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Before Breaking Up with Your Webmaster

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We’ve all been there….we hire someone to do a job for us and start to wonder if they’re not a good fit anymore, and start looking for something “better,” or we have someone we know approach us to try to entice us to switch our business to them.  Sometimes a switch is needed, and can be a good move. Sometimes you trade one set of “problems” for another.

In this blog post I will give you some things to consider before breaking up with your current website designer or webmaster, in favor of someone new.

Does the person seeking to have you switch to their business really know what they are doing?

You want to make sure before you make a switch that the new person or firm actually can make good on their promises.  For instance, you can hire a marketing firm that is a whiz at things like print and other media advertising, but is not actually adept at setting up and managing websites.  It’s not enough to have had a personal website, or have some social media experience. It’s not even enough to have a marketing firm.  These days, almost anyone can set up an out of the box Wix site, or type in a text field, but that does NOT make them a web designer, and mean that they understand how websites, and Search Engine Optimization (SEO) work. Unfortunately, I’ve seen clients switch because someone is “more local” or someone has a “marketing firm” only to realize that the person they’ve switched to wasn’t all they thought they’d be, and their online presence actually suffers from the change - not to mention the money they spent on the change going to waste.

Before making a switch ask:

  • What are their qualifications?  Do they have examples of previous work and happy clients?
  • Do they know how to set up a website from scratch?
  • Do they understand how to manage hosting accounts and domains?
  • Do they understand terms like “Search Engine Optimization,” “FTP,” “database,” “css,” “ssl,” and “content management system?”
  • Are they aware of common content management systems like WordPress, Joomla!, and ExpressionEngine, and how to use them well? (And, no, you should absolutely not switch to someone who wants to replace a functioning site with a Wix site!)
  • Do they understand what responsive design is, and why it’s important? 
  • Do they understand the role social media plays in driving traffic to a website, and helping with SEO rankings and engagement?
  • Do they understand how to properly choose images for a site, and how to resize images for various usages (not using huge images where you need thumbnails, or small images where you need large hero images)?
  • Do they understand that quality images are a must, but that you have to have permission to use any images you have on your site?

If any of these terms or concepts are “confusing” to them, this is not a good switch to make, and this person is promising more than they can realistically deliver. Even if, best case scenario, this person is a “fast learner” – do you really have the time to wait for them to catch up?  Can you afford to have things be done half-way or incorrectly until then?  If you must make a switch, make sure it’s to someone that is truly an improvement over your current service provider, and not just different, or local.

Was your current service provider actually the problem, or is the problem really the market and your business model?

Sometimes you really do need to make a switch.  Sometimes you find that a service provider is just not a good fit for what you need, is not available enough, or makes too many mistakes. In those cases, a change may be in order.

Sometimes, however, the problem isn’t necessarily your website manager or service provider, but is more of a problem with the market for your product or service.

Here is an example: Say you sell a very specific item to a very niche market, and you’re upset that your website is not generating sales like you expected it to.  You may assume that it’s the fault of the website, or that your website designer didn’t provide what they promised.  However, before ditching your current professional and moving on to someone else, you need to ask yourself if your expectations are realistic.  The fact is your web designer could do everything right with your site, and employ all the right search engine optimization techniques for your content, and even have you on the first page of search results if someone searches for what you sell, but if your product is not something a lot of people are looking for, OR there are a lot of sites selling the same item – the website is not going to generate sales, because the market simply isn’t there and/or is saturated already.  The bottom line is people have to be searching for what you have on your site in order for you to even come up in search results, and even then, if you are only one of many offering the same product, something has to entice them to make a purchase.  If you are running into not enough interest or are finding you have a lot of competition in your area, you may look at branching out into new products, seeing what kind of competition you have in your area (*especially* if you are focusing on a local market area), and figuring out a way to set yourself apart and stand out.  At the very least you should be making that you are generating fresh content, often, to keep your site up in the search results for those people that are looking for what you offer.  One good way to generate searchable content is with quality blog posts about topics of interest to your target market.  You will also want to make sure you are sharing those blog posts on social media in an engaging way, to drive additional traffic to your site.

Is “local” always better?

This is another common phenomenon I’ve seen play out.  You have a service provider in another city or even state, and someone closer wants your business.  Do you make the switch?  Is it better to have someone close by?  Well, like most things, that depends.  In some cases, yes.  For instance, if you are someone who prefers to meet with your webmaster face-to-face, a local provider may be a better fit.  Perhaps you are looking for someone who knows and understands the local market better.  If those to things are true, and if the local person is well versed in website and social media management or other aspects of what you need, a switch to someone local may make a lot of sense.

However, again, make absolutely sure that the local person you’re thinking of switching to really knows what they are doing, otherwise you may be trading one small issue for a lot of big issues.  Closer isn’t better if the person is a relative novice and has a steep learning curve ahead of them.

Hopefully this information will help you make a decision about whether or not you need to make a switch, and more importantly, how to make a wise decision on replacing a current service provider.