Businesses all over NZ pay thousands of dollars every month for website packages – generally a mix of web-related and digital marketing services.
They’re created to help website agencies develop an ongoing relationship with clients, and, ideally, boost the client’s business and grow their online profile.
But are business owners really getting a good deal?
In this post, we review one NZ provider’s monthly report and give our verdict on whether it’s good value for money.
What does a monthly website package include?
Monthly website service packages vary but in simple terms it’s basically a “value-added” hosting service. Common features, in addition to website hosting, include updates, backups, tech support, SEO, online advertising and visitor tracking reports.
Because no two service packages are the same it pays to ask for a full list of exactly what you’re getting and then assess its true value to your business. Also, keep in mind that value is often subjective – what might have no value to my business might be worth something to yours.
It’s prudent to find out if there are any long-term hooks, such as things that are free now but will cost you later or services that really only offer some value if you stick with them (the agency we review in this post offers a free redesign but only after you’ve been with them for three years, which based on the monthly cost would be over $6,500 – enough to pay for your hosting and several redesigns!).
Hopefully, this post will demystify some of the common features found in website maintenance packages so you’ll be able to successfully shop around for the best deal on business website hosting.
If this all sounds too technical don’t worry we’ve written some posts that cover the basics of website services and what you need to get started online.
Review: Monthly website package from a large NZ agency
We received a copy of a November 2019 report and spent time reviewing it to see what value a typical NZ business owner might gain. We reviewed both the contents of the report as well as the list of benefits advertised.
Keep in mind that PogoStick Web Services is all about providing the cheapest websites and marketing services for NZ businesses, which means we don’t always subscribe to the philosophy that you need to ‘spend more to make more.’ There are exceptions to that, and we’ve done work for big companies with million-dollar ad budgets where it actually made sense to spend that sort of money, but I know for a fact that a lot of NZ businesses are paying way too much for things they just don’t need – we’d like to change that.
Agency: Large, nationwide firm
Monthly cost: $189 ($2,268 per year)
Deliverable: Emailed PDF report
- Google Ads – Google ads can be an effective tool for fast and targeted promotion of your website. However this service is only monitoring existing ad campaigns – the client still pays for every ad click. If you are running Google ads, you should be actively controlling and monitoring your ad spend, to make sure nothing’s been wasted.
- Search engine optimisation (SEO) – SEO is an important long-term project for every website owner and there are a lot of different things that can be done to optimise your website. The report doesn’t specify exactly what SEO work is being done however it’s important to understand any work is a waste of time if you’re not seeing improvement in your target keywords or an increase in organic visitors.
- Google Maps Optimisation – Again it’s not clear what work is being done but setting up a Google Maps listing is a relatively simple task, and aside from updating it with new business hours, encouraging customer reviews or changing contact details it doesn’t require a lot of ongoing maintenance.
- 30-minutes Free Updates – This is nice but it won’t cover a lot (according to the agency’s FAQ page it could be adding/changing a couple of photos or updating your address). By way of comparison, our $12.90 hosting & maintenance plan offers up to one hour every month.
- Hosting on NZ Servers – Hosting is a basic requirement for a website maintenance package and having them located in NZ doesn’t offer a whole lot of value.
- Ongoing Development of Software – This is a perfect example of a fake benefit – either they have their own proprietary CMS software (which is bad for the client when they want to go to another provider) or they use open-source (e.g. WordPress) in which case they’re not doing (or paying) for any of the development.
- Phone & Email Support – You definitely want to be able to contact someone if things go wrong and that should just be part of good after-sales service. It’s worth checking things like what sort of help you’ll get, what are the limits on assistance provided and what the response times are like.
- Website for Life – Again it sounds good (marks to their copywriter!) but let’s break it down. First of all, if you pay an agency to build you a website then realistically you should expect to keep that website for life, regardless of whether you stay with their hosting service or not. Think of paying a builder to construct your house – would you get excited when they tell you you’ve got a house for life? A business should have clear and free title to both their website and domain name – they are important business assets. And a free redesign every three years? Websites should be updated more often than this and, as mentioned earlier, over three years you would have paid over $6,500 in fees – that’s a costly redesign!
- Cost per Lead Tracking – That’s important but as stated in the report these numbers are estimated and they are only leads – true conversion tracking should be reporting on actual sales not just someone filling in an online form.
- In-depth Reporting – The report is a standard template that gets automatically generated every month and we wouldn’t call it in-depth. Ideally, you want someone qualified to be doing the in-depth analysis and then giving you the highlights, the main actionable points that you as a business owner can use to improve sales and profitability.
- Adviser – We don’t have any information about what the adviser does, or whether they do anything proactive to help clients (that is not an effort to upsell or generate revenue for the agency). Possibly they are the email support listed earlier.
- Ongoing Research – Another “benefit” that is hard to quantify. What research and how specifically does it benefit the client? All website agencies that care about their business should be doing ongoing research, and they do it to help their business; it’s a stretch to label it a client benefit.
Website report – Summary
Are we being too tough? We don’t think so but at the same time we know that perception of value is subjective and each business owner needs to make their own assessment as to what’s worth paying for, and what isn’t.
However, we do want business owners to make an educated assessment and, having been in the industry for over 10 years, we’ve seen a lot of website agencies taking advantage of ignorant and uneducated business owners, and it’s still happening today.
So, if you have a website maintenance plan, or you’re thinking about signing up for one, we’d suggest you put it under the magnifying glass and ask lots of questions so you know exactly what you’re getting. After all, it’s your money!