Why Turnkey Websites Are Bad for Your Business

Why Turnkey Websites Are Bad for Your Business

why turnkey websites are bad for your business
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Turnkey websites sound like a great idea when you’re venturing out on your own.

Of all the steps involved in starting a business and the start-up cash required, turnkey websites seem like a no-brainer.

What is a turnkey website?

The term turnkey, in this context, refers to a business you can start immediately by just “turning the key” and beginning.

Turnkey websites follow a similar concept. They’re websites you “adopt” from the previous owner, with the expectation that all the gears are set up for smooth functioning.

This might be anything from the domains and hosting to scripts and shopping cart systems.

While that sounds great on paper, these websites are ripe with trouble.

  • Turnkey websites don’t scale with your business model. They’re pre-made and don’t account for the intricacies of your vision.
  • The effectiveness of your website isn’t rooted solely in the platform it’s built upon. A website’s quality is rooted in where and from whom you buy it as well.
  • Professionally designed websites are a better investment.

Turnkey Websites Don’t Scale

I’m not talking about sales when referring to scale.

Why are you starting your own business? What’s your internal motivation to solve the problem your business idea addresses?

Answers to these questions can’t be secondary when starting a business.

These answers are the core determinant of your brand identity, the strategic message and tone that will resonate with your customers, your vision for business growth, and the beliefs your employees will carry out in the field.

Ultimately, this is what allows you to scale – this is what most influences sales growth.

The primary issue with buying a turnkey website – or business – is you’re buying someone else’s vision.

You’re buying someone else’s “why?” as we like to explain it at NerdBrand.

The chance you’ll be able to authentically articulate someone else’s vision is slim. That’s why even the largest household brands have such difficulties maintaining the customer experience through a merger or acquisition.

If you’re going the turnkey route, you should have a plan for how to align the brand and business with your vision.

That being the case, what’s the point of buying something “turnkey” then?

It’s Not the Platform, It’s The Source

Maybe you’ve heard X platform is best for Y business, or a certain platform is easiest to manage yourself.

Many platforms give you a website with demo content for a low price between $49 and $200 with the suggestion that if you can spend a few days tweaking things, you’ll be up and running.

That’s never true.

You’ll spend entire days tweaking the design and content. Or looking for add-ins to expand features (most of which won’t function out of the box quite as well as you hoped).

Worst case scenario, you’ll lose time fixing broken things, instead of working on your business.

Eventually, you’ll realize business is suffering. So much time gets spent on this website you thought was the easy solution.

This is why professional web design services are always a better investment.

Turnkey websites sacrifice the individuality and uniqueness of your vision, which is what makes people loyal to your brand.

Getting a website tailored to your needs is always a better investment.

Yes, it will cost more upfront. However, the return on investment of having a standout brand identity and website that’s aligned with your unique business approach is huge.


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To me, it’s important to consider the opportunities lost by taking a turnkey or DIY option.

You give up time that could be spent getting face-to-face with people who can grow your business.

You drop a focus on improving operational inefficiencies. And strategically, your next big move gets delayed.

Your business will grow more slowly as you bury yourself in tasks that should be delegated.

Do turnkey websites work?

There are scenarios where going the turnkey route makes sense. I’m not going to say there’s never been a successful turnkey situation.

But in general, turnkey websites result in so much struggle that they hit the “not working” category for me. They distract from improving your business and presenting your brand in its most authentic form.

As a result, operations suffer and the customer experience suffers.

That’s pretty much the definition of things not working well.

Story Time: How A Turnkey Website and Neglecting SEO Can Hurt

We knew a business that started a couple of years ago and took shortcuts on website design, as well as brand development. They relied almost solely on a brand name to build trust to gain the attention of a certain demographic.


Woman using Google on iPad.
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Unfortunately, they never invested in legitimate, standardized brand identities or effective websites. At least, not websites that properly addressed content organization, SEO, and future marketing needs.

The owners thought no farther than the next quarter. They quickly put together their website.

Website user experience, SEO, and marketing were not highly valued or considered.

Sales started to hit a glass ceiling and they refused to invest in addressing the brand. They also neglected tactics like SEO to improve organic reach.

Instead, they relied purely on paid ads and tactics that they felt still worked; Google Analytics contradicted those feelings.

Then the pandemic hit…

As horrible as the challenges have been, companies that invested in their branding and website presences have seen sales increases.

Those that did not make these moves saw over 60% of their business quickly disappear. Even worse, they had to rely 100% on online sales channels they simply weren’t prepared for.

But it was too late. They missed the bus in most cases. It takes months to build a viable digital presence, and sometimes years to gain prominence in organic search rankings.

Too much reliance on turnkey solutions, plus band-aids on branding, led to a lack of competitiveness when the market squeezed (which it always does eventually).

Turnkey Businesses and Websites Aren’t A Solution, They’re A Road Block

Turnkey websites, or solutions in general, make it easy to get going. The car will start.

That’s undeniable.

But you’ll be driving down the wrong highway entirely.

If you’re considering cutting corners using turnkey solutions, be aware of the likely outcomes so you can head them off.

Once you’ve been through that process of establishing a legitimate website foundation, marketing and advertising can do its job best within manageable costs.

I'm the Co-founder and CEO at NerdBrand. I've spent over 12 years in digital advertising providing strategic direction for businesses to build better websites, brands, and messaging, with an eye for improving online presences and laying a foundation for future growth.