Hiring The Right Webmaster
The Questions You Should Be Asking ?
When interviewing webmasters, don't let price be your deciding factor. Among webmasters there is a split between those who are skilled in the fine art of Search Engine Optimization (SEO), and those who are not. To obtain high rankings for your site on the major search engines, multiple SEO Marketing tactics must be included within the design of your website. As an online business owner you should be concerned with the depth of SEO Marketing knowledge possessed by the person you hire to design and build your website. Do you know the right questions to ask a potential webmaster to ensure that you are doing business with the right person?
The process of hiring a webmaster may appear to be as simple as contacting a few designers and getting price quotations for their services. In the end you select the lowest bidder and move towards getting your new website built. Do not confuse price with function. Typically, a very low price indicates a finished product that will not be capable of competing for business online. Additionally, there are some designers who can accommodate you not only with design services, but with hosting services as well. They will charge a very small fee for the design services, which looks great on paper, only to hit you hard with a high monthly fee for your hosting. In the end you pay far more and your website is still not ready to compete on the search engines for any volume of business.
How important is SEO Marketing to the design and development of your new website? Remember, if your site cannot be found in the first three pages on the major search engines, it won't matter what you spent or how lovely your website is; no one will ever see it, and therefore, no one will be able to do business with you. SEO Marketing should be at the core of your entire web design process.
The Obvious Questions:
May I view your portfolio?
A webmaster should be ready and willing to show off their past projects to you. If they have nothing to show you ? run.
Do you have a list of references?
A qualified designer should not only be proud of their work, but so should their clients. Contact a few of their clients to verify their overall satisfaction with the design and the process involved. Keep in mind, good designs cost money and also take time.
What software do you use to design?
To the untrained eye this question may seem ridiculous. The truth be told, there are vast differences between webmasters and their skills. As it stands there are a small handful of great design programs which would qualify your potential designer as possessing the experience required to get the job done. However, there is one design program that will immediately disqualify your designer as someone who knows what they are doing; Microsoft's FrontPage®. If they say, "FrontPage®", say something polite as you hang up the phone.
The Not So Obvious Questions
Do you have any SEO experience?
While some designers cannot even spell SEO, others will readily admit to their lack of expertise in such matters. Obviously you are seeking out a designer who claims to be well versed in the practices of SEO Marketing. How can you tell the difference? Ask them to show you some of their top ranking sites on Google, Yahoo, MSN or other major engines. The search phrases they use to find their client's websites should be commonly worded phrases that people would actually think to type on the engines, and not some cryptic, uncommon mixed-up set of words which many so-called SEO Marketers use to justify their poor work. Remember, we can all rank high by typing in our company name, it's the sites that rank high when you type in the nature of their product or service that makes for good SEO.
Do you incorporate SEO into your designs?
Many designers will offer SEO services to you 'after' your site has been completed. For some, they must outsource these services as they are not qualified to perform SEO page optimizations during the design phase. A good SEO job requires that the majority of the text on a website be completely rewritten. So if you're not including this with the design, you'll be paying a whole lot more for it down the road as the SEO Marketer must take your nicely written content, tear much of it apart and rewrite it so as to appeal to the engines for higher rankings.
How much text will you include on my web pages?
While this question will obviously have a different answer for each page of your site, a smart SEO Marketer knows that a minimum of 300 to 400+ words per page will assist your site in obtaining and more importantly keeping higher rankings over longer periods of time. To the search engines text content is king. Text is "essentially" the single largest factor in helping a search engine determine your position in the rankings.
What else you should know . . .
Flash and Graphics are not text.
While search engines are slowly becoming able to read the text content for some types of Flash presentations, such presentations are still mostly what the name implies ? "Flash". The sparing use of Flash to enhance the look and feel of your site is never a bad idea, as Flash can add a very professional visual aspect when used appropriately. However, there are several site architectures which are fully encased within a Flash presentation, where the entire site is Flash. Such sites will be hard-pressed to ever gain any ground on the SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages), as Flash content simply does not contain the same relevance as standard HTML based pages.
Graphics, on the other hand, cannot be read at all. Graphics, even those with text on them are simply rectangular voids to the engines. None of the content from a graphic image can be read or used for the purpose of optimizing your pages for the search engines.
Frames aren't as bad as they used to be.
The use of 'frames' in web design are no longer posing the obstacles they once did. Like some types of Flash, many of the major engines can now decipher frames-based websites and deliver visitors to your site based on the content of framed pages. There are a few tricks that experienced webmasters use to ensure that the frame structure remains in tact no matter what page a visitor is initially delivered to on your site.
In closing, beware of the webmaster that tells you that they will 'SEO' your site by submitting to the major search engines. Submitting a website is not at all part of the intricacies involved in performing true SEO optimization on the pages of your website. Don't let anyone convince you otherwise. Submitting your site could certainly be included as part of your SEO services, but submissions are not themselves SEO Marketing.
Kevin McElligott owns and operates iTech Developers, a web design, web marketing and web hosting company. With over 15 years of experience, Kevin is moving in the direction of "consumer advocate" by taking his technical background and applying it toward helping to protect the online business owner. He worked through most of the 1990's as a Novell NetWare and Microsoft NT network technician. During his final years as a net-tech, he taught MCSE certification courses for a short time before completely changing his focus to the Internet in 1998. Starting in 1995 he began developing websites, and by mid 1996 had started a second company which focused solely on website design, hosting and marketing services which is his current company, iTech Developers. Working in and around web development, he's discovered several trends in the industry which consumers need to look out for. He continues to teach and consult for both small businesses and established businesses alike. He can be reached at "firstname.lastname@example.org". Visit his website at http://www.itechdevelopers.com
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