A frequent mistake that businesses make is hiring an internet marketing company too quickly — primarily based on price. Your website is a visual representation of your business and a poorly designed site can frustrate visitors, misrepresent your products and even lose sales. Before you hire a internet marketing firm, research the answers to these questions:
1. How Much Experience Does The Internet Marketing Company Have? Do They Have Any Special Qualifications Or Designations?
Longevity in the industry is a good indicator of stability and skill. Online marketing firms that have been in the business for a while and built admirable reputations are usually known for sound design work and customer service. Choosing an internet marketing company that has been around longer means they will be more likely to be around in the future for ongoing maintenance and updates to your website.
The answer to this question will give you a general idea about the skill set at the web company. Having a tertiary qualification is good. Having a lot of experience is better, and combining experience with a tertiary education is best.
2. How Many Staff Members Do They Have And What Are Their Roles?
Bigger is not necessarily better when it comes to effective web emarketing companies. Companies on average have one designer, a couple of web developers, analysts, and a few sales and support people. Some companies use Just-in-Time staffing, adding or removing staff as needed. This helps keep overhead low.
3. In Addition To Internet Marketing, What Other Services Does The Agency Offer?
Many prominent internet marketing firms are branching out and offering other services, including web development and design. SEO, Search Engine Marketing, Web Content Writing, Social Media Marketing, Blog promotion, and Google AdWords Management are services offered by many experienced online marketing companies. The key is finding a company that offers the services that you are looking for.
4. Does The Internet Marketing Firm Spend Time With You To Gather Business Knowledge And Give You A Formal Proposal?
It is good to select an web marketing company that will take the time to offer a custom solution for your website. Oftentimes, the online marketing firm will provide you with a questionnaire to fill out so that they can get a better feel for your goals, competition and overall website needs. Your website will play a large part in your overall brand marketing. Therefore, it is important that your internet marketing firm have a clear picture of your overall internet marketing goals.
5. What Are the Internet Marketing Company’s Payment Terms?
For anything from a small non-profit site to full corporate branding, most internet marketing companies will charge an upfront deposit and stage payments based on agreed milestones and deliverables. Be wary of any internet marketing firm that asks for payment in full before starting the project.
6. What Is The Internet Marketing Company’s Policy On Non-Disclosure And Privacy Of Information?
In order to create the perfect marketing plan for you, your internet marketing firm needs access to important information about your company — information you wouldn’t want your competition, or anyone else, to know.
7. What Are The Average Timelines For Completing Your Web Design Project Including Ecommerce, Logo Design, And Corporate Branding?
If the company does both web development and internet marketing, ask what the firm considers a typical turn-around time for projects similar in size to your own. This should give you a fairly clear idea if the website designer/developer has time tracking and project management systems in place. If you have a hard deadline that you need to meet, be sure you tell the design company up front so that they can plan accordingly.
8. Who Will Be Your Central Point Of Contact For Your Internet Marketing Project?
It is important to have a single point of contact for your project to ensure nothing gets lost in translation. A Project Manager should be assigned to all web projects. If you are working with a small web company, however, the Project Manager may also be the web designer and/or web developer himself.
9. Does The Company Outsource Any Project Components To Third Parties Or To Countries Like India? If So, Which Components?
While outsourcing may be a valid business decision to save costs and keep overheads lower, you’ll want to be cautious with any internet marketing company who takes your project and out-sources large components to another country. If you have concerns about low quality, cheap labour, and remote project management issues when jobs are outsourced to India, be sure to bring them up before your project begins.
10. Can The Internet Marketing Company Help With Website Content Copy Writing?
SEO copywriting can make or break your website. Your website design may draw the reader in and focus their attention where it needs to be – but the words themselves do the selling. And if the content is optimized correctly, your website can be showing up on the front pages of the search engines for your chosen search terms.
Be sure the internet marketing firm you choose offers copywriting and ask to see samples — particularly samples of sites within your same industry. This will give you a good foundation on which to base your decision.
11. What Programming Languages And Operating Systems Does The Internet Marketing and/or Web Development Company Work With?
Ideally, your web development company should offer both the open source PHP/MySQL and ASP.NET programming languages. They should make a technical recommendation on which
Platform would best meet your needs and budget.
12. Do The Internet Marketing And Web Development Experts Build Websites To Web Standards?
Standards compliance, such as W3C and Web Standards Group are highly recommended industry practices. The main reason is consistency in how your visitors view your website on different platforms and future proofing.
13. What Is Covered In The Firm’s Website Testing/Quality Checking Phase? Are You Able To See The Website While It Is Still In Development?
Basic testing requirements should be browser testing, checking for broken links and general usability tests to ensure the website is easy for website visitors to use and interact with.
By seeing a development staging version, you will be able to check the website before the launch date and make any necessary adjustments.
14. Does The Internet Marketing Firm Allow Clients To Host Their Websites With Any Host?
Sometimes, for the sake of functionality or other good reasons, a web company may ask that you host your website with them, but this is not always the case. You may have existing commercial relationships with an ISP or web hosting company that you would prefer to use. It is important to know before hiring a internet marketing firm if they will require you to move hosting to them.
15. Do They Provide Any Training Once The Website Is Launched?
If your website project includes customized systems or software, it can be extremely helpful if your internet marketing company provides you with training documents for future reference. If your system is very detailed, it might even be optimal to arrange for a training program or ongoing customer support.
16. Is The Internet Marketing Firm Knowledgeable in Web 2.0? Is This Included In Your Quote, Or Are There Extra Charges?
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is a science in itself; an experienced Internet marketing company should be able to offer you a variety of options including organic, PPC and social media marketing including Facebook advertising. Depending on your business requirements, you should consider hiring an internet marketing company that can create a custom online campaign to help you achieve maximum results.
Usually there is an extra charge for single items like developing videos, commercials and ads, photo shoots, copywriting and so on. Ask about these if they are part of your marketing plan.
17. What Is The Charge For Website Updates After The Initial Website Is Completed?
While marketing is an ongoing process, the website is often considered a one-time effort. But there is always extra work to be done: changes and updates, new content and so on.
Be aware of the charging structure for updates to your website. Consider how often you will require updates and ask the internet marketing firm how they handle future updates and maintenance.
If you have frequent or large updates to your website, you could consider a Content Management System. A CMS is only really useful in the event of regular changes and if a staff member has good training in it. If neither are the case, it may just be cheaper to have the supplier to manage small updates.
18. What If You Find A Problem Or Code Bug After The Site Is Finished? Does The Graphic Design Company Have Any Kind Of Code Warranty Or Guarantee?
Often web companies will make the change if it is small for no additional costs. However, be aware that if it is a change and not a bug fix, you may be required to pay extra. Typically, internet marketing companies will give you several designs to approve initially and then involve you every step of the way. Each approved section of the project is considered finished. Going back and making changes — even if they seem simple — can be costly.
19. Is The Copyright For The Website Transferred To You When The Project Is Complete? What About Images in The Website? Logo Design?
Copyright law is a specialized legal field. You should ask to own the copyright on all of the work designed and developed after you have paid in full for the project.
20. Will The Website Development Company Comment Your Source Code?
Commenting code is part of good website development. If code is commented well, you won’t spend a lot of time if the unthinkable happens and you’re forced to find another website supplier either part way through the project or its maintenance.
Finding the answers to these questions may seem time consuming and quite involved, but it is an important part of the interview process. After you have interviewed several companies and had your questions and concerns addressed, you should be able to select a talented internet marketing and web development company that is knowledgeable and easy to work with. The firm you choose also needs to have the ability to produce a web design and website that represents and enhances your overall corporate branding.
Of course, you could choose to not follow our suggestions and just hire the least expensive firm available — or a friend of a friend who does graphic design and internet marketing. But then you could end up with a real mess. Your internet business depends on how good you look. You wouldn’t ask a friend to install a new set of teeth for you, would you?
Will Moore is Marketing Specialist at W Moore & Co, Inc [http://wgmoore.com/default.aspx], an Internet Marketing and e-business development firm. You may contact him at WGMoore.Com – Sacramento Internet Marketing [http://wgmoore.com/sacramento-internet-marketing.aspx]