The Social Return Company can design and build web sites for suitable organisations.
We prepare web sites that often appear on the first page of Google searches - not because of any fancy SEO (Search Engine Optimisation), but simply because they are good. I’ll explain SEO at a later stage. But YOU have to make some decisions before we can even start. The questions are pretty useful whether you are starting a business or deciding where your organisation is going, as well as when you want a web site.
This is the first, and potentially the most important, decision you need to make. Who do you want to attract, and for what purpose?
You might think that you want a web site that will appeal to everyone. This is, let’s face it, impossible. You only have 30 seconds to make a first impression, and if your web site isn’t compelling reading during that time, then your audience will move on. You can’t write compelling words that appeal to the tattoo artist and the corporate PR machine at the same time.
So what do you want? Are you selling something from the web? Are you encouraging people to come to your (physical) shop, or building your credibility? In all these cases, what sorts of people do you want to attract? Young, Old, Rich, Thoughtful, Creative, Careful? For example, www.b12d.org appeals to people who are trying to find out what is wrong with them, what mental or physical disease they have and whether there is a cure. Whereas www.easingtonsouthhealth.org.uk gets readers who already know about the services on offer (GPs and doctors, people with specific conditions), and want to find the opening times and download referral and patient history forms.
Do you need to sell something, or update information regularly? Do you need something that will just sit there and wait for people to find it, or something that Google will find and recommend quickly? They are all different.
So you want the moon - a web site that attracts an audience and inspires them to come and spend money with you (whether on the web, for the consultancy you provide, or beating a path to your door).
But there are 5 basic sorts of web sites, and they fit different budgets.
BLOG - essentially a blog lets you share your thoughts with the world. If you have lots of clever things to say, people might actually buy your words of wisdom, or read your blog and decide to buy your wisdom too. Unfortunately most people use a blog to rant about things or write a diary. The most usual blogging platforms (ways to deliver a blog) are blogger.com and wordpress. Mostly a blog is free, and you set it up yourself.
STATIC SITE - the most widely advertised web hosting companies offer this - www.123-reg.co.uk and www.1and1.co.uk being two. You get simplicity (you can write your web pages in MS Word or any wordprocessor, and simply copy and paste them into the web page space), but in return you don’t get much flexibility - a limited choice of themes, a fixed spot for your logo, limited ability to influence what the search engines find. This is ideal for anyone wanting a web site on a budget, because you can do it yourself with a few hours setting up time. It is less useful if you want changing information and/or you want to develop a strong brand, but we can put one of these in place for £200 (based on your content and photographs), for you to manage the content from then on. An example is www.easingtonsouthhealth.org.uk. You will be responsible for hosting fees but we can point you in the right direction.
MANAGE YOUR OWN SITE - This is the preferred solution for TSRC customers. TSRC sets up the style of the web site, and you then add the content. The key to this solution is a Content Management System, such as Drupal (the same one as used by the White House of the President of USA www.whitehouse.gov), which means whatever you type in to put on the web site, the site itself will make sure that the pages reflect the corporate image, that people can find their way around the web site and find the latest content, etc. Examples are this web site (www.thesocialreturnco.org) and Vitamin B12 Deficiency charity (www.b12d.org).
We have an enormous amount of control over how everything will look, who is allowed to add information and who has to approve it before it can be published, where pictures go, links and discussions, mailing lists and so on.
A basic web site consisting of your first pages submitted in MS Word and some photographs can be in place for around £800 (plus the hosting fee). It takes a small amount of management every month, and adding new content (changing the text, adding new pages) is very easy, so we can hand it over to you to look after from then on or maintain it for a small fee.
You can add (or ask us to add) just about every feature you can think of. There are galleries for photographs, embedded video, discussion forums, personal blogs, geographic location, and so on.
FULLY MANAGED WEB SITE - using a content management solution such as Joomla! The company that sets up your web site effectively owns it, and you send your content (text, photographs) to them for them to add to the site. They will maintain the site, and because of this, they will charge an annual fee. Annual fees are typically around £1500 for a basic site based on content provided by you, or there may be a discount in the second and subsequent years. TSRC does not offer this option - when we learned to develop in Joomla! We found that we could achieve exactly the same result in Drupal and that Drupal is more honest - easier to let clients add their own content, so we’re sticking with Drupal.
WEB SHOP FRONT - these are typically custom-written catalogues and checkout. TSRC has only implemented one of these (the “Donate” button on www.b12d.org) so we aren’t experts, but they can be added to a Drupal web site. We’d be happy to talk to you about your requirements but selling things via the web is a specialist area and we’re likely to suggest that you involve specialists.
SOCIAL NETWORKS - so you want your users to find you on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and so on. You need a web site that explains what you do, and we can also make links and corporate social pages on these other sites to build your community, or to build a second community in addition to the web site. Get your web site working, then we can look into this with you.
The above estimates of what it will cost are based a few pages of what you want to say, and some photographs.
The best person to write things about your organisation is almost always YOU, although we can certainly advise on what has worked for us. Your photographs almost always need some enhancements (cut off the unused edges, brighten the photograph up and deepen the colours) and we can do this. Of course if you want proper marketing work then we can advise, such as professional quality photographs, stock photographs (from a photo library on the web), marketing spiel (fancy words), but once again we’ll probably point you at experts and it will always cost extra. One of the benefits you get from us is that we are happy to work with anyone to deliver an excellent solution
The all-singing all-dancing web sites that you sometimes see on the web, with movies and moving images and built-in engagement games, cost £thousands and £tens of thousands to build. Don’t imagine that we can build one for £800 - we can’t. We can for £tens of thousands, but you need to budget accordingly.
SEO is basically a black art. It’s a way of writing the words and the hidden words (Meta tags) so that a search engine reads the page and thinks “this person is an expert, and I must put this web site at the top of my search ranking”. People pay a lot of money to snake-oil salesmen to sell them SEO.
At TSRC we have found our web sites on the first page and sometimes at the top of searches, for things we expect our clients to be looking for. If you want to find out about B12 deficiency, then you will find www.b12d.org. The same for multiple sclerosis, and dementia, in spite of the competition.
We have simply taken the view that quality writing (content) will attract readers. And Google, the world’s biggest search engine, seems to get better and better at detecting quality content.
Essentially the aim of a search engine (Google, Yahoo, MS Live, and so on) is to rank pages according to how much people want to read them, because you will keep on using a search engine if it generally gives you what you would expect, and quickly. You want quality content, it puts quality content at the top; you stick with that search engine. So the search engine tries to find ways to work out what is quality and what isn’t, and over time, it gets better and better. And SEO is an attempt to trick the search engine, and we believe it will always fail in the end. So we don’t do tricks, we just do quality.