OH dear you've just discovered a stash of my secrets

Maybe the internet isn't a safe place to keep all of my key findings over the last 3 years. Hope you don't find the other secret pages. I could have saved these gems to write long blog articles with clickbait titles.

Key website shopping secrets

Price vs Quality

Website prices don't determine the quality. Although many cheap options are inferior, judge a company by website page speed score instead of pricing.

Website Hosting

Finding a quality web host is difficult on Google because of all the fake 'best host ranking' websites. I tested several the best options before landing on the perfect hosting service.

Company size

You can get the exact same service that large web, marketing and SEO companies offer for less by finding an experienced lean developer. Be savvy, not lazy.

User Testing (UX)

Sit someone form your target market down to navigate your website and watch how they interact. Don't say a word, your design needs to explain and guide them.

Getting spammed?

SEO companies can rank their clients up by paying to bring down competitors bounce rates, you need to protect your website from spam traffic and bots properly. Not with a plugin.

Hey friend 👻

There are 5 hidden spooky secret pages like this one. Each has a unique discount code. To find more pages keep an eye out for green clues on the website & Social Channels.

I keep the important secrets right here at the top, don't scroll too far down.

Website Ghost Discount 1: Free Website Hosting for one year.

For discovering the first of 5 'spooky secret pages' you get one year of free hosting. Available only when ordering websites using the pricing calculator. Just mention the code in the message form.

The secret discount code is the answer to this riddle: I run with pace but stay in place. Since I have no feet, just hands that meet and a face that can't speak. I have no life, work all day and night. If I Spring forward, or fall backwards you may see more light. I am a _ _ _ _ _.

Join the ghost hunt - Find all 5 secret codes to find Website Ghost. Official hunters get get hints if you get stuck.

Confessions of an Ex-Wordpress Dev

The first websites I made for business didn't require a single skill that I had aquired from my University Degree. All I had to do was install a wordpress theme called Divi and write the content. It was easy money because people expected to pay $1000 or more for a website without knowing anything about them. Even though building websites only took a few hours using this new method. Without writing a single line of code.

The websites were easy to market because they looked great and clients raved about my design skills. They had no idea that the performance, SEO potential and security was a mess. No matter what I did the Mobile Page Speed Test wouldn't score above 80. I'm not going to go into technical details but the issues were endless: Plugins slow everything down, bulky, long code, content served from external sources, and limitations on Page Optimisation. It's not just wordpress either, there's a number of ways you can use shortcuts and tools that speed up development but produce slower websites.

Over the years I learned how to patch the many issues that Wordpress and DIY website builder websites have. With the right marketing strategy in place some of them really took off. Although a higher advertising budget and great business idea could carry the weight of slow loading websites. It felt more like I was working as a tech support than a creative developer, often for free. I had to justify my cheap websites somehow. Customers expect websites to work without doing constant maintenance, plugin updates, security checks and backups. Some client's even expected the phones to start ringing without advertising the website. Using wordpress for business was like building aeroplanes out of cast iron, even if it gets off the ground it's going to take a lot more in fuel to keep it in the air. Yet small business owners were coming to me asking specifically for wordpress websites, as though the entire industry was keeping clients in the dark.

I learned short term gains mean nothing in business

In 2016 I attended a government funded business course where 10 of 16 fellow students wanted a website for their business. Each had a $10,000 grant to spend, and one of the business lessons we got was the importance of websites. Luckily for me it was delivered by a wordpress developer with apparently no design skills. Those 10 websites only took one month to build. I probably should have invested the money into more business or developing my skills but that's just not a decision a recent graduate would make. So I neglected my student loan and headed overseas to work remotely. Only two of those business owners were willing to put more money into advertising and maintenance. So one year later in mid 2017 they were the only two websites (and businesses) left standing from the group. As it turns out taking on short term clients consumed too much time, making my business less sustainable too. A portfolio full of websites that are no longer online isn't a great look either. So my first lesson as a business owner was that sustainable business practice pays more than cash.

Ironically clients hired me to solve problems.

I couldn't help noticing that 90% clients were coming to me to rebuild or fix an existing website (mostly wordpress). Problems varied a little, outdated plugins, hacked website, not mobile friendly or they were ignored by the usual website designer for too long. So I would fix the issue or build them a shiny new wordpress website that looks better but still has the same core issues. I knew deep down I was delivering band-aid solutions. I always cared about my clients and offered to maintain the website for a fee or be on standby if something goes wrong. The ones that refused always fell flat and sometimes moved to another Wordpress developer expecting a different result. "It's just business" I told myself, "technology is just like that". My competition must have been telling themselves the same things. While cashing in on business failure. Legally we did nothing wrong, nobody was misled, these platforms really do make websites easier for non technical business owners to edit. Some technical details like 'slower websites having a disadvantage online' were left out. It took some time to realise that I was benefitting from a large group of people who were keeping clients in the dark. That I was contributing to the mess. So I had to find my way out, so long as it didn't mean getting a 9-5 job.

The market got saturated with cheap slow websites.

In 2017 things were getting a little harder, competition was heating up. Universities were pumping out more design graduates than the industry could pick up in little old Wellington. I returned to New Zealand to discover that every man and his dog was building websites for cheap. At least it forced me to invest in my skills more and work on larger team projects instead. My business was left on idle for a year, but still pulled in customers from Google Business Listings as it had ranked pretty high in Wellington. The main thing I was passionate about building had become a side dish.

Becoming part of the solution

After discovering Google AMP in late 2017 and completing Google Partner Qualifications I started building websites that I can truly be proud of. Not just because of the way they look, but how they impact businesses I work with. Now my websites can really pack a punch with a smaller advertising budget, it's exciting tracking the improvements in Google Analytics. Considering Google's efforts to shift to a mobile first index and recent changes in ranking algorithms; the timing couldn't be any better. I feel my clients really have an advantage going forward.

I'm no longer willing to contribute to the peril of small business owners. Especially after I technically went through business failure myself. I technically just ended up self employed. When I started freelancing on larger team projects my wordpress website actually got in the way, it became embarrassing. When my employers or colleagues discovered my website it caused me to be the brunt of jokes in the office.

Now if someone approaches me with a business that doesn't match my services well I'll let them know. I never simply turn people away, rather point them in the right direction if I can't help. People are still coming to me with website problems, only now I have the skills to completely eliminate the issues permanently. That's why I started Website Ghost. Everyone's websites are dying and they really shouldn't be. So I'm helping resurrect the graveyard of small business websites that don't deliver. While charging just enough to be sustainable, which is somewhere in the middle of the industry average rate. It's still possible to work with smaller budgets by saving less important tasks for later. I believe this method benefits everyone involved because I can't just focus on the next sale. The more I can increase an existing clients profits the less I worry about being undercut by competition.

Next time you're thinking about outsourcing a website to india or asking a student to build one for cheap just keep in mind the extra long journey ahead. Also the probable realisation 6 months later that your website is dead - if it didn't cost you an arm and a leg to keep alive. Here's a couple extra tips for any website shoppers out there. Never judge a website designer by the visual portfolio or online reviews, at least test the website mobile score on Google Page Speed Insights. Do a little research into the technology being used. Always think long term. Validate your business ideas with smaller professional websites rather than using website builders. Don't start a business website without tangible goals or an advertising plan. As for personal websites and portfolios, Wordpress and online Website Builders are literally built for you.

Perform better online

This website has been custom built using the new Google AMP framework. No shortcuts like plugins, bootstrap, jQuery or databases were used to speed up development at the cost of website performance.

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