Archive for the ‘Web Design’ Category

The Next Big Website Scam – Ye Olde Yellowbook

Phone books

Image by greenlagirl via Flickr

Since the beginning of the popularity of websites, there have been numerous scams. It’s easy to do because many small businesses don’t understand the technology behind the websites and the false promise of easy money is always there. “So and so got a website and they’re a millionaire now.”. It’s true, people do make good money with their website, but it’s like anything else, it takes time, effort, research, and a wise investment. 

Now Yellowbook is getting into the game. Yellowbook has been scrambling for a way to dominate the Internet for a long time now. Fewer and fewer consumers look to the Yellow Pages now and they’re only hope is to dominate before their vast funds run dry. For many years, they charged huge fees to businesses to advertise. A tiny ad could run several thousands of dollars per year. Some businesses, like pizza shops, had no choice. If they didn’t pay, their business would never survive. Now I see that their salesman are finally succeeding at making website sales. 

I was a little excited to see a few new businesses get new websites. A hometown favorite pizza shop and a transmission shop finally got on board. The websites were not gems by any means, but they don’t have to be. They did manage to make them as informative as they need to be. For the exception of a contact page, they lacked any way for customers to interact. Not overly important, but customers are coming to expect this. I wondered who had finally talked them into a website with a design that was affordable. Then, I seen the cheesy obligatory “Yellowbook” link in the footers. Seriously, who would charge a customer good money, then demand an advertisement on the customer’s website? So what’s the problem? Where’s the scam?

A big problem is cost. They don’t publish the cost, but I’ve been told it’s VERY expensive. They also charge by how many pages you have. Currently, Google is looking for large websites and that’s not going to happen when a business is limited to a 5 page site. The scam is that Yellowbook illegally holds your domain name! If their service is bad or isn’t worth their outrageous pricing structure, they’re going to make it impossible or very difficult for the business to get the registered domain back. 

The worst problem is that after paying all this money, signing over your rights to your own domain name, and getting a very limited site, now they’re going to place their ad on your website. If customers go to that link, they’re going to see all of your competitors lined up in that directory. Your website is also going to be found at that the top of searches in a directory with all of your competitors on Yellowbooks directory page. This is horrific when considering the charges for the website. 

The good part is that a website is better than no website. These pages will rank easily. Any local website will rank easily though. Let’s say a business wants to rank for “newark Ohio pizza”. Well, there’s only so many pizza shops in town, most of them do very little to rank highly, so only a few hours of work is going to make the site rise in the searches quickly. The problem is that when a competitor figures this out, a little 5 page limit Yellowbook website isn’t going to be able to compete. 

Another good part is that if money is no object, these websites are functional. The prices for the customization are going to hurt, but the functions are there. 

Before considering a Yellowbook site, consider this. A great webserver that is more than most businesses need is about $10/month. A domain name is about $10/year. So, for less than $150/year, the absolute basics are covered. There are updates and maintenance that should be done, but about 1/2 hour a month is all that it takes. A great theme is about $200, another $50-$200 for custom graphics, like your logo in the header, and the time to create content. Any decent website system is as easy as typing a word document to add content. It’s easy to see where less than $1000 for setup is possible and less than $500/yr for maintaining the site is possible. This option also means that you should own everything. A website done this way becomes a valuable asset that adds to your business. Yellowbook detracts value because your domain name is tied to them and they control the actual asset. 

What’s my dog in this hunt? I just hate to see business owners get scammed. The Yellowbook sites I’m seeing look like a “Hail Mary”. Businesses are hurting right now and they’ve listened to a slick sales pitch hoping that it will help. I have done a few business websites, but it’s not my main source of income. I build quality websites and sell them or maintain them and profit from their popularity. I’ve tried selling to businesses, but I’m just not a salesman. I’d rather just build the site and sell it once I can prove it’s worth than explain the business of websites to those looking for a magic bullet. Websites are never a magic bullet as they take time. It takes time to make content that you know visitors want, install functions that are desired, get indexed and promoted in the search engines, etc. This never happens quickly, even with a high dollar Yellowbook website. 

If you have any questions, feel free to ask me

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Newark, Ohio Business Facebook Pages.

Facebook logo

Image via Wikipedia

I’ve been reluctant to add businesses to the directory that only have Facebook pages. The problem is that I don’t know how long a business will be around or if they maintain the Facebook page well enough to be considered. I don’t want people coming to Newark, Ohio Links, following links to a website, but then when they go to the website, there is nothing of value there for them.

Over time I’ve been watching these businesses on Facebook and many are doing well. Some may not be updating often, but their customers are making comments for them. With this in mind, I’m going to start adding them, but I’ll leave a trace so that they can be found and deleted quickly if they drop their value to that of the average MySpace page.

Newark, Ohio businesses should consider some of these points about Facebook for business. It’s a great tool, but it should be used with consideration that it can do harm. It’s possible to leverage the power of Facebook with a website that is owned to achieve success.

Look for my directory to grow considerably with the addition of Facebook pages.

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Newark, Ohio Web Designers. Things To Watch Out For.

I have noticed some Central Ohio web designers advertising practices that are unfair. I will not name names and I’m not bashing them. I understand why they are charging what they do and making the claims that they make, but it’s still not right. For this article, I’ll discuss some statements in their marketing that just are not true.

  • You need a website redo specialist. Not exactly.
  • You need a website. Yes, but only as a part of your total advertising and communication.
  • It will cost thousands to get started and you have to pay a bunch of continuing fees. You need to use our special hosting services too. 10 years ago, maybe, but not today.
  • Any changes must be done by the designer. Run far, far away from this idea. It’s not true anymore.
  • E-commerce systems are extremely complex and expensive. The software is free. I’m serious and it’s great software.
  • We do SEO. Chances are, they don’t even understand it. Search engine optimization can be a waste of money.
  • Hosting (sometimes referred to as website housing) is hundreds of dollars per month and it must be done with us. About $5/month is all that it costs for most businesses.
  • Could you sign here please? Run! Would you sign a contract at a printer for them to print a flier? This is no different and I’ll tell you why.

I could come up with many more, but these should be enough to shine light on a bad web design company.

Web Design Basics For Today

Web design changes fast. A few years back, it took a special combination of artistic abilities, coding experience, and Internet experience to create a website. Today, a non-technical, non-artistic person can make a nice website in a few hours. WordPress has made this possible and it’s free. You could pay some online services that help you create one for a few hundred dollars too. Unlike a web design company, you retain total control and total ownership.

There are different parts of web design today.

  • Graphics. The pictures that make up the theme and the pages.
  • Content. The articles and/or videos.
  • Promotion. This is the shady SEO I talked about earlier. Promotion has some “SEO”, but it’s really just a matter of following simple guidelines while creating the website and then adding links (references) back to the original website by posting on other websites.
  • Programming. Only specialized processes for unique needs require programming. Even the price for this is dramatically lower.

So what if you don’t want control or ownership, you just want to get a website that pulls in customers? There are freelancers and companies that will do all of this for you and they will charge reasonable rates. They just may not be using the title “web designer”. Some may do one or more of these functions, but rarely do all of them. The steps are simple –

  1. Hire someone to make a website and have it done in WordPress. If you need e-commerce Joomla or Drupal are fine. It’s very rare for anything else to be the right answer.
  2. Hire a theme designer to change the look of the website to something you need. Many times, you can skip this step because the WordPress person uses Artisteer or has a theme that you can buy at a low price.
  3. Pay writers or video producers to promote your business.
  4. Find SEO people that understand that you simply need this content distributed and linked back to your home website.
  5. If special applications are needed, find a company that knows how to integrate with WordPress. They are plentiful.

Does it still sound tough? Find a consultant that tells you that this is what they are going to do.

Now You Know The Basics. On To The Questions.

Those Crazy Redoers.

Many companies made a huge mistake a few years ago when WordPress, Drupal, and Joomla started. They were arrogant and thought that they would just discount them as bad systems. They told customers that they had a better system that they coded in-house. They were very wrong and now they’re going around telling old customers that they need to pay a redo guru to fix it. I wouldn’t pay the same people and here’s an example of why.

One local company claiming redo expertise created a website with a link that looked like this – . No address should appear this way. 2 minutes would make the same link look normal like . There are numerous other mistakes like this all over all of the websites they’ve created. If they are a redo specialists, it’s because the sites they are redoing need redone before they even get started. The sad part is that this company is an awesome graphic design firm! If they stuck to what they really know how to do, they could be the best in the area.

You need a designer that is going to approach you with a new website. The basics take about an hour to do. There is no “redoing”.

You Need A Website

Companies are promoting  just “the website”. You need much more. You need the website and promotion. Promotion should take up over half of the cost of the package. Websites in and of themselves do very little. The website is only a tool that is used in conjunction with all of your other forms of communication. If you’re website doesn’t have contact forms at the very minimum, it’s useless.

If you have the resources, Facebook, Blogger, Twitter, forums, and any other method that suits your business should be part of your approach. You need to communicate with your customers. Your company should use whatever the vast majority of your customers are using. If you don’t know what they use, you should be asking them.

It will cost thousands to get started and you have to pay a bunch of continuing fees. Hosting is expensive too and it must be done through us.

If you hear this, run, then go take a cold shower. You were just about to get, uh, you know, never mind. Here’s why.

  • WordPress takes about an hour for the basic setup.
  • Hosting is never more than $20/month for great service and usually much less. If your designer claims they have their own server and it’s better, ask to see it. If they do have one, run. There is no way a web designer can have a safe and secure server and they are a target for attack. Large companies servicing thousands are the only people who can afford the expertise to run a good server. Their reputation relies on it and I haven’t heard of a big company failing in many years.
  • Making your own content changes is no more difficult than using Microsoft Word, it’s easier. You’re not going to need to pay them for this unless you want to.
  • You should be paying the web host yourself. You should have the passwords and total control so that you may hire anyone you want to work on your website. Ongoing support from the original designer should be fully optional.

Is there anything in  the nature of this that sounds like something that start-up fees and ongoing charges should apply to? No. If you see this run.

Any changes must be done by us.

Run, RUN! The whole point of WordPress is that you can do changes yourself or someone of a very low skill level can accomplish them. Major changes may require help, but simply adding pages and new content should be very easy. If they have a “special” system, it’s not a good one.

E-commerce systems are extremely complex and expensive.

No they’re free. Ubercart works with Drupal and it is capable of just about any e-commerce transaction I can think of. There are other competitors that come close and a few that are only a few hundred dollars that are nice too. The actual website and system should be standard and inexpensive.

The expense should come in where automation makes life easier for you. If you have thousands of products and you want to automatically track shipping and inventory on a large scale, yes, that’s going to be pricey. 50 products with different sizes and prices that you’re shipping with FedEx, UPS, or USPS, that’s inexpensive and should come in at well under $5,000. Maybe under $2,000.

We do SEO.

They might, but might not. Search Engine Optimization is the game of trying to get to the top of a search in a search engine. It changes frequently because search engines need to stay useful, but still turn a profit. There are no good tricks though. Any company who cannot tell you exactly what they do and has a “special sauce” type of solution is a scam. They may be able to temporarily get you to the top of a particular search, but it will not last long and could even get your site demoted into oblivion.

Google tells everyone exactly what they need to do to rank for search terms. It’s basic stuff that is easily done inside of WordPress with a few free plug-ins. The content only needs to specialized in the way that it’s written. For example, if you’re selling mens cowboy boots, you need to say that a few times in the article. You don’t just say “boots” when you refer to them. A true SEO expert could explain things like this to you. No special sauce required.

Could you sign here please?

No. Just don’t sign anything. Don’t do it. Run and run fast.

You should own everything. You should own the images being used, the hosting that the website sits on, the domain name, the content, the videos, everything. Why would you sign for your own property?

Given the information you gained when I explained the basics, you now know that you are going to need more than one person to make a website happens. If you find a web designer that is competent and has all of the expertise under one roof, you still do not want them to own your marketing property. You are paying them to develop this property for you and you should own it at the end. They do not run the server for the hosting, so why should you have a contract with them. Your only contract should be with the hosting company.

You should not need a contract for them to install software that is free, graphics that they are producing to your specifications, or content that is produced to your specifications. A big secret too is that should a website be produced and you turn that website down, it still has value. The designer can remove elements that you own, like your logos and submitted content, change the website to suite someone else and sell it. It’s done all the time. For example, you own an orchard and I produce a nice website, but we just cannot agree on it. You refuse to pay. If that website is truly a good one, there are thousands of orchards all over the world that will buy that website. I could even convert the work to another business. There are many website auction websites where this is done all of the time.

You should also have access to all of your files. Even if you don’t know what they are for, you should have the passwords and instructions in the case you need someone else to edit them or add to them.

In Conclusion

I suppose you’re wondering what I do and how I know about the business. I design my own websites and either make money from them or sell them for a profit to others. Sounds like a great business, but it’s not what you would think and it takes much more effort than you would expect. As I said, I appreciate the work the local web design companies do, I just find their marketing approach and packaging of services to be less than informative or fair.

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