Here are a few technical design principles that all sites should follow.
- Never host your website in-house. The security risk is too high.
- Use a content management system, such as Joomla.
- Make a significant part of your website visible “above the fold” (not requiring visitors to scroll down).
- Include social media integration using YouTube video feeds, RSS feeds, Twitter, Facebook, etc.
- Make your website usable on mobile devices.
- Build your website so it follows search engine optimization (SEO) rules. These rules change over time.
Search engines view the following:
- Domain name
- Page title (with 14 words in the title currently best)
- First paragraph content
- Hidden site description (should contain between 25 and 100 words)
- Remaining visible content
- Links between other sites
- Hidden keywords
Your content management system may help with some of these items, but your website builder’s thoughtful design can make a noticeable difference in your organic or un-manipulated search engine results. Including items like the cities where you operate, key areas of expertise, and other keywords to help people find you and your site can make a big difference, but you can do better.
All sites need SEO. The tips in pullout are a start, but the steps to do optimization right takes an SEO professional’s touch, some thoughtful setup and guidance from you, and hours (two to 30) of work each month. The heart of SEO is keywords. It generally takes about 40 hours to properly develop a keyword list and get these keywords into the code portion of the website. Then, the keywords need to be used in the text on each page of the site.
This is where SEO starts … not ends, as many people think. The goal is that you appear on the first page of the major search engines when using the search terms that potential clients use to find you. It's not an exact science because the engines don't divulge why they rank things the way they do. Through a community that thrives on testing theories, there have been tried-and-true methods that are known to increase rankings. Often times, these discoveries lead to spammers exploiting it, and then the engines respond by adjusting their algorithm. A focus on the end user experience (providing fresh, relevant content in a quick and easy manner) will lead to the best long-term results, not “chasing the algorithm.” See page XX for some basic SEO tips.
Since the majority of all web visits start at a search engine, it is important to ensure that a search strategy is included in the overall website design process. Simple design or programming decisions can have a significant impact on rankings and can remove from search engines entirely. The trick is to understand how people look for you to select the right terms to optimize. SEO can make a huge difference in your results, but it is not cheap. Typical SEO services vary in cost from $500 to $1,000 per month or more. Good SEO is expensive, but it does deliver a very good ROI if done right with a good website. However, if you add just one client that pays fees of $10,000 or more per year or for a single project, this marketing expense has more than paid for itself.
Consider your web presence. If you have a marginal website, outsiders will perceive that your services are marginal, too. If you do the right work with the right professionals, you will have an image that is professional, conveys your key messages, works on multiple browsers and platforms, and allows you to be found easily in your local market. So how much is one client worth?