So you’ve decided to get cracking on your internet marketing and the first step was to contact a web design company and get a quote. The first thing I would say is that if you’re getting a quote for just a website redesign, you should consider whether you’re pursuing partial inbound marketing. And if you’re comparing a website redesign quote versus an inbound marketing proposal, you may be trying to compare apples and oranges. Here is a list of ten questions you can ask the web design company in order to check on their level of inbound marketing knowledge.
1) Can you describe how you perform your keyword research and how they will apply to the design of my website, the structure of my content marketing and any advertising I may do?
Most reputable web designers understand how to perform keyword research and apply it to the architecture of the website. However, that’s only one part of a comprehensive keyword strategy. Inbound marketers employ a three-tier stragtegy:
- Foundation Keywords are a short list of keyword phrases that will form the skeletal structure of a website. Achieving top ranking for these keywords is a key performance indicator.
- Long Tail Keywords form a longer list of keyword phrases that will be incorporated into the site’s pages. This list will form the skeletal structure of the content marketing strategy.
- Opportunity Keywords are narrow search phrases that are highly targeted but typically have low search volume. These phrases can frequently be both easy to dominate and also deliver very high conversion rates. They will be incorporated into paid search and the content marketing strategy.
2) What off-page SEO services do you offer?
There are two parts to SEO; on-page and off-page. The on-page optimization means designing the menus, pages and titles and other components correctly, which most designers know how to do. But the off-page stuff is where the hard work gets done and if your designer hasn’t mentioned the word “blog” or “content” then I would be very concerned. A well-designed website by itself will not get you ranking well on search engines. You need quality links pointing to your site and strong social signals in order to get their attention.
3) What CMS technology do you use?
No business should be shackled to a static, HTML website that can’t be easily updated. There are a number of open source and commercial content management systems available. Be sure to choose one that has a feature-rich, easy to use blogging feature. I’ve found that WordPress is a great choice for many businesses large and small but there are always situations that warrant other choices.
4) Does this quote include a mobile-friendly design?
The future is getting smaller and smaller every day. Tablets and smart phones comprise more and more web traffic every day. It’s critical that your website feature a design that reads well on mobile devices.
5) How many landing pages does this include?
This is kind of a trick question because most web designers don’t really know what a landing page is. These are the most important pages on any website. They are where you turn visitors into leads and the entire strategy needs to be built around driving conversions. If your designer never mentioned the word conversions, I’d be concerned.
6) How will you measure my conversion rate?
The answer here should be “Google Analytics Goals” or some other equivalent feature from a web analytics package. If you’re not measuring the conversion rate on your landing pages, it’s like driving a car without a speedometer. Goals allow you to tell Google Analytics when a conversion has occurred, like a download of an eBook or newsletter signup.
7) How will you measure the effectiveness of my calls to action?
Once you’ve created some great landing pages, you need to place calls to action (CTAs) on your web pages and at the bottom of your blog posts. The web design project should include both design time for these CTAs as well as a module or plugin that will provide you with the analytics you’ll need in order to keep track of impressions and click-through rates. This is critical functionality for inbound marketing but rarely included in website proposals.
8) How will you measure the ROI of paid campaigns and social media channels?
The answer here should be that you can calculate this using the goal values set up in Google Analytics using a custom report by referral source. When you configure goals, you can assign a conversion value. For example, an eBook download is worth $50 because you think you can convert 2% of those leads to customers and your average customer value is $2,500. Then it’s a simple calculation to compare what you’re spending on each channel against the conversions you’ve obtained.
9) What are the components of your content strategy?
This probably isn’t included in most web design quotes, but without a content marketing strategy, you aren’t doing inbound marketing. I’m not saying that you necessarily want this to be part of the proposal but it must be on the table. As mentioned already, the keyword strategy must take into account the website design, your content strategy and paid promotion strategy. Your content strategy will also impact the design of the site itself. Having a site that is heavily focused on video content would likely be designed differently from one with just a single, high-value eBook download, for example.
10) Do you manage Google Adwords campaigns? If so, are you a certified Google Agency?
This is a bonus question. Some would argue about whether or not paid ads qualify as inbound marketing, but either way they should be part of most website launches. If the web design company isn’t going to handle this, then someone should.
So what am I missing? Have you had an experience recently that led to wish you had asked a different question up front?
Earlier this year, I had the pleasure of presenting How Not to Fail at Social Media at the 2012 ARC World Industry Forum. During the question and answer period following the presentation, one of the audience members asked me, “This all sounds great. How do I get started?”
My answer went something like this: “Well, it’s a really hard answer to give in 30 or 60 seconds. A proper approach requires the development of several different strategies, including business strategy, keyword strategy, content strategy, promotion strategy, etc…”
His good-natured retort was “Spoken like a true consultant.”
I understand why he said that and it made me chuckle. As a consultant, it’s logical for people to assume that I would try to make something more complicated than it needs to be. I get that. But I’m a stickler for proper planning, especially when it comes to inbound marketing. Without good planning and making sure all of the I’s are dotted and T’s are crossed, you end up with partial inbound marketing.
Proper Planning Prevents Poor Performance
Let’s think about some other conversations that may go similarly:
“How do I put an addition on my house?”
“Well, it requires an architectural design, city permits, heavy equipment, etc…”
“Spoken like a true contractor.”
“Should I represent myself in court?”
“Well, there are real dangers and risks involved with that.”
“Spoken like a true lawyer.”
I think that the roots of these kinds of responses are a feeling that someone is trying to tell you that you’re not capable of doing something. In most cases, that’s not what the consultant or contractor or lawyer are telling you. Really, they’re saying “Sure you could figure this out on your own and I could probably give you a few tips to get you pointed in the right direction. But very few things in life go exactly according to plan and there’s simply no way to anticipate every situation. I’d feel badly if I gave you advice not knowing the whole picture and having it turn out to lead you to a bad result.”
Other factors include the ramp-up time and learning on the job. Any new endeavor takes time to learn. Including someone with experience obviously accelerates that process. And then there are the inevitable bumps and scrapes that come along with trying something new. These tend to add even more time and cost to the process.
Ode to My Former Boss
Early in my career I had the good fortune to work for a family friend and mentor (Louis Tacito) who taught me many valuable lessons that I still use today. One of his favorite allegories involved an old bull and a young bull sitting on the top of a hill. They were looking down at a herd of cows and the young bull said, “Hey, let’s run down there and grab us one of them cows!” The old bull looked at him and said, “Let’s walk down and get them all.”
I think the role of a good internet marketing consultant is to make sure you get all of the cows.