"Clothes make the man." Mark Twain
Fellow readers, I´m going to let you in on a deep, dark, shameful secret…
Once upon a time, I worked as a database manager for an apartment management company. Part of my job was to compile and maintain apartment rental statistics which we published in newsletters and mailed out to everyone in our database. (Does anyone remember getting market research reports in the mail?) I had this brilliant idea that perhaps we should put the statistics on our company website, so anyone could view them. Of course, I had absolutely no idea how to do this. Armed with a copy of Microsoft Word, I somehow was able to create and post this hideous monstrosity of a web page.
Why am I sharing this page with you?
Because in 2006, I am getting search engine optimization inquiries from folks who have websites that don´t look much better than my first web page. While I admire the fact that these people recognize the importance of successful SEO in order to drive sales lead generation, (in a nice way) I have to ask them the following:
"Do you really think that all these new prospects will become your clients when your website leaves such a poor first impression?"
So, I recommend to these people that they update their website design prior to commencing SEO. Each industry has different standards for web design. In conjunction with a designer, they should examine the websites of competitors to know what level of site design it will take to make their site comparable to others in their space. It isn´t necessary to spend extra money to have the most "cutting edge" look. Frequently, getting too ambitious with site design could cause you trouble with search engine optimization (so if you are working with an SEO consultant, make sure you check with him / her before undertaking a website redesign). Your updated site design only needs to be representative of others in your industry and I recommend that you take the money saved on the "frilly design extras" and spend it on SEO…the ROI is much better.
In my industry, the first contact I have with the overwhelming majority of prospects is online. People generally learn about me either through the articles I write or by reading about me on our company website. For the latter group of people, our company strives to present an image as a first-rate provider of sales and marketing services to the B to B marketplace. If our visitors feel comfortable with the look and feel of our website, and are impressed with its content and resources, hopefully they will consider contacting us to discuss their needs.
But what if a disconnect existed between our website information and the presentation of it? Our service offerings might be just what the prospect is seeking, but some hesitation might arise if we didn´t appear (in the visual sense) to be a premier provider. If our website looked out-of-date and contained poor messaging, why should a prospect think that the services we provide would be any different?
Having an outdated website is like making a sales call in your pajamas…the poor first impression is awful hard to overcome.
So, before you consider search engine optimization for your company website, ask yourself whether you really want more people to view your website in its current state. If the answer is no, you´ll want to hold off on SEO until you get your site redesigned.
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Todd Mintz is the Director of Internet Marketing & Information Systems for S.R. Clarke Inc., a Real Estate Development and Residential / Commercial Construction Executive Search / Recruiting Firm headquartered in Fairfax, VA with offices nationwide. He is also a Director & Founding Member of SEMpdx: Portland, Oregon's Search Engine Marketing Association.
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