A web design company posting about how to choose the best web design company, hmmm? How about a Salem, Oregon web design company posting about how to choose the best web design company in Salem, Oregon?
Most people that hire web professionals are busy with their own work and expect the professional they hire to perform as promised. Determining the value of what you’re paying for is the tricky part because evaluating any work requires knowledge of specific skill sets pertinent to the work. In lieu of having those skill sets yourself, here’s some advice for finding that reliable web resource.
What we’re going to do here is look at 3 common web services (online marketing & search engine optimization, web maintenance & security, and web design & development), and then help you figure out how to evaluate and determine the value you’re getting from your investment, i.e. are you being charged too much for too little?
Online Marketing & SEO
Online marketing and search engine optimization are the services that are most frequently abused in our industry. Read the parable of Barney if you’re interested in how this service gets abused.
What is search engine optimization? It’s building a web page, then developing and arranging the content of it in a way that gets your page indexed by Google and other search engine crawlers with the objective of being listed at the top of the search results while targeting your preferred audience and customers.
Online marketing describes the efforts after the site pages themselves have been optimized and includes many different activities including interacting with your company social profiles and other Internet relations such as your Google Places, facebook, Yelp and other listings. The goal of online marketing is to establish, then protect your company’s online reputation, as well as establishing and maintaining your website’s online credibility.
SEO and online marketing efforts are performed so that ultimately, your site is gaining you conversions , such as new leads for your business, generating sales on your ecommerce site, signing up for memberships or emails, etc., all of which require site visitors.
The basic idea is to establish your site as the go-to, trusted resource when one of your targeted clientele types something in a search engine looking for what you’re offering. To do that, the search engines, using proprietary and highly secret algorithms, evaluate the value of your website based on your online reputation.
Here’s a short list of knowledge points on the subject in no particular order:
- NO BLACKHAT TECHNIQUES – If it sounds too good to be true…, as the saying goes. Simply put, anyone trying to game the system and work a current loophole in some search engine’s algorithm is going to have any site using such blackhat techniques penalized when caught; and it will get caught. Stick to what I call “content integrity” which basically means play by the rules that actually assists the search engines and be rewarded for it.
- MONTHLY FEES – If anyone promises you that by paying $xxx per month you’ll get to the top of Google they are lying to you. Nobody can promise that. Furthermore any monthly fee should be for MANUAL WORK – because all whitehat SEO and online marketing services require custom written, proprietary content. This also implies reporting actual work efforts and time worked within the invoice you receive for these services. If you’re just getting a monthly bill with a number on it, well let’s just say that seems questionable, since we’re talking about manual labor and hours worked. Cherry Pixel for example lists detailed reports of all hours worked on every invoice sent. We also bill in 15 minute increments; probably the only place in the nation that does this.
- PHONE & EMAIL SOLICITATIONS – Again, if it sounds too good to be true…, as the saying goes. I’ve seen every sort of email and phone scam soliciting alleged “SEO” or online marketing services and haven’t seen any that are worth the money. Worse, many are outright lies. I highly advise you to be skeptical of email and phone solicitations for alleged search engine or lead generation services. Feel free to call Joseph at 503-391-4801 before buying and I’d be happy to help evaluate the offer.
Final Note on Search Engine Optimization & Online Marketing: If “SEO” is included with your website development project and you’re not specifically paying extra for this part, chances are you’re not getting much. What we do is optimize the home page, include the tools for you to use throughout the site and emulate the SEO work on the home page, and we include instructions with a list of recommended profiles to create in the event you want to delegate this ongoing manual effort in-house. Or you can pay us to do it for you by allocating a set number of hours per month specifically for this.
When looking for a web designer try this:
- Visit their website, then visit their portfolio and check their work.
- Go to Google and type in the name of the company you are considering hiring. On the right side column the company should have a local business box with reviews; read them.
- Call the web services company yourself, explain what you’re looking for and expect at least a ballpark estimate or a formal discovery document for complex projects. Judge for yourself the attitude and helpfulness of the potential web developer. The care for customer service and willingness to help speaks volumes about web development companies in particular. Are they desperate to make a sale for a one-off customer or are they helpful and diligent, treating you as a long-term client?
- Pricing: pricing a website is a 3-factor equation. 1) The first consideration is the website functionality necessary to meet your objectives. 2) Next is the amount of customization you are buying and the level of expertise of the designer. Check the portfolio of the company you’re investigating for this because this is where the real manual hours are put that differentiate between a mediocre site and a complete, professional web presence with all the i’s dotted and t’s crossed. One that brings you the ROI you’re looking for.
If you want to perform due diligence, inquiring about customization and design expertise, you should ask for other’s opinions about the different designer portfolios you’re vetting. You might consider asking other design companies what they think of each other’s work if you want to consider responses from other industry experts. Here’s an example of a custom designed website on a WordPress platform designed by our own Creative Director, Vincent Burkhead. The linked site exemplifies the point that it matters which designer is assigned to your project. So ask specifically who will be designing the website and ask to see their specific portfolio. Then inquire who the builder would be and ask to see their specific work a well.
Final Note on Web Design: Do your due diligence by reading the reviews about the company you’re evaluating, ask other companies about the one you’re evaluating, and above all consider the response and helpfulness of the company proposing to deliver you your web presence.
A website should be considered an ongoing investment. Besides your monthly hosting fees and your annual domain name registration fee, you should also perform periodic maintenance on your site. Namely this: monthly updates to any core platform or theme files, updates to any modules or plugins, backup of your database and site files, and running a security scan on your site to ensure it’s free from malicious script injections. Typically these take between 1/2 hour to 2 hours per month. Usually this takes an hour for us at Cherry Pixel.
If you outsource your site maintenance, look for a company that offers contract-free time-blocks at discounted hourly rates that don’t expire, applies those hours to every type of web service from maintenance to marketing, runs a tab for you, reports in detail all work performed, bills in 15 minute increments, and sends you either a quarterly invoice or when it reaches a threshold amount that you prefer. That’s the way we do it.