As a digital marketing agency that also builds top-end business websites, Surge Digital is exposed to a wide variety of clients with an even wider variety of digital marketing, web design and development needs. As a result of this, we are frequently asked to market websites that have been built by independent developers or designers.
It is routine for us to have to tell prospective clients who have just spent tens of thousands of rands on a website that their site is unfit for use as a marketing platform, and that they will either have to abandon SEO marketing altogether and focus on Pay Per Click marketing, or design their website from scratch.
This means that many businesses setting up an online presence tend to waste thousands of rands on failed websites and ineffective digital marketing campaigns before they finally come across a digital marketing agency qualified to provide them with the expertise, information and guidance they need to build successful websites.
This situation is a result of the fact that many business owners and prospective webmasters simply lack the level of knowledge of digital marketing, design and development processes required to make informed decisions when it comes to choosing who should build a website, what it should cost and how they should go about the entire process.
There’s a legion of independent designers, developers and SEO marketers out there who are more than happy to capitalize on this confusion and syphon money off businesses – providing partial, often ineffective, and sometimes damaging and expensive ‘solutions’ to companies’ design, development and marketing requirements.
In essence, the situation boils down to the following factors:
- Many businesses underestimate how much modern, fully functional websites or SEO marketing campaigns cost
- Businesses, therefore, tend to look for the cheapest solutions to their design and marketing needs
- There are countless one-man-bands who offer ‘value’ design, development and marketing services and are more than happy to exploit this state of confusion to sell their services and products
- Even those businesses with realistic expectations of cost are frequently unable to discriminate between digital agencies capable of providing effective solutions and ineffective fly-by-night operations
We have found that independent web designers are often the worst culprits when it comes to marketing ‘complete’ web design and development solutions that are anything but complete. This is largely a result of the fact that designers are quite easily able to lure clients into deals based on mock-ups and designs that simply look good to clients.
While appearance is a critical factor in the overall scheme of marketing and designing a successful website, there are numerous other factors that are either subtle or effectively invisible to prospective clients that are far more important in determining whether a site will or won’t be useful and effective.
These factors include, but are not limited to:
- Optimization of content, information structure and page layout
- The type of platform used to build the site
- Use of images to present textual information on a website
- Absence or presence of conversion optimization elements in Information architecture
- Conducting market research to determine optimal layout and content requirements
However, because these elements are sometimes invisible, and are understood only vaguely, if at all, by many businesses, clients tend to zero in on the element of the site that they can most easily access, relate to and assess – its appearance.
Designers are able to leverage off this confusion over web fundamentals and over-reliance on appearance to market their products using superficially attractive images and mock-ups.
They often sell a ‘complete’ web design service based on a single mock-up when they, in fact, have very limited or non-existent knowledge of market research, conversion optimization, back-end development, front-end development and SEO best practices. In fact, many of them will work off a standard design template that will allow them to knock out a new website in several hours.
These websites are known as ‘cookie cutter’ websites in the industry, as they provide very little customisation in terms of either design or functionality, and are frequently inferior to the free blogging sites offered by WordPress and Blogspot, which can be customised by a user and are at least fit for digital marketing campaigns.
The results of this are websites that:
- Are not structured to meet the needs of the client’s target market
- Are difficult for search engines to ‘read’ and index
- Require expensive 3rd party assistance for the addition or modification of content
- Cannot be used in SEO marketing campaigns
- Are not scalable, and can require extensive redevelopment to add additional functionality, pages or design elements
- Lack the elements required to convert traffic onto the site into sales
While designers are often guilty of wasting client funds by churning out aesthetically pleasing but otherwise substandard websites, SEO marketers are often just as guilty when it comes to providing partial services at ‘reduced’ costs.
Rather than turning away business promised by the owner’s of substandard sites, marketers will take on business, deliberately overlook the fact that the site is not fit for SEO optimization, and proceed with months of digital marketing. This will either involve the use of illegal or ‘black hat’ marketing techniques that may ultimately have devastating consequences for the site’s rankings or will attempt to market the site through conventional means with very limited scope for success.
We hope that this post has clarified why the integration of marketing, development and design talent is essential for the creation of successful business websites. Taking this information into account one can easily understand why this process can be more expensive than the cheaper design solutions offered by many independent agents.
However, we firmly believe that you get what you pay for in the online business environment and that in the long run, a cheap solution to your web development requirements will prove far less cost-effective than building a high-quality website – capable of delivering results from the outset – up front.