After browsing around the web to see where I can build my own website with an online platform, I came across a comparison website for website builders (websitebuildertop10.com). Some of the points that they calculatingly refer to on each platform:
- not mobile compatible
- no website stats
- no email setup
- no SEO tools
- no unlimited bandwidth
- no tutorials
- no email support
- no telephone support
- no 24/7 support
- no ecommerce capabilities etc.
Well, that’s enough reason for me to rather start looking for an online digital agency that will do all of this for me. Obviously if I have my website built by a professional, I would have to pay a bit more. But, if I want to pay with peanuts, I will get a monkey. What these platforms advertise is: “Free Website” or “Build it yourself”. Many people are immediately captured, start the process and end up spending hours, not really knowing what they are doing and begin without any goals. Some may think, “who needs a web designer, when I can do it myself”. Be warned template, do-it-yourself systems are often very limiting and you can often produce a site that is disappointing and will not perform well for you.
This is an extensive subject on its own and when you have no idea what SEO is, it should really not be attempted – at home, at school or at work – unless you are supervised by a SEO specialist. (Sounds like some disclaimer or warning read out before a daring reality show…well, that’s how crucial it is to use the pro’s or else the damage to your wallet could be severe). What is SEO?SEO stands for Search Engine Optimisation – meaning: the optimisation of your website to make it favourable to the search engines – as it answers the specific questions asked by a user in their web browser like: “where can I buy surf board?”.Now what a SEO specialist does is, he shapes your content, and drives your visibility on the web with a clever mix of organic and paid search tactics. A good digital agency will make sure the SEO basics are built in from the start of your website development. This way, searches for your type of services or products, should show your website, even if you are only on page 12. Luckily your online presence is a growing process. Or you could spend hours on a do-it-yourself website, which Google does not even find, leaving you totally invisible to your audience.“What did I do wrong?” you may ask yourself now. Well, you forgot to tell Google, “Hey, look here… this is my new site and I sell surfboards, along with a thousand other websites that also sell surfboards. Please consider looking at my site and let me feature on your search results”. Some basics we can bring to your attention would be:
- titles on your pages
- images on your pages
- no less than 300 words per page
- naming your images correctly and not “image001.jpg” etc.Self-website builders often make the mistake of thinking that when they build their free website, they will just automatically feature on Google – this is not the case. SEO is a competitive game and with the millions of websites out there, your aim is to stand out.Point is, this is a specialised field and most digital agencies, like I said, add the basics for you and from thereon offer monthly maintenance to help you keep up with your competition in search engines. This is not a must, but if you want to be top, you have to keep at it. Free online apps don’t have the capabilities to even add your SEO basics.
Limited Design and Planning:
So, I started my new free website and from what they advertised it would look like, I am now wanting to add images to make it look just as nice. So here is what I actually do:“I open up my browser and find something that I think would look nice next to the piece of writing that I just coughed up, giving a thought to whether I should pursue a career in writing, because it just sounds amazing… Nonetheless, I find this image on Google, but it has this strange watermark on it and decide against it. Let me look some more. Find another image, not what I really wanted, but can still work. It has this caption of writing in the bottom right corner of the image…mmmm…. this one could work. I download the image to my computer and am now ready to use these cool tools on my website builder to add the image. I add the image, but for some reason it’s not lining up with my perfectly penned literature (my text) – The image is too long. I need to first see if this builder thingy has some kind of image cropping tool to shorten my image. Click here, click there, found it… Cropped my image and now clicked back to my page. What do I find? Nothing! Blank! Damn, I forgot to save my page first and now all my hard work was all for nothing. Now I have to rewrite my text for the page”. Sound familiar? As you work through your website, there is a 99% chance that you did not really plan your website – from the content you want to use to the images you would like to display. There has been no direction and planning from the start. This also adds to your frustration – had planned your content, you would have had a copy to refer to when you forgot to save and lost all your work. If you had planned your images, first thing you would know is that you cannot just use any images from the web as they are copyrighted and belong to someone else. By putting these on your website you are actually stealing someone else’s photos. There are many websites where you can buy high quality images, at very good prices (shutterstock.com or www.istockphoto.com ). An online digital agency will assist in avoiding these frustrations.
- They should have documents and systems in place to help you keep your ducks in a row as they guide you through your whole website design process.
- They can create from scratch or use a database of images that belong to them.
- They will make sure that the cosmetics of your website are in place (like text and images and banners aligning properly).
How computer savvy are you and how much time do you have?
This kind of ties in with my previous point. How computer savvy are you in terms of working in basic programs or even how to switch on your computer? If you made it this far, either you had to call your 4 year old to switch the computer on for you, or you might have the ability to have done it yourself. The less computer savvy you are, the harder it will be for you to pick up on the functionality of either online platforms or “design programs” like Paint (Don’t even attempt Photoshop). If you do not know how to switch on a computer, please do not attempt to work in Photoshop. Do this quick test, rate yourself on a scale of 1-10 (1 being very poor and 10 being excellent at computers) and ask yourself: “How good am I at computers?” Turn computer on 2. Open the browser 3. Go to Facebook 4. Create a Facebook profile 5. Make posts on Facebook 6. Print and Scan documents to your computer 7. Edit your scanned documents in Paint and working in Microsoft Office (Word, Excel, Outlook). 9. Took some kind of design course (Photoshop, CorelDraw, Illustrator), or self-taught. 10. Serious developers, computer technicians, network technicians etc.Basically any score under 7 will make it very time consuming for you to build any website, on any platform. Hours and hours will be wasted, whereas you could have had a web designer do something in 10 minutes that takes you an hour or more to figure out or even redo.
Your website is the ambassador for your brand or company. If your website is slapped together on one of these free online platforms, with their logo and advertising in the footer, text not aligning properly and images copied from other website, then your website is most probably not going to generate business like you want it to. Online digital agencies research your industry and competition before proposing any design ideas, making sure that they make you stand out and not damage your brand.
How well do you understand marketing and advertising?
If you do not know much about marketing and advertising, the chances are you most probably thought that your website will market itself, or just jump onto Google’s search results when someone searches for your type of services on the internet. There needs to be a marketing strategy, a media strategy, and goals need to be set to see which direction you want and need to go with your marketing campaigns. Not all social media platforms work for all industries and some of these free website builders does not let you link your social media accounts with your website. Most online digital agencies help you plan, strategise and set goals that are affective and relevant to your brand.
What the online digital agency actually does:
- An online digital agency can give you the full package.
- From start to end, they guide you through the whole process.
- They do not only build you a website and stick some pictures on Facebook, they learn about your brand/company.
- An online digital agency has got the powerful mix on digital and traditional marketing tactics to help you grow effective business aiming at the correct niche market.