This story is the last of a three-part continuation of my previous post on The Importance of Trust, in which I shared several insights about what to look for in a marketing relationship and how to avoid getting scammed. If you missed part 1 (Client A and the Exorbitantly Priced Parked Domain) and part 2 (Client B and the Dysfunctional, Carbon Copy Website), you may want to read them first.
Meet Client C: A Guy Trying to Make an Honest Living
Client C is a really nice guy. He was referred to me by another client, which is how I get a lot of my business. Even though this other client totally vouched for me, prospective Client C was extremely skeptical because, you guessed it, he’d been burned before. Little did he know just how badly his burns were.
Sometimes You Have to Deliver Bad News to Be the Good Guy
This prospect mostly wanted someone to listen and answer questions in a low-pressure, non sales-y way so that he could sleep on it and evaluate whether taking another risk was worth it. I listened, explained, and offered a free SEO audit since most of his questions pertained to his site’s performance. He happily gave me access to his site, which looked fine on the outside, just like that of Client B, and I was pretty surprised by my findings.
If Your Website Isn’t Bringing You Business, It’s Not Working
It’s perplexing how often I have to explain this, but I realize not everyone understands the inner workings of the internet. With ubiquitous advertising for DIY websites where anybody with zero experience can slap together a few homemade pages and call it day, many people think that’s all that’s required. Like, “if you build it, they will come.” No, no, and no.
SEO (or search engine optimization) is a buzzword that most creatives or web designers will throw around in a conversation to boost their marketing cred. “Yea, I do SEO!” Or, perhaps if they get the notion that their unsuspecting clients don’t know the first thing about SEO, they just won’t waste their time implementing it. Whenever I encounter someone like Client C and the story I’m about to tell you, I always wonder, “Did the previous person even explain SEO correctly?” Client C had no idea that his site was not SEO optimized and that it was performing poorly or why. He’s a pretty smart and attentive guy, so I’d have a hard time believing that if the designer had explained SEO to him, he would’ve declined it.
My Take On Including SEO for My Clients
Let me state for the record, that I believe SEO should be a non-negotiable part of any web designer’s offering package and not something that has to be invoiced separately or up-charged for. Again, I know my fellow creatives are grimacing at their screens, but so much can be done with skillful, on-page and back-end SEO right in the website, right in the content, right in the architecture. To completely omit that, or to charge extra for it when it’s easy to make it a part of the design process, it just bonkers to me. I’m not saying we should all offer analytical services and Google management to our clients for free; I’m saying that’s not necessary and someone shouldn’t have to ask for it to have some degree of good SEO built into their site. We have to assume they don’t know enough about it, and educate them on it as a value-add for our services.
So, What Happened?
When I logged into this client’s site to perform his SEO audit, I found virtually no SEO to report on. There were no alt tags or image descriptions, there was very little hierarchy of content. There was no freakin’ XML sitemap!!!! The content wasn’t that skillfully written (many web designers claim to also be skilled at writing content and copy but very few actually are, and it should not fall on the client to pick up the slack when they are paying a professional), which accounted for many missed opportunities to weave keywords into the copy strategically, and the site was never connected to Google or anything.
What this means is that someone created a site without any SEO strategy and they connected it to a domain purchased at GoDaddy. The end. Now, how in the world would someone know this site was there? No one told Google about it. No one said to Google, “Hey, here’s this new website, have your robots crawl it, index it, and categorize it according to the strategic SEO it contains.” Translation: anyone searching for the services advertised on said website would be very unlikely to see this website, ever.
When the website for Sam’s Hardware has a properly designed website that is properly connected to Google, and the competing hardware store across town has an improperly designed site that was never connected to Google, guess what everyone’s going to see when they search for local hardware stores? Sam’s! Client C’s web designer did him a huge disservice by setting him up with a site that he thought looked good, but didn’t understand wasn’t working. He was losing new business to his competitors left and right. He wasn’t even coming up on page 2 or 3 of Google, and we all know most of us don’t scroll that far.
So, I created all the things that were lacking and filled in some gaps that should have been filled a long time ago. Within 60-90 days his site is now ranking appropriately for the level of SEO management that he’s comfortable with. But, unfortunately, much of the damage is already done as time is traction in website world, and this site’s been up for years without the proper support.