5 Things to Look For in a Website Design or SEO Proposal

Tips to Know When You’re Getting the Most Out of Your SEO Firm

If you’re shopping around for a web design or SEO service and wondering what to look for, we’ve got you covered! In this episode, Bob, Jesse, and Sue discuss what questions to ask and what red flags to look out for when looking for a partner in developing your web presence. With these questions in mind, you’ll be empowered to find the right fit for your needs and avoid getting less than you deserve!

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What you’ll learn

  • What to look for in an SEO or web design firm.
  • Why certain questions are important for revealing potential red flags.
  • What to ask to understand exactly what you’re getting for your money.

Transcript For On Page Optimization Tips for SEO Success – 156

Jesse Dolan: How much of this are you doing in house versus what are you subcontracting out? Everybody’s got a specialty for any agency that you’re working with, what is theirs?

Welcome back to Local SEO Tactics where we bring you tips and tricks we have found online. I’m your host, Jesse Dolan.

Bob Brennan: Here again with Bob Brennan and Sue Ginsburg.

Sue Ginsburg: Hi.

Jesse Dolan: Ready to tackle the tough questions when it comes to web and SEO. Sue, what do we got on tap today?

Sue Ginsburg: Okay. Today’s question comes in from another web designer, really good question. What to look for in a web design or an SEO proposal? What should people be looking for because even web design means different things to different people and especially SEO proposals. A lot of people have different ways of doing it. What should you look for so that if you are choosing between one, two, three, a couple firms, you are comparing apples to apples? I thought that was a great, great, great question.

Quote of the day, “Do not allow yourself to be misled by the surface of things.” This is from Rainer Maria Rilke, a Czech poet of the early 1900s who developed a new style of lyrical poetry influenced by the visual arts. I really, really liked this quote. Do not allow yourself to be misled by the surface of things, because it happens to everybody, right?

Marketing story around this, last October, at an annual October Fest Celebration that I’ve been going to for many, many years, thanks to Minneapolis CPA firm, SDK. I was talking to someone who mentioned this firm was interested in updating their website. Hadn’t been updated in years and they very wisely wanted to switch to an easier CMS platform, update their mission and values, employee photos, content, and of course, update the look of their website.

A few years in the lifetime of a website is an eternity so I was happy to hear that they were aware of that and looking to update it. We had several, I’ll call them discovery conversations, where we both learned what we needed to from each of our perspectives. They were very thorough in their questions and from that, we gave them a proposal for the work requested. The proposal instigated more questions on their part. Answers to those questions brought on more questions from them and this continued back and forth for several rounds of Q&A until they had the information necessary to present to their marketing committee, whoever it was, for a decision to work with us.

We welcomed their questions and our follow up discussions totally understanding that this was foreign territory to them just like their business is foreign territory to us and I give them a lot of respect for that. In talking to Jesse and our brand and website design build specialist, the one and only Taylor, it occurred to me how much more confident they would be in their decision, having covered all the questions that they had and knowing that they had asked the questions to get them the information they needed, the right information for them to make this sound decision.

One thing led to another and the creation of this list was formed. With that, Jesse, tell us what questions should be asked, maybe what five things you should make sure you know and find out when interviewing website design build and our SEO firms to hire to make sure that business owners do scratch beneath the surface, they know that they’re getting what they want to from the firm, and are going in with their eyes wide open knowing that the firm that they’re collaborating with is going to deliver to them what they want and not some other version of it that just wasn’t discussed in detail.

Jesse Dolan: Yeah. I’ve got five things. You shared this episode topic ahead of time, Sue, so I kind of five things but there’s not only five things and these are not going to be in any order. That being said, Bob, from the business owner’s perspective, feel free to jump in and chime in and expand on any of these. I’m sure we’re going to have some bonus things that we’ve kind of missed that aren’t part of this five, right? This is not just a list of only five.

I think something also to parse out with this too is that there are plenty of people here listening to the show we know in the audience that are also building their own agencies. The things we’re going to talk about here are really geared towards if you’re a business owner, marketing manager looking for SEO or looking for a website. Some of the things you want to see in your proposal, your quote. Also, if you’re the agency right now listening to this, you can reverse engineer this.

These are the kinds of things you want to be sharing, right? If you’re going to be looked at with some confidence, no matter if it’s your first proposal or not.

One of the things is basically what you were talking about, Sue, that back and forth, that question. I wouldn’t say this is something that’s in a proposal, typed out, but that should be part of the process of getting a quote and a proposal. Some kind of discussion, exploration, discovery type stuff. The larger the project, the more that should be. Whether it be SEO or a website design, there’s no off the shelf, here’s the price, sign up, take it or leave it type of deal. Even if you’re launching a business from scratch, what are your products? What are your services? What’s your history? How many locations? Every business is unique and there’s just no boiler plate solution for you.

If that’s the kind of stuff you’re getting and you’re not able to have a conversation or do that discovery, then that would be something for sure that would be a red flag for me or a green flag, if the people that we’re engaging with are very collaborative, right? Because it is custom for everybody, right? What your exact needs are so that’s got to be for sure in on it. Your website is not just a one page PDF flyer, this is your digital representation of your business. If you’re talking SEO, it’s what you want to be found for, which Bob is… We know that guides your business and your marketing in general and then your website is the actual, again, storefront, the first impression that people get. This should be something that requires multiple conversations or back and forth, really, to find some things, to be able to get an accurate quote and proposal.

Now within that, one big thing to talk about, especially if this is going to be a new website, this would be number two for me here is, what platform is it built on? Is this going to be WordPress, which is what we always prefer and try to push people towards for most of the businesses that we work with. It’s a perfect fit. If this is eCommerce, is there something else you need to do? Are we talking Shopify here? Are we talking Square? Joomla? There’s different content management platforms. Or is this some custom coded, proprietary type website? To know what you’re getting and what they’re building for you if you’re engaging with people is an extremely important thing to ask.

Not only for you being aware of what you’re getting but more for the down the road. We prefer WordPress because it’s very non-proprietary, right? We always joke, you can throw a rock down the road and probably hit somebody that knows something about WordPress. That’s the position you want to be in as a business owner. This is a big one. Bob, I know back we’ve been doing business for 25, 27 years, we’ve engaged with some people before we did our own websites and this is kind of true for all things marketing related. Are you working with any of my competitors? This is something I would definitely want to be knowing. I don’t mean that, right? In a good way, like you’re experienced but more of I don’t want to compete against your other clients.

Bob Brennan: That doesn’t make sense.

Jesse Dolan: No. Right in my own space. Now, it’s good if somebody has some industry experience like I’m familiar with your niche and those websites. Okay, cool. Sue, we’ve talked about that, internally, and with our clients and prospects. I don’t think you need to have experience in a certain vertical to be successful with a website but if somebody has experience, great. Great that they know your language, that’s not going to be a negative thing. But my point is, that’s different than working with a competitor, a direct competitor in my niche, in my market. I would not want a partner in my marketing that is serving my competitors with marketing as well, if you can avoid it.

Number three here, I’m going to say is, if you can be so bold as to ask them, especially if this is a comprehensive, right? If this is a website build plus SEO plus blogging and whatever, how much of this are you doing in house versus what are you subcontracting out? Everybody’s got a specialty for any agency that you’re working with, what is theirs? What are they doing in the house? What are they doing outhouse? Is there a team, I guess this expands into multiple points here but… And then with that team, what are they doing?

There’s a lot of places out there if you just look for digital marketing, maybe it’s a web design company that can also be your SEO. Maybe it’s an SEO company that can also do your web design. Maybe it’s a social media company that can also do paid ads on Google, right? Just whatever it is within marketing here. It’s pretty rare that you have a one stop shop that is a bunch of experts in all these different disciplines so ask those questions. Who do you have on staff in these various disciplines, designers, brand building, copywriting? For doing video production, who’s doing that? Versus, what are you outsourcing? It’s so easy to outsource things through different countries, through portals like Fiverr, things like that.

Being aware of that, sometimes there’s some margin that can be built in, right? If you’re outsourcing some of these things as an agency. That can be something maybe that helps you kind of compare quotes. I’m coming at it more from the angle of the level of services that you’re getting provided, right? If you’re doing a website with SEO content, all these different things that are on there. For us, we strongly believe that there is a lot of efficiency to be gained by good collaboration within your website. That somebody that’s generating a piece of content to be used in one area isn’t aware of somebody else doing something in another area, how can the message be the same? We’ve talked in a previous episode, Sue, about making sure you’re messaging and things are coordinated between your various portals, your GMB, your people answering the phone, your website.

Same thing here, if we come up with a really cool call to action on a page and it’s set as a certain way for the conversion and for the intent of the client, but somebody changes it because you have the SEO contract that somebody in India may just modify the page. I guess, my point there is to streamline communications, collaborations within that. Definitely asking, what do they do? What are their strong points? And then, what are they outsourcing and farming out for your build?

Hey, everyone, just a quick message about our free SEO audit tool on localtactics.com and we’ll get right back to the show. If you haven’t taken advantage of it yet, go on out to localseotactics.com/free-seo-audit or look for the yellow button up on the top right corner, click that, and it’s going to take just a couple seconds. You enter in the page that you want to optimize, what you’re looking for the audit to score against. Enter in that page, enter in the keyword you’re looking to get optimized for, and enter in your email address, click the button, and it’s going to take a few seconds and then it’s going to send you off a PDF report via email.

It’s a great report. It’s going to give you an overall score of some vital SEO areas for that page and for your website at large, even though it’s auditing this page. That’s going to tell you some of the good things that are happening, some of the bad things that are happening too, and give you basically a checklist of some things that you need to shore up and what you can do to improve your SEO for that page, for that keyword that you’re auditing.

Now, you can use this as many times as you want. You can do multiple keywords, multiple pages, multiple keywords on the same page. You can even use this to check against your competitors, right? If you want to do a little reverse engineering, see how they’re scoring for a certain keyword, what they may be doing good, that you’re not and some things to improve there. Lots of different ways to use it, completely free. Again, go on to www.localseotactics.com/free-seo-audit or look for the yellow button in the top right corner of the website.

I got kind of got one and a half more things here before we kind of get to more general discussion here, guys. But this item here I have pointed out is, what is the commitment and the expectation for communications between you and the provider if you choose them? If it’s a web build, what are the various stages where you’re communicating with them to review things, to approve things, or to create stuff? If we’re talking SEO, is it some kind of regular interval for reviewing things? Are there reports that are sent? What is the level of communication and what is working, what isn’t working, right? What are the action items for the next quarter, for the next month, for the next year? It shouldn’t be something that is completely in its own silo, right? That you’re not talking about or engaged with.

Again, back to earlier points of things are dynamic and changing on your website and digital marketing. You should be having communications, not only on the plans that you already have in place but those plans will be changing going forward. So there should be some level of commitment and expectations for communications, the meetings, and those kinds of intervals. You don’t want to have them needlessly, but they will be needed right? At various points.

Sue Ginsburg: Jesse, I love that you say that because believe it or not, I’ve talked to people who are working with the firm that they’ve been working with for a long time and if they have a question, they need to submit a ticket through the firm’s online process and it could be four days or seven days later until they get the answer. It’s like, “Are you kidding me?”

Jesse Dolan: Well, sure. Which I can get from a technical nerd standpoint like, “Hey, that’s great. They’re all logged. We keep track of it, who’s assigned to it.” But then I think as a business, you can lose sight of how that feels for the customer and the client, right? On the other end.

Sue Ginsburg: Yeah. Right.

Jesse Dolan: You can’t be that inhuman, right? For some of these things. So no, I think being accessible, having good communications, right? Maybe you’re a business where you’re like, “That doesn’t matter to me. Okay, fine.” But I guess, as a topic, right? What do you want to look for? What do you want to ask? What topics you’re… Is, yeah, the method of communications and meeting intervals, reviews, things like that, what’s the expectation here? I think then, the final part to kind of talk about is what is the recipe, a little bit? Nobody’s going to give you their exact recipe for Coke but in SEO, there’s different ways to approach SEO and I think understanding that if you’re looking at more than one provider, there’s never going to be an apples to apples comparison on what one provider’s going to do versus another.

You could go online, do a quick search right now, you can probably get somebody to do SEO for $50 a month, right? There’s people that are going to be 10 times that amount or higher. So what are they providing to you? Because it’s not SEO, right? That’s a very broad term. What’s the method? What’s the tactics? Is there some kind of strategy? The more smoke and mirrors you get in those answers, the more you should run away, right? There should be… Not every bit of the recipe is going to be shared with you, but what are the various stages? What are the expectations? What are the focus areas?

I know we’ve talked, Sue, in some conversations but I think even in these recorded conversations for the shows, that SEO is a granular process, right? It’s optimizing. You don’t paint with a broad brush for SEO, you get in and you really turn the levers and the knobs on a small, granular scale, and that requires a lot of detail on a precision, i.e., again, that’s why I always compare it to a recipe.

Yeah. There’s a method to the madness. Doesn’t matter what an agency’s overall approach is, that usually gets some level of detail or guidance on, is it just straight up back links that one company’s using? With another company, it’s just about the content they’re creating, right? It’s going to be kind of a mix of everything but, yeah, flushing that out to actually be able to compare what you’re getting from one quote to another because it’s not just about the dollars. If you’re getting two different price points, you’re getting two different products, right? That you’re looking at there. So parsing that out, I think it’d be pretty important too.

Yeah. I think that’s it for my math notes. I kind of got some of them a little bit muddy but roughly five-ish things there, that are pretty darn important, if you’re looking at web or SEO quotations or you’re looking to provide those to your clients.

Sue Ginsburg: Another side piece of that too, Jesse, is know what their estimate includes. We’ve had some really smart clients talk to us and say, “Does that include web hosting? Do I need to change my domain name? Does that include… What does and doesn’t that include?” Those are the type of things that you do not want to budget for whatever the price you were given and then find out, “Oh, it’s a little bit more here. It’s a little bit more there,” and that stuff can add up and be annoying.

Jesse Dolan: Good point. Absolutely.

Bob Brennan: Yeah. I mean, only thing I can say and maybe you kind of covered this and whatnot, is it’s all about results. As a business owner, I look at it as risk and reward, right? If somebody said to me, “Bob, for $10,000 I can get you on the first page for your top four keywords,” I’d laugh, right? Because the first page doesn’t cut, it doesn’t… For that kind of money, it’s got to be the top three or top one actually for… Unless for plastic surgery or something that there’s huge ROI. For me, it’s a matter of measuring the metrics before they start.

So if you have an existing website, can you measure the calls and clicks and everything else? And if all it is a facelift on that website, they’re not necessarily responsible for that, in some ways they are, if they’re coming to you and they’re saying, “Okay, we’re going to revamp this. We’re going to have a whole different UI and everything else in it and it’s going to double your calls and that’s what we guarantee.” Okay. Let’s work with that baseline and say, “Okay.” There’s all the things that you guys measure or talk about which is good but as a business owner, I can’t stress enough, you’ve got to have some baseline metrics in saying, “Okay. If it’s SEO, you’re going to get us to the top one and two position for these five keywords.” Bear in mind, you have what? Jesse, average site probably has 30 to 60 keywords that they’re focusing on, right?

Jesse Dolan: Oh, sure.

Bob Brennan: And there’s probably five that are their money makers, right? If you’re an attorney, it’s immigration law, will and trust, or whatever the deal is, these are your specialties. These are the things that you make the money in that you need to show up for that keyword in St. Louis or St. Louis County or whatever the case is. You need to hold up to that and you need to give them a timeline in my mind of whatever that timeline is, 90 days or whatever. If they get you there and your phone is ringing, well then, they’ve earned their money and more importantly, you need to pay them, continue to pay them to hold you in that position. It’s that simple.

Jesse Dolan: Yeah.

Bob Brennan: You know what I mean? And then add on five more keywords that are specific to Ukrainian immigration law or whatever the case is. You know what I mean? But it’s really important, in my mind as a business owner, that you define what success is, right? As an agency, you define what success is because you want to continue to get paid and you’re saying, “Hey, we both agree that this is success. We’re hitting this. Do you want to continue with this and what else do you have for projects for us?”

I know that’s somewhat simplistic but at the same time, as an agency, I think if we can guarantee certain results, we potentially can charge more or at least retain our customers, guaranteeing certain results. But we have to define what those results are and define what those metrics are and once they’re defined, game on, right? When we were kids and you played neighborhood whatever, kickball, football, whatever the deal is, the frustrating part was, if you go over to the Johnson’s yard, they define their out of bounds as the shrub of roses, right? Where you’re like, “Come on.” That’s when we play the game and we don’t know what the rules are, that’s when everybody gets frustrated.

Jesse Dolan: That was good. It’s like the question behind the question here, right? Like we’re talking about what should you look for in these proposals and the bids and everything else but you’re bringing up a great point of like, “Why are you getting this quote in the first place?” right?

Bob Brennan: Yeah. What’s the objective?

Jesse Dolan: What’s the expectation of the investment here?

Bob Brennan: Right.

Jesse Dolan: Yeah. Yep.

Bob Brennan: Yeah.

Jesse Dolan: That’s great.

Bob Brennan: The whole thing, when I hear people talking about image and stuff like that, I’m like, “Wow, you probably have money to burn which is great but I look for results.” If it is in improving your image that you get the results, well then yes, improve your image. But let’s understand, this is our baseline. How do we measure that and then build on that? But otherwise, if the agency can’t really guarantee anything or they tell you vagaries in terms of first page or whatever the case is, you need to be educated enough that first page does not cut it, in my mind. You got to be more specific and say, “The top three for these keywords period,” and if they can’t do that and they just say, “First page,” you got to find a different agency in my opinion.

Sue Ginsburg: Bob, I am so glad that you brought that up. Because I think, to me, the underlying issue with that scenario is somebody who’s a business owner and doesn’t know SEO, they know their business, not SEO they may hear that and think, “Oh, that’s great, being on the first page.” Don’t fake out your prospect and make them think that being on the first page is a great thing. Yeah, if you’re on the fourth page, it’s a stepping stone. But really, you want to get into the top three or four-

Bob Brennan: Right.

Sue Ginsburg: And don’t make me think that you’re going to be great to work with because you can get me on the first page.

Bob Brennan: Right. My kid can do that. It really comes down to, again, risk and reward. If you’re going to take a radio ad and they’re saying, “Oh, your biggest problem is going to be finding enough people to write orders.” “Okay. Well then guarantee that?” and then they say, “Well, there’s the creative part for the ad. Do you want to be the spokesperson? Do you want to do all that stuff?” and I was like, “Here’s the bottom line. You just told me that my biggest problem is going to be writing orders, okay? That’s my problem. You’re going to make my world difficult. In order for you to do that, you decide to get in a celebrity spokesperson, you decide how this should say. This shouldn’t be your first rodeo. If you just told me that you’re going to kill it, well then, live up to your word and make it happen. By the way, we’re going to construct this in such a way that if it doesn’t happen, I ain’t paying type of deal.”

And that, “Well, you need to do it for three, four, five months before you get enough.” “Okay. Well then, three, four, five months from now, if it works, I will pay you X. I will pay you all your money. But until then, if you’re really an expert at this, there should be no risk for me on this end.” You know what I mean? Would you go to a doctor that says, “Well, it might work.” I mean, I realize doctors sometimes have to do that. But I mean, you want to go to a doctor that says, “Hey, yeah, we’re going to yank your appendix. You’re going to be out of here in 24 hours and two weeks from now, you’re going to be just fine.” But you don’t want to go to the doctor that’s like maybe’s and ifs and everything else, you just move along.

Jesse Dolan: Right.

Bob Brennan: In my opinion-

Jesse Dolan: You’ll need some kind of definition and clarity on it, right? Like you’re saying, whether it’s something that can be explicitly guaranteed or even in your scenario where you’re talking if it’s just for aesthetics or branding or image, okay, that can sound a little abstract but what is the point of that though, right? If you need to update your brand and update your image, what’s your expectation and what that’s going to be for some kind of ROI or impact?

And then again, how can you measure that if it is just phone calls or if it’s traffic to my website or if it’s the ranking? Yeah. This is all… You’re spending this kind of money, you’re investing money into these things, why? And then, how do you measure whatever you’re defining for success for the investment. How do you measure to see if you’re getting there?

Bob Brennan: Right.

Jesse Dolan: Right. Sometimes it’s easy. Sometimes it’s a little more tricky, but yeah man, great points because it’s not just about that new coat of paint, right? Or the new looking website but like, why? Why are we even doing this and is it going to be a good investment?

Bob Brennan: Right.

Sue Ginsburg: And then taking that one step further, how are you going to measure this? And then if we do end up working together, are you going to share those metrics with me? Yes, you should be able to see what those metrics are because it’s your business.

Bob Brennan: Yeah, yeah. Yeah. That collaborative deal and if there’s no spirit of collaboration-

Sue Ginsburg: Not a good sign.

Bob Brennan: From your client or your service provider, you all should move on and find a different partner, I guess.

Sue Ginsburg: Good point.

Jesse Dolan: All right. Sue, did you have any other closing comments on this? I think that was a pretty good discussion. Started with a pseudo top five list but really got into some deep nooks and crannies there about the ROI and the measurement but I think it was a great trail that we went on.

Sue Ginsburg: I would say, if you remember one thing and one thing only, remember this, not all firms are created equal. In our case, digital marketing, website build, SEO firms, just like marketing means something different to everyone you ask, there are nuances that differ from one firm, one website design build firm, one SEO firm to another and you want to know what those are. Ask the questions, make sure that you get your questions answered, know what you’re getting for the estimate that you’ve been given and know what you need and make sure that you’re getting what you need and what you want before you go forward. That’s what I’d say. Quote of the day again, do not allow yourself to be misled by the surface of things. Dig deeper, ask the questions, get your questions answered, and have the information you need to make your decision. Or as the Rolling Stones said, “You can’t always get what you want. But if you try some time, you get what you need.”

Jesse Dolan: I like that.

Sue Ginsburg: Yeah.

Jesse Dolan: I have to remind my kids of that. Probably would be a good one for them to hear. I’m thinking, guys too, we should tell everybody about our free service that I don’t think everybody’s aware of. We should probably mention on the show here. If anybody has quotes for web design or quotes for SEO that you’ve gotten from other agencies, we’re happy to give you a second opinion.

Sue Ginsburg: Great idea.

Jesse Dolan: Just contact us.

Bob Brennan: Yeah.

Jesse Dolan: Tell us what you’re looking for, send us your quote. I’m being half tongue in cheek sarcastic like, “We’re here to do that for you.” We can do SEO, we can do web design, but in all seriousness, whether you want to entertain hiring us to do these services for you or just want an actual second opinion here, contact us. Go up to localseotactics.com, go down the bottom, you can find the link to contact us, and we can give you that second opinion, look over your shoulder, or even entertain doing the services for you too.

We put it on this show, tell everybody out, but we are ridded in running business doing web design and SEO, if you didn’t know that. Now you know. Thanks for jumping on this one, Bob, Sue. Likewise, good to see you again as well and everybody else until we talk again in the next episode. Take care.

Bob Brennan: See you.

Sue Ginsburg: See you.

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