Local versus National Web Design Companies
Finding a web design company can seem like an arduous process, especially if you’re a small business owner, but it doesn’t have to be. There are so many web design companies out there right now, and it seems like we are often inundated with ads and business cards and even co-workers’ sons and daughters that have “gotten into web design”. National online web design companies claim they can get you the whole package for next to nothing. Nowadays, even DIY web design companies are commonplace, claiming they can get you a professional looking business-class site cheaply or for free with do-it-yourself tools. How do you, as a local small business owner, find the web design company that is right for you?
Communication, Answers and Updates Not Included
The initial desire to going with a large, national web design company is understandable. Lower prices, shorter completion times, and smooth commercials or banner ads can make a national or online design company appealing. If the idea is to obtain a web site, why not look for an online company to make it? It might take some research and a further look into how these companies operate that shows how and why they are able to have such low prices and quick turnaround times, more so than a local web design company. Some quick Google research reveals that their projects are often outsourced to other countries. Even if they aren’t, chances are they won’t be in your time zone. They won’t be easy to reach. They may even have a rough grasp on your language. When you are unable to meet with your web design project manager, many problems emerge. Ironically, some of the best and most important planning for an online site is done offline and in-person.
Local Web Designers are Always a Walk or Short Drive Away
Let’s take a look at the design processes of a local versus a national (often internationally outsourced) web design company. A good local company will ask to meet with you at least a few times during the process. They will interview you to find out what you want in a web design company, and what you want in your web site. What is the purpose of your site? Who are you hoping to reach? What is your desired call to action? Do you have a plan for content? A marketing plan will be discussed, a client information sheet will be filled out, and your designer will start to learn who you are as a company, and how to best represent you and your product through your website, as well as how a search for your keywords or your industry result in a visit to your site and phone call to your business.
Go Local and You’re a Client, Go National and You’re a Customer
A national company is unable to meet with you in person. They may do a phone interview with you, in which one person will write down your plan, and they may or may not require you to provide all the content for the site. Are you experienced in copywriting? No? Content may cost much extra. If they do write the content for you, it will be based off one person’s ability to convey your short phone call to their copywriter, who may also be available to them through another phone call, half a world away. Context is lost, as your message now becomes just another sales pitch, which may even be written by someone who knows English as a second language. In the meantime, little contact is made. A week or two may pass by with no communication or questions, and then hopefully, your site will be launched without any questions.
Local Designers Want Your Input
Now let’s look at the launch and post-launch process. With a local web designer, after the site goes live, you as a client can meet with your designers, make revisions, add or change content, or request design or layout changes. There will be an entire time period (often a week or two, or longer) where you can look at the site and decide what changes you would like to make. When the final version is launched, if you have a monthly maintenance plan with your designer, updates can consistently be made, articles and blog entries can be published, and these can be made either by the designer or by you at your own request. Your design team become trusted marketing advisors, and almost members of your team. Or, you may elect to handle everything post-launch yourself after the site is finished, and that is perfectly fine. Your designer will use a content management system (SMS) like WordPress and show you how to publish and make changes to the site. If you decide to maintain the site yourself, the price will often be much lower, and comparable to a national company’s rates.
Want Changes? Contact Customer Service or Technical Support
With many national or remote-contractor companies, this is their end of the contract, and you are then left with the code or content management system yourself to add revisions, updates, and changes to. Have any questions on how to add content to the CMS system? Are you unhappy with some of the graphics, or the design template? You will be lucky if they change it for a price after the site is launched. Chances are, technical questions or revisions will only be addressed through a customer service number or technical support hotline. Unhappiness, feeling overwhelmed and unsatisfied are not uncommon. Months down the line, how do you renew your domain registration fee? How do you add pages or fix broken links? These questions may be left for you to solve. And why should the company address them? They’ve (hopefully) completed your contract, gotten paid, and have no local reputation to protect. Word of mouth is not something they much worry about. They have plenty of ads and commercials, ironically telling people how much money they will save with their ridiculously low price!
Going National for Local SEO is Counter-intuitive
What about web marketing? How do local and national web designers get your site seen by the masses? Local SEO (Search-engine optimization, [LINK NEEDED])) is often a must these days, especially if you want your business to grow, and an entire separate plan of action is worked out for the SEO and marketing alone with your local web design team. Good search results can result in exponential growth of clientele, and not ranking well can mean that, while you may have a good site, no one is able to find it. Local web companies are better suited to handle local SEO for a variety of reasons. They know your competition, the obstacles to ranking well in your area, and being in your area themselves is often an SEO advantage with Google Maps. The local provider will also make sure Google has your correct information so that people searching for you can find directions and contact information for your business.
Going National for SEO is Rolling the Dice
SEO Agencies may contact you after your site goes live; usually, they are located nowhere near you (often they claim to be based in Bay Area since that is where Google is located) and are a whole other situation in themselves. It is even more difficult to find an SEO company that you can trust that isn’t local. For more detail on this, see our article on SEO Agencies [LINK TO MY ARTICLE]. These companies are especially more deceptive because they actually will get you on the top 3-5 results on the front page of Google search, and do it quite quickly, take your money, and then you will find your site buried on the back page of results or not listed at all. Why? Black hat SEO companies essentially “hack” Google’s algorithm, against its terms of service, show it to you, and then leave you to fend for yourself against Google’s punishment.
Going Local Supports Your Community
If you’re a local business owner, why do you suggest that people go to you instead of national chains or agencies? Going local is a good business practice. Your clients are local residents and members of your community, supporting you and their community by hiring or choosing local over big chains. It follows that you would also go local for your business’s needs. Besides having a personal vestment in your business, you’re also concerned about how your clients feel about your product or service because you value your local reputation. Your clients trust you, and for good reason. You are part of their community. Local small business owners know all too well how important good word-of-mouth is. When you go with a national web design site for such an important and delicate project, you learn more than ever that you get what you pay for.
Entrust the Face of Your Company with a Team You Meet In Person
Your web site is the single most important marketing and PR tool you’ll have. It is the face of your company, your mouthpiece to your community and the world, your answers to your customers’ questions, and what everyone sees when they search for you. Make it as effective to your customers as possible. If done with a good marketing company, it works for you behind the scenes and around the clock, stamping its feet first in line of all the search results that people searching for businesses and keywords in your industry will find. Such a delicate operation requires meeting with a team that can interview you, find out what you want, what you need, and how best to present it to your customers, both effectively and aesthetically. Would you want to go over all your marketing, hiring and business meetings over the phone, or done in person? This is why it is important to Go Local for your web design and marketing needs. Such a delicate operation will have its details and context lost in translation over email and phone lines if you don’t go with a local web design company.