I originally wrote this article three years ago. I’m re-publishing it because unfortunately, three years later, I’m still meeting way too many business owners who have invested time and money in their website and online marketing but are disappointed with the results and/or haven’t received value for money.
Unfortunately, it often takes a bad experience to help people become savvy about the questions they should ask before confirming they will work with a website designer, web developer, Search Engine Optimisation agency, AdWords agency, online marketer or another web service provider.
To help you avoid a bad experience, here are my recommendations for the questions that you should ask before you commit to working with any web related company…. and make sure you’re happy with the answers too!
1. What experience do you have?
Find out how long the web service provider has worked in their chosen field, and whether the experience was gained working for another company or working for their current business.
2. Can I look at some of the websites that you have provided services for?
This is an absolutely key question. Ideally look at 3-5 websites that show a sample of their work.
When you’re reviewing the work of a web designer:
- Does everything look fabulous and well integrated?
- Are the Calls to Action really obvious?
- Is it easy to find the company’s contact details?
- Does the colour and style of the text compliment the overall design?
- Can you tell that they are an experienced web designer, rather than just a great graphic designer who designs for the web?
When you’re reviewing the work of a web copywriter:
- Does the copy flow and make you want to keep reading it?
- Are the headlines compelling and do they include keywords?
- Have strategic meta tags been added? (meta tags are part of web copywriting)
- Is the copy formatted to be easy to skim read using bold, dot points and subheadings?
- Are links to other pages of the website included?
- Is there a Call to Action at the end of the copy to let readers know what to do next?
When you’re reviewing the work of a web developer:
- Do they create your website to include a Content Management System (CMS), so that you can update your own content and regularly add new content?
- Will your new website be mobile responsive? (with Google’s change to add mobile-friendliness as a ranking factor from 21 April 2015, make sure your new website is mobile-friendly)
- Which Content Management System do they use? It might be WordPress, Joomla or a custom CMS. If it’s a custom system, ask if there is a monthly fee for you to have access to the system.
- Also consider the implications if you want to stop working with that web developer in future; are there other developers who know how that CMS? (There definitely are if your website is built in WordPress).
When the company provides Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) services:
- Review some client website and find out what keywords they were targeting for each of the websites that you review
- Search in Google for each keyword and see how high up in the search results the website appears
- Find out how many people search for those target keywords
- Have a look at the website; do the updates made for SEO blend with the overall design and look natural?
I recommend choosing a SEO company that people you know have worked with, and are happy with the results.
3. Were these website projects completed on time and within the quoted price?
There can be legitimate reasons why website related projects take way longer than expected and end up costing way more than the original quote. But, if this is the case you need to find out why it happened in order to understand if the additional time and money were justified.
Sometimes timeframes and budgets blow out because the client changed their mind once the project was started, requiring additional work and expense. Or it can take longer than expected for the client to provide key information that is needed to keep the project moving forward in a timely manner.
And sometimes, the web services company:
- fails to communicate effectively with the client
- is slow to meet expected timeframes
- failed to adequately quote all requirements in order to win the job.
If past projects did run over budget and deadlines, ask the right questions to find out why.
4. Is your quote a fixed price for the project? What additional costs might potentially be incurred and at what hourly rate?
It’s critical that you understand the scope of the project and what is, and isn’t, included in the quote. Also find out what additional costs will be incurred if you make changes once the project has started.
5. Are there any other services needed to help your website meet your expectations?
Often you’ll know someone who is a web designer or a developer and there is an expectation that they can do everything needed to create a fabulous website that brings results for your business. But the reality is that a lot of different skills are needed to create a great website, and it’s very rare that a single person has all the skills that are needed.
- A web designer may quote you to design and create your website, but you may be interested in adding SEO Copywriting to the package, so that you website can be found in Google by potential clients.
- Will you have access to a web analytics tool? Ask if a tool such as Google Analytics will be added to your website, or whether you need to find an additional service provider who can help you with this.
- A website developer might be fabulous at creating you a website that looks OK, but lack the design skills to give your website a clean professional look that makes you proud.
- A web copywriter can add keywords to the pages of your website in order to optimise it for search engines, but your search engine ranking is also impacted by other factors that an SEO company can help with.
It’s always worth asking the question “Are there are other web service providers who you could engage to help you get a website that meets your expectations?”. It might turn out that you don’t have budget for these additional services initially, but at least you’ll know what your options are and what costs are involved if budget becomes available down the track.
Additional questions for SEO agencies
- What specifically will you do to optimise my website? (SEO covers a lot of different things, including building inbound links, reworking how your website is set up and adding keywords to the pages of your website. It’s important that you understand what your SEO provider will, and won’t, be doing)
- Is there a contract period and if so, how long is it?
- What results can I reasonably expect and in what time frame?*
*Note: I used the words “reasonably expect” because due to the nature of SEO, no agency should guarantee you results such as ranking on the first page of Google.
Additional questions for AdWords service providers
- Are you in the Google Partner Program? (if the answer is No, find a company that is)
- How often will you review my ads?
- How often will you provide feedback/reports about my ad performance and in what format will that feedback be?
OK that turned out to be a lot more than 5 questions, but you can pick and choose the ones you ask based on the services that you’re looking for.
Got questions about any of these questions? Feel free to leave a comment below.
What other questions do you recommend asking before confirming the web related services?
Until next time
Melinda aka Mel is a Premier Google Partner, AdWords & Analytics Consultant, Speaker and Trainer and co-owner of Click-Winning Content. Mel provides results-driven services to Australian businesses and is committed to never using an acronym without explaining it first. She also likes grand slam tennis, cracked pepper and Melbourne sunsets. Please connect at the links below.