A Website Designer’s Responsibilities: Then
When I got into the business of website design more than 20 years ago, my initial focus was on the website itself: layout, appearance, functionality, reliability. I took a domain, built a homepage and all of the other pages that went with it. I made sure that pages were accessible from on to the next, and that they interacted with each other in a logical way, and that website visitors could easily find the information and services they needed.
In fact, all of these things remain a big part of what I still do today when building a site—although I have many more bells and whistles to incorporate to live up to today’s state-of-the-art design, functionality and user experience.
In the early days of website design, you probably knew the business before you knew its website. So you’d type in the specific URL and go from there.
My Responsibilities Now
But as the technology and social behavior surrounding online activity has evolved to become more and more sophisticated, my responsibilities as a website designer have evolved and expanded, too. Not only am I designing a top-of-the-line website that reflects well on the company it represents; I’m overseeing that company’s entire online reputation, to make sure that its online presence is impeccable, so that people actually want to visit the site that I’ve built.
Online Reputation: SEO
Because search engines like google have become an integral part of every individual’s online behavior, I have to make sure the sites I build have excellent SEO (search-engine optimization). When someone searches for your specific services in your area, we want your website to show up at the top of the list. As search engines have become more sophisticated in how they rank websites, so too has SEO. We have to make sure your site is built properly, with the right structure and keywords, and that it’s updated regularly so that google knows it can recommend it as an “active” site. That’s one way people will find your company. This ties into a concept called inbound marketing, which targets people who are actively looking for your services—ie the people who are most likely to hire you.
Online Reputation: Social Media
It’s “social” for a reason: This is how people interact these days, making human-to-human (and business-to-customer) connections through Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn and more. A company’s social media presence can make or break its online reputation. Ultimately, this is another way to get the word out there, and to encourage prospective customers to want to know more about your company, and to visit your website.
Online Reputation: Directories
To help my clients get their information listed accurately across the many directories of the internet, I’ve recently partnered with BirdEye, and I couldn’t be more excited about it. Directories are kind of like search engines, but rather than seemingly casting a line into the vastness of the whole internet, people turn to directories as a more refined aggregation of information. With a search engine, the thinking goes, you might get catch a tarpon, or you might snag an old tire; with directories, users assume they’re only looking at the big fish. They trust them. And if your company’s information is incorrect on any of these directories, then there’s a whole segment of prospective customers who will never find you or your site. BirdEye lets us enter your information at one point, and then it takes care of disseminating it to all of the directories controlled by the four main data providers.
In short, if you don’t know what you’re doing, online reputation management can feel like Whack-a-Mole—only addressing the problems when they make themselves known. My job these days is to get that reputation right from the start, so that you can keep doing what you’re good at and the customers will come to you.