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Website angst: Ask these questions when comparing vendors

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By Christine Nelson, Ingenuity Marketing Group

Websites are a critical tool for business success — and the easiest way to waste money.

You have to know what you don’t know before choosing a vendor. These questions are a good starting point.

1. What do I want the website to do for me?

Websites can function as a brochure on the web, or they can be sophisticated lead generators that bring in new business. You have to decide what you want your website to do in order to get the right vendor bids. A strategy session is very important with experts who understand your business goals — not just how to build websites. A website for services is very different from a website for product sales.

2. Who will use my site internally and how?

Before you update your site, you need buy-in from key members of your organization. Show them the websites of your competitors — the pages and features that are clearly better than yours. You also need to include them in conversations about the site design and ways they will be able to use it for recruitment, customers, marketing and sales.

3. How much do I want to spend?

Be realistic. The worst thing you can do is build a new site that is not sturdy enough to last because the platform is not current, the site is not robust enough to handle copy updates, or the vendor no longer exists. Bottom line: compare vendors beyond price.

4. What am I really getting for the money?

Copywriting, search engine optimization and site programming are not always included in a thrifty price. Ask vendors if they build out all pages, or if you have to write and flow copy into the site yourself. Do they recommend several platforms, or just one? Are the programmers part of the vendor’s in-house team, or are they located in another country? Will the web developer provide hosting services or recommend a web host? How will the site be maintained and what kind of support will it need?

5. Will the site be designed to look like my business?

Website designs can range from generic templates to multipage web maps tailored to your business. Ask the web vendor about how your business brand will be integrated into the site visuals and navigation. If your brand is unclear in terms of differentiating messages or visuals, it will be hard to design a site that feels like your brand.

6. Will my customers and Google like my site?

Most customers do their homework online before they buy. Your site must be user friendly, easy to navigate and action oriented. It must also be visible.

Search engines are very sophisticated and require a lot from websites before they will rank them on the first page. Your site must be easy to use on phones and tablets and have SEO key phrases incorporated properly into headlines and copy. Do it wrong, and Google will ignore or demote your site.

After all that time and money spent on your website, don’t be ignored. Choose a vendor that understands your business to create the right site — and for the right price.

LEA_photo-christinenelson-standingChristine Nelson is an award-winning journalist and senior media consultant with Ingenuity Marketing Group, LLC, in St. Paul, Minnesota and works with professionals across the country on websites, content strategy and reputation management. Contact her at christine@ingenuitymarketing.com, (651) 690-3358 or at www.ingenuitymarketing.com.