There are a lot of web developers telling clients they will optimize their web site for search engines and the client accepts that without questioning their search engine optimization (SEO) knowledge. Time and again I review sites and find they have been developed without following even basic SEO principles.
Here are 10 questions to ask your web developer to make sure they know what they are talking about:
1. Where is your web developer’s site positioned in organic search results?
If they can’t achieve SEO results for themselves then they won’t achieve the results you want. How did you find them? If you are looking for a local web designer you should “Google” the keywords you think of and see where they are on the list. In my case I would want Dandelion Web Design to be number one for my closest keywords WordPress Designer and as high as possible for variations such as using web design Toronto, web developer…well you get the idea. Don’t hire a web designer for SEO without checking out how their own site ranks as well as other sites in their portfolio.
2. Does the web developer obey the rules?
If your web developer is using tricks to improve your SEO rank they will probably end up getting your site banned from Google or other search engines. Once your site has been banned it can be very difficult to get reinstated and can take months or even years. Make sure whoever is working on your site is following the rules. I recently assessed a site that had their competitor’s name in the meta tags and as hidden text on the page. Adding text in the same colour as the background of the page so search engine robots will find it but site visitors won’t will get you banned.
3. Do they offer a guarantee of search placement?
Nobody can guarantee you a certain search engine ranking. If somebody makes outrageous claims like promises to get you on the first page of Google this should be a red flag alerting you that this company is not reputable. They are probably talking about pay-per-click and not natural search engine placement. Pay-per-click advertising is great for specific marketing strategies, but not for ongoing search engine visibility. Pay-per-click is not a long-term solution unless you have deep pockets. “No one can guarantee a #1 ranking on Google. Beware of SEOs that claim to guarantee rankings, or that claim a “special relationship” with Google, or that claim to have a “priority submit” to Google. There is no priority submit for Google.”
4. Are they using up-to-date SEO practices?
The way search engines work is changing to keep up with unethical tricks and with social media trends. You need to read up on the latest trends so you can test their knowledge. Ask them what has changed recently in Google’s algorithm and check up on what they say.
5. Which WordPress plugin do they use for SEO?
A number of years ago, SEO was all about the “keywords” meta tag. Major search engines no longer care about the keyword meta tag. That said, it is still important to use the “description” and “title” meta tags. I’ve found many sites that are missing these. Which WordPress plugin do they use for SEO? Ask for the SEO by Yoast plugin.
6. Do they offer SEO copywriting services?
Keywords need to be used naturally in weighted areas of the site, as text-based links, in descriptive image names and Alt text (alternative text). Your page title should be different for each page of your site and should use keywords. There is no point having a title tag that just says “home” or “about us”.
7. How will traffic results be monitored?
There are great free tools available for checking up on your results. Ask your web developer to add your google analytics tracking code.
8. Do coding practices affect SEO?
YES! In one website assessment I found the equivalent of 6 full pages of messy code before reaching the content. You want search engines to immediately find well written content that uses your keywords properly—not a clutter of code. Your developer should use external stylesheets (CSS) instead of inline styles. Page speed matters and messy code takes longer to load.
9. How will site navigation be handled?
Will they include a sitemap? You need to supply the search bots with text-based links to all of your pages as well as an xml sitemap tells the search engines which pages to index. Additional navigational aids include a breadcrumb trail and a search box.
10. How will the site be found once it is developed?
Don’t assume that the web developer will use Google search console to verify the website and submit a sitemap. You need to make sure this is done.
Googlebots will also find your site from inbound links—links that point to your site from other sites. Inbound links are a major component of your website’s search ranking. Ask those linking to your site to do so using your keywords not words such as “click here”. Be careful here, if your website is linking to and receiving links from websites that search engines consider unsavory, it can be penalized. So it is very important that you don’t get into link building schemes. You want natural links to your site from reputable websites.
Do you have a question about SEO? Let me know and I’ll be happy to respond.
One thought on “10 Questions to Ask Your Web Developer about SEO”
My client is a website developer, and we did a blog post that is similar to this. I think one of the most important things to keep in mind is what you discuss in point #3. Nobody can guarantee traffic. You can guarantee exposure and proper coding, but the blogosphere can be hard to figure out sometimes. You never know when one post will make a splash and another one doesn’t. You are providing very helpful and useful information here, as some so-called “SEO experts” are gouging people by making promises that nobody can guarantee.
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