New Website

New Website (Photo credit: J Garrattley)

1. “I can’t afford a website.”

So you have your next-door neighbor’s teenager build you one? Please.

Many people confuse the democracy of the Internet (everyone is there!) with “free.” Many forget that, a decade or two ago, we were all spending a lot more money on ads, printed newsletters, mailings, and brochures. It was important to market professionally, and it still is.

Just when I thought the world of good taste was returning from its struggle with “desktop printing,” where everyone could be a designer (just not a good one) along came the Internet, where web sites couldn’t look good. They were black type on a white background with blue links.

Web sites were at first controlled only by geeks, so they had no chance of looking good. Then real designers got involved, and some web sites began to not just look good, but to also bring in significant traffic. Still, geeks predominated. They still do. We owe a lot to geeks, don’t get me wrong. But they know nothing of design, writing, and true functionality.

Reader, I digress.

My point is, if you need a web site that really, really works, it will cost money. It will also make money. If you hire the right web developer, you might actually make a success of your business.

So, please, don’t think small when it comes to your web site.

Recently, I redesigned a web site for a local vendor. His business, within two months, filled his schedule. Even I was impressed! We were using words that attracted searchers to his web site. And we were a long way off, at that point, from having a fully optimized web site.

So, a good web developer can give you many ideas for content, key words, and link building — things that your next-door neighbor’s kid doesn’t know anything about.

 2. “All web developers do pretty much the same thing.”

Oy. The world of web development, to use a phrase I often use, is like the Wild West. There are geeks, who understand what’s “under the hood.” There are designers. There are people who understand search engine optimization. There are functionality experts. There are writers.

Most likely if you toss a stone into the web design world, it will land near a designer. Many designers aren’t very good, and heaven help you if you hire someone who is a geek and not a designer at all. It’s a crap shoot, if you don’t know what you’re looking for.

Most designers, whether they’re geeks or not, require you to write your own copy. That’s so wrong. What do you know of objectivity and marketing knowledge? You need an objective brain to market yourself on the web.

Designers who demand you write your own copy are small timers. They’re simply going to deliver a fairly ordinary web site and be gone. It’s up to you to decide on organization, search engine optimization, and whether you need assets such as forms and a blog, and where everything is best placed.

3. “Everyone knows that using key words is the most important thing for a web site today.”

Well, not really. You can have the most beautiful website, and it can rank very high for its key words, but if your customers are leaving your web site after a few seconds, your functionality (also called usability) needs work.

What is functionality? Reaching the goal that you set for your web site. Newspapers and books have a different kind of functionality. People turn a newspaper page because it’s commonly understood that there’s more content on the next page. No brainer.

Web sites, however, have to be subtler. They have to entice people to want to know more, or see more, or feel more. So your good-looking, high-ranking site isn’t worth much if it doesn’t arouse curiosity AND provide a clear path to get there. We haven’t always been able to measure customer interaction with a web site, but we can now. Aren’t you curious to see what your customer interaction charts look like?

Also important, along with key words and usability, are creating both incoming and outgoing links. And getting your web site on the map — literally — using local search tactics. Local search optimization will help locals find your business.

4. “My web site doesn’t need to be special — I just need a page out there.”

Have you read anything I’ve said so far?

Google — the 400-pound gorilla you need to pay the most attention to — doesn’t like static web sites. In the business we call these “brochure” web sites. The usual “about,” “contact,” and “buy now” tabs. Blah, blah, blah. Where’s the excitement?

Also, one-page web sites don’t give you any way to measure customer interaction. To do that, you need to have persuaded a customer to click to another link or page, or to fill out a form.

Maybe it’s true that you don’t need a fancy-pants web site. Maybe you’re a dance instructor or an electrician. To that I say, you can still provide information that will help customers find you better on the web. How about a directory of live music venues in your area with dance floors and Latin music? Or 10 ways to save on your electric bill? How about a video showing some dance steps? How about an explanation of how different kinds of light bulbs save you money or help the environment.

5. “It costs a lot to get your web site on page 1.”

Not at all. I know several people who have done their own SEO (search engine optimization) themselves. They studied books and web sites and “got it.” This kind of person is rare, but not impossible, to find.

If you’re hiring someone to help you with SEO, you won’t break the bank. You may not be able to afford all of the options, at least all at once. If you hire the right person you can prioritize your SEO needs and pay only what you can afford.

6. “I can get a great web site for around $2000.”

You can get a web site for $2000 and under, but it won’t be a great one. Trust me on this. If you’re a small company, expect to pay $4,000 to $7,500. A medium-sized company with more needs may cost more in the neighborhood of $15,000 to $20,000. But make sure that for the money you’re paying, you’re getting design, copywriting, initial search engine optimization, and attention to functionality and navigation. You should not be telling the web site company how to organize your web site — they should be helping you.

7. “I can write my own web site copy.”

Listen up:

Nope. Not even if you’ve always been told you’re a good writer. If you’re a professional to help you.

Your design company may require you to provide a draft for some sections of your new web site, but they should provide someone to help you with concept, writing, and copy management. A professional can help you include just the right amount of copy. As well as appropriate copy.

One of the worst failings of a web site is to provide too much copy, thinking that you must be thorough. Nonsense. When  web site has too much copy, my brain hurts. Your customers agree with me.

The goal of your business web site is to persuade. Persuade people to shop, visit, or whatever it takes to get them to the next step — calling or buying.

A web site is not a bible or anything.

At every turn, help your customers, don’t burden them. Either ask your web design company to provide a web writer, or find one yourself.

8. “I don’t need a blog.”

Many people have the perception that they don’t need a blog. I’ve found that these people think of blogs as diaries, or opinions. Or, they don’t think of themselves as writers. That may be the case, but there’s still plenty you can do on a blog without writing well.

Blogs are the easiest way for you to create new content for your web site.

If you’re a landscaper, for instance, you can create a weekly list of things to do in the yard or garden. If you sell cosmetics, you can include lists of make-up essentials or great skin secrets. No matter what your business, you can simply answer customer questions.

If you were fixing a customer’s kitchen sink today, write about how homeowners can fix their own sinks. Or 10 things customers need to know about plumbing. Most people who land on your web site are not going to fix their own sinks. Once they see your dedication to serving your customers lots of information, they’re going to see what an expert you are and pick up the phone.

Some people don’t like the sound of the word “blog.” You can call your blog area “Library” or “Resources” or “Ideas” or “How to Fix Your Own Home Problems.”

9. “If you pay Google for an ad, you’ll rise in the search engine results.”

No. This is false. The purchase of a Google ad has nothing to do with how your business appears in the search engine results (SERPs).

Yes, your ad will appear near the top of the page in either the left- or right-hand column, clearly delineated as a paid ad.

Customers these days are savvy enough to know that the unpaid listings are “organic.” Perception is that organic listings rise or fall depending on the popularity of the service. This isn’t true all the time, and sometimes never. Organic listings in any particular profession might list high if they have a lot of authoritative businesses linking to them. But even with the best of search optimization, finding the perfect vendor for you is still … caveat emptor.

10. “The web site is done! Now I can relax.”

You’re kidding right? More like, “Now I can get started.” Lavishing attention on your web site is one of the best things you can do to help your web site climb the ranks and be found. Constant tweaking of key words. Finding web sites to link to you. Blogging. Making sure that your listings in every directory and link are plentiful, authoritative, and absolutely consistent with each other.

In addition Google rewards web sites that continually freshen content. It’s kind of a big deal.

If you have questions about the top myths of web development, please call me: Susan, 410.404.5559. I can help demystify the web for you.

Top 10 myths about web development

by susan time to read: 7 min

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