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Why are quotes for web design so varied?

Right, so you’ve decided you need a website. And now you’ve asked around for pricing. And you’re confused, because one company quoted you R3,000, and another quoted you R13,000. What to do?! Is the one trying to pull a fast one? Or is the other going to disappoint you? Why are their quotes for web design so varied?

We deal with this question quite often. The truth is, there is no golden rule, only a few important questions to ask the service providers.

The first, and perhaps most important question is “How long have they been in business?”. More established companies tend to be a bit more pricey, but they are less likely to disappoint. There are of course exceptions to every rule, but in this industry there is simply no substitute for experience. If they have “been there and done that”, chances are they won’t have to scramble to slap together a solution which even they have never tried before. Most new entrants into the market don’t last a year, so if they have been going for at least three or four years full-time they should have more than 100 standard websites under their belts, and the experience to quote accurately on your solution.

Secondly, make sure you compare apples with apples. It is not often that two companies will quote on the exact same items given the same broad specifications and requirements. Some will add hosting, search engine optimization, social media integration and suchlike to inflate the quote, while others will quote only on exactly what you ask for. Since each of these extras fall into the how-long-is-a-piece-of-string category, they can have a massive impact on the bottom line.

Thirdly, find out how big is the company. Although bigger companies tend to be more stable, they also have massive overheads and tend to have a lot of dead weight to carry. This means that by their very nature they have to charge more, albeit with a more effective sales force. Smaller companies tend to be more home-based, which means less overheads and a more personal experience. A good rule of thumb here is to rather deal with a company of similar size to your own business.

A last question is to ask whether you are dealing with a company whose sole focus is web design, or who does it simply as a supplementary service to another core aspect of their business. For example, you might be dealing with primarily a graphic design house or computer shop who also does websites because many of their customers demand it. Some of these companies will simply outsource your project, meaning you pay more because they mark up another company’s product. And beware of the part-timer, cousin, nephew and friend-of-a-friend who work a full-time job and does web design on the side! Around 60% of our clients have been burnt by this segment of the market before deciding to get professional help, mostly because the job takes months instead of days or weeks. And in most instances the job never gets done at all, simply because the provider is not skilled enough to deliver on all the requirements.

If you have asked all these questions and are still unsure of which quote to accept, why don’t you give Integriweb Pretoria East a call or drop us an email for some advice? We would be happy to help you make sense of the jargon.


About the author: Chris van der Walt is a Pretoria-based SEO consultant with more than 10 years hands-on experience in the field. Chris is sole proprietor at Integriweb Pretoria East.

Are mobile or static Google results more relevant?

First of all, are the results shown to you on your smartphone different from the ones displayed on your desktop PC, when searching for something on Google? Let’s give it a try. I’ve just run a search for “plumber” on my smartphone using Google’s search app. The friendly lady’s voice told me “here are the listings for plumber within 18km”, and the listings come complete with quick links for “call”, “directions” or “website”.

Importantly, even without my GPS enabled, Google is able to determine my approximate position through geo-location, using wifi triangulation and such. So it only gives me the listings of those plumbers close to my location.

Now, when I run the same search on my PC or laptop, the results are quite different. The long and short of it is that with mobile search, Google can better determine my location than otherwise. And I am much more likely to do business with someone closer to me.

So, are the results given by Google on your smartphone more relevant than those on your PC? I think it is safe to say from the above that they are. Whether they are in fact BETTER is another story altogether, because Google filters many non-mobile friendly results on mobile search, perhaps sometimes excluding some better results simply because they are not friendly to view on mobile.

What does this mean for you as business owner? It is incredibly important in this day and age to have a website that is mobile-friendly. Techies call it a “responsive” design. If you don’t have it, Google might overlook you in favour of your competitor who does.

Does my website need to have a mobile version?

Do I need to have a separate website, perhaps a .mobi site, specifically designed for optimal display on a mobile phone? Good question! As already explained in another article, it is vitally important to have a mobile-friendly website. But does it have to be a separate site altogether? Do I have to maintain two websites at a time for this purpose? Do I have to pay a web design company more to have a mobile version of my existing website? And what about SEO? Do both my websites have to be optimized for Google?

The short answer? No.

The long answer? With the advent of CSS3 and HTML5, the need for a separate mobi-site is becoming more and more redundant. The .mobi extension is also fast becoming irrelevant. The main reason for this is that most websites nowadays are made to be “responsive” in their design. This means that they “respond” well to different platforms, devices and even browsers. The majority of desktop computers and laptops have screen resolutions of 1366 pixels or wider, while the latest mobile devices have somewhere between 300 and 800 pixels screen width. Add tablets to the mix, and you end up with a third variable between 600 and 1200 pixels, give or take.

This headache has caused for the clever people to come up with responsiveness as a solution, by simply making components or modules display below each other on smaller screens, and next to each other on large screens. This is done by using client-side scripts to determine the user’s screen width, and serving the contents of the website accordingly in a sensible manner. There is also the added factor of letting fonts display as a certain minimum, so that a small screen size does not shrink it to nearly invisible. Some modern CMS themes and templates also give the webmaster the functionality to choose which elements should be excluded from the mobile view.

The conclusion is therefore that you don’t need a separate website for specifically mobile devices, as long as your web developer gives you a fully responsive website solution. If they are using the latest versions of CMS platforms like WordPress or Joomla! it shouldn’t even cost much more than a normal site, as most of these themes and templates are inherently responsive.

If you are still apprehensive on the topic, why don’t you contact us for a free quotation?


About the author: Chris van der Walt is a Pretoria-based SEO consultant with more than 10 years hands-on experience in the field. Chris is sole proprietor at Integriweb Pretoria East.

The importance of copywriting and proofreading

We are all the same. We judge a book by its cover, whether we want to or not. See someone driving a car with a number of dents, and we subconsciously think they are a bad driver. Yet so many business owners allow exactly that with their websites. Spelling and grammatical errors abound in their write-up, and they don’t realize that they are being judged by the readers.

Even small things like obvious typing errors can cast a cloud of doubt over your credibility. Customers can be very unforgiving in this day and age, with spell checkers available on pretty much any electronic device.

But the big beast in the credibility destruction derby is bad spelling and grammar. It is incredibly important to have a marketing write-up that reads easily and makes sense, and it is well worth the money spent on it. Even if you don’t want to spend money on this service, it is surely advisable to send your copy on to a family member or friend to do a quick proof-read. It might just make the difference between landing that big client or not.

Remember, visitors to your website have not seen you face-to-face. They have not been exposed to your dashing smile, your friendly demeanour or your exceptional customer service. What they see and read on your website is the only thing they can go on to formulate an opinion. Make sure that first impression is the best one possible!

How much should SEO cost me?

Okay, so by now most business owners understand that Search Engine Optimisation is not only the marketing method with by far the best average return on investment, but also a vital part of doing business in this day and age. This is especially true for small, local businesses which do not have the marketing budgets of their big-business, national-footprint competitors.

But how much should SEO cost you? How do you know when you are actually being ripped off? And when are you spending too little?

As with everything, the answer is not that simple and straightforward. But there are a few very good indicators to help you get a more informed picture of what to expect:

  1. seo_competitivenessHow competitive is your industry?
    Although this might seem like a tough question to answer, in many cases it is as simple as running a few searches on Google. Let’s use the example of the legal field. A search for “lawyer” on Google delivers over 250 million results, but a quick glance at the results shows us that the results will probably not be specific enough for the user to find what he is looking for, calling for a refined search. If we narrow our search to only “pretoria lawyers”, it starts looking a bit better, with only half a million competitors. But these lawyers listed might not be able to all help with a specific query, which would probably prompt the user to refine even further, to “divorce lawyer pretoria” or “labour attorney pretoria”. Interestingly, Google is also clever enough to map the results closest to you, so the location-specific keyword (“pretoria” in this case) is quickly becoming redundant… but you get the idea. In your industry, you should have a firm idea of who your main competitors are, and wherever they are ranking on Google is where you would like to be. The legal field is probably above average in terms of competitiveness, which means they would probably expect to pay a bit more for proper SEO. But by comparison, this industry still does not hold a candle to real estate, which is one of the toughest markets to compete in online.mapsAnother good way to determine local competition on Google is to go to Google Maps and zoom to a level that includes more or less the region which you supply to. Then type into the search bar the product or service your provide, and see how many red dots appear on the map, compared to “lawyers” as an above-average industry and “property” as an extremely competitive industry. When I put “property” into Google Maps, my screen looks like it got a case of measles! If your search term delivers only a handful or less results, then you should be fine with just once-off, basic SEO, at a rate of between R2,500 and R7,500.
  2. What exactly do you want to achieve?
    Are you looking for that number-one position on Google for a certain search term, no matter what? Expect to pay for it, and also expect to search far and wide for an SEO company that would even be interested in quoting you. Some companies might look at a goal-and-reward type of campaign, where they will aim for a top-5 position for a certain rate, and higher bonus amounts for every additional position above that. But since the advent of localized search, this strategy is becoming more and more difficult to manage. Google is also renowned for making high-impact updates to its search algorithms at a whim, which places previously-optimized websites at risk of dropping a few places. The opposite is also true, but all things considered this is a very high-risk strategy.If instead you are looking to ensure just a constant first-page ranking, and not just for a single search term but a broader spectrum of phrases, then you are more likely to find reasonable quotations for your requirements. Most good SEO campaigns focus on achieving top-ten rankings for at least three different search terms. The more terms included, the bigger the website should be, with more high-quality content on the topic, so factor this into your expectations.
  3. How urgent is your requirement?
    Did you need that first-page ranking by last week Thursday? Sorry, then SEO is not what you are looking for. Perhaps a Google Adwords campaign would work better – but be warned, this requires a constant budget, and the moment you stop paying for it is the moment you stop getting visitors, and therefore leads. SEO by comparison is a longer-term effort, but the effects also last a lot longer. It might take a bit longer to get results and rankings, but the benefit normally lasts for years for the average website. Normally, you can expect interim results within a few weeks of basic SEO, with a steady climb over the next few months.

The bottom line is that the small business in a market with low or average online competition should do well with only a once-off, basic SEO campaign, and achieve around three top-ten rankings on Google within a month or two. The more competitive the market, the more likely you are to require a longer-term campaign of three to six months to achieve the required results.

There are unfortunately no shortcuts in proper SEO. If you suspect the quotation you received is either too good to be true, or you might be taken for a ride, it might be better to get a second opinion from the experts.


About the author: Chris van der Walt is a Pretoria-based SEO consultant with more than 10 years hands-on experience in the field. Chris is sole proprietor at Integriweb Pretoria East.

 

What to watch out for when ordering your SEO

Beware the pitfalls! Search Engine Optimisation is a specialist service, and you may be taken for a ride by companies or individuals who simply don’t know any better or are deliberately misleading you. Are you really getting what you’re paying for? Firstly, let’s look at what SEO is NOT.

Search Engine Submission is NOT SEO. Many companies advertise that they will submit your website to thousands of search engines once a month, under the heading of SEO. This does absolutely nothing to improve your rankings on any of the biggest search engines, most notably Google. In the past six years in the industry, we have not once needed to submit a website to Google. If the job is done properly, Google will find your website by itself, and continue crawling it at regular intervals. Anyway, if your website doesn’t have good quality content, Google will eventually drop your rankings into obscurity, perhaps even dropping your website out of its index completely.

Search Engine Marketing is NOT SEO. SEM comprises paid ads, normally pay-per-click or pay-per-thousand-impressions. It generally works on a bidding system, with the highest bidder getting the best advertising spot. Okay, this is a simplified way of putting it, because there are more factors determining the ad ranking. But the bottom line is that you pay for the ad, which means the bigger budget generally gets more business. Anybody can register for their own Google Adwords account – you don’t have to be a specialist.

A Search Engine-Friendly website is NOT full-service SEO. Although it is a good start, it is only a very small part of it. Search engine-friendliness for your website simply means that Google is able to crawl and index your website. It does not mean that the content and other elements are optimized and maximized for Google. There are hundreds, if not thousands of factors that make Google like (and rank) your website. Many of these factors happen off-site, through factors outside of a mere search engine-friendly website.

Next time you speak to your SEO provider, ask them to clarify exactly what they mean under the heading of SEO. Then maybe give Integriweb a call to verify whether it is the Real McCoy.


About the author: Chris van der Walt is a Pretoria-based SEO consultant with more than 10 years hands-on experience in the field. Chris is sole proprietor at Integriweb Pretoria East.

From ZERO to HERO online within a few days!

We always advise clients that SEO is not an overnight process, and that good, sustainable results and rankings take time. Like good wine. But sometimes there is a jewel of a business, with very little competition online, and we strike gold within just a few days.

We often wonder who gets more excited when this happens, us or the client? Because in most instances, especially in the case of small owner-operated businesses, the client all of a sudden becomes so busy thanks to new clients streaming in from Google that they even forget to thank us. Imagine that, going from brand-new startup to a serious competitor with a well-established clientele within just a few days – and often for a budget of less than R5,000!

This is the reality with proper, real-deal Search Engine Optimisation. Obviously the fine print says “results may vary”, but there is no denying the fact that SEO is simply one of the best, most cost-effective ways to market your business. What makes it even more lucrative is that in 80% of small businesses, only a strong once-off SEO effort is required. No monthly retainers to sustain rankings, no monthly advertising spend on traditional mediums that don’t really work anyway, just a once-off amount paid to the professionals, and your website is okay to be ranking well on Google for a long time to come.

Makes sense then, doesn’t it?

Why your website should be mobile-friendly

This is a question we get often. And for good reason, because it is not as important in the developed world as it is in South Africa. But the answer is quite simple. Even if you as business owner have the luxury of a laptop and/or a desktop PC – and perhaps even a tablet PC, the stark reality in a developing country is that your customers might not.

It might come as a surprise to you that most connected users in South Africa are accessing the internet from mobile devices. This figure excludes laptops and PCs, and only takes into account tablets and mobile phones. Remember also that most cheap cellphones nowadays have internet browsers – they don’t even need smartphones. With the popularity of chat platforms such as Whatsapp and WeChat on the rise, the need for a basic data plan is enhanced, which means that more and more users are also venturing online for searching and browsing.

And it’s not even so much down to what you are offering, and what your market is any more. The ease and accessibility of browsing on one’s cellphone at high internet speed makes it a very popular medium. Think about it… even if you don’t always have your laptop with you, you are never far from your cellphone, right? Data is becoming cheaper almost every month, so cost is no longer the inhibitor it was a year ago.

The next part is very important. Google is smart enough to know that you are using a mobile device, and filters the search results shown to you accordingly. This means that websites that do not display well on mobile devices are often excluded from the list, or ranked lower than the ones that are. Get it? If your website is not mobile-friendly, you might be losing out on lots of new business!

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