You, small business owner, would do well to consider that your website is the worldwide equivalent of your local store or business office. It represents you and your business to the world at large, just as your real-world shop or office represents you to your local community. And if you are negligent about who you give the keys to your website to, it may cost you even more than if someone were to steal from your bricks-and-mortar shop. You can move your local shop to another block or town, but mistakes made online may harm your bottom line and your reputation for years to come.

So please, take the time to read this, or do your due diligence elsewhere before hiring a WordPress web developer and/or SEO company, just as you would research establishing a location and hiring new employees for your new shop or office.

Whether you choose Savage Sites or another ethical company to help build your online presence, you need to know that this is serious stuff. We’ve seen some real business disasters, and we don’t want to see these things happen to you. Most recently, we have helped (or are helping) to resolve issues for clients such as the following:

  • A dental practice fired an employee who then logged into their system, stole their email list, and blasted all of their patients with slanderous claims that took months to recover from.
  • A solar power company hired an SEO company who then tried to steal their trademark and several years and court battles later is still using the solar company’s proprietary information to compete directly against them online.
  • An SEO company caused an auto repair shop to lose thousands of online visitors after being hired to increase the repair shop’s website traffic. They built backlinks to the shop’s website from spam sites and free blogs that were stuffed full of keywords, breaking every principle that Google warns against. The site rapidly dropped in search engine results, and we hard to work hard to repair the damage done.

So, after helping several new clients repair the damage done by incompetent or fraudulent SEO companies and web designers, we decided to write a post to help you find the right WordPress website developer and SEO company for your specific needs.


[blue_message]A few years ago, web designers, developers, and SEO consultants provided three separate and distinct services, but not anymore. The best developer for your small business will understand how to integrate all three of these key essentials into your new website.

Hire a developer who listens to you, who will conduct a thorough site audit, create a solid site plan, and who clearly understands and applies effective, organic SEO strategies. Read your contract carefully before proceeding, and be responsive to your developer as the project progresses.[/blue_message]

Building on WordPress Makes the Entire Process Easier (Sometime too Easy)

WordPress is an ideal CMS (content management system), website platform, and SEO friendly application all in one for small businesses when used properly.

Almost anyone can learn to install WordPress, a theme, and then to post content, given enough time. And we do encourage our clients to learn as much about using WordPress as they care to. We even offer WordPress training.

But there is much more than mere mechanics to developing a successful website.

Taking the cheapest route to your new website for the short term may cost you dearly in the long run. 

That said, some WordPress themes are more flexible than others. Unless you have already decided on a pre-built theme for your site, we suggest that you ask your developer to build your WordPress site on a framework, such as Suffusion, Genesis, or Thesis, instead of using a less flexible theme that may be difficult to modify in the future. 

[blue_message]Following is the approach that a solid, ethical WordPress developer will use when discussing your new, custom website project:

  • Conduct an in-depth interview regarding your business rules and online goals, as well as determining what your needs, expectations, and budget are for your new site.
  • Send you a contract outlining the project scope with all deliverables, costs, and timelines. They should also define both your responsibilities as a client and their own. There is no way to create an effective custom website without teamwork between developer and client.
  • An experienced developer will always ask for a deposit before beginning your website. If they’re desperate enough to invest their time in your site without a deposit, that’s not usually a good sign.
  • Conduct a thorough site audit and report their findings to you if you have an existing website. It’s essential to know what is already working and what’s not working before developing a new site plan.
  • Develop a site plan with sitemap and ask you to review and approve it before proceeding. Logical navigation is one of the main keys to a website’s success.
  • Integrate basic organic SEO strategies into your website by including an analytics program and by installing and properly configuring an SEO plugin using your site’s keywords with best-practice methods.
  • Design a site that works well on mobile devices. This is essential to your online success in 2012 and beyond. That means no Flash or other features that don’t play well with mobile phones and iPads.
  • An ethical, helpful developer will help walk you through the process of buying a domain name without actually doing it for you. No exceptions. And they will either host your site without tying you to a long-term contract, or they will advise you on buying hosting through a reputable provider. With our ten years of experience using various hosting companies, we recommend GoDaddy to our clients. They’re not perfect, but we use them ourselves because they are the best overall, and they provide WordPress better than other hosts we’ve dealt with. They are by far the best hosting company that offers month-to-month hosting options—good to know when you don’t want to spend a lot of money up front.


Your Web Designer MUST Integrate Basic SEO Strategies into Your New Website

The only exception to this rule is if you have no desire to rank well in search engines. A few businesses actually do want to hide their membership sites from searchers, as their sites contain proprietary information for viewing by invitation only. Likewise, some bloggers who post family photos and documents only want family members and friends to see their sites. For everyone else, this section applies to you.

Clean SEO (Search Engine Optimization) and site structure are at least as important to your online success as is an attractive site design.

By reading this far, you’re likely to avoid the fate of so many of our clients who found after the damage was done, and who hired us to do damge control. Next, we’ll tell you what to look for when hiring an SEO consultant or developer/SEO consultant.


Did you know that scammy SEO companies use tactics that are likely to actually cost you dearly in terms of search engine rankings, traffic, reputation, and money—possibly for years to come?

Unfortunately, SEO companies know that they can easily fake out unsuspecting clients by speaking in generalities and locking them in with various misleading practices. This field seems to be one of the top areas to which fraudsters are drawn. They can make a quick buck by making you believe that they are working diligently on your behalf, even while taking your business away from you, and you may not learn the truth until you’ve spent thousands of dollars and are locked into their services with no place to turn.

That’s where we come in. We clean up after the bad guys, but we’d rather you get it right the first time—even if it’s with an ethical company other than Savage Sites.

We’ve recently helped clients repair the significant damage that fake SEO companies inflicted on the clients’ websites. After we reviewed the warning signs that these recent clients missed when hiring their previous SEO companies and web designers, we developed a checklist to help you to tell the difference between ethical internet companies and those who are out to deceive you:

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And just to drive the point home that you should not jump at the first $199 website option that you find on Craigslist, read about a few more issues that we’ve fixed for clients who didn’t understand how to choose a web developer. These clients called us after they discovered that they were getting little to no traffic on their websites after hiring people who were supposed to improve that:

  • Client domains were purchased by the developers and held hostage when the clients wanted to move to another designer or maintenance vendor.
  • Hidden links to spammy websites were surreptitiously embedded in a client’s site. If you even manage to discover this, as we did during a site audit, it’s hard to recover from this in Google’s eyes, since Google considers the client guilty by association.
  • Website hosting was provided by developer and not secured well, so servers were hacked. Clients’ sites were hijacked as a result and their domains were re-directed to other people’s websites. They lost all of their traffic, and again, this is hard to recover from in Google (but we succeeded!)
  • We frequently conduct site audits, and have found that several clients’ sites consisted of content that were stolen by the developer from other websites. This can directly cause at least three fatal results:
    • The original owner may discover the theft and have your website removed from your server until you remove all of the content.
    • The original content owner may ask Google to remove your site from its search results, and you will have to start from scratch if this happens.
    • Google will recognize that your content is not original, and will penalize your site by placing it so far back in search results that it will rarely get any traffic.
  • Clients’ proprietary traffic stats were misused by a developer, who built websites that directly competed with the client’s site. Not only that, the developer hid links to his own competing sites in the client site, used a similar trade name, and impersonated the client on YouTube, drawing much of the client’s traffic away from his site. The client was entirely unaware of this until we exposed the problem during a site audit.
  • Clients were drawn to low-cost website design offers, and ended up paying in excess of $2,500 per MONTH for maintenance and SEO services. Because the clients allowed the developers to buy their domain names and provide hosting, they had to start over with new domain names and build new websites after the developers refused to release the clients’ own websites to them.
  • Clients’ websites were not structured properly, and visitors abandoned their sites within seconds of landing on their home pages for lack of clear navigation.
  • Many of our clients had no idea what their existing website traffic statistics were until we asked. Every website developer who has the slightest clue will include an analytics program in every website.
  • Most of our clients have come to us without having access to their own domain and hosting account login information. Any ethical developer will INSIST that you keep and file this information for ready access.
  • At least two of our recent clients discovered hidden “backdoor” passwords and IDs installed by their developers after they had fired the developers. An ethical developer will inform you of any and all logins they create to access your website, and they will suggest that you change your password if you do not continue to retain their services.

We hope that you will print this guide or save it as a PDF and refer to it when choosing a WordPress developer or SEO consultant. Actually, we suggest that you call or email us right now, but we truly hope that you find someone who is experienced, capable, and ethical to help you launch or improve your business online.

We specialize in cleaning up after those other guys.

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