Static websites are best for informational, static content brochure-type websites - the super-fast speed, robustness and custom designed website aspect helps these sites to rank well.

POST AUTHOR

Blog Post written by Ronel Pieterse

Ronel has 24 years corporate experience at senior levels (finance, mining, IT, manufacturing & agriculture), a B.Com degree (Business Management & IT) and postgrad Business Management (Henley). She has also started 5 small businesses over the past 20 years, 4 of which are still operational today due to her expertise in Digital Marketing. Ronel helps entrepreneurs to grow their businesses via a sustainable competitive advantage in the Digital Arena.

POST DATE: 2016-12-14

WORDPRESS vs CUSTOM-BUILT STATIC WEBSITE DEVELOPMENT?

Finally realization dawns on you that without an effective website, you don't actually have any sustainable small business. Fact. Your friends insist you save by writing your own website in WordPress. The web developers talk about SEO and page-load speed. Your head hurts.

The truth is that there is no one right answer, nor are Wordpress versus custom website development your only options.

There are also Joomla, Wix and other cms platforms. Then there are static site generators (SSG) which offers a compromise between a custom-coded static site and a full CMS. However, for most entrepreneurs it tends to boil down to choosing between a CMS vs a Static Site (however generated).

Let us help you understand the differences, then your choice is simple, actually. Know the facts and weigh them up for yourself:

CMS (content management system) e.g. WordPress / Wix

  1. Relatively simple and intuitive to learn and use - but there is still a learning curve of a couple weeks for most users.
  2. Gives the user control and flexibility to add to or alter without needing a web developer, for most basic requirements - so it is useful if, in your industry, your website is the best place for masses of often-changing content.
  3. Uses design templates so you don't have to put effort into getting the look-and-feel right; however that does not mean the template designs are truly pleasing to users and... and all Wordpress websites end up looking pretty similar, you know?
  4. Is not easy for most non-developers to add in non-standard tools, plug-ins and special processing needs.
  5. Requires a database as it parses the system framework with the changeable content in the database, to render a web page at the point when requested.
  6. By definition, since it tries to cater for any and all eventualities, only a small portion of which you may need, CMS web pages tend to load more slowly. Thus it is the original "bloat-ware" and always slower than static pages for the same content.
  7. Not having a webmaster means that you will need to learn to program error-handling, .htaccess, GZIP and robots files yourself and where to place this on your domain server.
  8. It comes with 3rd party software instability even if you don't pay a license fee to use it. You are subject to upgrades, software changes, availability etc.
  9. If your website breaks, it won't work again until YOU get a gap in your schedule to trouble-shoot, reinstall, roll-back an update yourself etc - and if, before long, you just give up, you end up not having a working website and you're back to square one...
  10. "Free" costs you every time...

STATIC - a custom-built website

  1. Static HTML pages are smaller, quicker to parse and fast to load - Google ranking rewards fast page load speed (and this is becoming truer by the day!)
  2. If well developed by a professional web developer, there is huge potential for obvious and subtle SEO (Search Engine Optimization) not available in the constraints of a CMS, unless with yet another plug-in (more bloat).
  3. Greater flexibility with the look-and-feel of the website design; this also means a greater responsibility on the web designer to strike the balance between look-and-feel, SEO, User Experience etc.
  4. With a simple, free editing tool and some basic training, you can also make small changes to a static HTML website yourself, though you can mess things up if you get over-confident.
  5. You pay for development expertise and since a good developer can build a website fast, it is typically NOT expensive to outsource; maybe the price of a weekend away unless you require an extraordinarily complex website.
  6. Once live, you back-up your HTML website and forget about it until it is time for a content review. There are no system or plug-in updates or template version updates that can mess with settings or crash your site.
  7. Because a database is typically not required, an HTML website can be hosted on a cheaper server service - a monthly saving going forward.
  8. Learning to delegate makes you a better entrepreneur, only every time...

Bottom line: What are your web goals?

For most entrepreneurs the goals are:

  • an effective website that REDUCES demands on your time and energy
  • for customers to find you on the internet with minimal advertising spend which means you want a website with excellent SEO.

Your main business may be web development or blogging, in which case it becomes a no-brainer to develop your website yourself. But if not, do you really want to take a couple weeks upfront; plus ongoing hours in perpetuity, away from your core skill (physiotherapy / museum tours / beekeeping / hospitality etc) to spend on yet another conflicting demand on your time and energy?

Static website myths debunked - the reality about the static website concerns we encounter


CONCERNS ABOUT STATIC WEBSITES WE HEAR MOST OFTEN

"But how will I know if my website is effective?"

Exactly! A professional web developer will be helping you with SEO, Analytics, dealing with canonical issues and more - all to help you assess and tweak the effectiveness of your custom-built website on an ongoing basis. You will NOT know or do these things with WordPress, as the sheer bulk and intimidation factor may lull you into false security or it means another couple of weeks of learning about each of these skills.

I cannot emphasise strongly enough how often we are approached by clients who read a 2006 blog post on SEO and believe themselves to be experts, when their websites lounge on page 426 of Google Search results (or not at all as they inadvertently blocked robots from indexing their websites).

Or those clients who "quickly" set up PPC Adwords Campaigns by themselves, but they've never heard of negative keywords, nor do they know how to interpret Quality Scores or CTR or CPC, why separate campaigns need to be structured, or why their Ad costs seem to be going up while their leads are worsening.

What business are you in again anyway?

"I need to load new photos and content on my website all the time!"

This could of course be true for some (online shop adding new categories all the time, video bloggers etc), in which case a professionally developed CMS would indeed be the answer for you. It also depends on your industry and brand strength whether the poorer SEO of a CMS can be overcome (e.g. people go search for Makro deals specifically). Please note that it is even MORE important in this case to use professional website developers to develop your CMS as it is very easy to not rank in such a case - the pitfalls are legion.

Is it true for YOU though?

Most often, though, clients who say this are confusing solid, stable credibility-building company websites for social media, and they try to "post" updates to their website, which may even confuse their website visitors (and search engines) as every website change should only be made in the bigger context of ensuring it is congruent with brand, archetype, SEO goals.... you get the picture. Social media sites like Facebook or Instagram were developed for the very reason that you can build a followership there, "push"-market posts via ad campaigns and use the benefits of the social engine to your advantage. Don't try and make your website your social media platform as it won't work, and it will REDUCE both the SEO score and effectiveness of your website.

Most of our small business clients require an informational brochure type website (introducing who you are, what you do, create trust and credibility with testimonials and awards and of course, introduce your core products or services). Please note that such brochure type websites have become notoriously difficult to get to rank on search engines. You need all the help you can get to get your website ranked.

Different parts of a Digital Marketing Engine work together and it works best if you use the right tool for the job. Ongoing, transitory news or specials should go on your social media platforms. If you aren't clear on what tool to you for which job, chat to us, please!

"I don't want to have to PAY to have updates made!"

Your occasional pricing or staffing changes can be done easily by yourself if you have a little technical knowledge and you are teachable. Or you can pay your tech-savvy person for an hour or so's work (if much more, they are lying to you anyway and you need to find someone you can trust).

Again, I wonder, what business are you in? Do you insist on loading the journal entries without knowing anything about accounting - or do you pay a bookkeeper or accountant to handle that? Do you insist on connecting the high-voltage cable to the transformer yourself - or do you pay an electrician to do that?

Remember, the bigger your business grows (what you want, remember?) the more you want partners that you can trust to handle the details while you focus on the strategy and core income-producing processes.

By trying to do it cheaply yourself, you lose out on one of the main benefits of professional advice: the fact that it is professional advice...

Here's some Wordpress advice for free: there is no such thing as free services!


"Static websites mean you cannot change the menu in one place"

This one usually comes from Wordpress developers or entrepreneurs fancying themselves as Wordpress fundies, who may not be aware of technical solutions, in this case SSI (server side includes) that will allow you to change your menu, or your footer, or any other repeating aspect, in one place only.

"But I prefer to stay hands-on with my website"

Do you have any idea how important it is to ensure that any website change remains absolutely consistent and aligned with the overall architecture, branding, user experience, SEO goals and so on?

Do you know how critical it is to continue upgrading any website to take the latest SEO trends, User Experience and technology advances into account, e.g. if your website isn't mobile-friendly right now, you are dead in the water! Or, where parallax scrolling was the "in thing" some years back, it has been proven to be annoying and distracting for web users?

In reality, 90% of the websites we are asked to custom re-develop for frustrated entrepreneurs, fall in one of these categories:

  • They tried to develop a CMS website themselves and it's full of broken links, empty pages and it brings them no business
  • They managed to get a working CMS website but it is totally out of date as they have NOT made the time to keep it absolutely up to date (whether they tasked themselves or a person in their business); or it was updated inconsistently and incorrectly, which mangled the brand message and caused a loss of credibility
  • They got someone to build them a CMS but it brought no results, so they got a 2nd person to SEO it at great cost but with no results, so they got a 3rd person to install a speed plug-in with no quick results, so they got a 4th person who promised that geo-landing pages would fix it (which only made it worse due to duplicate content issues), so they got a 5th person (us!) and who knows, if they are unwilling to follow advice and to get ALL parts of their Digital Marketing Engine & USP's to work together, YOU may be the lucky developer to get this client next ;)
  • They inadvertently created multiple, duplicate blogs and couldn't understand why their posts were not showing in their feeds (yip..)
  • They created a working CMS, which they've managed to keep up-to-date (only about 1% of entrepreneurs I see!) but they are clueless as to how SEO or user demands have changed and how their website may fall short of it (e.g. some Wordpress themes are NOT mobile-friendly)

While the above sounds sad, or maybe a little funny, I am not putting these clients down! I APPLAUD them for seeking professional help and we do everything in our power, way beyond what we promise, to help them succeed in digital marketing! I promise you, I cannot "plank" like my pilates client (you will LOL for sure), nor can I counsel people like my psychologist client, nor can I manufacture patented braai accessories like my client in that field!

The POINT is that we should each stick to our core strengths and trust the website development experts to do their job.

"But is page load speed really that important?"

Google is clear that website speed is becoming and increasingly important SEO metric. Web page load speed, together with mobile friendliness, might just be two of the most important factors in page ranking.

More importantly, website speed is critical for web users who already suffer information overload and have little patience. Forbes reported in 2017 and in 2018 that research shows that 40% of users are likely to abandon a site if it doesn't load within three seconds or less! The trend is for this to shorten further all the time, as overload increases and patience decreases.

There are tools to test your website speed, and it's impact on SEO, so you don't need wonder - test it for yourself!

YOU CAN MAKE AN INFORMED DECISION

You need to understand the pros and cons of CMS and Static Websites, as well as your own business imperatives, in order to know what is right for YOU.

I am very clear that there IS a place for CMS websites, but if you need to go that route, it is critical that you have it developed professionally else you are creating a problem for yourself instead of solving one.

In fact, let me rephrase: unless you are a (good!) web developer by training with years of up-to-date experience, have ANY website development done by a professional. Now, I know full well that there are web designers on every block, claiming to be professional, but we can teach you the phrases and questions to use when getting website development quotes to separate the wheat from the chaff.

Whether you pick a cms or a static website developer for your needs, USE A PROFESSIONAL!  Digital Marketing is a complex science!


DO WE WALK THE TALK?

In our own business, Website Silk, we have a need for an informational, brochure-style website for our stable core offering and we have a need for a blog platform for educational articles such as this one. We happen to have strong development training and experience so in our case, we can do it in-house (though we ALWAYS still ask other professionals for input, or to QA our work, or we pay for professional advice re technical questions e.g. around broadband inbound switching that may not be our strong point).

In the beginning, this translated for us into a static brochure website, plus a Wordpress Blog, which we integrated to appear as a seamless unit.

Out of interest, installing Wordpress for our blog was a 2-week job and took 3 installations of WordPress to get right, and this is our competency! Not to mention the weeks lost since then on rolling back after plug-in updates messed up the blog; or having to re-do posts after certain version upgrades - urgh... I don't wish the frustrations we suffered on you!

BLOG ADDITION - MAR 2019:

Still, overall this worked well for us but over 2 years we discovered 4 things:

  • that our Wordpress blog attracted heaps of spam
  • that this multi-layered structure seemed to confuse Google with regards to the sitelinks displayed in SERPS (not clear on what this is? then you need to pay for professional website advice!)
  • that having the 2 forums on one domain meant that our entire website speed-metrics suffered because of the slower page load speeds of the (even tuned-up) blog pages
  • that I had to develop an entire checklist of do's and don'ts whenever I created a new blog post to overcome the little constraints and idiosyncracies of Wordpress - in all cases, it took me less time to add a new static page, than to add a new Wordpress page! This presented the ultimate wake-up call.

So I spent 3 days in Mar 2019 to redevelop our entire blog into static pages that appear, and work, like a blog but without the rss feeds that brought me more spam than business. We'll have to wait and see how this affects our ranking for each page, our SERP sitelinks and our QUALIFIED traffic. We have the tools to MEASURE & CONTRAST the difference between the old and the new set-up and we'll report on the results in due course.

Together with our custom-developed website, we use Facebook Business for ongoing PR, specials, news & educational content and for audience and pixel re-marketing. We use tightly managed Google Ad Campaigns for time-relevant marketing of a specific product or service to a narrowly targeted audience. We use e-mail marketing 2-3 times a year.

This combination of Digital Marketing Engine Components works well for us and keeps us booked up 3-4 months in advance, usually.

ARE YOU A GREAT WORDPRESS DEVELOPER?

Perhaps due to our experience, perhaps due to our preferences, we tend to develop static pages a lot FASTER than CMS pages. We also need to spend MORE time on tuning up, SEO'ing and Opengraphing CMS posts than we do on static pages.

For us, this results in having to charge MORE for CMS websites than for the fast custom-built websites we have become synonymous with.

To stick to our core strength, and to offer our chosen target market the most cost-effective professional results possible, we tend to farm out CMS development, where we are able to find really good developers who won't reflect badly on us for referring the client.

So... if you are willing to let us check you out, and you are a red-hot CMS Developer, please drop us a note so we can assess you before referring well-qualified clients your way?

IN CLOSING

The number one problem in small business is cash-flow. It stands to reason that you should keep to your strengths to bring in income and outsource small-cost items to experts who can do it faster, BETTER and cheaper than you ever could.

The number two problem in small business is that the owner tries to do everything themselves instead of focusing on core skill and strengths and delegating the rest. I guarantee you, until you are willing to delegate, your business will never grow!

Leave the science of digital marketing to the experts!

Now,
don't you owe your family a weekend away while the Website Silk techie slogs for you?


COMMENTS ON THIS POST

2017-07-16 Cheryl Singer: Great read.

Ronel: Thanks Cheryl


2018-10-28 Chad McCallum: Wonderful to find somebody with some unique thoughts on this ongoing development platform issue. Really.. a little origіnality borne out of actual experience!

Ronel: much appreciated, Chad!


2019-03-17 Dave: That's a different take on things! While I fully agree that entrepreneurs should delegate technical work, I have to question whether you truly develop static pages FASTER than cms pages?

Ronel: Hi Dave, I appreciate your feedback. I am aware that there may be bias at play for me.. : ) In reality, though, it takes us 20% more time to get a CMS page to operate on the same level as one of our W3C validated custom web pages. Please remember: while we build static pages, we still apply "code re-use" principles. Another factor is debugging: finding errors in flat code is relatively simple; finding errors in a cms means debugging html + plug-ins + server implementation + theme constraints.


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