Becoming Clueful: What You Should Know Before You Redo Your Web Site
Five tips on what businesses should expect from their web designers and developers
If You Build It, They Won't Necessarily Come
Another common misconception is that, moments after you slap up a web site, millions of visitors will beat a path to your door. The reality is far different, say experienced developers, because building the site is not the same thing as marketing it.
Once the site is up, clients expect to receive "tons of business," says Robinson. "Only after informing them of marketing and search engine optimization services do they truly realize what goes into the web site."
The Internet is a two way media, points out Heilmann. "You simply cannot control anything that is on the other side of your information flow."
Etscorn-Dillon says, "You get clients that think that once their site is done, they'll be ranking #1 in Google instantly. It simply does not work that way. Also, putting up a site doesn't mean instant orders or phone calls. I have to stress that having a Web site is not a marketing plan, but one of the many pieces of a sound marketing plan. If they don't know where to find your site, they won't find you -- period."
Adds Cancilla: "Clients ... want to be #1 on Google for some term or another and don't understand a) that you can't guarantee such a thing, and b) that getting a high search-engine rank can take a lot of time and work. Perhaps more annoying still is the client who wants a high rank and thinks they know how to do it themselves -- by using some method they heard/read about that will either make the site annoying to readers or potentially get them banned from Google all together."
Instead, you'll need to spend some money and time. According to Joshua Strebel, president of obu Web Technologies Inc., "If someone has $30k to spend, they get a $10k web site from us, and then we look at putting that other $20k to use in marketing, either traditional channels or forms of Internet marketing. It is still all about location; you have to get people to see the web site. Yes, more established companies simply need a web site to support/enhance their current sales and marketing efforts, yet most new web sites need a significant amount of push before visitors will ever see it."
Campbell agrees that web sites aren't a magic bullet. "It's not 'if we build it, they will come, and throw money at us.' For most businesses, it's more like 'if we build it, and dedicate effort to keeping it fresh and up to date and interesting, and if we're selling something people really want to buy, and if we think of the web site as only a part of our marketing effort, and if we pay attention to having clean code and optimized pages and tweak our pay-per-click keywords effectively, maybe we'll be more successful with a web site than without.' My clients that assume full, enthusiastic ownership of their web sites, take advantage of their capabilities, and use them to really communicate and have a dialogue with their customers are the ones most pleased with the results."
Avoid Bit Decay: The Site Needs Maintenance
There are few things you can install in your business and then ignore completely. Unfortunately, that truism isn't grasped by a lot of business owners, who expect that once a Web site is "done," it can be ignored thereafter. Heilmann bemoans the misconception that a web product has a final date and then it's finished. "Any web site that is not developed to be maintained is already outdated," he cautions.
All web sites require at least some degree of maintenance, Campbell points out. "If a visitor comes to a site and sees a 2004 copyright at the bottom, or a class schedule that's six months outdated, that site and that company tends to lose credibility. If a site is never updated, spiders from search engines start visiting less and less often and rankings in search engine results pages will drop. I have clients whose sites launched last year, and they never touched them again. They're still wondering what went wrong, and why their web site didn't ever bring them any business."
Justin Crossman, at Fivetwenty Web Services, Inc. in Chandler, Arizona, suggests, "When making the decision to create or redesign your web site, think about how you would like to handle future changes, regular or otherwise, and make sure your provider is willing and able to meet those expectations."