Should web designers ‘include SEO’ in the price of a website?

For clients looking into buying a website, particularly if they have no prior experience of doing so, the world of web design and online marketing can be a confusing one. Different people will tell you different things about what a website should and shouldn’t do. For example, one web designer will say “Full SEO* is included in every project at no additional cost” while another will tell you that it’s going to cost you hundreds or even thousands of pounds to do it properly. Because we are an agency which has its roots in SEO, we are very careful what we say to clients about what is and isn’t included in the cost of their new website, and on several occasions this has lost us business – because we’re honest with clients and point out that you can’t completely outsource SEO and for best results should put some effort in yourself, while others will tell them that as the client you can sit back and relax because SEO is all done for you, and free of charge to boot! Here’s what I told one potential client who wondered why we didn’t ‘include SEO’ in the cost of his website:

Whatever any web designer tells you, it’s not advisable to completely outsource responsibility for your search engine rankings. In particular, one of the key aspects of any SEO campaign is link building – and you as the client are in a far better position to gain valuable links than anyone outside the business would be. You have the local contacts and knowledge; you are best placed to be getting yourself a mention in the local paper which in turn generates a link from the newspaper website, you are the best person to blog and tweet about your business, and so on. If you’re outsourcing SEO completely, and not putting anything into it yourself, then it’s unlikely to produce great results. We don’t offer any of our clients, no matter how much they pay us, the option to completely hand over everything to us. There are always things that the client does for themselves. Many web designers have been able to offer until recently what they call search engine optimisation services which have no client involvement and historically these have sometimes produced results. For example, in the past it was possible to run pretty formulaic link building campaigns that basically filled the web with spam – distributing low quality articles around the web, submitting your site to thousands of low value web directories, posting fake comments on blogs or forums and so on. Businesses can no longer get away with those kinds of tactics – or if they’re still getting away with it now they probably won’t for much longer. Have a look at what happened to this business owner who was unfortunate enough to have built the kind of links that Google takes exception to:

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/how-google-pulled-the-plug-on-the-peak-district-8669204.html

It would be very easy for me to lie to my clients and tell them that a ‘full’ SEO service is included in the cost of the website – some of them wouldn’t know the difference anyway, and what we do for clients as a matter of course, as part of the initial build is often more than other web designers will do for them as part of a separate SEO service, it’s just that we don’t agree about what constitutes a ‘full’ SEO service. However, I’d rather be honest with people and tell them what we do, and what we don’t do, in a clear and up front manner. Any SEO service you buy into, either from us or anyone else, is not guaranteed to bring you the results you want, and even if it works well, it’s not guaranteed to stay that way for the long term. No-one can guarantee what Google is going to do with your listing. If you want to guarantee that your site comes up on Google for all the phrases that you want it to do, the best thing you can do is to pay Google to advertise on there. That way you are working with Google, and rather than having to second guess what Google is looking for, you can phone them up and they will help you and answer your questions. If you buy into a cheap SEO service that’s “included” in the price of the website, or even a cheap ongoing SEO service, you’re unlikely to find someone who will do anything of any value for you beyond what I’ve told you we already do by default. If someone’s doing a good ‘Full SEO’ job for you, it’s not going to be inexpensive. I realise you have probably heard conflicting views from lots of different sources about SEO. If you want to check whether I am giving you the correct advice I would recommend reading up from the following authoritative industry sources: About why clients need to get involved in SEO projects:

http://www.searchenginejournal.com/addressing-client-participation-expectations-is-crucial-in-effective-link-building/49448/ http://searchengineland.com/most-of-seo-is-just-a-boondoggle-22297

And some general info about choosing someone to help with your SEO:

http://www.searchenginejournal.com/choosing-an-seo-company-in-2013/62181/ http://moz.com/community/q/choosing-an-seo-company

I hope that helps Helen

* I should point out here that I don’t actually think there is such a thing as ‘Full SEO’ anyway – can anyone ever ‘fully’ optimise something? There’s always more you can do.

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