This week I talked to a former associate (and new client). He has owned a successful business for years and (on his own accord) realized he needs a website. So he used a rather popular website builder that offered very easy-to-use features that help you create your own website. They'll even host it for you for only $5 a month. No, it doesn't look like a professional built it, but this is really just to establish a web presence. That's the selling point: it more work and less professional, but it's an inexpensive way to have a web presence. Right? Well maybe. You don't have a web presence if no one can find you on the web. Pretty soon he called me up asking about SEO because he couldn't find his site ... neither could Google.
After he built his site, he started looking for it with some level of difficulty. Google had crawled it, but was still granting little to no recognition. So, he tried to optimize it. Not too surprisingly, the $5 a month package did not offer user friendly tools for Search Engine Optimization. In fact, many of the features from before (while making it easy for the user) make it hard for search engines to read anything. To receive what would laughingly be considered comparable to standard hosting services the package jumps to $25 a month ... with no trouble-shooting, maintenance or assistance. Even with this higher package you are still relying on your own knowledge and skill set to produce the results you need. It is both your money AND your time.
I took a look at his site and I saw several things that could be improved, but the sad truth was that most of the problems did not lie within the external coding, but rather in the construction of the site itself. There are so many elements that should be integrated into the development of a site itself that beginning to worry about SEO afterwards is, at times, too late. Fearing possible expectations would be too high if I just said, "Yes" to the project I directed him toward the SEO portion of my website. He, as most business owners, is a clever guy. He did his research, made his comparisons and drew his conclusions. He called me up and said, "If I had known all of this before hand I would have gone with a professional first."
I don't say that to brag; I say that to warn. Here's what he wished he had known beforehand.
When you build your own site...
- You work within your limitations.
- You spend your time and your money.
- You usually don't get what you thought you paid for.
- You sort of learn a new skill as opposed to truly harnessing the one you have.
When you go with a professional developer...
- You reap the benefits of their experience.
- You invest your money in your business.
- You target a new potential client.
- You utilize someone else's skill set allowing your own to shine through their work.