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Search marketers and web designers unite…please!

I can’t tell you the number of times I have wanted to anonymously call a Web designer who designed the site of a prospect or client of mine just to let them know that we search marketers do exist. What do I mean by that? Well, if you design a site that looks great that is only half…wait, just one-third of the battle. If you are a little ticked by that comment then you are a Web designer, but if you are nodding your head in agreement then you are a search marketer. If your site looks pretty in the internet forest but no one can stop by to see it does it really exist?

Last week my post on search marketer and Web designer teamwork lamented the need for complete separation of designers and search marketers. I still stand by that statement steadfastly. Jack of all trades and master of none is not the philosophy that creates success for clients regarding their overall web presence. My company’s foray into Web design is some good ol’ fashioned, first person, eyewitness testament to that fact. But, it is a Web “presence” after all. A Web site doesn’t just stand alone (although it can get very lonely if your search marketing or marketing in general stinks). Also, search marketing is not guaranteed to work either (although many would lead you to believe that it can be…caveat emptor). What can work, though, is a true partnership. In design and search the phrase “You complete me” can mean the difference between success and failure for both client and agency alike.
I say this because I have lived it. I tried to start a design side of my business recently because it made perfect logical sense to have the design “in house” and let it lead to the core competency of my company: search marketing. Theory is really neat but it’s the stuff that should be saved for useless B-School case studies. The real world has little tolerance for theory. It craves results and positive ROI and happy customers etc. Well, I guess I have followed Mike Moran’s advice and we did it wrong quickly. While I have happy customers on the design side, it did not come without a price. I will spare you the details because I want to get on to the point here. The net is that we do not do Web design any longer.
So yes, I failed. Not miserably or spectacularly but it was a failure nonetheless. Rather than sit back and cry in my milk (I’m not a beer drinker) I stepped out on a limb and extended an olive branch to the other side of the aisle. I reached out to designers. The thing is though it became apparent that it had to be the right kind of partners in order for a union between design and search marketing firms to work.
First, you have to find a company of like mind which for us meant that everyone needed to check their egos at the door. You see, there is no exact right or wrong way that these relationships will take root. In order to have success, however, there is a need for like mindedness. In order for that to happen neither side of the fence can have it their way all the time. Fortunately, I have started what looks like a potential mutually beneficial partnership with a design company. They had an immediate need that we helped them fulfill and we did it without needing to take any credit other than the good of the client. I believe this is the kind of business philosophy that is rewarded in ways that I can’t measure and I am cool with that. It has already resulted in a request to propose solutions for two other deals. Well struck!
Second, and last for this post, is the absolute essential ingredient of patience. It has already been proven (at least in my case) that the designers know design and the search marketers know search. Having said that, in the initial stages of these partnerships there will be screw-ups. If they are the kind that are rooted in ignorance then that is just fine because the right way can be learned. If they are the kind, however, that will break trust between partners then it may be time to continue shopping. One way for this to occur is when finger pointing amongst the agencies takes place. Own up to your mistakes and your partnership will flourish. If these two disciplines are eventually fully integrated in a way where growth is allowed then you have something special for the client: results.
Oh, and for you folks looking for a one-stop shop for these things? If you come across one who claims something, just make them back it up. You shouldn’t care HOW the work gets implemented on your site (other than it being ethical). It should not be a deal breaker if a design firm and search marketing firm are partnering on your behalf. Take it as a positive signal. Remember, rarely are these two disciplines housed under the same roof and excel equally. Sad but true. What should make your antennae go up are too many points of contact and too little communication. That’s a good sign that not all is well in Dodge City, so to speak.
So there is hope for Web designers and search marketers. We all just need to get along actually. You do what you do well and I’ll do what I do well. The client is the winner and so are we when we take care of our respective sides of the fence knowing that two heads can truly be better than one when it comes to Web design and search marketing.

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