SEO is short for search engine optimization. Search engine optimization is the process of maximizing the number of visitors to a particular website by ensuring that the site appears high on the list of results returned by a search engine.
Engagement, in military terms, is described as a fight or battle between armed forces. In web terms, engagement could be thought of as the process of getting an idea across to accomplish a goal.
There are a couple major goals with websites, as I see it. One is to simply share information. Another is to sell products. Make no mistake about it – whether you are selling widgets or ice-cream or trying to increase your congregation – the goal is the essentially the same – getting people engaged.
The first, sharing information, definitely is a precursor to the second. I’d like to focus on the second here.
Websites that are more engaging with their visitors will encourage more sales. With that in mind, it follows that engagement is a result of information and aesthetics.
Aesthetics costs for a website can vary greatly. Graphic design can be time consuming. This equates to higher labor costs. Information in written form, however, is usually the least expensive part of website development. Text can usually be pasted into web pages. This is not usually as labor intensive. Having more information in text format on a website usually equates to more exposure to the public. This is because website visitors can arrive using search engines. And the search engines find your site based upon pertinent content – mostly text.
In a nutshell, if you want an engaging website – which will increase your probability of success on the web – make sure there is plenty of information in text form on it. Search engines will help get folks there and your aesthetics can do the rest.
A popular website sales pitch over the past ten or so years has been about blogging. Many web developers believe that blogging is an absolute must to get found on the web. However, believing doesn’t necessarily make it a fact.
Whether blogging will be a benefit your particular web presence is complicated. There are a number of factors to consider.
A major factor is that blogging requires time to be effective. The time has to be spent by someone entering blog material pertinent to your business or topic into your website. Otherwise you have to pay someone to keep up with it.
Keeping blogs interesting to keep site visitors engaged is another ongoing endeavor. Site visitors won’t return if the material doesn’t hold their interests.
The real power of blogging lies with search engine placement. Search engines rank websites on how pertinent they are to a particular topic or search terms. Search terms are generally words or phrases people type into search engines when they are looking for something. The more pertinent – the higher the ranking. Having more pertinent material on a site increases ranking.
So when considering whether a blog is right for your web presence or not, bear in mind that a blog must be an ongoing, continuing effort. It may be just as effective to simply have a lot of static material on your site explaining details about all your offerings.
We hear lots of hype about how the economy is doing so great these days. However, it isn’t necessarily true for all and many have to watch their spending.
One thing to watch is minimum labor/service rates. Checking out how you’re billed for webwork can save you a lot on money over time.
You gain the most advantage for yourself by finding a web company that bills by the minute. Billing by the full hour – or even worse yet – a minimum of more than an hour – is the absolute worst for you as an end web client.
By the minute billing means if a task takes 14 minutes you are billed for 14/60 of the hourly rate. While some complicated website tasks take lots of time – but smaller tasks usually do not take long to do – like changing phone numbers, updating hours, adding or taking down specials, minor modifications to how something looks and the likes of that.
There are companies that will bill you for only the work they do for you – billing you by the minute.
I started doing it that way from the time I started my business in 1998. The business experienced considerable growth. One day, a competitor in my field told me I was “shooting myself in the foot” by charging that way. I ran into him a number of years later. He wasn’t in the web business any more.
There are many companies out there that do business fairly. If you’re paying minimum labor times or so called maintenance plans, then my suggestion is to look for a web company that will treat you fairly. You’ll save a lot of money in the long term.
I’ve mentioned SEO (Search Engine Optimization) throughout many articles. While it is important – I believe it’s the most abused area of website development.
It’s important for your business website to be found in the search engines. That is best and most inexpensively done by having pertinent material in your website so the search engines see your website as pertinent or closely related to a topic.
There are many unscrupulous individuals and companies out there selling just plain bogus SEO. It’s often impossible to discern the truth. There are no regulations or meaningful certifications in this field.
As an example – let’s say you receive a dozen Viagra spam messages in a month. Does that mean you need it? Certainly just because a number of spam messages are saying you need something doesn’t turn it into a fact.
Why would you believe the same about SEO regarding your search placements on the Internet? Our web clients are bombarded with spam and with phone calls saying they need this and that for their websites. Some fall prey to these sales pitches and some even go out of business as a result of spending hundreds of dollars each month on scams.
Your web developer should care about you as a client – should want you to be as successful as possible and not up-selling you right out of business.
The worst part of the SEO scams is they can oftentimes hurt your placement with the search engines.
Don’t fall prey to the scamsters selling these bogus “services”. Check with your web developer FIRST about such offers to find out if they are for real or whether you actually need them.
Your website is an important investment. Whether you made it yourself or paid to have a professional develop it for you – you wouldn’t want to lose it. We have taken on clients who were with the largest company in the world who lost their website because of having no backup. The terms for doing business with that company even state they are not responsible for the loss of the website.
I couldn’t imagine not backing sites up. Nowadays the technology is ever present to back everything up. In the not too distant past, hard drives were much more expensive than they are now. Hard drive space is extremely inexpensive nowadays – so there’s no excuse for a company to not make backups.
One third of today’s sites are on a platform called WordPress. Security updates happen often and changes can be readily made to WordPress sites – so they need backups at least every day. Whether there’s a server catastrophe or simply one of your employees blowing up your site while making changes – it can be recovered.
Definitely protect your website investment by hosting with a company that provides daily backups of your WordPress website every night for at least a month. That will avoid having to restart your website from scratch.
Recently I checked search engine placements for some web clients. I landed on a property maintenance website. The site was quite interesting. However, the site had no address information on it!
I navigated everywhere in disbelief – curious to find an address. My search left me wondering how a site visitor would know if this outfit would be able to help them or not. Further investigation (I’m sure a standard Internet surfer looking for a service would likely never do) showed the site’s domain was registered to someone in California.
Looking for a property maintenance companies in the Keene NH area, a company from California wasn’t going to be any kind of a fit!
Besides the above issue – not having at least a city and state on a website – if looking for someone local for services – you don’t know if they’re local – even if they are. Most web visitors won’t bother to check – they’ll just move on to the next search result.
Business owners – particularly those providing services – should make their geographic location fairly obvious on their website. If their original web developer didn’t, it’s usually an inexpensive change to make to a site. It will increase business from the web and filter out callers who are too distant to be a good fit.
This week is a closely related follow up to last week’s article. As I mentioned then about a lack of a phone number, it seems like it would go without saying that a website trying to sell something should have an email contact someplace on it.
Last week I was referring to a web developer’s website with no telephone number or email address on it. Some developers put forms on their sites to try to get out of displaying an email address. The main issue with forms – besides the fact that form output is more often than not considered spam by many mail servers – is that people generally don’t want to fill them out. It’s much easier these days to click on an email link and send off an email saying exactly what you want to say. Of course you can speak it even more clearly but email may be the next best thing.
If you can’t find an email address to contact someone, my advice is to just move along to the next prospective web developer on your list. You want to deal with a web development company that makes it easy to be reached.
Do I really have to say a web developer simply has to have a phone contact where one can at least leave messages?
As unbelievable as it may seem, there are those out there without a listed phone contact. I saw a website recently where there was no telephone number or email address on it to reach someone for service. I know you won’t believe it when I tell you that individual has been in business for many years.
The owner asked me how I managed to get so many clients and grow CharlesWorks to handling thousands of websites. I couldn’t resist mentioning there was no contact information on the website. The response was they didn’t want lots of junk emails and people knowing their phone number.
It reminded me that back in 1998 I started CharlesWorks because I wanted to help as many people with their web related needs as possible. I knew from having been in business earlier in my life that there are always going to be spam phone calls (just like spam emails). But that’s part of the cost of doing business.
So think twice if you can find a phone number to talk to someone.
It is great to get referrals from others. That’s why it’s important to deal with a web company that understands your community and reciprocates by referring business to you. I always ask folks I meet when the last time was that they received referrals from the web hoster or web developer before moving to CharlesWorks. Usually the answer is never. I am amazed to usually find out at that point that even their local folks they give their web business to don’t bother to refer folks back to their own clients.
You need a web developer that does that as a rule. You need a developer that one or more of its staff are in high powered networking chapters and will refer business back to their own clients.
That’s what reciprocity is all about. You need a web company that practices that at every opportunity.
One small way CharlesWorks does that is through its CharlesWorks Directory. We help our clients get found on the web and increase their web traffic by keeping information about them on thousands of sites on the Internet.
If you have been feeling that your relationship with your web company is rather one sided, it’s time to deal with one that cares about you!
We started in 1998 as a one man show – just Charles. After some years it became apparent Charles would not be able to keep up with the workload Charles was generating.
A choice had to be made. Charles alone didn’t get some projects because the question often came up: “What happens if Charles is on vacation? Sick? Etc.?”
The only path to growth was building a team. So that’s what we did. We became a team of 8-10 people at any time. We have the owner at this since 1998, the next in charge at it since 2005 and so on. The team grew. We were able to cover all aspects of web development. Team members go on vacation, are out sick, or whatever – but work continues to get done.
We’ve encountered many clients who previously dealt with “one person shows”. These clients spent much time frustrated and having to wait for important web changes to be done until that individual could get to it. With a team everything gets done quickly by whichever technician is available.
Think in terms of having a team behind you. When you need your work done you need it done. Period.
This is what our clients needed and we evolved to meet our clients’ needs.
The Small Business Association said in March 2019 roughly 30% of businesses failed during their first two years of opening. At the five year mark about 50% failed. At ten years around 70% had failed.
Remember this is ALL businesses – not just web businesses. I’ve seen many go under in the years since 1998 when I started in this business. Usually that news comes from our new web clients – who don’t even know what happened to their past developers – they just became unreachable or unresponsive.
Obviously there is no sure thing – no guarantee – that any business is always going to be there. That being said, there are many things that measure the likelihood of success. Look at factors like five to nine employees versus few or none. Look at employee longevity. Look at how they get their business – through referrals versus constant advertising. Look at whether they have a handful of web clients versus many.
Don’t risk having someone handle your web presence who won’t be there for the duration. Common sense dictates that a company that’s been around over ten years with a team that does most of its business through referrals for many, many clients is going to be way more reliable for you in the long term.
This is a question that, amazingly enough, not everyone thinks to ask. We have had a number of people who received poor service from their web services providers come to us. Imagine their surprise when they discover that they do not own their website!
Our philosophy is very simple – anything you’ve paid in full for – meaning there is no open balance on your account – is yours. Period. We really have no reason to want your website. We just want to be paid for work done, your domains and services rendered.
Unfortunately there are many unscrupulous people in the web business. They use their ownership of your content as a method to hold you hostage – forcing you to keep paying them. It’s an unfortunate reality on the web. We have never operated that way.
Just about as bad are the large companies that you can build your website at quickly ans easily. However, there is no way to move that website from them. Your site operates ONLY on their proprietary servers so can’t be moved elsewhere. Folks usually discover that after realizing there are insufficient options for website expansion or customization. Then they’ve lost all the time and energy put into a website they don’t own.
We’ll be glad to tell you if you’ve been trapped like this.
It’s increasingly difficult sorting good companies from bad ones on the Internet. There are still ways to find the best, reliable web development companies. We’ve compiled this recommended checklist as a starting point. The order these are in isn’t necessarily important since ALL points are important!
Check to see if your web development company:
□ will ensure that YOU own your website when it’s paid for □ is legitimately registered to do business within its State: NHMAMEVT □ has been in business for at least 10 years □ has several or more people □ carries workman’s compensation on its employees □ carries liability insurance □ maintains a committed presence in networking groups □ is accredited and has a good rating with the Better Business Bureau (https://BBB.org) □ understands your community and reciprocates by referring business to you □ has a phone contact where one can at least leave messages □ has an email contact where one can send information □ provides automatic site updates at no additional ongoing charge □ backs up websites every night for at least a month □ provides website encryption (SSL) at no additional ongoing charge □ does not require hosting or domain contracts □ does not overcharge you by selling sell inflated monthly maintenance plans □ provides partial hour web work billing (9 minutes work charged 9/60 of hourly rate) □ can respond to most maintenance requests in 3-4 days □ has general familiarity with trademark and copyright issues □ is proficient with WordPress through experience and training
Over upcoming weeks check here for details about each. Contact us with any questions, we exist to serve you!
Whether face to face or on the web, there’s only one chance to make a first impression. This short checklist contains “must haves” for a website. It’s unbelievable to leave them off a website. We’ve seen web developers as well as web do-it-yourselfers not provide the following.
Phone number – You’ve lost credibility right away if there is no phone number. Many people – yes even today – understand that talking actually accomplishes more faster.
Contact email – We recommend posting an email address. Some use forms keeping email hidden. Forms are easily “spammed” making more work.
Business location – Tell visitors at least what city you’re in. Customers wanting to deal locally appreciate this.
Hours of operation – Whether you expect foot traffic or take appointments, there’s nothing worse than guessing whether you’re open or not.
Who to deal with – Let visitors know who they can deal with. Staff shrouded in anonymity don’t appear helpful.
Aesthetics – Websites should appear clear and organized. Visitors expect some things in certain places – like navigation. Make it easy find items/topics and get around the site.
Website success happens by building visitors’ confidence in your business. Providing as much information as possible will help immensely with this process. Contact your web services provider for assistance. They, just like we at CharlesWorks, should be there to help.
Domain ownership is like home ownership. Domain fees are like home taxes. Stop paying taxes and see who really owns your home!
Domains are sold through hundreds of “domain registrars” around the world. It costs in excess of $50,000 to become a registrar. Registrars answer to ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers). It maintains a database of all domains to ensure domains can’t be duplicated.
Most domains are registered by web development companies. Accepted common practice is to obtain domains for their client, set it up and build a website accessible with it.
Losing a domain can easily be avoided. Common reasons I have seen for folks to lose their domain names are as follows, in the most common order:
1. Renewals ending up in spam buckets or returned with dead/outdated email addresses.
2. Church parishioners/employees who have a falling out.
3. Business employees who move on regardless of circumstances.
Avoid Gmail, Yahoo or other “freebie emails” with your domain. You’ve ZERO control over and can’t even call them.
Seek out reputable web developers OUTSIDE your organization to handle your domain names. Avoid “one man shows” and startup developers. Use BBB accredited businesses who’ve been at it at least 10-20 years. They’ll likely look out for you and protect your domains.