How to Build a Website or How to Hire Someone Who Can

It seems like everyone is a web designer or an SEO expert these days. After all the years in this industry you learn to spot trends.  When the economy is poor, the web designers come out of the woodwork. Everyone suddenly knows how to build a site and knows SEO.  I am here to say that is an absolute fallacy. Reputable web designers are not part of the gig economy. And web design is not a side hustle.

So what are some of the tell-tale, inside baseball signs, small business owners need to consider when looking for a Web Designer or SEO Company. Let me say up front, price should be the last consideration. I know it is easy for me to say, right? Not really, a solid web presence needs to be nurtured, so there really are two choices, learn to do it yourself, and that is the whole point of the our class series, Internet Marketing Clinic. Or, conversely you have to pay someone to do it that actually knows what they are doing. But I’ll say more on pricing here shortly.



Where Do You Start with Web Design?

The first thing all business owners should ask themselves is do they have the aptitude to do it themselves. Small business owners tend to be very wily in finding ways to get a job accomplished. Your website should really be no different. One of the barriers that often comes up is the fear of a computer. But as with anything, if you tell yourself you can’t do it or something is beyond you, it will be a self-fulfilling prophecy.  Take your entrepreneurial can do spirit and apply it to this.

Should you go down the do-it-yourself route, what you should not do is use DIY tools like Wix, Squarespace, Weebly. These are platformed based solutions.  Although you can whip up a website quickly, it does not account for poor design choices, but more importantly, the lack of these platform’s ability to do well in the organic listings of Google. These listings are free if you put your website together properly and the value of that must not be overlooked by small business owners.

Now that we’ve told you what not to do, let’s talk about what we should do. WordPress.org. There are a lot of reasons for it, but the reality is this software can be set up properly  to meet the Google bench marks. This will greatly increase your probability of landing on the first page in your niche. Now, of course, there are delimiters because if your niche is crowded, the lift to get to the first page goes up. Often, those companies have folks like me on their payroll.

Vertical Web has a customized version of WordPress available through our WordPress Web Hosting Plans that include all the tools preloaded and paid for making it a one stop solution for your WordPress needs.

How to Pick a Web Designer or SEO Company?

So, as I’ve already said, price should be one of the least important factors of who you trust with your business. But in the real world, it is not always a way to view it. So here are a few tips that might help you make the decision when the time comes to get a professional web designer to work with you.

Does the company you’re considering have a professional looking website?

This seems like a now brainer, however I can’t tell you how many times we look at a competitor’s website,  only to find the website is a one-page WIX built site, with very few clients listed, if at all

 Is there an attention to detail?

Is spelling correct? Are images properly sized and not distorted? If the website has flaws, this is often indicative of a few things that range from how thorough a company is; to their overall ability to write an effective website. If they can’t execute these things on their own website properly, how do you expect them to execute it on yours?

Does the web design firm demonstrate an basic understanding of Google’s best practices?

  • Check the website’s title tag and see if it is indicative of what the company does, rather than their company name. Or worse, does the title tag say home.
  • Is there long-form content displayed in usable bite-sized sections for the end user? 
  • Is there solid technical knowledge? Again, if their experience is WIX, it would seem to imply very little technical knowledge.

Saying you know SEO does not mean you know SEO. Probe down on that.

  • SEO is a way of life. It is a series of principles and not something you ‘do’. Often how someone talks about SEO shows me what they actually know about it. In this vein, if they talk about adding keywords to pages, chances are they don’t know SEO. If they say yes I know SEO ask them what that actually means to them. If they start talking about meta tags, its an immediate red flag in my opinion. If they start talking about how to set the site up that sends signals to Google, chances of success are much better.

    Look them up in LinkedIn.

  • This might sound stupid, but look at their work history. Claiming you’ve been in the industry for 20 years should have a trail of proof. That does not include being the IT helper at your summer pool job when you were 16 (I actually saw this on someone recently). If someone says they have a web design company for so many years their LinkedIn profile will show that. Recently, I went and looked some up that had been claiming to take business from our company, only to find they quit their full-time job 3 weeks ago and they never had their own company, and their experience was side hustle. Do your research.

Ask for a W9.

  • This shows a few things. First, do they have a tax id #?Real companies, people that will have lasting presences that will be around to support your business have legit corporations. I would suggest if there is no corporate structure steer clear. It’s an immediate red flag. 

Ask if they are insured

  • Again this ferrets out the gig economy guy or the guy that is doing this a side gig. True companies carry liability insurance whereas that is what a responsible business owner will do. It also should give you peace of mind that you are indemnified should there be a severe problem. 

Don’t go by the reviews.

  • Yeah, I know we talk about reviews. I am here to tell you they can easily be faked. Call the people on their website portfolio and ask about the company. Do they even have a portfolio?  See if the people speak favorably or not. My clients and even some past clients are often some of my best advertisement. 

Does the person speak as an SEO expert.

  • Do they show a deep breadth of knowledge. Have they won awards or had notable experiences?

If SEO, ask them about their clients.

    • What is their last win? Was it recent? Who are their biggest clients? How long has the client stayed a client. For example my oldest SEO client has been with me 12 years.. My second oldest has bene with me 8 years and so forth.

Review their own websites, even if it’s just for a Web design selection.

  • Is the website SEO friendly/pass an audit? We have a free website audit tools. Also Google in its web.dev platform. It rates speed. And in their lighthouse plugin for chrome, it rates the SEO efforts.
  • Is it a full website with a well-developed and well-posted blog that shows the company is up to date and a thought leader. Or, is there three posts that cover 2 years?  The level of commitment to their own website can be an indicator their commitment to their own. Now, of course they can say “Well, I’ve been working on my clients and have no time,” but that is also indicative.

In closing,  picking the right partner to work with you is one of the most important decisions you will make. Pick right and you will have a successful website. Pick wrong and you spend a lot of extra money chasing the right answer and redoing work. Regardless of what you personally think about having a website, I am here to tell you that having a solid website that represents your company well will drive business for years to come. If it’s not right this minute, it’s time to start finding out why.

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