today by Bob Brennan, Sue Ginsburg. How are you two doing?
Bob Brennan: Good.
Jesse Dolan: Been doing good again. It's been a while. We haven't talked about weather. Seasons, Minnesota weather. Right? Just a start date here. The late July, Minnesota 2022. I think coming through my microphone, I got birds chirping in the background. It's sunny out for Minnesota here. I don't know. What is it outside guys? Is it 80? Is it in the seventies? Eighties?
Bob Brennan: No, just like mid seventies and it's yeah, it's great for July. It's usually scorching so-
Jesse Dolan: Free air conditioning today. Just open the windows and-
Bob Brennan: Right.
Jesse Dolan: So half of that has lamenting half of that is making excuse for any bird chirping that comes through on the microphone here for everybody. So, I digress though, but in some good Midwestern conversation there. So Sue, get us back on track. What are we talking about here today in the realm of SEO?
Sue Ginsburg: Okay. We have a great question today from a listener who had a conversation with this week, which is what is the difference in a custom and a non custom website? I mean, essentially, aren't they all custom to the business that the website is for? And what are the reasons that you would build on a custom platform? Will it do better in certain respects or when certain things are present, et cetera, thought it was a great question. Really two part question, but I thought that was great. So that's what we'll be talking about today. Quote of the day, "Have no fear of perfection. You'll never reach it." That's a quote by artists, Salvador, Dolly. He's a very famous Spanish surrealist, painter and printmaker known highly for his piece, exploring subconscious imagery. And the reason that I chose that is as Jesse often starts his answers with it depends there isn't always a black and white answer for these things.
And I have a feeling that this very much so will be one of those types of answers. And again, this came up earlier in the week at a conversation with a very short marketing professional. She was questioning what value her web developer was providing on the SEO they were doing. She was familiar enough with SEO to know it was all about content. And she was sharing with me. She hadn't noticed that there was any new content at least front facing. She also kept asking for metrics on their progress and wasn't getting them or getting any response. And she shared that were things that she was finding on the website that she thought for sure, an SEO firm would be noticing and changing. And when she asked about things, she wasn't getting a response because it was on a custom platform. She couldn't go in and make the changes herself because no CMS system and was getting very frustrated.
Then she told me that the website was a custom site built on the developer's platform and cost six figures, which got us into a whole new conversation about what made a website need to be on a custom platform and what made it a custom website. And I figured these were great questions and I just feel like she is not the only one. And I am not the only one that doesn't know the answers to these. And it will be very helpful to know the answers to these. So, here we are asking the experts, Bob and Jesse, all about custom websites, custom platforms, what are the right times to do it? When is it helpful, not helpful in all those things. So please tell us about what you know.
Jesse Dolan: You Bob, when to is posing this for me, I think there's a lot of parallels. We are talking websites, but in general, it's like canned solution versus custom solution. We've been in business together for decades, gone through a lot of different CRM systems or billing systems or just inventory. And so again, whether it's website or some of those business solutions custom versus pre-made, and I think a lot of that applies here too for again, business owners and managers listening is don't think about it so much just from the how's my website in a look that part of it, but really I think Sue touched on them Bob, I'm going to try to rattle off a couple. I was taking notes as Sue's talking and please fill in any gaps or reinforce anything that might rattle off here quick. So, before we get into like SEO design and web performance type, I just think from a business operating standpoint, people should think about this because there's the initial cost for the developing of it and everything.
And then the ongoing and Sue hit on it with this prospect, talking about how they were almost painted into a corner because it was a custom situation. They couldn't just go in and do some things. And so right there that turns into cost, whether it be your time trying to figure out what the heck to do, how do I do this stuff or money having to go bring somebody in to parachute in for an expert and the more unique customer proprietary, anything is in the software and programming world, the more you're going to pay for that expert right to parachute in. And the more time you're going to spend looking for one even too, but a couple of areas that I think are hidden from a cost perspective, which is really, I guess what I'm trying to hit on is understanding your overall costs here, the ongoing support, future revisions.
We always use the funny, but also serious statement of what if I get hit by the beer truck. What if Bob gets hit by the beer truck? Meaning if that person is no longer accessible, not just, can you get somebody to parachute in as an expert, but did that knowledge base go away? You might get an expert that can come in and maybe fix or update some things, but if maybe some overhaul to the basic coding or platform that you're on, there's going to be layers of these things for any kind of software. It's not just whatever you see on the front side. So I would definitely be, if you're looking at something custom, it shouldn't be a one guy or one gal shop. It should be a custom solution from something very reputable that will be there in 10 years.
Training is another, I think hidden cost center. If it's a custom solution, again, I'm compared it to WordPress, which is the number one website content management system out there. There's going to be a ton of resources on how to do things in WordPress. People put out content, videos, blogs, whatever training courses, if it's a custom solution, again, depending on how large the provider you're getting it from is what is there for documentation on how to do things. When you have people come onto your team that are going to operate or touch this website, potentially do they know how to use it and operate it? And is that stuff going to carry going forward for internally? Because some things you'll need for that specialist are expert to take care of for you to update your website. But if you want to jump into your website and just make a new page, make a new blog post or update the date that sale or whatever, how hard is that to do and train your people to do.
And then the other main area I took note here is just the hosting, the maintenance, the uptime, again, wherever something is more custom versus standard. What does it take to keep that up and running and live websites and software may seem very stable to everybody who uses them, but there's constant code updates. There's constantly people trying to hack into these things. And so there's constantly people patching those holes and these things that's updated. So how does all this ongoing support, not for changing content or even doing SEO, right? But just to keep it existing and operational and alive for people to visit, what kind of stuff is there, mind combination and everything that we've come across, Bob and software and everything else has been, there's always more ongoing cost to that custom solution as well.
No, I do think there's pros and cons to all this cause I'm not totally negative on a custom solution, but I wanted to take a real quick detour there, not on the website, but more on the operational and Bob, maybe I hit some of the big bases, but I want to throw it to you. Is there anything in there that spurred you on some other thoughts that are additional costs or anything you reinforce?
Bob Brennan: Well, I mean it's tricky. I mean, Sue, just without implicating anything. I mean what kind of industry or service is this company?
Sue Ginsburg: Property management?
Bob Brennan: Okay. So the only thing I can think of as we get into these custom things, healthcare, other things that are database intensive that maybe tie into a proprietary piece that service may provide. So in terms of property management, maybe there's a log on deal that their clients can log on and enter things. And so it's very database intensive and it has a proprietary function on the back end, right? So if it isn't serving that purpose healthcare and those kind of things, that special security, special dynamics that it needs, then it's a huge waste of money. It has to create some exceptional value. Now, even at that, if it does create that value, it's got to be SEO friendly, right? Because you want to get found. And then that piece of the website has to serve the marketing piece so there's that backend performance where it has to serve your customers.
And then there's the marketing piece that it has to be found or findable if you will. And it has to serve both those, if not, I know what your thoughts are, Jess, but maybe create a secondary site. That's your marketing site that doesn't serve that purpose. Sole purpose is to feed new customers and just start from scratch on that and let that expensive site serve its purpose. But that's the only reason to go custom that to serve some backend function, whether it's an online e-commerce type function or your clients are able to log in and serve a database. And that's a whole different art that quite honestly, I don't know anything about. We have relationships with partners that do some great partners that can do that, but from a small business, just get found, get some marketing going, get some inbound leads that I don't see why you need a complicated site. Does that make sense? And-
Jesse Dolan: I think-
Bob Brennan: Go ahead.
Jesse Dolan: I think you mentioned having two different sites, if you will. And which I think is spot on. I would definitely, if we were working on a project like this, like Sue said, like a six figure type custom website, we're always going to be looking for A how do you make that as cheap as possible, but not doing that from a budget standpoint, making sure that we don't reinvent the wheel as much as possible, right? So we would for sure do exactly what you said of course is all right. If you had this custom function or custom integration or just custom thing that needs to be built, how do we make that part as small as possible? And yeah, if we make a WordPress website for your main, front end and what everybody sees, but then maybe for that one function, we have to bring them over to this part of your website or a subdomain, or I think there's creative ways to make that seamless for everybody.
So when I say two different websites, not completely different colors, most users probably wouldn't even know they're technically going between two different websites, but do the complicated part on a custom deal if that's what needs to be, but then silo that thing as much as possible from a customization standpoint and try to go traditional on the rest of it I think. And so as far as pros and cons, you're hitting on the main pro of a custom website is when you needed to do a thing that doesn't exist right out there in the while and you needed exactly to do that, then you got to build it custom and there's a place for that. But then I think within WordPress specifically, which again is the number one content management system out there for websites. One of the pros it has is the developer base. There's so many themes and plugins. There's so much functionality that can be done.
It may take a talented designer or developer to know I've got to grab these three different utilities, connect them in your website. And now that custom quote function will happen by these different programs that work in concert, a person may, if you're dealing with somebody and they propose this big custom solution to you, maybe they don't know how to get this done in WordPress too, right? Or some other version and they just, well, I can do it in this and here's the deal, but for most things, unless you are, I think you've given an example about healthcare or that came to mind for me when she was talking as the Obamacare website years ago, like gigantic budget, huge website, gigantic backend database, serving hundreds of thousands of people at the same time from volume that's expensive custom website, property management site. If it's in the six figures, unless it's got a huge bandwidth for users at any given time in a big database, it's very complex. We would be challenging at saying, what all can we do by combining WordPress functions and plugins? Again, there's so many developers and apps that are out there.
I would just be hard pressed to think that you couldn't come up with a cheaper, more integrated solution. And then for me, some of the pros and going with the WordPress side are things we hit around the edges on earlier that developer base the plugins, we make this joke all the time, but you can throw a rock down main street and hit somebody who probably knows how to get into WordPress, right? So even if they didn't know that exact custom solution that you had enabled through WordPress by different functions that you've put into it, pretty much anybody that's experienced a WordPress can get in there and figure it out though. Whereas if it's this custom solution, somebody to jump in there is going to have to be either super elite or have that manual. And you're just not as deployable. So I think that's extremely important for the future of your website, because if you're making the six figure or larger investment into a website, guess what the website's going to be around for a number of years. So you got to maintain that thing.
And then again, some of the goes I had on earlier, the training, the replacement of people that have the knowledge, how to do this, just keeping it going forward. And then also the decentralizing it, if you have a custom solution, there has to be some portal or hierarchy or chain of communications to update or get things done, it's probably slow. There's probably a little bit of a fiefdom with the amount of people that are involved and they get to make those decisions cause nobody else can just get in there and do it. So they get to say yes or no where when it is WordPress, you can delegate, you can multiple users, people can jump in, do different things. Again, they can go learn and watch videos, how to do these things. You might not even be aware of such a different platform.
And then for me, the thing that seals it at the end of the day is I guess, very similar to what you said, Bob, for having the multiple solutions, multiple websites, wherever you need something custom in your website that can be done in WordPress and Joomla and Drupal any other content management systems out there, the same developers and programmers that can make your custom website from the ground up can modify any other existing content management system that's out there and branch off of that. So I think there's a big asterisks here saying there is a use case for an expensive fully custom website. Most people like 99.9% of businesses out there aren't going to need that but you can't say that it's not needed for anybody.
We could probably talk for an hour. If we got super organized on the bullet point list of why something like WordPress is to champion, it is a smart choice for businesses that you can do pretty much anything you could even dream up on that website. You may pay for some custom development within that, but moral the story here is there's no reason to not look at that as your first option. I'm glazing over something I had here, which we should point out is legacy systems. I might be wrong, Bob, but I feel like you and I have talked before about some airlines have hugely outdated ticketing and reservation systems. They are operating billion dollar companies, but some of their software might be 30 years old. And in cases like that, and that's an airline gigantic company, but businesses may just have versions of this where they have maybe a core piece of some software they're in or program they're in is super outdated, but it works for them and they can't change it.
And they may need something that adapts and connects to that forcing them down a customer route too. That's going to be similar to what you said, Bob, about databases or other things that they need to integrate and connect into some of that. Just maybe some other legacy systems are you're too far down the customization road and you can't stop now. I would explore or challenge my developers to look at WordPress solutions or customized solutions there, but definitely an asterisk. Some people may need this, but globally, if you're not looking at building your website and some of these content management solutions, if your website's not too crazy complex, you're doing a big disservice to the amount of money that you're going to spend.
Bob Brennan: Yeah and the last thought too is there's nothing new under the sun. So a lot of what it comes off as custom is actually 90% of it is white label, if you will. And then the other 10% is just, they throw in your flavor, your personality, your backstory, whatever the case is. So that being the case, depending on your industry, whether it's an auto repair property management or whatever, somebody has come up with something out there that is actually hugely like 90%, 95% customized for your industry. And it's actually really inexpensive to serve.
Let's say those backend database type things and because of the economy scale and they have hundreds of thousands of customers in that industry, it's actually really cheap, like right. A SAS type thing where it's a $100 or $200 a month, but it gives you everything under the sun. I'm sure it's out there and you just got to dig into it in search, but you still need a WordPress front end or whatever, a co site for that marketing piece so you get found for those key search terms and net, you still come out tons cheaper than coming up with your own customized.
There better be a very good reason to come up with the customized look. I'd love to have a Jaguar. I'd love to have a Range Rover. I'd love to have these high end vehicles, Maserati, they're wonderful vehicles. They do things other vehicles a but I'm not going to drive to work every day in one of those things because when it has to get serviced, it's not going to get serviced right away, because they got to order the part from Melano, Italy or wherever the deal is. And it's going to take two weeks to get in. You know what I mean? I'm not saying that's the case for all those auto makers, watch all get sued, whatever, but basically you got to understand what you're trying to achieve and then you've got to do it short term in long term as efficiently as you can. And then try to get as educated before you pull that trigger. So you're not spending $600,000 on something that is really not going to give you. You're spending 600,000. You better make 3 million on that type of a deal that's my two some so.
Jesse Dolan: Hey everyone. Just a quick message about our free SEO audit tool on local seotactics.com. And we'll get right back to the show. If you haven't taken advantage of it yet, go on out to localseotactics.com/free SEO audit, or look for the yellow button up in the top, right corner, click that. And it's going to take just a couple seconds. You enter in the page that you want to optimize what you're looking for the audit to score against. Enter in that page, enter in the keyword. You're looking to get optimized for and enter in your email address, click the button. And it's going to take you a few seconds and then it's going to send you off a PDF report via email. It's a great report. It's going to give you an overall score of some vital SEO areas for that page and for your website at large, even though it's auditing this page, that's going to tell you some of the good things that are happening.
Some of the bad things that are happening too, can give you basically a checklist of some things that you need to show up and what you can do to improve your SEO for that page for that keyword that you're auditing. Now you can use this as many times as you want. You can do multiple keywords, multiple pages, multiple keywords on the same page. You can even use this to check against your competitors. If you want to do a little reverse engineering, see how they're scoring for a certain keyword, what they may be doing good, that you're not and some things to improve there. So lots of different ways to use it completely free. Again, go email@example.com slash free SEO audit, or look for the yellow button in the top right corner of the website.
Sue Ginsburg: So, I heard you both say that a reason for a custom platform would be on the back end when you needed to integrate with a massive database or some executing else, right? Is that right? That I heard you both say that?
Jesse Dolan: In the back end should drive it. You should have a business need for a custom site. And Bob mentioned this a little bit ago, just in general, when your solution is like, "This has to be custom." Speaking with your website, I think that should be a pause point said, okay, that's cool. Let's get that quote. Let's get that bid. Let's explore that option. But being that we need a fully custom solution that should cause us to pull back and start to really get wider by developing knowledge in this area because... And I would be like, "Let's get quotes from three or four different web companies than at that point." You may just be dealing with a company or an entity that only knew how to solve your integration into that database or whatever through this a 100% custom deal doesn't mean that's the only way.
So just generally, if you're in a custom solution environment back out, expand your network of people, you're talking to get different opinions because custom is just going to be creative and just slow down and get out there. So you're not trapped into just the knowledge base that you're dealing with, but then everything we talk and Bobby just it's short term and it's long term. There's a lot of financial thinking here, the future updates. I didn't mention it, but the cost, if you're limited to who can touch the website because it's custom, those people will be expensive and all future update will be expensive too so that's part of it too. We've glazed over. And then for me, that translates over to the front side from a marketing perspective. So Sue, everything we've talked about so far here for your question is the cost, maybe the pros and the cons of custom versus WordPress or a more standardized type deal.
The conversation's mainly been about the development of it, the future running of it, the operation of it, but we haven't talked about SEO or the marketing and some of those things. And so I think all those nuances potentially of a custom website for the cost of editing it for adding new pages, content, or some of the granular things you have to do for SEO are also compounded just for what's the cost going to be for us. If somebody hires us to come in a new SEO on this completely custom website, of course we can do it.
Can we do it with the same efficiency, meaning least amount of time as compared to on WordPress? No, we're going to have to learn this website. We're going to have to learn where things are. Look under the hood. Where's the different pieces and the functions and how do we optimize them and create new pages and all that's going to slow down. That's going to make those things more expensive. I can't think of where just inherent to be on a custom website. You're not going to be able to do SEO or some things. It would just be more of where is this? What does it look like? What does it say? What's the label within this system. But again, all that's going to just be compounded for cost and make things slower.
Then there is also this other area of within SEO, just like any other function on your website. I think everybody knows when we talk WordPress, I like to use the example of your phone, whether you're Android or Apple, our phones can do so much now with apps, right? We're so familiar with that. Versus when our phones were just phones and WordPress has plugins, AKA apps where you can quickly either free or small incremental payments, depending on what you need. Add these apps slash plugins to your website, to do things that your website didn't do before. Just like I want to play a game on my phone or add a scheduling thing to my website. Somebody else develops it. You put it on your phone slash you put it on your website. And now it does that thing. If I wanted to add a scheduling ability to my custom website, guess what?
I can't just go buy for $19. Some solution that somebody designed and now has sold it to a hundred thousand other people, which makes it very affordable. Then to your point earlier, Bob, about kind of scaling on things. If somebody has a piece of software, they sell for 19 bucks and it can be added to my WordPress website, thumbs up low cost solution, maybe some time and energy to set it up and deploy it. But now if you want to do something like that, similar on your custom website, you're meeting about what it needs to do from a function standpoint, you're, you're meeting about how it can be done. You're getting a bid on the cost to provide that. Then you got to test it. So just those incremental, not just changes for updating content, not just changes for optimizing it for SEO, but to add more functionality or to change what it does down the road.
All these things are going to continue to be in that same vein of cost per hour cost per function. Like however you got to that price in your custom website, things will always be that expensive if not more so going forward when you make changes. And the reason I'm stressing on this is when we talk SEO specifically, it never stops. If you hire us tricks or any other professional SEO agency to work with you, to help you on your marketing and SEO on your website, we will never stop modifying your website. That is what we have to do. We have to add new content. We have to modify existing content. We have to make sure it's fast. It's secure web websites and themes and plugins get updated. Google updates, its algorithm. There's so many variables out there that cause us to always be working in your website, updating, modifying, changing, and improving.
When we are able to do that at scale, any other agency in systems and programs that are familiar with us, it can be affordable. If we're doing that on a one off custom website for somebody it's going to be very expensive, just because it's not going to be something that's common, easy to do or implement. And heaven forbid if anything ever breaks. Now you're, you're talking about getting real expensive. So not trying to turn into a hate Fest, throwing a ton of shade on custom websites, I guess really distilling down to like Bob, like we said earlier, though, is paraphrasing. If you're in a custom solution, please, please slow down. Pause. Yeah, explore options. It's not just the sexy siren of what's that website going to look like. And this person, or this group said, they can do it. If we do it custom and they can do it in 30 days, maybe it takes you three to six months to slow down and look at some other people to really get a different perspective on your options out there.
You're going to have this website, this investment for years, if not decades to come. And now is the time to make sure that is efficient and cost effective going forward before you start investing into the custom solution, which you'll never stop then. So I don't know, I rambled a little bit, but I hope that makes sense to everybody. Just be careful, when you need a website. And we run into people all the time. So this, we talk all the time on this show and personally about the things that other companies are doing that are either scamming people or pleasing them, whether it be on purpose or just because of that person or that agency's lack of knowledge and what they're providing, didn't know how to do it the right way. It's the wild, wild west out there sometimes for developing and in SEO stuff, right? So hopefully this educates people where to take pause, where to get another opinion and maybe set in some bookends and boundaries on what they could expect. So you guys have anything to add to that?
Bob Brennan: Nope, that's about it. Just whoever you hire, make sure you have metrics established and goals established. And if they're not hitting them within a timeline that you've laid out or you've both agreed upon and then continue that for the next series of keywords that you want to be found for. And they're not going to bat a 100, nobody can do that, but I mean the ideas they need to hit most of those goals and there's a certain level of accountability. And if that isn't there and they're just feeding you reports that you don't quite understand and you think you're getting good luck or good results. You've lost that. You've got to know what those metrics are and if these people are hitting it and are you seeing new business for these keyword? And then if you are, then you got a good partner. If you're not, then you got to look at other options, so-
Jesse Dolan: Speaking of partners, Sue, I had to put this out there to the millions of people listening, but I'd venture to say, we can volunteer you. If people are looking at a custom website proposal, if they want a second opinion on how to do a website or get it designed or anything else, obviously we do that here at Intrycks you talk with people all the time. Literally, if you need a second opinion, reach out to us, we'll be happy to look at your proposal, talk through the solution and give you a second opinion. And hey, you know what if it's great, we'll tell ya, go do this. This is a hell of a deal. You're getting what you need. We'll also tell you, maybe slow down, look at a couple other people. If you want to throw us in that so we can help you out. But for sure we can help you out. If you got questions on this, if you're in a similar position to the person Sue's using as example, so hope you don't mind Sue.
Sue Ginsburg: That's okay. And one thing I want to add, you talked a lot about the financial implications, both building it and maintaining it going forward. The other thing it takes more of is time. So now instead of me going into my CMS and making the changes or asking my website company, my SEO company, I need to ask the developer. They're going to say, when I get to it, like you don't have a lot of choices. You are backed into a corner and at somebody else's beholden to them, I think that's the right word.
Jesse Dolan: Which is not a position to be in as a business owner or a manager with these things like your website. It should be something that's very decentralized or democratized. So that's a good point.
Sue Ginsburg: Very, very interesting and informative. Really what I took away is when you need your website to do a certain specific thing, custom website may be the only way to do that. It's always worth pausing and asking questions and getting other opinions. And also there's no reason to not start with the WordPress site using plugins needed for the customization and see how far you can get with that or if that's an alternative solution, which will absolutely be a lot less expensive building and maintaining, right?
So, okay. If you remember one thing and one thing only remember this, if you're looking at something custom, make sure there's a team of people who know how to work with it. Not just one and a custom platform has to have some exceptional value and purpose, usually a backend function or always a backend function because it comes with added time and money. So with that quote of the day, again, "Have no fear of perfection. You will never reach it." From artist Salvador, Dolly, and look at your options. Nothing's going to be perfect. You may be able to save a lot of money a lot of time by going with something that isn't perfect but it's-
Jesse Dolan: Slow down, take a look at.
Sue Ginsburg: Good enough.
Jesse Dolan: Good topic, Sue for everybody to listen. And hopefully that helps you out. If you're in a situation, looking for a new website, maybe a redesign, or if you know somebody who's in that position to show this episode with them before they spend a boatload of money and head down a path that they might not be able to get out of, we've seen it happen. So if you have a question out there listening from this episode, if it spurs you on a topic or you got something else out of left field, we want to hear about it.
Go to localseotactics.com, scroll down to the button, then look for the button that says, submit a question, click that you can just type in your question on a form. We'll use it on a show, but if you want to call in on the number, that's there, leave it as a voicemail. We'll play the audio. You can give a shout out to your company. Anything you want to do there. And then we'll also send you off a free either Intrycks at or Intrycks t-shirt for putting yourself out there. We'd love to see that localseotactics.com. Bob, thanks for hanging out, chiming in with all the good advice. Sue, thanks for posing the question and doing all that you do usually.