Why do I make a distinction between professional websites and basic sites? Well, because basic sites aren’t the effective online advertising tools most people want. For that, you need what I call a professional website.
So what’s the difference? Fancier design? Not at all.
Whilst good visuals do increase sales, you also need:
- “Responsive” web design — mobile-friendly layouts that adapt to different screen sizes
- User-friendly navigation — “arty” designs that make visitors hunt for content just don’t work
- Search-engine friendly code — even the prettiest site won’t impress if people can’t find it
- Great, frequently-updated content
The first three are included in my “basic site” solutions, but it’s the last point that really sets professional sites apart. They usually outperform basic sites in search engines, because search engines promote what visitors want to see — lots of high quality, up-to-date content. Small sites with limited, outdated information just can’t keep up with the changing expectations of online audiences. So, professional websites provide the tools you need so create and maintain fresh, effective content.
Of course, if you need help with copy writing or other forms of content marketing, I can provide that, too. Still, even that’s more cost-effective with a website that’s built to be easy to edit and expand.
In short, even if you don’t need a full e-commerce system, you do need a blog or Content Management System (CMS) that makes it easy to add unlimited pages to your site. If you’re serious about advertising online, that is.
Business Sites — Blogs & CMS Websites
A blog used to mean an online journal. Now, it means any list of short posts that appears as a single page in the main site navigation. It may act as a home page, or as a “News” page, on sites with a separate homepage. A blog usually lists posts in date order, shifting the oldest onto sub-pages. Each post may also be an excerpt linking to a longer article.
On such sites, stand-alone editable pages add other constant menu items like “About”, “Portfolio” and “Contact” Pages. If you have the ability to add an unlimited number of pages to your site, then yes, you could do that instead of running a blog — but the site navigation would soon become unwieldy. A date-ordered blog listing usually keeps ten or more of your latest posts just one click away from any other page on your site.
Your Blog — Your Digital Marketing Hub
Blog posts are excellent items to share to your social media accounts — instead of writing articles separately for each channel. That way, your site becomes a hub for all your online marketing efforts, instead of relying on the whims of platforms that someone else owns. After all, even the big platforms do wane and disappear, eventually. Do you really want them to take all your best articles with them when they do? No? Then write them on your own site, not directly on Facebook or LinkedIn.
Another key advantage of a blog or News page is that visitors don’t expect every blog post to be a long, comprehensive, “evergreen” article. It’s far easier to keep your site active with a quick news update that may only be relevant for a week or two, than to craft content worthy of a whole new, standalone page. That’s especially true when you understand that putting up a temporary page and then just taking it down again generally results in Google seeing “404 — page not found” errors that will damage your search rankings. With a well-run blog, that outdated content will just shift into an archive — where it’s less obvious to visitors, but can still be found by search engines.
An effective blogging platform will also let you categorise and/or tag your blog posts, so that visitors can find them more easily. If you publish a lot of strong, long articles about a specific topic on your blog, you can even create menu items for your main category listings.
A “full” CMS lets you edit page fragments and combine them into pages, keeping each fragment consistent across the site. However, the main “blog” platform — WordPress — blurs this distinction.
In fact, WordPress powers over 30% of websites and almost 60% of all CMS sites. Why? Because it’s extremely user friendly (especially if set up properly) — and insanely flexible. It sits at the heart of an entire “ecosystem” of many thousands of plugin modules. These let WordPress (WP) act as a full CMS, provide advanced e-commerce, appointment and event bookings, run online communities and more. It also lets developers (programmers) like me write bespoke plugins to provide features that existing plugins don’t. As such, some designers use nothing else.
WordPress Development Pitfalls
Some designers think WordPress can do anything. It can’t — just a lot. True, there are plugins for almost every common requirement. Still, I’ve seen some agencies try to cram stuff into WordPress that it just can’t handle, with disastrous results. You need a developer who knows the limitations of WordPress before they start building your site.
Also, some “WordPress developers” can’t write a line of code. They just know how to find and configure plugins. That isn’t always a problem, but can become a big one. The web constantly changes, so when stuff breaks, it often takes a programmer to sort it out. So, if someone claims to be a “WordPress developer” — ask them if they can code. For any other type of IT developer, that’s pretty much what “developer” means.
Whilst I’ve been a keen WordPress developer (as in “genuine programmer”) since 2004, I have also built many other types of site, starting in 1996 — and had been programming for almost 20 years before that. So, I focus on using the best tool for the job. For blogging , that’s usually WordPress. When it isn’t, I’ll tell you, and we’ll either use a more appropriate platform, or build a bespoke web application.
Blogs and CMS sites also need frequent software updates to keep hackers at bay, so I build these on my Pro Hosting Plus package. I also add in extra layers of security and performance-boosting features like writing-quality analysis and “structured data” (which Google loves).
From subscriber sites and forums to full-featured social media systems, community sites are a great way to support a club or promote a cause. Unlike blogs, these sites aren’t limited to a few, controllable staff logins. They also tend to store details for many members with site-editing permissions. As such, security is even more vital, so I build such sites on my Business Hosting Plus package.