Many businesses are familiar with what has become the norm of SaaS, Software as a Service, offerings. These can include services like your office productivity and/or email (Microsoft 365 or Gmail), Customer Relationship Management (Salesforce), and design software (Adobe). We went from buying our software on CDs in a box and updates every few years to a monthly subscription where it is always updated. Software went from being a “thing” to a service. It was only natural we would eventually reach the same thing on the Internet. Websites as a Service – WaaS
Subscriptions for Life
The same phenomena happen in other areas of our life. We have subscriptions to entertainment like Netflix and Hulu and to other more mundane things like a razor blade and wine subscriptions where a new or fresh product is sent to you each month. Amazon even does it with groceries. Some people will argue this isn’t an improvement, but many people will say this has improved their life. They have fresh new products or completely updated software with no expensive upgrades and usually many great features centered around cloud storage and collaboration.
The Birth of Websites
The website, like software, started in the world as a “thing” that you purchased, designed, and put out in the world. Once it was live on the web, too many businesses just let it stay there with no updates and very basic information. It was mainly a digital brochure, and about the only time some companies updated it is when they changed their hours of operation or a phone number.
Death of the Brochureware Website
The digital brochureware website was dead a long time ago, but some companies just didn’t get the memo. Websites are not brochures in digital form. Many businesses treat them that way, but those are businesses that are missing out on everything they could be. Today’s websites are living things that have ever-changing content, eCommerce, customer service, sales, and marketing, all wrapped together in an elegant solution—the business model of buying “a” website and calling it finished is gone.
Birth of WaaS – Website as a Service
Today websites are built on dynamic content management systems and have sophisticated software running them. They should be viewed as a service where content is added regularly for marketing and sales. Possibly new eCommerce channels are opened, which has become particularly crucial in the COVID-19 era. They generate leads for your sales force, deliver customer support, and so much more.
Building and supporting these new websites is now a service, and businesses need to understand that this is the future model. Creating a brochure in digital form and putting it on the web will generate very few visitors, rank very low in the search engines, and quickly become out of date. Google has almost put websites like this to pasture with their Google My Business.
To businesses that want their hours of operation and a few other things online, just set up a Google My Business page for free and call it finished. It will be ranked and placed right next to all of your competitors, and people will use it to price shop your service or products like a commodity, and you won’t get a lot of business from it, but hey, it was free what do you expect.
If you are ready to move into the world where your website stands out from competitors, generates leads, provides good marketing, and possibly eCommerce, you are prepared for the new reality of WaaS – Website as a Service. As with the SaaS model for software, this model comes with a lot of improvements.
Always Updated Website
As with the various software components that run your business, your website needs regular updates to run well. These updates often bring enhancements in functionality, additional features, and added security. Sometimes these are small improvements, and sometimes they are huge. I can think of 2 significant changes that have happened to web software in just the last two years. People following the WaaS model received those updates and enhanced functionality as part of their monthly fees. There is no need to build a new website because your old one doesn’t work any longer and come up with thousands of dollars on the spot.
Hackers are trying to bring down websites around the world every day. In the best-case scenario, they want to see if they can breach your website just for the fun of it and not do any damage. This, of course, rarely happens. Usually, they have plans to steal your customers, plaster your site with ads for knock of pharmaceuticals from China, or insert malware that will infect your visitors. The need for updated security protocols and software that is always running and always updated to the latest threats is critical to your business. Taking the stance that you are small business no hacker cares about is a mistake. They use automated programs, and every site is a target. Keeping a site secure requires constant vigilance that is supplied with a service.
Imagine this scenario, because you don’t keep your site updated and secure a hacker using an automated program breaches your site and installs ransomware software. One of your customers comes to the site to look something up and inadvertently clicks on an infected link that installs the ransomware on their computer. Within a few minutes it encrypts all their accounting, customer, and inventory records.
Soon after they get an email telling them they need to deposit a large sum of money in Bitcoin to an anonymous account to get the code to unlock their files. Ask yourself if they get this from your website because you were careless what would happen? At a minimum you would probably lose them as a customer and more likely buy yourself a lawsuit on top of it. All because you thought security wasn’t an issue you needed to worry about.
Separate Content from Software
The first websites in the early to mid-1990s were generally just pictures and text displayed on the Internet using a markup language we call HTML. Yes, I know this is technical information that most people don’t care about. Later, websites started adding databases and advanced functionality. For the most part, if you wanted to update the look of your website or add a feature, it meant you had to completely re-build it from the ground up.
This became very expensive to do every 3-5 years, so too many small businesses didn’t do it. Their sites quickly became outdated and fell far behind their competitors. Visitors quit coming, and eventually, it becomes the equivalent of digital trash floating around on the web that is discarded by everyone, including potential customers. People expect more from a website today.
Today the content on a website, i.e., the text, photos, videos, the stuff that makes up a site lives in a database, and the way a site looks to visitors is created by software that runs on top of this content. The benefit to businesses is that it is possible to create new fresh looks on your site without necessarily re-building all the content, graphics, and software that makes your site work.
Websites as a Service will allow businesses to have new, clean, well-running websites that are modern looking all the time. The content can change dynamically by the company themselves if they choose without the need of always calling your web designer.
Search Engines & Customers Love New Content
Search engines like Google want to see that your website is updated regularly with fresh, original content. When they find sites that offer this, they are more likely to index that content frequently. Your results get better and show up more often to potential customers. The potential customers that see these listings in the search engines also like that content. They come and, more importantly, stay on your website longer. The longer they are on your site, the easier it is to move them through your sales funnel.
Website as a Service offer this benefit. Good content that both search engines and customers want to see can be added dynamically and regularly. This will bring in new visitors, creating new leads and new customers.
New Functionality Easily Added
Websites built on these new platforms and offered as a service can have new functionality added reasonably quickly and for a lot less money than ripping your entire website apart and building it from the ground up because you need a new feature.
For example, I have a customer who wanted to start recruiting affiliates to sell their products and earn a commission for doing it. Building out an affiliate program is both a technical and marketing exercise, but having the right platform makes the technical component easier. Under the old model of website construction, this would typically have involved some extensive programming and possibly a re-build of the site. With Website as a Service, it was accomplished much more quickly and easily by essentially plugging in new software and building a program around it—no need for massive re-building of your site or months of delay.
How many businesses wish they had eCommerce during this COVID-19 crisis? However, eCommerce is not just something that you need during a global pandemic. The world is moving to more and more eCommerce as time goes on. Businesses that have it will thrive and build new markets. Having the right framework for your website will make adding eCommerce functionality easier.
The business owners who view a website as something they own once it is developed and can check it off some to-do list miss the most significant benefits. The main advantage is owning a dynamic online marketing platform and strategy. I equate it to owning a Ferrari without an engine. Sure, you might “own” the Ferrari, but without an engine, it isn’t going anywhere.
Marketing and, more specifically, marketing online is a dynamic process where the technology, strategies, and opportunities are always shifting. To think of websites as these static objects that are rarely updated, but you “own it” is an outdated concept. To get the most from your online investment, it needs to be a service that you invest in every month. That investment will pay dividends in keeping your site up to date, secure, and working hard growing your business.