Biz Basics

By Beau Denton September 30, 2010

Search Engine Smarts


Time to update your website? Melissa Fach, founder of web developer SEO Aware in Sarasota, cautions that when businesses aren’t clear about what they expect from a web development company, or developers “don’t give the complete picture” about what they can offer, the result is a communication breakdown that leaves everyone frustrated.

To ensure that your web developer knows how to meet the needs of your company, Fach says both parties need to set clear expectations from the outset. Many developers promise services—such as search engine optimization (SEO) to prioritize your site on search engines like Google—that they are ultimately unable to deliver. SEO is an evolving industry, says Fach, which means that if developers don’t “read every day and keep up with the changes,” they won’t be able to offer the most effective service.

“It starts from the beginning,” says Fach. Optimizing your site is not just about adding keywords to a new blog. It’s about the link structure (the most important pages should be just a click away from the homepage), the background code on each individual page, even the aesthetics. “Google’s algorithm looks at many, many things,” says Fach. And if it doesn’t like what it sees, your site might be bumped down the list, or removed from Google altogether.

Always do your research. If web developers promise search engine results, make sure they know what they’re talking about. Fach spends about 10 hours every day online. When she’s not working on a client’s site, she’s researching updates from Google and new trends in SEO. “We’re really geeky,” she jokes, but that’s what makes the difference. A good website means not just more traffic, but more conversions, which means more people ready to pay for your product or service.


Web questions every company should ask.

What does my site need to rank well on Google? Beware the term “search engine submissions” or a plan that relies only on tags and keywords. This shows that the developer has not researched the intricacies of SEO or, worse, that their methods are out-of-date.

How will the design process work? You and your developer need to agree who has the final say on aesthetics and layout. Developers should be willing to plan, test and adapt until the site is complete. If a developer charges extra for each revision, you will end up with an empty wallet or a website you are not proud of. 

Who owns the site? If you and your developer part ways, will you be able to continue using the same site? Fach has seen companies in long-term, destructive relationships with developers because of this issue. Set clear ownership and contract terms from the start.

How will the site be updated? Will you be able to add new content, or will your developer have to make every change, no matter how minor? Developers should have a system for training you and your employees so that your site’s growth is not dependent on their fees or schedules.

What’s the real cost? Many businesses assume that minor revisions, SEO and social network tie-ins are included in the overall cost, only to be served a bill twice what they’d been told. Before you hire, make sure the developer is specific about the cost of additional services. Consultations to optimize an existing site can run well over $150 per hour. Hourly fees for building a new website will be lower, but the time required for a successful site makes it a sizable investment.

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