Moonlighting, Pilates & Regulation

There are a number of things that have led me to this post. I first started thinking about it following Judith’s post on SEO Moonlighting, then I had an experience with my pilates instructor and her website, that has my blood boiling still a week later, and finally Judith turned the SEO accreditation strategy session into a blog post which cemented my ideas and suddenly this post came together. I had planned for this to be the third in the SEO chicks 101 series, but this had to be written (in the way that blog posts often do) so I’m afraid you will have to wait until Thursday if you want to learn more about Keyword strategies.

For now let me tell you about my pilates instructor.

For quite some time now I have been moonlighting. Interestingly when I first read Judith’s post on the subject I disagreed, on the basis that many of us have lives outside of SEO and that there are only a limited number of hours in the day. Then after a lot of thought I realised that I managed to combine my moonlighting with other interests by doing SEO for very small business, on a barter basis. In the last couple of years I have worked with Yarn vendors, rat hammock makers, my optician, and now, my pilates instructor. I get free or discounted products and services, they get very cheap, quality SEO. It’s a win win situation. Most of these people would never be able to afford a good SEO, but because I barter they spend £100-£200 and I get products worth £200-£300. Not only that but I get to work on sites where the owner never argues, or tells me that their branding team won’t let me do something essential.

So when Abbie told me that she was leaving the health centre that she had been doing classes at and branching out on her own, I let her know that if she wanted help marketing her site, to give me a call. I also gave her a few hints, like making sure that she was able to edit the site and that there was a CMS in place to let her make the changes she needed to.

Lo and behold last week she called to let me know her new pilates site was liv, I had a look and wrote out some recommendations for the site. We then arranged for me to go round to show her how she could implement them. This was when it all went horribly wrong. The list of things that her web developer had screwed her on was huge, but some of the biggies were;

  • No CMS
  • Site was built in ASPX (just to make it doubly difficult for a novice to edit)
  • All images are in flash
  • Email wasn’t working, and after 2 weeks no one had fixed it, or simply suggested they change the address on the site
  • And the one that really takes the biscuit, he had registered all of the domains in his own name
  • Not to mention the sexual harassment from someone who just couldn’t accept that he wasn’t getting a date!

    Now, in some ways these aren’t the worst things a developer can do, but for someone who has never worked on line before, they are deal breakers. Abbie had been planning to get business cards printed out the following day, and had she not spoken to me would have built her business around a brand she did not own.

    I’m working with Abbie to resolve many of these issues, and look at what we can do with the site on an ongoing basis to help make it manageable for her. She doesn’t need monthly ongoing SEO, she needs educating on the little things that she can do to make her site visible, against relatively few competitors.

    So what does this have to do with regulation? When Judith was first venting about this on twitter, I pointed out that it wasn’t the medium sized companies who should know better that I got pissed off about, it was the really small, one man bands, without the resources to find out this information. Abbie proved to be the perfect example of this. So I urge everyone, if in any area of your life outside of work, you deal with small businesses or niche vendors, go out of your way to spend an hour or two to educate them, barter for your time if you want, or jut do it for free. Work with your local small business groups to provide some training, even if they’re not your target businesses. Not because it will bring you business in the future (though it might) but because the only way to beat the charlatans in this industry is to educate the people who are most likely to fall victim to them.

    P.S. I haven’t named the web developer in question in this post because that wasn’t the point of the post. Abbie and I are giving him time to correct some of his errors before we look at way to take further action.

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    23 Responses to “Moonlighting, Pilates & Regulation”

    1. This is a great post Sarah. I’ve also been following the accreditation discussion and while it will be good to get an independant QC of services, maybe we do need more real friendly seo advocates reaching out to clients rather than simply shouting about the poorer competition.

    2. Is the developer sending his stuff off to India? http://www.vcantech.com/

      Have you had a look at his portfolio? Its just that most of the websites on his portfolio don’t mention that they were written by him!! (Logicalcomputing.co.uk)

      Steve

    3. @steve as far as I’m aware he is, although I don’t think that has any baring on the issues, I have worked with some great indian companies, and have always found that the only time people have problems with work done in India is when the company fronting the work don’t know what they’re doing.

    4. I agree about the smaller companies; if there is some sort of SEO accreditation, it needs to be noisily publicised! It would be all very well overshadowing the charlatans with a new qualification, but would this mean zip to the smaller companies who are still very hazy about what the industry is and does?

    5. I do think it is difficult for small practitioners to be total experts and fully aware of latest practise in all elemts of design, usability, conversion rate optimisation and seo, (and everything else for that matter.) That said; I read from this that the developer WAS provided with a list of outset requirements which were just ignored??? I’ve always found that the best designers and developers I have ever worked with are comfortable and confident enough in the areas in which they do excel, so that they will be willing, happy and open minded to accept instruction to modify (some aspects) of their work according to the considerations of another web discipline.

      We can all be precious about our work, and what we truly excel at; it’s the ability to hold up hands and work with others where there are gaps that make a really great and rounded web-project.

    6. @karyn that’s it exactly, to put the situ in reverse, I found there were a lot of bad pilates instructors, but I was just starting out so how was I to know the good from the bad. We need to focus on educating people and helping them understand what they want from the service.

      @Nichola I think the key to your point though is that small businesses are never going to work with the best, because the best in web dev and SEO never deem to bestow their tallents on those with low budgets. that leavs a huge area of the market just ripe for targetting by people who either don’t know what they’re doing, or simply don’t care.

    7. Emma Pilcher says:

      Sarah, this is a great post – really highlights how important it is for people from small (and big) companies to do a bit of research prior to taking on a company. Pretty similar in a way to how most people would research say a printer they were going to entrust with all of their marketing materials.
      Karyn has a good point about the SEO accreditation what would it actually mean to Jo Public. Wouldn’t education actually be better?
      PS I like the way you haven’t named the web developer and have given him time to correct the errors.

    8. Hyderali says:

      @steve – Well in the post Sarah has not written a single word about Indians. Infact she has chosen not to disclose it but how do you predict that it has been from India only? It can be from somewhere else also. Why all outsiders targeting Indians only for any spam or something related to spam? Yes, there are some people who are unprofessional but it doesn’t mean that you should blame all indians.

      @sarah you are right when the company fronting doesn’t know what they’re doing they may stumble upon some problems. Gr8 to know that you worked with Indian Companies.

    9. James Holden says:

      A good post, and what the situation you’ve described is all too familiar.

      Much as I’ve been itching to help, I’ve often found that very small businesses will have asked a friend or relative to do the site and even the most polite, constructive criticism can be taken too personally. People have tried their best but ultimately many bedroom coders are clueless about standards and SEO.

      The accreditation idea is interesting. SEO is partly knowledge of web standards, partly content writing, but the rest is often down to intuition, guesswork and experience. I don’t quite see how you could measure and regulate that.

      (Also – tables layout on a new site in 2009? /facepalm)

    10. Davorgoldie says:

      I’ve seen plenty of this type of thing in the last year. Never really encountered it much when at Ambergreen, however smaller clients where every £ of budget must be well spent as it’s the business owners own money seem so much more at risk of being ripped off.

      There are good smaller development companies out there, however some one man band operations should be ashamed of the way they treat clients. Just because the budget isn’t significant doesn’t mean their service should be.

    11. @James yeah the tables made me giggle more than anything, as far as the list of problems this website has they were the least of my worries :P

      Even where people take it too personally, I try to point them out, because in most cases I work with businesses I want to succeed (on a barter basis this is especially true, as they have products/servcices that I want) Having said that, the design itself is something I comment on a long way down the line, when they have seen what my experience can do for them, often they just need the basics covered to make a huge difference to their business.

    12. @Hyderali I was not targeting indians!!! I just simply completed a one minute piece of detective work.

      Looked at the website, followed the “powered by” link and then looked at the sites that the host company had on their portfolio.

      The portfolio links which work, are all powered by the Indian company, whose website did not seem to work yesterday!! One common factor in these websites is flash images.

      I’ve nothing against using an Indian company, or any third party company. I have an opportunity which I’m considering outsourcing. However, experience shows that when you do outsource, not only do you need to understand the requirements 100%, but you need to be able to communicate that to the outsourced developers.

      So, lets not be so touchy, please!!! :)

    13. Hyderali says:

      @steve, you are right that we should communicate to the outsourcing person thoroughly before indulging in any activity.

      I’m not touchy just got distracted with your words. Its Ok.

      Happy Christmas to all you there :)

    14. Bill says:

      My blood temp went up a bit just reading the story. I’ve worked in similar situations. Often, the “design on a dime” approach ends up screwing the small business owner, even when the designer was well intentioned.

      What I hate to see is the designer who charges $2500 for a decent looking website but doesn’t understand the importance of getting the page title right. I’ve only been in working in the SEO/SEM field for 10 mos or so and have no programming background at all, it only took me a couple of months to learn what the most basic but important issues were.

      Like you, I know take a tremendous satisfaction in helping small biz owners by educating them to some of the basics.

    15. Lynda Lippin says:

      And today her Pilates in Leeds site is not responding at all! Which may be a good thing as perhaps she is migrating?

    16. @Lynda thank you for letting me know, I will check on what’s hapening.

    17. Result! The developers are moving the site to a different server to try & resolve the email issue and the domain name is being transfered. That’s the big two issues potentially resolved.

    18. Sam says:

      I got to end of the post before I realised that I know Abbie – she teachers Pilates at our store! I know some good developers in Leeds if you need any help!

    19. @Sam I love your store! I’m sure Abbie would appreciate a referal for future development work (What a small internet :P )

    20. We work with a lot of small companies and it’s amazing how the least expensive part of the online process, the domain name, can waste so much time and cause so many issues. There is no excuse for a company registering a client’s domain name in the hosting company’s name. We see it all the time and the client and the new host get stuck in an uncomfortable situation when they move hosting. You have to tread lightly and put on the smiley face or you risk losing the domain name. We have seen names held for ransom.

    21. Tola F. says:

      Very interesting site, and I definitely feel your pain!! It can be so frustrating for a new starter to have that many issues in the way of their business, like they don’t have enough problems as it is!

      Also I just tried going to the website and my virus scanner detected a trojan house or something, so I suggest you have a look into that or Abbie does…

      Cheers!

    22. Sarah says:

      Ah that is so cheeky, I can’t believe the developer did that! Why would he make it deliberately hard for her, surely if more people visited the site it would benefit him too and she would recommend him! Some people….

    23. Brittany says:

      I can relate to this article.I tried setting up an online health supplement store only for my hosting account to get it suspended.Ive spent thousands on website promotion and even hired a professional SEO but not its all gone.Also my friend got his site hacked by a keylogger.Security is important guys.

      Cheers

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