Cheap Website – Penny Wise Pound Foolish

By: Keith Bennett

penny wise pound foolishI’ve been busy. Real Busy. Apologies.

Not an excuse –entirely– but I had few clients sign up recently for my Ultimate SEO program and the hours I invest in the initial months is significant and grueling. That said, I have been brainstorming for a short-to-compose, relevant topic for a new post that shares an insiders’ take of some aspect of web development. Unfortunately every one my topics on my to-write-list are just too complex and require way too many hours to properly compose right now; considering my schedule of late.

The universe, as usual, ponied-up both the topic and the passion to grind it out right this minute! Two callers in two days sent me over the edge. This needs to be aired out.


Cheap Websites & Cheap Website Owners: A ‘pox’ on your house

I will not have to collect a lock of your hair, nor hit the witchcraft store to have a “pox” befall your house. You and Google will take care of that. A year from now, if you launch your new website on the cheap, remember… You’ve been warned!


Caller ONE

Caller ONE – is a local Marriage & Family Therapist who reached out for help after a client informed her that the CONTACT FORM on her never-maintained, 4-year-old website failed to notify her of his recent communication. In fact here is a Copy-N-Paste of her email:

“My website person has disappeared. I was recently contacted by a client informing me that I never responded to his email he sent from my website (Contact Me). I did a test and never received as well. This is bad.

Right now I would like to replace two forms that are on my site, already in PDF as well as make the Contact Me email functional.”

While speaking with her I could not wrap my head around the precise spelling of her last name, but no worries — I Google’d “City Name Diane M* Family Therapist” as we talked so I could find and view the 4 year-old website. NOTHING! The website is the digital face of her one and only business located in one of Orange County California’s smaller cities (of the 34 cities in the county of 3.6 million residents). Moreover, this small city is a planned community with very few businesses – mostly an upscale bedroom community. ANY business could OWN Google Page ONE in 4 years with little –if any- efforts… Unbelievably, this professional’s 4-year old website is virtually UN-FIND-ABLE! She should OWN Google Page One in this particular city with even a mediocre site.

I remembered she had a link in her email so I found that email and finally located the URL to the website. The therapist’s name and title were criminally and helplessly buried forever in an un-readable JPEG as a makeshift LOGO (I fixed that with a duplicate text repeat), there was no SEO (no meta-title, no meta-description – NOTHING!), no sitemap, no H1-Tags on any pages, the website’s time-clock was set to the time zone of the UK, only 50 words on Home Page (Google needs 350 minimum to take a website seriously), the WordPress software was circa 2011 – some 3 years old! In 3 months it will be 2015! So I asked her:

Question: “Would you mind if I invest a few hours fixing your site so you will be found as a therapist/counselor in your city?”
Answer: “Nope, don’t need any of that fixed, just fix the contact form, update 2 forms and send me a bill…”

I was astonished. Think of the patients she never met – never helped! Consider the lost growth of her practice by not adding new patients in the numbers possible — if find-able online! Think of the lost financial growth her business turned over to her competitors during the past 4 years! Patients looking for a therapist are going to find someone! Too bad she won’t be one of the choices the mix of available local therapists more often…


Caller TWO

Caller TWO – just concluded our phone call forcing me to stop what I was working on to pen this article. The woman is a restaurant owner in Los Angeles who began the conversation: “We’ve invested a fortune in our new restaurant and really need a new website that will (1) have several pages, (2) be easily found, (3) take online orders, and then (4) send us the order in real-time so we can prepare if for pick up. Our budget is not-to-exceed $125.”

Are you Bullshitting me?

I tried to make sense of her request – discussed the fact that her entire marketing effort that she claims will be 90% dependent on the Internet will be gambled on a website build by someone who will not exceed $125. She said she’d had some bad experiences with web designers in the past.   NO SHIT-!#!?Who would’ve seen that coming?   At that price-point, the only person that will say yes to her budget will be a Craig’s List scammer, or a starving newbie that will set up an abortion of a site that will NEVER be indexed or found (like CALLER ONE’s Website) because they are clueless to all the behind-the-scenes details that all websites must have.

Prediction – Her restaurant venture is DOOMED! In fact, ANY business venture she undertakes will FAIL.

Should have had her get a pen and paper and list all of Chuck’s Rap Video’s “Website Necessities!”

Chuck nailed it! If only professionals and business owners could grasp and understand that ALL of those requirements Chuck outlined in his rap video are mission critical to a website making a person or company either (a) well-known, or (b) prosperous by well-engineered websites being eventually ranked well by Google BECAUSE all of those website construction processes must meet stringent standards and expectations!

A budget of $125 – might get the hosting set up, a C-Panel fleshed out, an instance of WordPress installed, the permalink strategy figured out and implemented, a designer’s favorite plugins uploaded and activated, and that’s about it!


CALLER TWO (now 2 hours old) reminded me of a story. – Potential website owners need to be realistic about a budget for their new website and get all of the good code and necessary elements Google, Bing and Yahoo will expect to see in a website that those search engines will CHOOSE to share with their clients (web searchers). Google, in particular, is very fussy about delivering your new website to a web searcher unless it meets a number of critical minimums. Thus, a budget of $125 is not going to cut it if you want the web to treat you well and you are hoping for any modicum of success on the Internet.

Some of our existing clients who paid for and received a professional code-compliant, and well-designed site and who are sitting on a powerful website that is doing really well occasionally wander off the reservation. Some clients don’t know nor appreciate the value of the good code compliant website they have because outsiders are constantly trashing ALL sites ALL the time with the hope of snagging a customer they can bamboozle with their oft repeated SEO hype. I have client sites that literally own and dominate PAGE ONE GOOGLE that get emails (daily) promising to get the website on PAGE ONE GOOGLE — if only we call them for a free website analysis!

Image of SEO Hype

Every now and then, thanks to the millions of SEO snake-oil cold-callers that harass our clients every day by phone and via their Contact Forms the Chinese Water Torture of daily drip-drip-drip harassing will convince a website owner that they are missing out on what could be “IF ONLY…” Anyone who has a website has seen these:

“Did you know your website could be receiving 500 more views every day if you hire us?”

Sample websiteSo I get the occasional call that goes like this: “Keith, love the website, the design is sweet and we’ve gotten quite a few clients already, but I have this SEO specialist who swears he can double or triple our results and I’ve just hired him to make some critical SEO tweaks. He really knows our industry and has special insights.” (Sure he does…) “But he needs to move the website from your dedicated server to his server to do the SEO work.” (Sure he does… No problem…) “What do we have to do to make that happen?”

Well, NO… It is not necessary to move a website – from a particular server to another server to do ANY SEO work whatsoever. But, yes, I understand the cunning they used to convince our client of the supposed necessity. They can then charge for hosting fees and maybe convert the client from us for any and all of our other services. We usually always quietly follow instruction and transfer the sites and wish them well. We are often horrified at what becomes of our once code-compliant, standards-compliant work-of-art websites!

One of the more dramatic instance was when someone who had no coding experience (and questionable SEO skills) reworked our CSS-based HTML-5 compliant site using some WYSIWYG website blender (like Website Tonight) and ended up with an ancient-coded website where such things as the business name and address were hidden in JPEG images – the search engines cannot read a physical office address buried in an image! Below is a similar story that someone sent to me:

Web Standards? Who needs Standards? Erasure of Compliant Site!

According to the gal that sent this, the following story is from a Rocky mountain area web designer about what can happen when others are oblivious to web standards.

“A couple of months ago I designed a website for a new upstart company. The website was designed completely with valid XHTML and CSS. The client was happy and everything was grand when we finished our part. After the website was completed and running, a third party company was hired by the client to do some back-end website management for them.

They wanted to host the website we designed and integrate it into their online software. This third party company, moved our files over to their server and a couple of weeks later to my abhorrence, this company had completely re-written the HTML—to bloated invalid table based HTML. Not only was it re-written with tables but the navigation was converted to images and javascript rollovers instead of the CSS list based navigation. All typographic headlines that were done with styles had been replaced with images! Several pages don’t render correctly in FireFox. It made me sick, why would someone do that to such beautiful compliant code? I can only imagine it is due to their ignorance about standards based design and their lack of skill to understand it. (I also think they only use WYSIWYG applications to build their code which is probably contribute to the ignorance with HTML.) I emailed them and tried to explain to them why we use standards-based code and its benefits, but I have not yet received any response regarding why they re-wrote the code and ruined a once-potent web asset.“

CHEAP WEBSITE seekers. Damn you!

You know who you are! What the hell are you thinking? And there are some lawyers in this mix too! Do you realize that some of our clients (small law shops) earn $100K/month ($100,000.00 per month) in new client fees because of ONE NEW WEBSITE letting the world know that they are damn good in a particular law section?

Professionals – like yesterday’s CALL ONE (Marriage and Family Therapist) could have conceivably doubled her practice EVERY YEAR for the past 4 years if her website was GOOGLE PAGE ONE for her small and affluent city!

Business Owners – The failure rate for new restaurants is more tragic than for general business start-ups which makes getting a restaurant’s website done correctly is mission-critical! What was CALLER TWO smoking?

Cheap may be STUPID – But Cheap is popular!

I suppose I must be compassionate in that there are 147-MILLION Google results for the search: “cheap websites”

Image of Google search for string: cheap websites

Make the LOGO Bigger!

For you fellow web-designers who dropped in – I am sure you have had a client that demanded you to make their shinny new LOGO Bigger! Enjoy! The repeating riff –the beat– is pretty solid — feel-good Rock N Roll spoof…


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