When our company gets interviewed for web development jobs, we hear the same questions:
- What will my site look like?
- Can we make it do this?
- How much does it cost?
Rarely do we have prospects ask about how their site launch will impact their search engine performance, yet what happens when a new site goes live can have a positive or severely negative effect on SEO. Companies that are searching for web development firms to work with should integrate these five questions into their interview process.
1. Do you have an experienced SEO expert on staff?
A lack of diversity is one of the major disadvantages of working with a shop that only provides web development. When you choose an agency that offers a variety of services, you benefit from team members with various backgrounds and specialties working on your project.
Choosing a web development company with an experienced SEO expert on staff is crucial to the success of your website post-launch. Launching a new site without temporarily or permanently damaging search engine rankings is a delicate process. With an SEO expert on board your team will be more successful in preserving existing rankings and promoting new target keywords in the search engine.
2. Can you share some Google Analytics statistics for sites you recently launched?
Web development agencies that care about the success of their sites post-launch will not only have access to the search engine ranking and traffic data for recently launched sites; they will also have no problem sharing information about the success of those projects.
If an agency doesn’t have access to the ranking and traffic data from recently launched sites or refuses to share that information with you, turn around and run the other direction. They are either not sophisticated enough to incorporate SEO into their development process, or they have not had any recent successes. Either way, you want nothing to do with them.
3. How do you handle redirecting users from URLs on the old site to the new URLs?
On your current site, you have many pages of existing content from your main pages to your blog posts. Most likely, there are other sites out there linking to that content, including Google. When you launch a new site, the URLs for this content often change. If left unmanaged, these broken links would cause Google to believe those pages no longer existed, and you would be removed from the rankings until Google was able to find your new content. This can be devastating to a site’s traffic.
For example, we pitched for this company in February, and they decided to go with someone else to save money. The company they hired had no experience in SEO, and tanked their rankings for every keyword they were targeting. You can see here that after the site launched in April, their rankings completely disappear and never return:
Proper pre-launch SEO for a new site requires setting up permanent URL redirects. By setting these up, you tell the search engine and the end user’s browser where to find the new URL, and the user is redirected without ever knowing it happened – the ideal situation for both SEO and user experience.
4. How much meta tag optimization is included in our contract?
Meta tags serve your site in a few ways. The meta title is the title of the page that shows up in the tab of your browser. In addition, Google frequently uses the meta title as the blue link in your website’s listing on a search engine results page.
In addition to these practical applications that tell users what your site is about, meta tags also tell search engines what a page on your site is about. Including at least one keyword per page in your meta titles is key to informing the search engine and the user what they will find on the page.
When keywords that users include in their search match the words in the title tag and meta description, Google and other search engines will bold that text. Ensuring your target keywords match those that the user is searching will increase click-through-rate, which can indirectly influence rankings.
It’s important to note that updating your title tags to include keywords is not enough. Keyword stuffing should be avoided, and meta titles and descriptions should be easily read by humans as well as the search engine. The key is finding that balance and matching the content on your site to the desired keyword target.
5. What tracking setup is included in our contract?
In order to monitor the success of your site post-launch, tracking must be setup to measure traffic, rankings changes, and search engine impressions. Free tools that should be setup on every site include:
- Google Analytics
- Google Webmaster Tools
- Bing Webmaster Tools
- Conversion Tracking (through Google Analytics)
Some web development companies include this tracking setup automatically – for others, you will have to ask. If you have these tools setup on your current site, you will have to provide the company login information if you wish to use the same accounts. This is highly recommended to ensure continuity in your data collection.
The real cost of web development
Knowing the answers to these five questions will help you evaluate the real cost of doing business with each company your interview. Including all of these factors into your contract may increase the cost by a few thousand dollars for the project, but it may reduce revenue losses that may incur due to poor search engine rankings.