I’ve been admitted to a great, select group of bloggers: Word Carnivals.
Our January topic: Controversial techniques in your industry.
“The New Year is bright with all sorts of new ideas, but in certain circles there’s still plenty of shady tricks and underhanded practices that we think should be called out. This month’s word carnival: Dirty Deeds and Due Diligence – what to watch out for in 2015!”
There are a LOT of shady techniques when it comes to web design and SEO. Know what to watch out for, when hiring someone to make your site.
Admittedly, in my field, sometimes it is hard to know if someone is actually shady, or just has no clue what they are doing. Either way, that will come back to bite you.
Let’s start with Making Websites/Hiring Web Designers
There are a lot of people that claim to be web designers, but are con artists. They’ll take your money and disappear. Others are so new to web design, they can’t make you a site worth the money you paid.
Worst yet is if you go overseas for cheap web design: you may not get a website at all; again, another con. Or you’ll get one, but not what you wanted. Unless you can afford to fight an overseas court case, you’re out of luck. Mostly: you’re out of luck. To be fair, some people have had good experiences hiring overseas. Others, not so good luck.
What to Look For
When looking at a web designer’s site, look for terminology such as:
- Web standards
- Accessible or accessibility
- SEO or search engine optimization
- Target demographic
- Cross-Platform and/or Responsive Design
This is what you need to make a website. Web design is more than a pretty site. Web design is about making a functional, useful marketing tool. Without the criteria listed above, all you have is a pretty picture for which you paid a bunch of money.
However, looks DO figure heavily in web design. So examine the site of the web designer. Does the site look professional? Does it look like it is using current design trends, or does it look like the older style websites? Check out their portfolio too. Make sure each project links to an existing, functional website so you can see their work in action.
If all the web design has are screenshots to websites, not live, functioning links: run. Hit that Back button and get out of there.
If the web designer can’t provide any references from current or past clients, again, Run away!
Only screenshots on a site are either a sign of a con artist, or someone who doesn’t know what they are doing. Either way, run.
Get it in writing!
Always have a contract. If the web designer refuses to use a contract, that’s a sign of a shady character. NEVER work without a contract! Even when I make sites for friends and family, I always use a contract. That’s how you keep your friends and family. Friend or family member refuses to use a contract because “we’re friends” or “we’re family”? Again: RUN! If anything goes wrong with the project, you’re on your own. And have likely lost a friend or family member.
Buy Your Own Domain
This one also falls into the realm of: either they are a con artist or incompetent. The web designer may be like me, and be a reseller. HOWEVER, when you buy a domain through me, YOU are listed as the site owner. I am only the technical and billing contact.
I’ve had too many customers come to me because the web designer they hired bought their domain, (and was not a domain reseller), took off with their domain, the site owner can’t reach that person anymore, and the domain isn’t in the customer’s name, but in the web designer’s name. Naughty, naughty! Don’t get caught on that one. The site owner had the “web designer” buy the domain for them, because they were intimidated by the ordering process. Regardless of how nervous you feel, talk to other people with domains and find out where they registered theirs and if they’re happy with them still, then sign up and get your own.
Your web designer was either a con, or moved and never knew to make you the site owner on the account and never gave you their contact info after the move.
Once that “web designer” disappears, you can’t get that domain back. Period. The web host can only release it to the name and contact info on the account, and that’s not you, since you do not legally own it (in other words: you are not listed as the site owner). Nothing left to do but get a new domain name.
Not sure who’s name your site is in? Try a WhoIS lookup. Unless you or the person that bought it paid extra for privacy settings, you can see who is listed as owner, contact info, who their host is, etc.
Stolen Text Content, Design and Images
Sometimes, I have a customer come to me and say: “I want a website that looks EXACTLY like such-and-such’s site”. They don’t realize: that is theft and illegal, even if it’s for personal use.
Whoever is making your site, however, should know better. They should be using images licenced for free use or have you purchase images for the site. Your written content should not all come from another site either.
I’ve known of cases where an entire site’s logo, images, written content and code were used on someone else’s site, in a similar industry, without ever asking first. That was outright theft!
Even though you didn’t make the site, you own it. When you’ve paid your money and the “web designer” runs, and someone contacts you of the theft: you are liable.
Black Hat SEO
If you think of bad guys and good guys in the old Western movies, you’ve got the general idea.
Anytime someone chooses to put on a black hat in life, there is a lot of money to be made. Oh yes, black hat SEO is big money, and fast. But as with all bad guys, in the end they often get caught, and they can kiss all that money goodbye.
Unfortunately, some people get sucked into black hat SEO without knowing it. Some may do it while doing their own SEO and not know better. Some may hire others to do the SEO, unaware that the hired individual or company is using black hat practices.
In Star Wars, Luke Skywalker asks how he’ll know the Dark Side of the Force when he sees it. Some website owners may ask the same question: how will I know if I’m doing Black Hat SEO?
For starters, Google gives a list of things you can do to improve rankings with them. At the end of that page is a list of things not to do. If you’re doing those things, you’re doing black hat SEO.
Think of Google rankings like a popularity contest: the higher ranked sites you are linked to (big names like Facebook, Yelp, or the Better Business Bureau), the higher up you go. If you are linked to low ranking sites, it drags down your ranking. Be careful what your web designer and/or SEO person does to promote your site.
When coding images to a site, excessive keywords in two tags: “alt” and “title” can also get you knocked down a notch. Same for lengthy page names stuffed with keywords. For example: “myawesomesite.com/web-design-developmenet-marketing-DFW-nationwide-SEO-webhosting”.
That right there: excessive. And alt tags should describe the image, so the blind using screen readers know what the image is. Alt tags should not be SEO tools; they are for accessibility for those who use screen readers (software that reads web pages to them).
Some SEO web designers use something called keyword stuffing. This won’t help. Or, it will in the short term before Google boots your butt out of their search engine. And REMEMBER: where Google goes, all other search engines follow. This is an old, out-dated trick.
Another is hiding key words in code, and making the words the same color as the background of the page. Again: old trick, Google boots you.
Also, Google discusses how they don’t like link schemes.
Remember: what Google does, other search engines do too. Most of them try to duplicate Google’s success by copying its practices.
On that article about link schemes, Google says:
Examples of link schemes can include:
- Links intended to manipulate PageRank
- Links to web spammers or bad neighborhoods on the web
- Excessive reciprocal links or excessive link exchanging (“Link to me and I’ll link to you.”)
- Buying or selling links that pass PageRank
Wanna Kill Your Business? Buy An Email List
A lot of individuals are taken in by the hype surrounding email marketing. The websites look great and the results sound promising. I’ll say it before and I’ll say it again: “if it sounds too good to be true, then it probably is.” The Internet is just like your offline life. Never believe the two are different. Just because it’s in writing doesn’t mean it’s true.
So why would I say buying an email list is bad when so many say it’s so good?
For starters … those saying it’s so good are frequently after your wallet. Ask yourself: who’s saying it’s so great? Are they in the business of selling those lists? Or are they in a business that is in any way related to that? Or maybe they’re a novice touting themselves as experts, just parroting what they’ve read (and believe me, there are a lot of those).
At the VERY LEAST: vet the company you are looking a buying a mailing list from. Many claim they have opt-in subscribers. But the opt-in is hidden in fine print in the end, so their subscribers have no clue they opted-in. Then, you get reported as a spammer. This is bad; your site could get shut down or at the least, your mail is not going to work.
These are just some of the shady tricks to watch out for:
- Sites with just screenshots of past work, no link to those sites
- No contract
- You let your web designer buy your domain
- Stolen content
- Black Hat SEO
- Bad mailing lists
The quoted sections above are from my book. Want to learn more? If you thought this advice was useful, you should see what other tips I wrote in my book. The book tells you what to do and what not to do, in greater detail than you’ll find here. My book is a great reference guide, written to be as non-technical as possible: Website Wonders Made Easy: Websites Unwoven – A Guide to Creating a PROFESSIONAL Website in Plain English
Questions about any of this? Just post a question! I’m happy to help!