July 14, 2010
If you're a small-business owner, you know you need a website in order to compete online. But I sometimes wonder how many owners know they don't just need a website, but one that's been developed with SEO baked in from the start.
Unfortunately, it's more likely that they don't even know what SEO is.
Part of the problem is that many business owners take a do-it-yourself approach to their website and use whatever free or low-cost website creation tools they can get their hands on. And those who do hire a website designer assume that they will "do that Google stuff" when they develop the site.
Some website designers mention SEO as part of their services, either built into the design or as an add-on, but there's often not a lot of detail describing exactly what SEO services are offered. Other designers or agencies never mention SEO at all, either because they don't understand it, don't think it's important, or don't even believe it's possible.
Whose responsibility is it to bring up SEO?
If the business owner doesn't even know what SEO is, it's unlikely he or she will bring it up to their website designer. In which case, the designer may be relieved and assume they aren't interested in it. Except that the business owner may be thinking that all they will have to do is "tell Google which keywords we want" and they'll be all set. (I still get emails asking if I can do that!)
Yes, SEO does cost money.
On the other hand, getting most small-business owners to part with their money for something like SEO can be like pulling teeth. Many of them aren't willing to pay the extra costs involved in designing a website that has SEO built into it. But if you opt out of SEO services during the website design, you've got no one to blame but yourself when your website is a ghost town. And you may not be happy when you learn that the cost of SEO just doubled now that you're trying to wedge it into an existing site rather than baking it in from the start.
Every website needs SEO.
Many designers and do-it-your-selfers are now using freely available content management (CMS) tools such as WordPress, which makes it easier to ensure that they're built SEO-friendly. But, as with most tools, every CMS is only as good as the person using it. There are right and wrong ways of using WordPress when it comes to SEO. An out-of-the-box WP installation is likely to cause many SEO problems for the site owner when it comes to SEO. In fact, the default installation of WordPress often adds a nofollow, noindex robots meta tag to every page! I see at least 1 WordPress site a week that is inadvertently blocking itself from ever getting listed or found in Google. Whether the website is designed professionally or by someone's niece, it takes someone with knowledge and experience of the intricate world of SEO to ensure online success.
Let's face it, a site that is invisible in Google may as well not exist.
Yet every day websites are designed with no thought to it, and business owners are left to believe that this "Internet thing" is just a waste of time. The solution is for all business owners to insist on SEO right from the start. If your designer isn't an SEO expert (and most aren't), it's critical that they be partnered with an SEO consultant so that they're not designing invisible websites. While the cost of entry for a small business is going to be higher, investment will pay off many times over later on.
Jill Whalen is the CEO of High Rankings, a Boston SEO Consulting Agency.
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