Let’s face it … we live in a world where it’s much easier to pull out your iPhone or tablet to search for a product or service that you need.
Ensuring that prospective clients can find you online is integral to the success of your business nowadays. And in today’s highly competitive digital world, “keeping up with the Joneses” is no longer good enough.
If your company’s website is no longer attracting prospective clients to your business, it’s likely time for a redesign. Yet finding the right web design partner for this important project is just as important as the design itself.
With so many agencies out there willing to offer their opinions on what you should do with your site, how do you know which one is the best to meet your needs? Fortunately, many will show their cards early, setting up red flags in the process that you should be aware of as you look for a design partner.
Here are five clues that a web design agency isn’t right for your business:
- Your website plan is cookie cutter.
- Web design is their only service.
- Your current website isn’t analyzed.
- You are nickel and dime’d.
- An agency will give you unrealistic results.
Your Website Plan Is Cookie Cutter
Your business is unique, and your website should reflect that. If a web design agency offers you a cookie cutter plan, it’s likely the web design agency you are considering isn’t right for your business.
How do you know you’re getting a canned or unimaginative site? There are a couple of clues that you should watch for during your initial interactions with a web design agency.
First, the agency will offer you what’s known as a brochure website. A brochure website is basically one big ad about what you offer. There’s a good chance that the agency gathered this information by simply looking at your old site, and then came up with a few ideas to “modernize” it.
This leads to a second clue: Before designing a plan for your site, the agency doesn’t first talk with you to understand your business and ideal customer. In order to craft an effective website that resonates with your ideal customer, you need to define your business for the agency, including who your target consumers are and what your business goals are in the next one to three years.
Questions a web design agency should ask you upfront include:
- What problems do your ideal customers have?
- How can you solve those problems?
- Can a potential customer understand what you do in just a few seconds when landing on your website? How will you generate leads from your website?
- What is your current visitor to lead and lead to customer conversion rates?
A web design agency should offer a big picture perspective and view the website as a component of larger business objectives. Anything less than that is simply a canned, cookie cutter design.
Web Design Is Their Only Service
If you work in a marketing department that has already developed content and a strategy for generating leads, and you’ve been tasked with finding a designer or web developer that can help you put together a site, then an agency that focuses solely on web design may be all you need.
Web designers and developers can help accomplish this. Web designers consider the layout of your web page’s components, including placement of text and images, text font and size, and other components like calls-to-action and landing pages. They also create mobile-friendly versions of your site.
Web developers handle the back-end duties of your site and use tools designed for programming languages and coding. (You can read more about what each of these positions does in our article, Web Designer Vs. Web Developer: Who Should You Hire?
However, many businesses need more than design, especially when establishing a strategy that will generate more leads for their sales team. If your website messaging is wrong and does not speak to your target audience, then it does not matter how much money you spend on driving traffic to your site, it will be a waste of time. You instead need a marketing agency that offers more than just web design as one of its services, especially if:
- You need help with your marketing strategy and want to build a website that drives real business results
- The sale of your product requires some education
- You want to move toward being data-focused and providing customers with a great online experience
- You want an agency that understands your business
The best marketing agencies focus on messaging that resonates with your ideal customer since they know this approach puts you ahead of competitors. They know a website is just one component of a successful marketing plan that educates prospective customers about your products or services so they can decide if they are the right solutions to their problems.
Your Current Website Isn’t Analyzed
Knowing where you stand is an important part of moving forward with any part of a business. The same is true for your website design and development.
The best web design services will analyze your current website using analytical tools such as:
- Search engine optimization (SEO) analytics
- Website analytics
- Heat maps
Search engine optimization, or SEO, is the process of ensuring a site appears high on the list of search engine results. The best web design agencies will look at your search ranking for keyword phrases most important to your business. The agency will then evaluate what it needs to do to optimize your website to increase Google search visibility among your target audience.
Website analytics evaluate where your traffic currently comes from, how it arrives, where they go on your site and how long they stay. This type of analytics is just the basics of what should be looked at. Setting goals, researching buyer behavior and understanding the buyer's journey are just some of the types of analytics that should also be incorporated.
Heat maps allow an agency to look at where people focus their time on a web page, as well as see which buttons or links people click. It’s normal for visitors to skim a webpage and look at images first, so it’s important to know what’s drawing their eyes so you can conversion rate optimize (CRO) each page.
To develop a strategized website, an agency should use this information to help optimize your new site.
You Are Nickle And Dime’d
If a web design agency tries to nickel and dime you for each part of the design process, it’s likely not the right match for your company.
The best web design agencies will never charge you for each individual component of your website. It’s important to remember that there are many components to designing a website, and it can be easy to get lost in an a-la-cart type menu. After all, you have a business to run, and you don’t want to get bogged down in choosing which website component is worth the cost.
It’s the job of a web design service to have a cache of tools and products available when designing your site. For example, the agency designing your site should include the following:
- A number of web pages for a specific price
- On-page SEO including images
- Graphic design services
- Purchase of images
- Site maps
- DNS changes
- Video embedding or linking
- Form integrations
- Search engine verification
A digital marketing agency will provide you with the right content for your website as part of your customized plan as well.
Web design agencies that solely focus on design typically do not offer content services.
Full marketing agencies can blend user design with the development of your buyer personas (your ideal customers) to create a site that includes valuable content that is targeted. This content may include online materials like videos, blogs and offers that stimulate interest in your product or service.
An agency will then design high-converting landing pages where prospective clients are taken to after clicking on calls-to-action strategically placed within this content. These landing pages allow you to collect prospective customers’ information that your sales team will look to convert.
All of these pieces should be included in your overall marketing plan … NOT nickel and dime’d.
It’s also critical to remember that a website is not effective if it doesn’t convert visitors into leads. You can design an aesthetically-pleasing website and pay money to drive traffic to your website through advertising. But if your website is not ready to engage with customers and convert those visitors into sales, you are wasting your money.
A Web Design Agency Will Give You Unrealistic Results
If a web design agency says you will instantly see results with your new website, that is a huge red flag.
It’s important to understand that any time you implement a new marketing strategy, it takes time before you’ll see substantial results. Even with inbound marketing, which is considered to be a leading marketing strategy for businesses, it’s a marathon, not a sprint.
It can take on average six to nine months to see the results you are looking for. If you are simply using a web design agency to redesign your website (without the marketing plan to generate leads behind it), you may be waiting a lot longer. In fact, that’s why it is so critical to work with an agency that sees web design as one component of implementing an overall effective marketing plan.
Let's look at an example. Let’s say your current website does not generate any leads for you either via online requests or phone calls, and you get 10 monthly website visitors. How is a new website design going to generate new leads from 10 visitors per month? Are these 10 monthly visitors the right target audience? If your average order size is say, $1,000, converting 1 visitor per month is only going to increase your revenue by $1,000 a month. That equates to $12,000 in new revenue per year. Is that enough? Also unlikely!
You need a strategy to drive the right visitors in the right volume to your site and then offer solutions to the problems they have in order to start converting those visitors into leads.
If a web design agency promises you will make a certain amount of revenue in a certain period of time, that’s a big clue to walk the other way. Here’s why: A marketing agency’s role is to generate targeted leads for your sales department. If your sales department does a poor job of converting those leads, revenue targets may not be met. That's a sales issue, not a marketing issue.
An agency should never promise unrealistic results either, like getting you to No. 1 in Google searches within the next two months. There are some caveats to this. If you do not have a Google Business page, anyone can get your business name ranked on the first page by creating a Google Business page for you. That’s because in order to find your Google Business page they need to type your business name into the search box. However, how many people are searching for your exact business name as opposed to a service you provide?
Getting a business ranked for a particular service may also be possible if the particular service-specific keyword has a very low difficulty score and/or low search volume.
For example, we wanted to rank for the keyword, “How to grow your hazardous waste business.” As you can see from the image below we rank in the #1 and #2 positions on Google. Even beating out the EPA. We ranked in these positions 5 days after submitting the URLs to Google. How was this possible? Well, this specific keyword has zero searches and zero keyword difficulty. What’s the point then of ranking for something no one is searching for. In our case, it belongs to a much larger marketing strategy around hazardous waste.
This example only illustrates how easy it is to rank for keywords if specific associated data match up. Ordinarily, you would not want to rank for keywords with no search unless they are part of a larger strategy.
At the same time, you should ALWAYS work with an agency that sets goals and adjusts those goals based on what is working and what is not working. Goals are guideposts that keep you moving in the right direction. They also help you eliminate waste in your marketing budget so you can get the highest return on investment (ROI) in your investment.
When looking for an agency to help you with your website, make sure you ask how often it re-evaluates your goals (ideal is every three to six months during the first year). Ask the agency what it does if you’re blowing goals out of the water (the answer is to adjust your goals) and what it does if you aren’t meeting your goals (the answer is to re-evaluate and course correction).
Your Ultimate Clue
Ultimately, you want a web design agency that will build a flawless website and provides an excellent first impression for prospective customers.
There are many excellent web design companies that will do that. But if your goal is to grow your business and put into place a digital marketing funnel that consistently generates leads for your sales staff, then the ultimate clue should be to work with an agency that views your website as an extension of your business.
Samantha, an Inbound and HubSpot Certified Marketer is the Social Media Director for InTouch Marketing.