Busy Professionals Victimized by Web Charlatans
I’ve worked with doctors, dentists and lawyers who have Web sites and wonder why the site doesn’t enhance their practices. They have a perfectly good-looking site, developed by people who specialize in their very field, and the site just sits there looking good!
The problem is that these busy professionals are being victimized with Web sites that look good but are built so that looking good is all that they’ll do–they won’t help grow the practice. And the purveyors of the site won’t give you good advice in that area, either–they are more interested in booking quick, high-profit cookie cutter jobs.
If you ask about search engine traffic, you’re likely to get an answer such as “We are not an SEO company, we are a Web site company.” That’s certainly true; these outfits are not SEO companies. But I think they should instead say “We will give you a Web site that looks good but will never ever bring you any visitors from search engines.”
In this issue, I’ll tell you some things to look for if you’re a professional looking for the development of a new site. I’m not an artist so don’t do site designs myself, but I do advise clients who are having a new site developed. If you’re getting a new site you can engage me to help you through the cycle, reading and evaluating proposals, helping choose a vendor, giving them some guidelines and evaluating and testing the result. But these guidelines will give you a good start at it.
The first question to ask: are they using WordPress to build the site, and can you host the site that’s built on any hosting service of your choosing?
There are many reasons why a small business site should be built with WordPress. Most of them stem from its popularity–more of the world’s sites are hosed on WordPress than any other platform. So you can always get someone to work on it, and if you want to add function to it, someone has probably built a plugin to do just what you want. And because it’s free, even the best add-ons that you have to pay for are cheap.
If the developer doesn’t propose WordPress right away as their first choice, choose someone else. You don’t want to force them into using a development platform they don’t like or aren’t not familiar with.
Usually these folks will provide hosting service for the site after it’s built. That’s a good thing, actually, because you need hosting service, and it’ll be convenient for them to make any changes to the site you may decide you want.
However, there are two issues that you should verify about their hosting service:
First, Google gives an edge to sites that use HTTPS, the secure version of the Web protocol HTTP. If you’re getting a new site, the time is ripe to start with HTTPS. Leading edge companies are using it now. The developer may not propose it, but they should not resist at all a request from you to implement it. Here, too, if they don’t want to do it, don’t waste time with them–move on.
It’s worth using HTTPS just for the Google search position bump you’ll get. But it’s also timely because it protects site visitors’ communication with the site. The FCC is now toying with rules that may allow users’ browsing data to be sold. In that environment. competitive factors dictate that we keep that information to ourselves through use of HTTPS.
Dedicated IP Address
Your IP address is the numeric Internet address of your site. If your hosting service shares your IP address with other sites, then if one of those sites behaves badly, your shared IP address can end up on one of the lists of banned IP addresses that are shared among Internet service providers. The more other sites share your IP address, and how they are connected, has a lot to do with how much risk there is.
This subject has some complexity to it. I’ve written a post about it, that includes an easy way for you to test whether your IP address is shared by any other sites. You can also use that same method to look at the IP address strategy of major companies. I suggest looking at the IP address sharing strategy for IBM, GE and GM.
If your developer tells you that there’s no reason to have a dedicated IP address, then they’re not telling you the truth, and you should move on. You may decide, after reading my post, that you don’t need a dedicated IP address. Certainly, though, you don’t want your IP address shared by a large number of sites. If your IP address is shared by, say, six sites, with companies all well known to the site provider, than maybe that’s OK. But if your IP address is shared by 100 sites, then that’s an issue.
If the content of your site duplicates another site’s content, then Google will decide which is the original and not index the other. That is, you risk getting zero referrals from Google for any of your content that’s duplicated elsewhere on the Web.
Ask your site developer whether they guarantee uniqueness of the content they will supply. Then, when the site is delivered, check every page for uniqueness. To make the check, copy a sequence of about 15 words from the middle of a paragraph and paste it into a plagiarism detector such as Copyscape.
If they’ve provided a significant amount of duplicate copy, after promising unique content, don’t ask them to fix it–find someone else, and don’t pay the bill. You’ve been deceived and cheated. They’ll cheat you again.
Some of these site developers provide a service to help you get reviews. Typically this is simply a request that you email to a client or patient and ask them to do a review. However, more than one of these companies doesn’t do the extra work required to make it easy for the person who’s being surveyed to write a review on a recognized review site; instead, they offer a review that’s posted only on your own site, or is posted on a review site that they own.
You want some help in getting genuine, favorable reviews from your real clients and patients–but on a popular review site, not just your own site and not some obscure site owned by your Web site provider. Today, your prospects are searching reviews in Google, Yelp and other important review sites, If you have 50 to 100 good reviews on these sites, they will bring people to you. For more detail, see the post that I’ve written on this subject.
If they offer a review service, you want a live feed of reviews on your site, so that recent reviews are shown, and there are links to the reviews on the review site. This gives the display on your site great credibility with visitors to your site.
Your developer may not offer a review service; that’s fine. You can use my service–or another service. But if they service they offer doesn’t meet the requirements outlined here, they’re trying to sell you something that will actually hurt you, by wasting perfectly good reviews that, if located on review sites, would be helping you.
The Bottom Line
Use the criteria I’ve given here to test what’s being offered to you. Or, if you’d like, get in touch with me and provide me links to a couple of sites that the developer you’re considering has developed. I’ll be happy to look at them for you and give you my opinion. I don’t develop sites, so have no stake in which developer you choose.