I’ve not written a post for a while that just draws attention to another discussion. But I thought Mark Jackson’s two articles from the past week or so were absolutely brilliant. Mark – look me up sometime, I’d love to buy you a beer.
It also rekindled my thinking that I need to finally change the name of my firm. You all know what a joy doing that is, especially when you have strong search rank for your old domain name.
I hear this all the time
“I’m a designer and I don’t really do I.T.”
“I’m more of an I.T. person, I don’t really do design.”
“I looked at competitor sites and built something similar.”
“We don’t really look at our site’s statistics much.”
I’m old. I’m blessed (cursed?) with a background EXTENSIVE in both I.T., Design, and Search Marketing. What I realized even with the different viewpoints is that SEM (Search Engine Marketing) is far more important than any pixel tweaking or snazzy coding ever was or would be to the growth of a web business. I imagine I see the world like those flies that have 100s of lenses each giving a slightly different angle on things.
In 1998 when I started, I was all about web design and meta tags, but over the next 3-4 years, through 2002, I did more and more real search marketing. By 2004, it was almost full-time, a split between organic SEO, PPC, and landing page optimization. Design was done as a necessary vehicle to achieve search rank – sort of a super-landing-page project (in my mind at least.) Site Creations, Inc. doesn’t fit anymore. I’m going to have to rebrand soon to be faithful to this change.
I feel that no design should be started without a true SEM expert present at the meeting, and throughout design. This introduces confusion into my sales activity, of course. Most people come to me wanting web design, often for abysmal product offerings. I want to help, but unless they have a great offer, and truly understand how conversion-driven design works, I have a hard time staying enthused unless we can address some of the underlying issues first. I thought David Rodnitzky did a nice job of summing up one way this can work:
….frequently pitch clients on a combination of ongoing SEM consulting and a one-time usability tune-up. Again, this is a win-win situation – I get more of the client’s business by charging for the usability assessment, the client gets a much better converting Web site out of the deal, and we both end up satisfied with the increased success of the search engine marketing campaign….
….it’s important as a consultant to try to bring these folks at least a little closer to earth and establish realistic and clearly understood goals at the beginning of the relationship….
I realize that I.T. and design skills are both vital to the success of many sites – features, functions, branding, and identity are naturally very important. But when “expertise-egos” get in the way, you lose. When that feature is taken too far for no good reason, or when that customer-driven design compromise makes you feel defensive, it’s time to hand over the keys.