This article was first written in 2003 and it’s being re-published today with minimal edits to show that the basics still hold true a decade later:
Myth #1 – I can just do-it-myself
Truth : I once made that same statement and 14 years later I wish I could easily show you what it took to get accomplished. Doing it yourself is rarely feasible unless you intend to make it your new occupation. You are very likely to do more harm to your site and your image if you have no experience in this area. Even if you understand HTML, you’re still likely to create common errors that will expose you as an amateur and could possibly chase visitors away. Choosing this route means a basic start of learning HTML code. Sure, there are “website builders” out there, but they often mangle code and if something goes wrong, you will have to know HTML to fix it. HTML can take weeks (months in some cases) to learn and effectively apply. Once you’ve accomplished that, you can spend several more months learning CSS, PERL, .php, and all the other things you will need to learn in order to “do-it-yourself.” Most small business owners I have worked with have too much to do as it is. If you have that much extra time than you probably don’t need a webmaster, but you could use a consultant to exam why you have so much free time to be doing things not (technically) related to the every day operations of your business.
Myth #2 – I’ll just pay someone to “build” it
Truth : Effective websites are never just “built”, they are developed by knowledgeable professionals with the experience to determine the website’s current stage of development, while striving to help it realize it’s fullest potential. Development means having the experience to know how changes made today effect the site tomorrow. This process begins as early on as the choosing of a domain name. For a major website, this process can take several years. Some of the biggest websites (think Yahoo, eBay, etc.) are NEVER done developing. It becomes an ongoing process that never ends.
A webmaster can usually only create a good base to build upon. Once the base is built, the website is constantly adapted to meet the needs of you, your audience, and the rapidly expanding technology available to serve them with. Don’t ever be fooled into believing someone will build you a great site and that’s it. If you aren’t offered an update or development plan by your site provider, find out what their fees are for updates. Remember that you’re going to be stuck with the final product “as-is” or be forced to pay an inflated rate again in the future to do the process of developing what exists.
Myth #3 – Sign up with us and ______ is free
Truth : The old saying is true: “Nothing in life is free.” Generally, whatever is offered for free is simply compensated for in some other aspect of the billing process. Is free hosting really free if you pay $2,000 for the website ?? Is free website hosting really free if your potential customers are bombarded with 5 different pop-up ads every time one of your pages load ?? It’s wise to think about the potential costs involved in anything offered for free. You will get taken for a ride on something else because you got _____ for free. If a provider can truly offer you something for free, than their rates aren’t the best rates you can get for the same services. Don’t choose a web solutions provider based on the fact that something is free. Recognize these offers for what they really are: Bait, and that’s ALL they are.
Myth #4 – “We guarantee top search results”
Truth : Be VERY cautious with anyone that guarantees you anything on the internet, especially when dealing with search engine results or visits/hits to your website. 90% of the SEO (Search Engine Optimization) companies that exist operate on the fact that they know something the customer doesn’t. Sometimes, that knowledge can be information you don’t even want to know, because it will get you banned from the searches altogether. Some SEO firms will cheat by going to Google or Yahoo directly and placing a featured listing on that search engine for you, while charging alot more for the “service” they provided. Search engines run on “algorithms” that are closely guarded secrets. Simply put, algorithms are rooted in mathematics and they determine how a search engine robot collects and ranks information harvested from the internet. The only legitimate way to guarantee top placement is to know and understand these algorithms, which is highly unlikely. The other way is to cheat and once you are caught (and you will get caught), you will be banned completely from that search engine. As the site owner, the only person hurt by their malicious act will be you.
There are alot of legitimate ways to help search engine placement. The process should begin as early on as choosing your domain name. Respectable web solution providers will address this when your site is built, without any additional charges. Because it takes time to get listed in the engines and view the results, this issue should be addressed again in the development process.
Myth #5 – More links = Better search results
Truth : While this may true to an extent, it’s important to know how the statement can be applied truthfully and how a lot of random links can actually hurt your site. Google’s search engine assigns a “page rank” to every page on your site. The higher your page rank, the more “valuable” your site is to the internet and supposedly, the higher your search results will be. On Google, links to your site really count if the linking site’s page rank is higher than your own. All search engines index inbound and outbound links. It is important to ask for and obtain links to your site, as well as linking to other resources on your site. The truthfulness of this myth lies in obtaining links on sites that contain content that is relevant to your own. You, obviously, won’t be approaching your competitors, but it is possible to create and obtain links that are not going to send people to a competitor. An example would be a client of mine, Majestic Events. While I will not link to other wedding florists in Indianapolis, I will link to other wedding vendors in Indianapolis. It would also be helpful to link to wedding florists in other cities that were not direct competition. Remember, links are not going to make or break your site’s search engine rankings, whether inbound or outbound. Keep in mind that it’s never one little thing that derives good ranking, but a healthy mixture of a lot of different factors. Don’t be afraid to ask how your chosen webmaster intends to address these issues.