Wednesday, 17 May 2017 08:11

Cheap web design and SEO - why it's not all it's cracked up to be

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Today I had a call from a client who had engaged the "services" of a so-called digital agency who had promised to build them a new website, get them ranking well in Google Search and build them a social media presence - all for the amazing price of only $600. Sadly, despite paying this, the website never came and their credit card was hit with further charges. 

If you've been in business a while, you've probably been on the receiving end of these kinds of phone calls and emails (oh my gosh, so many emails!) - you know the ones - they promise that they will get you on the first page of Google etc, tell you they are calling from Melbourne and you can almost bet they are in a call centre/digital dungeon somewhere offshore.

As a web designer and marketing specialist myself, I love it when I get these calls. I love it when they tell me they can get my website ranking better. I absolutely love it when they tell me they can improve my online presence, like it never occurred to them to read what we do on our website - especially the section about online marketing. What I don't like is the way they specifically target small businesses who don't understand the world of digital marketing and promise them things that are simply not right. 

How do these companies find you?

Like any cold calling or email spamming, you've come up on a list somewhere. The two most common things these companies look for are domains and/or business names that have just been registered. In my client's case, they had just registered their business name and we had just registered their domain. Cowboy companies like these look for those businesses and start calling. Why? Because they know that many new business owners don't understand digital marketing, and more importantly, are struggling in the cashflow department, so a cheap marketing option sounds great.  

What exactly do they do?

This varies, but generally they will offer you the following:

Cheap SEO (search engine optimisation) services

They will say things like "we'll get you ranking well", "we'll get you on the first page of Google", or my personal favourite, "we'll get you to number 1 in Google". What they actually do is what we call Black Hat SEO. They use aggressive SEO methods like adding your website to heaps of directories, forums and goodness knows where else, and stuffing your website with heaps of keywords. Inevitably, this actually hurts your website's ranking as Google looks very poorly on these SEO tactics and will penalise you. If you genuinely want to rank well in Google, you need to learn how to write good content, or engage a good SEO company that employs the right SEO techniques. 

A cheap website

There are lots of websites out there that promise cheap web design - but be wary. Whilst a cheap website might seem fine, this can pose a huge risk to your business. Here are some questions you need to ask:

  • Who owns the website when it's completed? You should.
  • Are there any ongoing costs? Some companies will charge you a monthly fee and if you stop paying it, you're website disappears. Others will add in "extra" fees along the way. In reality, once you've paid for the site design, you should only be charged for yearly hosting (a necessary expense) and domain renewal (usually every two years).
  • What's it built with? There are many content management systems out there and it's important you understand what your site is build on. This is particularly important if you want to update the site later on. 
  • Can you update it yourself, or do you have to pay them to do it? You should always have access to your website!

Domain Renewal

This is a common one. If you have ever received an invoice from a company you don't recognise, charging you for domain renewal and/or hosting, don't pay it! Go back to the company that currently hosts your website. If you don't know who that it, it's probably your web designer. 

How can you prevent being scammed?

Simple. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. If they cold call you or spam email you then hang up or delete, delete, delete! A good digital agency will never do either of these things, nor will they over promise. If you are seriously considering any kind of digital marketing, do your home work and make sure you engage a reputable company. Digital Marketing and web design is not a cheap enterprise and you need to be prepared to invest. However, in the long run, a good digital marketing and online strategy can help propel your business forward.