Signs your Web Designer Knows Nothing About SEO

Web Designers and Web Developers are specialists in 1 or 2 things. It’s very rare they will have a full understanding of SEO, there’s just too much to keep up with — you have to be doing this full time and be a fanatic in this one area to be an ‘expert’.

In this video, Andrew Radics and Ian Hopkinson discuss some of the reasons why it is important as a web designer to keep SEO in mind when building a site. Not only that, but if you are having a site built, ask your web designer if they work in conjunction with an SEO expert.



Ian: Looking very green today isn’t it?

Andrew: It is.

Ian: What is that?

Andrew: It’s metho for the whiteboard.

Ian: Oh that’s for our serious whiteboard, oh and its leaking!

Andrew: Ah, anyway.

Ian: Excellent. Anyway, we’re on the air. Signs your web designer knows nothing about SEO. Now web designer could mean web developer as well

Andrew: Same thing.

Ian: They’re not the same thing.

Andrew: Shows you how much I know about web designing then.

Ian: Yes. The point of this hangout is that neither Andrew nor I are web designers or web developers. Our experience is in project managing, well my experience from a web point of you is in project managing web design, but I am not a skilled photoshop person or a skilled web design person. However, I understand brand and I understand the creative components that need to go together for a campaign, I understand some PHP/ HTML code but I do not claim to be a web developer. However I do understand functionality and I can go into great detail with clients about that but I am not a guy that sits behind a computer and writes code. Why I’m saying all this is because I know what I’m good at, I know where the bleeding edge is of my skills and my limitations and thats why I partner with people that are more skilled in that area, people who write code, people who actually have a great command of photoshop and indesign, these programs that we use and I know that I have to partner with those people, beside those people and in some cases subcontract although that’s a whole other story.  It shouldn’t be any different for SEO for how either web designers or web developers treat SEO and in fact in the case of SEO, it is more important now than ever for you to have an SEO person working in partnership with you, beside you, in contact with the client because it is such a confusing area. We could go into lots of stories as to how doing SEo in a subcontracting sense for an agency, various different digital agencies or branding agencies, we could go into lots of examples of why and how that doesn’t work. This is because it is a lot about client expectations, it’s a complicated area and it’s one that needs to be very carefully managed from before a contract starts, through that sort of planning process, right through to doing the setup of the website or whatever the particular goals of the campaign are. But essentially, it needs to be very carefully managed.

Andrew: So. What you’re trying to say is?

Ian: So what I am trying to get at, what I’d like to think is that the shoe needs to be also on the other foot. That’s probably the wrong analogy. But what I’m trying to say is that if you’re a web designer or web developer, for god’s sake don’t pretend to be an SEO person if you’re not. If you know what a metatag or a meta title and description is that doesn’t mean you’re an SEO expert. If you know what an alt tag is or any of these other SEO components thats okay, but that doesn’t make you an SEO person. SEO is a specialised area a lot like a lot of these other areas in IT or online or web. The industry had matured to the point where your SEO person is the equivalent of like your brain surgeon. Now, you don’t get a brain surgeon to work on your heart and you don’t get a heart surgeon to work on your brain, I mean, the human body is a complex instrument and the knowledge of the human body has developed to the point  where people have to be specialists in the various different parts of the body, the IT and web industry has got to the point where these area are getting so specialised that you do have to have an expert. I don’t know whether I can make it any clearer.

Andrew: So yeah, if you’re having your website built or if you’re building a website for someone else, keep the SEO side of it in mind and if you don’t understand the SEO side of it work with someone who does because it’s easier while you’re building your website to set it up for proper SEO rather than doing it after the fact because it’s not just about tags, it’s also about URL structure. I know for a fact that web designers or web developers, whatever the difference is I still don’t know, who just make up a string of numbers and stuff and that’s the actual URL for a certain page, well from an SEO perspective, that is absolute rubbish, that doesn’t mean anything. It should have whatever keywords that are being targeted for what the site is about, I mean not overly, just so it’s a clearly structured URL. You cannot go back and fix it after because if you’ve linked all your pages together, well then if we come in later and change the URL structure of a certain page, well that means that any links you’ve made will be dead links, so then we’ve got to go through the whole thing and figure out where these links are that you’ve actually created. So it’s easier just to do it while you’re building the website.

Ian: It is, and there’s so many different circumstances where you need the expert advice of an SEO person. If you’re starting the website from scratch, if you’re starting the brand from scratch, you definitely need an  SEO person. If you’ve got an old website and you want to relaunch a new site, even more importantly you need an SEO person. There’s multiplications on how your old site is indexed by google and how new site is going to be indexed, multiple implications, and these sorts of things you shouldn’t pretend to know how these things work. I would suggest yes, learn the basics and learn enough to be able to explain it to a client but I would make it very clear to them that this is not your area and that you will be working beside, or you’ll have an SEO company working beside you on this. We’re actually so adamant about this that we’ve now built on-page optimisation, or on-site some people call it, built that into a web development package. So you say to a client up front in the proposal process, SEO is really important and here is the offering as part of your website development package. Because otherwise there’s no point building a website in the first place if they can’t be found by Google. Don’t build a website, there is no more built it and they will come, in fact I don’t think there ever was, there might have been in the nineties when there were hardly any websites. This has got to integrated part of launching or relaunching a website.

Andrew: What you hear a lot of times, people who have just built a website come to us through whatever channel that might be and they say that the web designer/developer told us that SEO is not important or I’ve already done SEO on your website. We go through it and say well here’s all the problems with your site and here’s the client thinking that was all taken care of because that’s what they were told. Now whether or not  the actual web developer was ignorant or if they were just plain lying to the client to get the business we don’t know.

Ian: And then we’re put in a very difficult position, and we have been a few times. We’ve learnt to delicately manage that, we don’t want to get the web designer and web developer in the poo so we have to actually say to the client well look, this is a specialised area, maybe they did say that that was under control but sorry it’s not being done the way it should’ve been done. We have to sort of be sensitive about it because we don’t want to get the web designer or the web developer into trouble. It much easier for you to just be upfront about that with the client if you’re in web development, be transparent, and we’ll help you with that if you’re a web developer and you’re watching this this, we’ll help you. Call us or email us and say I’m doing this project it’s launching at this time, I haven’t explained this to the client yet, how do I approach it. One thing that we do and have a lot of experience with is that sort of strategic approach to things whether that’s the rolling out of an actual project or that is how do I approach a client and how do I canvas this with them in a way that they understand the importance.

Andrew: Or on the other hand, if you’re someone who is having a website build by a web person make sure you ask them all the right questions, make sure you ask them ‘what about SEO?’, ‘do you part with somebody that knows what they’re talking about and knows what they’re doing?’ or ‘do I have to start all this again once my website is built?’ If they say no, no, no we’ll take care of it, well then get them to qualify, get them to show somehow that they actually know what they’re talking about and SEO is more than just metatags. It’s simple. If they say we’ll fill in all the tags, well that’s good but what are they going to put in there? It’s not just a matter of putting any words in there that they possibly want.

Ian: Well like you’ve said in the past, there’s a reason why it’s called Search Engine Optimisation it’s not search engine fill in the blanks – you’re not truly optimising unless you’re doing the right things with the words that you have.

Andrew: So possibly, the best thing to do is to ask them to get their SEO person or department to call you and tell you what they’re going to do as far as the SEO side of things go.

Ian: Yep, and you can smell a rat. You can ask them a few qualifying questions and see if they know what they’re talking about. Now again, this is where it comes back to web developers being put in an uncomfortable situation, if we’re advising clients to ask these kinds of questions and you know that you’re going to be asked these and you don’t know the answer, then just be honest upfront and say I’m not an SEO person. It’s actually better to say ‘I’m not sure’, ‘I don’t know’ or ‘I’ll find out’. It’s better to say that then to say a bunch of rubbish that you can’t follow through with and a lot of information is available online, I’d like to think that clients will go away and actually do a bit of research and go through an education process and qualify you in return. It’s only fair. Do you have an example of things you might ask them?

Andrew: Just very quickly yeah.

Ian: We’ve looked up quite a few articles on this and this is actually a quite amusing one.

Andrew: It’s from LunaMetrics I can tell you that much. Hang on, here. Christina Keffer, this is a few years ago but the points are still relevant.

Ian: It’s very amusing Christina.

Andrew: One of the questions you should ask your web guy is during the website designers pitch say to them, ‘I’m concerned about search engines and their ability to index my site properly.’ If they start talking to you about things like putting flash on there or javascript on there or search engines don’t really matter, or if they say to you ‘I am be coding very well, it’s ok.’ Then you know they don’t know what they’re talking about.

Ian: And their grammar isn’t too good either.

Andrew: Their grammar is very bad. Just another quick one which I mentioned before ‘what will my URLs look like?’ and if they reply ‘Well it depends on how the user got to the page (I don’t even get that and how that changes), they’re dynamically generated and the search engines won’t care because lots of sites have dynamically generated URLs (that’s not a good thing) and look at this cool session (I don’t know what that means)’. But yeah, that’s some of their replies.

Ian: I like the equivalent of ‘hey look, there’s a squirrel!’ in order to distract the client and hope they forget this conversation happened.

Andrew: Well that’s the whole idea and another very quick funny one, ‘what’s the difference between a 301 redirect and a 302 redirect?’ If they answer you ‘nothing’ or if they ask you ‘is this some sort of crappy SEO CPR?’ or ‘ever heard of meta refresh redirect? duh! everyone’s using them now,’ ‘I am seeing no need to worry about redirecting, we’ll take care of it.’ Well any of those answers, consider yourself educated now, should make you think twice about using that web developer because he’s obviously has no knowledge of SEo or is not working with anybody in conjunction with doing SEo on your site while your site is being built.

Ian: I do sympathise with the client point of view and I do get part of the reason why, look, if you’re a web developer or a web designer just be honest and upfront and say you’re not an SEO person. Don’t even try and come up with any of those rubbish answers because clients aren’t really going to necessarily realise that you’re full of crap but they see enough signs of it and hopefully if they’re educated enough they’ll smell a rat. It almost doesn’t matter what the rubbish answers are even though they’re using examples, just don’t say you know when you don’t. It’s pretty easy. Pretty basic.

Andrew: Very.

Ian: So, having said all that, if you’re a client and you’re wanting SEO done on your website just realise that it’s a specialised thing and you do need to educate yourself as to the kinds of questions that you need to be asking. If you’re a web designer or a web developer then hey, we’re surrendering, we’re staying. I’m not a coder, I’m not a designer, and yet I’ve been heavily involved in website projects for many, many years. I still say to clients upfront that I’m not the one that’s actually doing it, we’re working with partners. So people know that this is the way the world works and it’s a bit of straightforward honesty.

Andrew: It’s like that old expression, you don’t want to be a jack of all trades, you want to be a master of one. So if you’re a web developer, be a good web developer and don’t worry so much about SEO unless you’ve got an SEO vision in your company, or if you don’t, find one.

Ian: We’ll work with you. When we say work with you it won’t be in a way that we will demean you in front of the client, we want you to be successful and we want the client to be successful. So we’ll work beside you in a way that we’ll make sure the outcomes are strong and the results are positive. That’s what partnerships are about. Anyway thank you very much for watching, thank you Andrew once again.

Andrew: No worries.

Ian: Andrew Radics as always.

Andrew: As always.

Ian: For lustrous and stimulating commentary.

Andrew: Yeah I need to shave so I’ll do that.

Ian: You need to shave? Well I probably need to shave as well. I had a haircut yesterday so I lost a bit of hair. What’s wrong?
Andrew: Nothing, it’s just kind of sticking up Looks like you’ve just gotten out of bed that’s all. Ah well, it must be the style.

Ian: Must be the stylist. There you go, I’m not a hairdresser either, not a hair designer either – just another thing I’m not. All good, won’t be wearing as much green next time.
Andrew: I dunno why we did green. It must be our green drinks, cheers! Not that we’re gonna drink this but yeah. OMG you drank it? you drank the prop?!


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