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If you're just starting out on a new Web site promotion adventure, the first thing you need to learn is how to recognise and avoid the Big Bad Wolf. He has many disguises.

[ Short Answer ] [ Long Answer - WYSIWYG | References | Jargon | Spam Merchants | Domain Trap | Special Reports | Checks | Software ]


Ideally, you should do a lot of research (read the whole of this site, for example) and become an expert yourself. It takes some effort but it'll produce the best results.

If that seems a bit extreme to you right now, then your next course of action is to get some paid help of one kind or another. Paid help is rife, to say the least, but if you use a little common sense you should be able to avoid the hordes of fly-by-night outfits.

So, what do you look for in a good professional?


The Short Answer

Hire deadlock Design and you'll be in safe hands.

Skip the long answer...


The Long Answer

Treat your Web site like you would your child and you won't go far wrong. If you were sending little Jimmy to kindergarten or a new school you would be looking for the same things that are important in Web professionals.


What You See Is What You Get

The louder a webmaster bleats about his expertise and experience, the more wary you should be. One question will separate the men from the boys:

Show me what you've done.

It won't take you long to recognise some of these smoke screens:

  • Phrases like "we've been marketing on the Internet since 1978" (with no evidence).
  • Claims like "our clients include IBM, Texaco, Hewlett Packard..." (name dropping with no evidence).
  • Text-only references without any email or Web site links.
  • Under Construction, come back soon (why bother?)

You might think "well, they must be so busy with all this important work that they haven't had time to update their Web site". The truth is that if they had any outstanding work or references to show you, then you can bet your bottom dollar they'd be shouting at you, in large letters, from the top of their home page. If there's a lack of examples, that's because they don't exist.


References

Glowing testimonials are a Good Thing, but who wrote them? If there isn't an email or Web site link to go with the testimonial, there's probably a good reason for that. The most common reason is that the webmaster made it up.

A concept that has recently been emerging on the Net is the "third party watchdog site" such as The Public Eye. They act as a "safe place" for customers to file reports on vendors. Plenty of good testimonials on sites like these mean two things: a) the vendor has actually served customers before(!) and b) the testimonials are reliable - a vendor would not join a program like this unless he was confident about receiving good karma. Here's our file.


Jargon

My pet hate.

If you took your car to a mechanic, you would want to know what was wrong with your car, in plain English, before you paid the bill. You'd get angry if he tried to blind you with science. So don't let a Web professional get away with it either. If you can't understand him, you won't learn anything and you won't know what you're paying for.


Spam Merchants

If you've been on the Web for more than five minutes, you will have had at least a few unsolicited emails from dubious individuals along the lines of:

Your customers can't find you! We GUARANTEE you a TOP TEN listing on all the major search engines...

Send your check to...

Avoid them like the plague. They probably can get you a top ten listing, but not for any useful keywords. For example, if your company name is "Greenacres Landscape Gardening" what they'll do is show you your top listing for a search string of "Greenacres Landscape Gardening" but no user will ever use that exact search string, so it won't bring you any traffic. Many people might search for "landscape gardening" but you would find your page at #486 for that (useful) search string.

If they guarantee you a Yahoo! listing, they're simply lying through their teeth.


The Domain Trap

There are some desperate and unscrupulous Web site designers around. If you contract somebody to build and host your site, beware. If your site designer registers the domain name of your site in their own company's name, then your site belongs to them. If you decide later on that your designer isn't performing and you want to try somebody else, you won't be able to because you'll be locked out of your site. Your designer could delete your site, change the contact email addresses to suit himself, or do anything else he pleases. You'll be powerless. This tactic is particularly nasty because it's an abuse of trust, but it happens all the time, I've had plenty of victims crying on my shoulder.

Start off on the right foot and you'll avoid extreme distress later on.

Pay your own hosting fees (average $30 a month) directly to your hosting service, not to your designer (unless he owns the server). Fill in the hosting order form yourself. Keep your server login details, even if you don't know how to use them yet - that is: host name; user ID; password. When you fill in the order form to open your hosting account you'll normally be asked to give your chosen domain name. The company details you enter will be used to register your domain. This is the correct way to do it. You should end up with a domain name registration that shows your company name at the top, and usually your name and email address as the billing contact, although this is not so vital. The technical contact is usually your hosting service.


Hosting Tip: Whichever host you decide to sign up with, make sure their servers are in the USA, even if you happen to live in Outer Mongolia. 90% of your potential customers live in the USA and hopefully they'll be accessing your site more than you will.

NEW: deadlock is now offering hosting plans. Our info pages will soon be appearing, but meanwhile please ask Jim for details.


Special Reports

There are many companies offering search engine reports for sale. Some people seem to think that if they spend money they'll get much more/better info than what's available here on this free site. Well, you don't have to take my word for it, but I've seen several of these reports and 9/10 of them are rather pathetic.

In one particularly nasty case last year, somebody emailed me and said:

"Hi Jim, I paid $30 to some guy and was given the URL of some 'search engine secrets' pages. When I got there I recognised it immediately because I've visited your site before - it's your work. Are you aware that somebody is selling it?"

I certainly wasn't aware of it!

The moral of the story is: sometimes the best things in life really are free.


Before You Pay By Check

I'm in the very fortunate position of being able to accept credit cards, and I sympathise with businessmen and women who can't because I know how difficult it is to be accepted for a merchant account (here's how). However, as a customer, bear in mind that if you receive bad service (or none at all) it's far more difficult to get your money back once somebody has cashed your check, than to charge back your credit card.

Call me cynical if you like...


Software

In the past I would have told you to avoid using software for your promotion campaign, but these days the software has become so sophisticated that doing everything manually will be a big handicap and you'll get left behind without it. The most important thing about using software is that it must be powerful, but at the same time leave you in control of every aspect. Here's a link to the best software available just in case you haven't been there yet.


OK, time to move on to the Learning Zone...


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