As an SEO consultant, I am often asked to help optimize a new website after it has gone live and hasn’t brought in the hoards of new customers it was meant to. When meeting with prospective clients in this situation the same problems keep coming up. There are a ton of considerations when building a new website, and often times the SEO implications are overlooked. Before you sign a contract, be sure to ask your web designer these questions. It will save you a lot of headaches down the road.
What SEO services are included?
The first thing you want to ask your designer is how will your website be optimized for the search engines. The design of your site has a great deal of impact on your SEO. There are a number of things that when put into place right at the beginning, will serve you well down the road. Things like url structure, file sizes, and mobile-friendliness all play an integral role in your site’s visibility in the search results. So being sure to ask your designer what he or she does to help your SEO is the all important first question.
How will you build for mobile?
There are 3 common ways to build your website for mobile – responsive, adaptive, mobile site. This isn’t the place to get into the differences of each one, but here’s a good article detailing the important differences. The industry standard is responsive design, with organization like Google coming out strongly in favour of this style. From an SEO perspective, it makes sense to go responsive because it presents only one website to the search engines and is ready to be viewed across any screen size.
How will I manage the content and will I be able to update the site myself?
If you are small business owner with a brochure website (i.e. your website is just to promote your services and get people interested in your business), then you don’t need a custom-built content management system (CMS).Unless you are an enterprise business that requires special functionality, a custom Content Management and Member Administration System (CMS) setup for your website probably isn’t necessary. If they tell you that you need a custom CMS or they offer to hardcode it, steer clear. These ways of building your website increase your dependence on your designer to make any changes to your site. You don’t want to pay your designer every time you need to change an image or add a new service. Having your website on a platform like WordPress or Squarespace means that you or someone from you team can make the easy changes without having to get a designer involved.
Do we have to host the website with your company?
Some web development consultants who do provide web hosting require you to host your website with them, be sure to check out the ongoing costs of this and what it would mean to move your site to a different hosting company. This will help to avoid any contract disputes down the road. This leads us to our next point.
Who owns the template files?
I’ve talked with clients who have had a beautiful website built for them, but at the end of the day the designer retains ownership of the files. This doesn’t make sense to me. If you paid for your website design, then you own those files. In the case that you ever want to make changes to the design or you need to move your site to a new server, you need to have those files. Be sure that you get full FTP access to the website being developed for you, and a login for any databases.
Ask the right questions
There are a lot of fantastic website designers – and some not so great ones – out there. But there are somethings that a designer may overlook when building a new site, that will have bigger implications down the road. So if you are considering giving your website a revamp then have a frank conversation with your designer about your website. Find a consultant or agency that works with you so that you can do what is right for the long term goals of your business.