The well-known saying ‘You have to spend money to make money’ may be quite apt when it comes to fighting your way out of the credit crunch, at least in one respect—your website.
In my crusade to build websites that comply with the W3C’s Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI), I contacted a client whose site I had designed four years ago and suggested he get his website updated using valid XHTML and CSS. The benefit would be a site that is accessible to most users and on most platforms, such as smart phones and PDAs, one that worked consistently across the myriad of browsers (Safari, Firefox, Opera, Internet Explorer, etc) and operating systems (Apple Mac, Windows, Linux). By using valid code you can build a site that is more accessible to people with visual impairments and those with disabilities—a legal requirement in the UK and the US (as well as many other countries). The third benefit I mentioned to my client was that search engine optimisation (SEO) would, as a matter of course, be addressed whilst updating their website.
This was 18 months ago. My client responded that they were very busy and so wasn’t concerned about doing anything with the web site at that time. Fair enough, I thought, and left it at that.
About five weeks ago I had an enquiry from a company who had relocated to Staffordshire and needed to update their website. I took a look at the underlying code of their current site and it really required a full re-code to bring it up to the W3C’s standards and make it more search-engine friendly as a consequence. So I jumped on my white horse again and set about my crusade… They agreed and I recoded the site. At the same time I took the opportunity to smarten up the overall design to give it a more polished edge (the client had mentioned they wanted to attract more corporate clients, you see), I even threw in a new masthead. The client was very happy: ‘I love the new lay out and pictures!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!’. The revamped website was launched a couple of weeks ago—too soon to know what effect it will have on their search engine rankings. The client was JCB Security Ltd (Joint Contract Bodyguards, providing event security and close protection services in the UK).
To return to my original thread, whilst in the middle of working on the above project, I received an email from my client basically saying that things had quietened down recently (they’re in the construction business) and that they had hired an SEO company to improve their search engine rankings for more keywords and phrases than it currently achieved. They wanted to know if I was available to implement the changes suggested by the SEO company. As the said changes would mostly have been addressed by re-coding the site as I had initially suggested, I suggested it again. And this time they agreed. They also took the opportunity to complete the portfolio section with a photo gallery of their projects. The revamp is almost finished, and the site should be launched in the next couple of days.
No one can guarantee a high ranking on search engines—unless they pay for a sponsored link—but with a bit of luck, and some hard work by the SEO company, once the updated website is launched my client’s listing will rise up the ranks naturally, which will bring targeted prospects to their site.
For a large number of small business owners and start-ups their website is their ‘shop window’, but it’s of little value if no one can find it. So whilst the credit crunch is on and most people are tightening their belts—although, with the festive season coming up, I guarantee most of us will be hastily loosening our belts after indulging in too much Xmas pud!—it seems like the right time to spend a bit of money on giving your virtual shop window a bit of a spit and polish. But spend wisely, it shouldn’t cost an arm and leg to get the job done.
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