Choosing A Niche Web Designer Or SEO Focused Web Designer - What Is Right For You

Deciding Between A Website Design Agency That Specializes In A Niche Industry or An SEO Focused Agency

Bob, Jesse and Sue drop in with another great listener question. If you have a niche business and you’re looking to rework your website, you may be wondering “Is it better to hire a business with niche experience in your own industry, or a business with SEO experience?” We help you to identify your options, what matters for your website, and what factors determine which direction you should go for updating or replacing your website.

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What you’ll learn

  • Why it’s important to identify what you want your website to accomplish before anything else.
  • What you should look for in a developer’s portfolio to see if they’re a good fit for you.
  • How factoring in your return on investment (ROI) may push you in one direction or another.

Transcript for Choosing A Niche Web Designer Or SEO Focused Web Designer – What Is Right For You – 99;

Caleb Baumgartner: Welcome To Local SEO Tactics, the show where we bring you tips and tricks to get found online. I am producer Caleb Baumgartner here with the Q&A episode where we answer your listener questions. Today Bob, Jesse, and Sue tackle a question about website design. Are you looking for a potential redesign on your website and wondering whether to look for a designer with SEO experience, or a designer with experience for your particular business niche? Bob, Jesse, and Sue weigh a variety of factors regarding web design and SEO to help you make a decision about your business website. Do you have a question for the team? Visit us to leave us your questions. Thank you for listening, and enjoy the show.

Jesse Dolan: Welcome back to Local SEO Tactics, where we bring you tips and tricks to get found online. I’m your host, Jesse Dolan, joined here with Sue Ginsburg and Bob Brennan.

Sue Ginsburg: Hello.

Bob Brennan: Hi, everybody.

Jesse Dolan: Anybody who tuned into the last episode, hopefully do these in sequence. Bob’s joined us on the front side. There’s no late entry here coming into-

Bob Brennan: No delaying.

Jesse Dolan: … a Zoom ding, we get you the whole episode here. So before we get going here today, I don’t think we’ve seen you in this town before, Sue. Where are the heck are you?

Sue Ginsburg: Coming to you today virtually from Boston, Massachusetts. That’s the Boston skyline. Looked for Matt Damon, couldn’t find him.

Jesse Dolan: I like them apples.

Sue Ginsburg: That’s right, that’s it. Because the question that we are going to discuss today is question from a listener and client who is in the Boston area, has a great medical spot there and raised this very good question, “Is it better to have a website done by a business with niche experience in their industry, or by somebody who has SEO experience?” Great and relevant question to many of us looking at redoing our website, or building a new website.

Jesse Dolan: This is, we don’t have to say his last name. This is David, right?

Sue Ginsburg: Yes.

Jesse Dolan: Shout out to David. We know he’s probably going to catch this episode eventually here, so yeah.

Sue Ginsburg: That’s right, that’s right.

Jesse Dolan: He’s the inspiration.

Sue Ginsburg: So today’s quote of the day, before we get to the question, is, Phil Knight, “Play by the rules, but be ferocious. Just do it.” So yes, that’s the quote of the day today. And asking this question today, why? Well, we want to clarify the best way to choose the right web developer for you to update or create your new website. Lots of choices out there, confusing to know what’s important, what matters for the role you want your website to play. So again, when you’re thinking about updating or even creating a new website, think about the role you want your website to play. Know the strengths of the developer you’re considering. In that sense, talk to their other clients, evaluate and decide for yourself, do you want your website to be a brochure online? Do you want it to be your best sales person? Do you want it to be educational?

There are different roles your website can play. It’s most likely your biggest marketing investment, worth taking the time to think about, “What do I want my website to do?” And then look at, choose, evaluate, and work with the developer that works best for you for what you want to accomplish. And why do you want to even do that? Because you will get a website that you are proud to send people to. And one that will work hard for you in whatever role it is that you have decided you want your website to play.

So just a quick story here. We are talking to a new client right now, pretty small business. She wants to update her website and she was honestly asking me, “How do I know if it’s better to work with you, or if it’s better to work with my next door neighbor’s kid, or whatever the other choices are? How do I know?” And I had this discussion with her talking about, I mean, broader than, should it be somebody who does niche industry work in my industry or an SEO stronghold? How do you decide who you want to redo your website starts with, “What do I want my website to do for me?” And that’s the discussion that I had with her. Very in sync with question that comes from our client, which way is the better way to go? So I’ll toss that to you two. What are your thoughts? What do you think? Help us out.

Jesse Dolan: I’ll kick it off, Bob. I know you’ve got some thoughts too. We were kind of chatting about this before I hit record. Number one is going to be, this is from an SEO lens and perspective, right? Is the construct here, like you’re saying, Sue first is what you want your website to do, making the assumption you have in our podcast and our focus that you want your website to rank, right? This is number one thing that we’re wanting here.

First things first, if you’re looking at somebody, let’s just say the juxtaposition here is somebody’s good at SEO, but maybe not super well-versed in your niche and your industry, or has maybe they’ve never worked with building a website for your industry at all, but they’re really good at SEO. Versus somebody who you don’t know if they’re qualified in SEO, but you do know that they’re an expert in that niche, right? Their website’s ready to go. They look good, they talk good, and things like that. So first things first, if you’re enamored with the vendor that has turnkey good-looking websites, they should have some kind of client portfolio that they’re making public, or maybe ask for some examples.

You should be able to look at this vendor’s website or this agency’s website and find their examples of websites that they’ve built for their clients and check those out, pull them up, look at their site. You should be able to tell what keywords they’re trying to rank for, what cities that they’re in by the name of their businesses, by the content on the homepage and things like that. Do some Google searches, do them on desktop, do it in incognito mode, however sophisticated or in-depth you want to be, just do some searches to see if their example websites that they’re giving you are ranking or not for any given city, right? That’s first and foremost as a test.

Secondly, this is something that we’ve seen with kind of niche industry, specialty agencies, is something I would definitely ask if I was going to patronize them is, “Are you serving anybody else in my market? Is there exclusivity?” If you’re just really good at auto repair websites, is there anybody else in town you’re already working with, right? Because I’m going to be competing with them in this digital space. With other on the other side of town, down the block or whatever, when it comes to the digital competition, the playing field is a lot flatter than whatever your geographic “zone” may be. So if they’re specialized in this niche, are they serving your competitors? Is definitely a big question to check out, anybody in your area. If they’re not, do you then get exclusivity going forward? Or, if the guy down the street decides or guy on the streets decides that they want to use this vendor too, are they going to get the same website, a different looking website, same territory? Competing against each other. Things like that would be a really big concern, right?

Additionally, in that same vein, is your content original? Is this the same boiler plate homepage that’s on 75 other websites that’s across the country. When it comes to Google, whether it be building your EAT stuff, or your entity and all that, or just the original content avoiding duplicate content and things like that, is the stuff on this turnkey website going to resonate and be original and stick, or is it going to be kind of vanilla and look like it also rank, because if somebody is looking at your business, they’ve looked at maybe two or three competitors like, these all kind of look the same, right? Nothing stands out. So those would be some concerns that I would have. It doesn’t mean you shouldn’t choose the niche specialty shop.

These are just things you’re going to want to look at. Don’t just be enamored like, “Wow, they really get my business. That’s what I’m going to use.” This is just things that vet them out. There’s going to be plenty of shops out there that are really good in this niche and also can do these things successfully that we’re talking, right? There’s other ones that definitely don’t, they just, “We’ve got this website template figured out, it looks good for this industry and let’s just sell the heck out of it to anybody who wants to buy it.”

So if SEO is your thing, check those things out. Now on the flip side, I would kind of provide this kind of quick positioning. And this was kind of the last bit that I have to say about it at least. I think it’s much harder to take a niche agency who’s really good with imagery and things like that, and have them get good at SEO and rank your site, versus taking an agency who is really good at SEO, but doesn’t know your industry to rank it well, right? Because you as a business owner or a marketing manager or whatever your role is, you know about your business. Better than anybody else does. And you should know a lot about your particular industry.

If you’ve got a good agency working on SEO and they’ve got good skills for web design, you should be able to work with them to make a good looking website, okay? This is 2021, we’re in the digital era, there’s so many things that make our job easier in every which way. Web design is one of them. You can get pre-made templates in WordPress that are just fantastic out of the box. Even maybe pre-made for a certain industry, right? They just need content filled in. Not saying everybody’s just equal, but it’s not that hard nowadays than it was even a couple of years ago to make a really good looking website, just because of these themes and these templates and these pre-made structures. So you can take an SEO agency that maybe isn’t going to win awards for web design, but they can make a web design, I’m sorry, they can make a website look as good as anybody else’s, as long as they work with you, the client. If you’re like, “This is what I want. I’ve got a couple of examples. Can you make it look like this?” The answer should be, yes.

So it’s kind of like, you can teach an SEO agency, it’s a bad way to say it probably, but you can teach an SEO agency how to make a good website way easier then you can take a web design company and have them be good at SEO. Two completely different crafts. One of them is way more technical than the other. And I didn’t go to psychology. I don’t know left-brain, right-brain, why what I’m saying is true or not, and I have no facts to back that up. Kind of an esoteric opinion standpoint, but tool set and things like that, they’re out there. You’ve got stock photography. You’ve got iPhones that take pictures as good as high-end cameras did a couple of years ago.

The imagery and the look is not the hard part on your web design. The hard part is the SEO. Vet out your vendor for SEO, or choose an SEO company that can make a good looking website with your help. So that doesn’t mean … I’m not, I guess I’m not picking one or the other here, right? Because as with all things for SEO, it depends really, these are just kind of thoughts, and ways for you to explore before you pick one or the other. So hopefully that makes sense. Bob, I’ll throw it to you. If you’re going to piggyback on any of that or expand?

Bob Brennan: Yeah, I think all that is, that’s what Sue said and what you said is a 100% spot on it. The way I look at it from a business person is a return on investment or more importantly risk. I approach it from the risk perspective. If I’m going to hire a salesperson for one of my businesses and they’re going to want let’s say a figure of 60 or $80,000 a year, I’m going to look at it and I’m going to say, “Okay, that’s a lot of money.” And maybe these days it isn’t, but it is, it’s a lot of money and it’s money, that’s what you need to make today to survive.

So that being said, I’m going to approach that from what’s my downside. What’s my max downside? And for me, I look at it as a 90-day window. So, you would divide that by four. And so my max downside would be 15 to 20,000 that I can afford to lose. So I would approach that same mindset with a website to say, “Okay, I don’t know if you do the job or not, but here’s the bottom line. You had 90 days to move the needle and begin to get return on investment. You don’t need to get all that money back, but you’ve got 90 days to effectively let’s say get half of that back in moving the needle, measuring the new business that we’re getting.” And so to that end, whatever direction you decide to go, make darn sure you’re measuring what you currently have. If you’re starting from zero, that’s pretty easy. No website, no nothing, great.

90 days from now, I expect to get five to 10 calls a month for my deck building business or whatever it might be. Therefore, if I get five to 10, I know I can close one or two of those. And I’m going to get return on investment on that money, that monthly money spend on that. So that’s important. That’s important between you and whoever you choose to work with that you set, these are the expectations. And if you can’t meet them, I’ve got to switch gears to the non-niche website person that isn’t in the niche world, but says they’re really good at SEO. And that’s what we’re going to do.

If they tell you, in my opinion, that, “Oh, I need 180 days to five years to get you to the top of Google,” big timeout. This is a 90-day exercise. You should be able to get in the top three. And so when we talk about ranking, everybody’s clear, we’re talking about the top three, and ideally you need to have a plan that you’re in the top two in for sure 180 days. Otherwise, you are going to shift gears and you’re going to move to somebody else. And that’s the way I would approach it.

Now, so you’ve got design. I agree with you. I think it’s better to approach it from an engineer and then work into a design piece, that’s a little bit easier. But if you’re going outside the niche piece where the niche person is saying, “Yeah, I can do all those things. And not only that I know the deck building industry and everything else that goes with it.” Okay, if we’re going to go another direction, you’re going to say, “Okay, I’m going to work with somebody that does STL.” And make sure they’re working yet a business level that you’re at or higher. So as an example, I have a shoe shine shop or a shoe repair shop. Nothing wrong with that, but the average transaction is $87, okay?

You need SEO for your shoe shine shop. Not going to be too terribly difficult, but if somebody is offering to give you SEO, provide you SEO services, is operating at a plastic surgeon level and working with plastic surgeons and lawyers and things like that. It’s very competitive, and high transaction situation where each transaction is in the thousands of dollars. And they’re willing to do it at a price point that you can afford. You might want to consider them because it’s, you know what I mean, it should be a piece of cake slam dunk. They can figure out the content, they can figure out everything else and make it happen.

So that’s kind of my quick two cents on it is to make sure that if they are niche, that’s okay, what other niches are they working … Are they working on niches that are a higher threshold sales transaction than what you have? Then you’re then you’re probably okay in terms of SEO and everything else. But if they’re in this weird niche for garden gnomes, and we’re really good at websites for garden gnomes, that’s not going to, that’s only going to take you so far.
Jesse Dolan: Might not translate in other industries, yeah.

Bob Brennan: Right. So setting those expectations, the goals, the boundaries, setting the metrics. In other words, we’re talking phone calls and emails here. We’re not talking traffic. Traffic at the end of the day doesn’t pay the bills. We get a lot of traffic for this podcast, and it helps us to whatever extent. But if it didn’t, we don’t really care. You know what I mean? I mean, we could have a 100,000 followers and all kinds of stuff, but if it doesn’t help us generate business or help our business, it’s not going to really mean much.

And that would be true website traffic that people talk about in ranks. And if they’re talking about moving up ranks and you’re, “Oh, look, you went from 16th to now you’re 12th.” Well, that ain’t going to get it done. You got to make the phone ring and you’ve got to make the email. Now, if that happens and you’re in the 12th position and 10th position. Okay well, and you came from zero, then you’re moving in the right direction. But I don’t know, I really get worked up about this, but you really got to be setting those expectations, keeping them accountable, and not allowing for any excuses after a certain timeframe. And after that timeframe, if they’re not being able to produce, you’ve got to move on.

Jesse Dolan: Yeah. I mean, otherwise you’re literally just spending money for no ROI at that point. If you’re stuck in purgatory, mean you’re not in that top three for any terms, you’re just, the math is that you’re just not getting the business then. At least from your website. Maybe you did some other campaign that’s propping up your overall numbers, but yeah, you got to be getting ranks. You got to be getting traffic. But then that translates to business. Really at the end of the day those are the precursors, and that’s how you get your ROI is that customer, that client transaction, so.

Bob Brennan: Yeah. And for goodness sake, don’t mix the streams. In other words, assign a phone number to your website that you can track and record calls and the volume of calls and everything else. If you’re going to take out a newspaper ad, radio ad, or some other form of marketing, please use a different phone number or some other metric not to get the streams crossed. Because they’re going to ask you, “Are you going to?” I don’t know. Or somebody else is going to claim that all those calls are from the newspaper ad or whatever, and you’re not going to know. And you got to keep those streams separate.

Sue Ginsburg: Jesse, I really liked one of the things that you said, and then, Bob, you discuss it as well about, who is it easier to learn the other thing? And when I think about the process of setting up the SEO, the exercise of going through keywords and competitors’ sites, you learn about that industry niche pretty quickly and pretty thoroughly by the work that’s needed to research and put SEO in place.

Jesse Dolan: Yeah. And I think too, it’s important to note, like from a client perspective of, if I can choose a turnkey website, just get rid of the SEO part, which is kind of a trump card, right? I think we can all agree on that. If you can get something out of the box that ranks high and your SEO is successful, but maybe isn’t the prettiest site, you’re going to get business benefits from that, more than a pretty site that’s not ranked, right?

Sue Ginsburg: All right. If you remember one thing and one thing only about this discussion amongst us, decide what role you want your website to play in your business, and choose a website builder with that in mind. Do you want a beautiful website that you want people coming to to see the beautiful people? Well, choose your website builder based on that. Are you looking for an educational website where you want to be a resource to people and you want them to come and learn and download and et cetera, then choose for that. And if you’re building a website so that you can be found, you want it to be a lead magnet, a sales person for you, and it to be part of your growing your business team, then look for or evaluate your web builder on that.

Jesse Dolan: And that meaning SEO at the end of the day, really right there on that last one, just to be clear, so.

Sue Ginsburg: Sure, for sure. So again, if we go back to the quote for this episode, “Play by the rules, but be ferocious,” Phil Knight. “Father up, just do it,” then I’d also add, know what the rules are and know what’s right for you, because it’s going to be different for everybody, depending on what you want.

Jesse Dolan: I think that ties into something, Bob, you said before too, and we use all the time now is, “That’s what we’re doing in SEO. It’s Google’s game, we’re just playing on their board. They’re making the rules.” And I think all that applies right there too, so. All right, so awesome questions. Again, David, thanks for being the inspiration for this topic. And he probably is hearing a lot of similar stuff that was sent via emails on the same topics, because a lot of the same points here.

Anybody else out there, if you’ve got a question, again, if it’s big or small, tactical or not, whatever it is, we’d love to hear it so we can answer it on the show. If it’s a challenge you’re having, other people are having it too. So reach out to us, go to, down at the bottom left corner, click the button to submit a question. You can either send it over or you can call it in. If you do you call it in, we’d love to play your audio on the show and then we’re going to send you off a free T-shirt. So if you’re interested in that, we would love to get it from you. All right, guys. Any other quick thoughts, or should we wrap it up? Good to go?

Bob Brennan: Good to go.

Jesse Dolan: All right. That does it for this episode. Thanks for tuning in everybody, catch you on the next one.

Bob Brennan: Bye.

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