Last week on the SEO 101 WebmasterRadio.FM show I host with Ross Dunn, we talked about some of the pet peeves we have about working with SEO clients. One of the things that came up in the discussion was companies that hire out their web development and THEN call an SEO once the new site is live. Ross and I talked about the frustration of having to tell a potential client the site they just paid oodles of dollars for doesn't have a shot in the engines, and how nice it would be if companies would call in an SEO consultant up front.
Whenever I talk with a company in this position, I'm reminded of the public service announcements that run all over the country advising home owners to "call before you dig."
Call Before You Dig
The idea here is to call and have the utility company come mark where water lines, gas lines and any other underground lines are so you can avoid creating a mess when you start digging as part of your home improvement process. In other words, so you can avoid something like this:
It makes good sense. A little bit of extra time and expense before you start your project can save you a ton of time and expense if things go wrong. Building your web site works much the same way. Sure, you may be able to hire your site design out to company X and then hire company Y to do the search engine optimization on it, but you run the same risk as the person digging a hole in their back yard.
There still just as many (if not more) companies out there who are oblivious to the things that trip up search engines as there are companies who build things right. That's why it's essential to either hire someone with a skilled search engine optimizer on staff, or to bring an SEO consultant on board to oversee the development of your site architecture and code.
Rebuilding Costs More Than Building it Right
What happens if you don't do this? Well, in the case of a lot of the companies I've spoken to, it means starting from square one. Think of it like building the home of your dreams or the perfect skyscraper and then having to blow it all up to start fresh.
There are few things more frustrating than laying out thousands (or tens of thousands) of dollars for a new web site only to find it will be nearly impossible to get it to rank well. Whether it's a site built entirely in Flash, a site too reliant on session IDs, a site devoid of content or a content management system that doesn't allow you to change things like Title tags, a poorly developed site can throw up massive obstacles for the engines. Generally, a site like this means if you want to rank, you have to rebuild. (or at least heavily renovate.)
Think of your SEO consultant as an architect and your web development company as a general contractor. A general contractor can build you a beautiful home, but they need to have the perfect plans to work from. A good SEO consultant can put together the plans and requirements for your site and hand them over to your web development team before the build. It's true you may find the perfect general contractor who has a broad enough skill set to not only build your home, but to build the plans for your home. It's also true you may find the perfect web development firm with a solid enough understanding of SEO to build you a search optimized site. You simply need to understand these things are still the exception and not the rule.
Do yourselves a favor and call an SEO before you dig yourself into a big old web development mess.
Jennifer Laycock is the Editor of Search Engine Guide, the Social Media Faculty Chair for MarketMotive and offers small business social media strategy & consulting. Jennifer enjoys the challenge of finding unique and creative ways to connect with consumers without spending a fortune in marketing dollars. Though she now prefers to work with small businesses, Jennifer’s clients have included companies like Verizon, American Greetings and Highlights for Children.
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