Here’s a scenario we see played out all the time.
Acme Inc. has a website that has been online for five to seven years. They recognize that people are looking at their website as it comes up in sales conversations, but the CEO feels that the design looks dated and that it doesn’t properly reflect the offering of the company. Maybe he doesn’t like the way the content is organized, or doesn’t feel that the messaging is appropriate any more, or just doesn’t feel the site is a accurate reflection of the firm’s brand positioning.
Acme Inc. goes out to market and hires an agency, let’s call them Agency Hipster, that has a portfolio that looks very clean and cool. The sales team seems nice, and the designers are young and hip (their pants are so skinny!).
After five months, Agency Hipster launches the new site for Acme Inc. Celebrations are had, craft beers are shared, and everyone at both companies pats themselves on the backs for a job well done.
Fast forward two months and the sales team is complaining that overall inbound sales inquiries are down. The CEO can’t find their site on the first few pages of Google unless he specifically searches for the company by name.
The marketing manager, who has a basic understanding of Analytics, is looking at the decline of traffic from launch day and asking the agency, “What’s happened?!” The hip account manager with the excellent beard all of a sudden can’t explain why. The site looks great, but it’s not performing well.
We here at Art & Science have done A LOT of website design work over the years. I myself have been “building websites” since 1997, so it stands to reason that we have seen a thing or two in our time, including the disasters of what happens when a website redesign is driven solely by aesthetics.
If you’re evaluating proposals from agencies to help give you that fresh new online presence, and they haven’t talked to you about Search Engine Optimization, then they are doing it wrong.
Not only are they doing it wrong, but they are potentially dangerous and could harm your business.
You might be thinking:
- “That sounds a little hyperbolic.” While I have been prone to hyperbole from time to time, I assure you that this is not one of those times.
- “Our site is so old that anything newer is better.” Wrong.
- “Nobody Googles us.” Also probably wrong, unless you are brand new to the market—and even then I’m willing to bet that people search for the service or product category you operate in.
We hear a lot about “data-driven marketing” these days, and while most marketers I meet agree that they should be using data to make their decisions, they often underestimate how this applies to the biggest and most public piece of marketing collateral they own: their website.
While you may feel that your website looks like a Honda Civic from 2002, that doesn’t mean that it isn’t influencing your business (there’s still a lot of late model Honda Civics on the road).
And let me be clear, don’t feel bad if you didn’t raise this with your digital agency. They should be asking these questions and bringing this level of awareness to you in the first place. We’re paid to be experts in this arena so you don’t have to be!
So, what should you be looking for in a digital agency?
1. One that sells Digital Marketing—not “website design”
While we absolutely get engaged in website redesign projects, the questions we’ll be asking are aimed at getting a holistic picture of your other marketing touch points—from email, to how you are perceived in search, to what you’re doing in social media—to best advise on maximizing your investment. Your website is, after all, the hub of all your digital communications. Why throw tens (or hundreds) of thousands of dollars at a property just to look good? Make it work as hard as Beyonce.
2. Highly Competent in Search
As this post is illustrating, search (Google, Bing, etc.) is a huge part of being not just discoverable, but sustainable. How many times do you use Google to dig out the phone number for the same business over and over again? Why would we ever “save” contact information when it’s ever-present online in Google? If your redesign doesn’t factor this in, maybe you won’t be seeing as many calls.
3. A History of history
If you’re evaluating an agency to determine whether you want to work with them, ask them how many other clients they have ongoing relationships with. If they aren’t actively engaged in optimizing and improving the sites they build for other clients, what expectation do you have that they will do this for you?
It’s hubris to assume that design borne from the subjective feelings of a designer (or CEO for that matter) is perfect from the get-go. It’s also naive to think that the web (and Google) are static entities. What worked yesterday may not work tomorrow, and your agency should be helping you see these opportunities to help maximize your investments.
You’ll note that I didn’t say “award-winning design”. It’s not because great design isn’t important, it’s just that we’re at a point where great design is table stakes. What matters is how well that design performs for your business, and that’s where search plays a key role.
So go on, shop for the new agency—but anyone who tells you that search engine optimization isn’t a big part of your business is either lying, or worse, ignorant of the realities of digital marketing today.
Image credit: Peter/Flickr. Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0) license.