How To Choose The Best Web Design Agency For Your Small Business

How to choose the best web design agency for your small business.
Did you know the average website design is considered outdated after only 3 years? Some industries are highly competitive and a new website with updated content can improve your SEO. Finally, you always want your website built to generate leads, not just be some boring online billboard people look at and say “eh, let’s see what the next website has to offer”. This is the question we want to answer with this article. We are going to walk you through how to choose a web design agency when you type “web designer near me”, into Google.

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Google “Web Designer Near Me” and “Best Web Designer For Small Business” Then Craft a List of Prospective Agencies.

There’s a goal here, and it’s to get a list of web design agencies that are in your local area and nationwide. Now, if you’re like me you grew up and have heard the statement “Always get a minimum of at least three quotes before you make a choice”.

The problem with the web design and digital marketing industry is that agencies charge a massive range of prices. So this tactic doesn’t work. We know because when we opened our doors, we completed this process.

We came up with a list of needs for our dummy “business” and started calling other web design agencies. We received quotes for a basic 8-page website with some standard features you will find on most businesses’ websites. Those quotes ranged from $1200 and went to well above $10,000.

How is anyone supposed to figure out which one is right for you? It all comes down to value.

What you want to do is take your list and see which companies are willing to provide more than just the basic website for your money. Here’s a list you can use as a template to figure out some things different agencies offer that make high price points much easier to swallow.

  • Will they study your niche, target market, and audience segments to create a website that appeals to them?
  • Are their interviews into your desires intense and complex, or are they looking to build you a website that looks the same as all the others?
  • Is it going to sync with the other software your business uses or is looking to use?
  • Can they integrate it with your marketing automation tools? That includes email advertising. Some of these include Constant Contact, MailChimp, Marketo, and HubSpot.
  • Is the website designed for eCommerce and going to include the ability for your business to collect payments?
  • What types of contact features will be set up on the website? Will there be live chat or contact forms? 
  • Will the content be written in a “we do this, and this” format? Or are they going to write content for a specific target audience?
  • What kind of security and speed optimization are they going to put on the website? This is important because Google doesn’t like to display slow websites.

The next few are very vital and are something our company provides included with our website designs. We didn’t see many other companies willing to do so unless charging thousands more.

  • Will they use your product or service to craft what’s called a lead generator that will sell the business (Creating a lead generator is meant to remove the branding failures many web designers overlook. People shop around, and this is designed to capture their info for the business).
  • Is the web designer going to create special sales pages designed to elicit an emotional response from a target audience who wants that lead generator?
  • Will the thousands of dollars include SEO optimization so the website ranks and appears on Google for your target keywords?
  • Is the company going to set you up with the features that make your website work including email follow-up sequences, ad samples, and social media post samples? Something to help you promote the website if you are doing your marketing.

Remember that value is the key here. If two companies are going to charge $3,000 for a website, which one sounds like the better deal?

The agency that asks basic questions about your brand and audience, designs it, sets it up, and lets you go? Or will you want the web design agency who will interview you with questions down to your internal desires to help your specific niche target audience, then build a website that is written to incite a response from them, but THEN goes above and beyond and provides you the marketing materials so the website isn’t just some fancy billboard that’s not selling?

Does the Web Design Agency Provide Ongoing Website & Marketing Services?

This one goes hand in hand with the first reason. After you have determined which one is going to provide the most value for the cost of the website, you have to see which one is going to be there after it’s complete.

Websites that are built using a CMS or content management system (WordPress, Drupal, Shopify, etc), come with extra costs. The hosting isn’t free if they outsource it to another company, and much of the software that provides features has annual fees.

Let me tell you a quick story about the history of web design and marketing. I promise it’s a quick one! 20 years ago most websites were hard-coded from scratch.

We didn’t have WordPress, WIX, or other website builders to help with the process. Since coding the website from scratch took so much more skill, the two industries were generally kept separate.

When Google started to adjust its algorithm, SEO became a part of digital marketing. Today, the two industries are very closely related.

Companies that brand themselves as digital marketing agencies provide web design services, and web design agencies provide digital marketing services. The following is a list of some of those services and what they do for your small business.

  • Website Hosting: This can be outsourced or handled internally. Generally has an annual fee that can be included with other monthly services or you can pay separately for it.
  • Website Maintenance & Management: Need help updating the website or ensuring it’s secure and optimized for speed? Website maintenance involves regular checks and the agency will update the website content for you. It’s much easier than having to learn how to work the website yourself, and it saves tons of time.
  • Search Engine Optimization: Some companies will include initial keyword optimization and setup when they build the website, while others want to charge thousands of dollars more to do it. But, as an ongoing service, this is what will make the website rise in rankings. Otherwise, your website will be invisible to the public and will not grow your business.
  • Lead Generation/Sales Funnels: Once again, some web designers or marketers will include this in their initial website build fees. Others will not. But this usually involves greeted special ads, landing pages, and automated follow-up marketing designed to bring your target audiences’ information to you.
  • Social Media Management/Marketing: Can be split up into two separate services. Management involves maintaining images, videos, and content on the platform. Always make sure you ask the agency what the goals they have. If they aren’t going to be pointing people toward a funnel or lead generator, you will pay tons of money for organic reach and followers that don’t do anything. The marketing side generally involves paid ads with the same goal in mind, LEADS!
  • .Google advertising/search engine marketing: Just like social media paid ads but posting ads on the Google search engine. 
  • Others: Email marketing, print marketing, direct mail marketing, content marketing, etc.

I know right? The list is insane. But the most important thing to concentrate on is the SEO and lead generation/funnels.

When a web design or marketing agency concentrates on lead generation, they can usually package together SEO for natural website rankings, special sales pages, and other services to guide people into funnels to sell your goods and services.

When a web design or marketing agency concentrates on lead generation, they can usually package together SEO for natural website rankings, special sales pages, and other services to guide people into funnels to sell your goods and services.

That’s what makes M.J. Web Design a bit different from other agencies because every service we provide is designed around lead generation. We promote branding to come WHILE you make sales, and not the other way around. That leads us to our next tip for choosing the best web design agency.

What’s the Overall Goal the Agency Concentrates on? Do They Say Branding, Or Do They Say Lead Generation?

This one is imperative when it comes to choosing the best web designer to work with. Think about your day-to-day life.

How often do you stop what you’re doing to listen to an ad on the radio, or stop the scroll on your Facebook? Let’s say you have a plumbing problem.

No one ever plans to hire a plumber when they see local ads on TV. When something happens in your house, and you need to hire a plumber.

You go straight to Google type in what you’re looking for and add near me. Just like when you’re seeking a web designer and you type “web design agency near me”.

Then, you go to the rankings and check out the top search results. After looking at the first website, you say hmm. Let’s check out what the next guy has.

Then if they are more local, or have a better offer you might call. If the problem isn’t urgent, you might put it aside for another day and then search again. Then, once the problem becomes more urgent, you go back to the search results.

But, thanks to SEO the older #1 ranking has dropped to #3 in the SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages). Now you click on the highest-ranked website and dislike them, so you go check out #2, #3, and #4.

But, something catches your eye about #4. The fourth website on the search results isn’t saying “blah blah, our company provides this service, and that service, etc”.

It’s saying things like “Have you had a problem with your plumbing and everyone’s website looks the same?”. Then the website goes on to start discussing in detail how amazing it would be when this plumber comes to your home, how easy it will get things done, and all the benefits and free “value-based information” you receive.

This plumber provides a rundown on how working with them is, a coupon, and FREE downloadable secrets that will keep you from running into such situations ever again. Thanks to this unique offer, you go ahead and call. Do you see the difference between these websites?

Why choose #4 vs. #1 when you search for a local service? It’s the difference between what we call an “SEO and branding first” mentality versus a “lead generation and simultaneous branding” strategy.

  • SEO and Branding First: This is what most web design agencies who also provide marketing services go for. It involves attempting to copy larger brands with tons of marketing dollars at their expense. You build a website around a target market, the website copy is written to describe the experience and services the business performs, and thanks to its “mostly” top rankings in the search engines, it will receive the most traffic and provide you with the most traffic, exposure, and leads. This model also utilizes social media and ad strategies built around exposure and flooding the market with your business with the hope that a huge reach eventually results in buyers.

But let’s take a look at the other model and how it’s better for small businesses.

  • Lead Generation and Simultaneous Branding: If the web design agency you’re interviewing understands this statement, then you have a winner! This means yes, you still work on SEO optimization and increase the ranking and traffic of the business’s website. BUT! You write the content to be about the customer you’re looking to attract and provide FREE CUSTOM offers and high-end value that set you apart from the competition. This model also includes special landing pages where social media and targeted ads send people to download offers in exchange for their information. Then they are retargeted with ads and automated emails to build your brand while you simultaneously get leads. That way, you aren’t just disappearing in the flood of advertisements people ignore daily, since you’re consistently receiving emails, coupons, and value, you choose this small business now and down the road thanks to being the one you’re so familiar with.

See how the two models differ? All web design agencies with marketing experience know these differences exist, and that one is better for large businesses with budgets vs. the other, which is suited for small businesses who need to track every marketing dollar and ensure their leads are making them a massive return on ad investment.

The “lead generation and simultaneous branding” strategy is what M.J. Web Design uses with our local and national clients. If you want more information on these differences and their history so you can decipher and easily pick apart the web design agencies you’re interviewing I implore you to check out these materials:

  • Post book about “direct response marketing”.
  • Post book on “web design sales tactics”.

The Final Step to Choosing the Right “Web Design Agency Near Me”

Now that we’ve determined which web design agency is going to give you the most value, is going to help you after the site’s completion, and has a lead generation, make money first mentality, here’s the final step. More than likely after you’ve narrowed down your list, you will only have one web design agency to choose from.

If you have more than one, then congrats! Because your local city has some amazing web designers and marketing agencies. But once the other steps are complete, it’s now time to get the company to back up what they say.

This last step will cover everything most guides on choosing a web designer will tell you.

  • Check out their Google reviews.
  • Do they have a portfolio? 
  • If there’s no portfolio, can they show proof of work?
  • Have they done any marketing before?
  • How long have they been in business?
  • Are they cheap, foreign, or using your lack of knowledge against you?
  • Does their website run well?

These are the steps most other blog posts recommend you do when you’re looking for a web design agency. But, we wanted to take it a step further because this is our passion.

Our goal is to design websites and provide ongoing website and marketing services that provide small business owners with steady leads, while simultaneously building a culture and brand. All while doing it affordably. Following is a list of questions you can ask to continue helping you choose your web design agency.

10 Helpful Questions You Can Ask to Help Choose Your Web Design Agency

Above we provided a detailed template for choosing the best web design agency for your small business or organization. These questions are some examples you can use to try and get more information on the agency’s processes and how they operate. That way if you have concerns about who you will be working with, how long it will take, and why the project costs what it does, you will get them answered.

Can you really integrate my website with current current CRM, online payment tools, and other software?

It’s important to know what the web design agency can and can not do. Some web designers are experienced in building a website, but they aren’t aware of other marketing tools. The use of third-party tools can greatly enhance your small business website’s ability to work seamlessly with your marketing efforts.

How large is your team and who am I going to be directly working with?

Like we covered above, many web design agencies offer multiple website and marketing services. But, many agencies hire people with specific skillsets to do different parts of the website. One person could be the project manager, while another writes the content, and another is going to build out the design. Some web design agencies outsource services like writing website copy to a third party. Asking this question will help you know who is doing what, and who is going to be your point of contact.

If you’re not in my local area how are you going to be able to build this website so it produces leads from my target audience?

Many web designers who have marketing experience know how to research the local target audience from their location. Here’s an example. Our web design agency is located in Richmond, VA. But, we provide web design and marketing services for clients as far as Texas. We use software and online tools that help us see what people in that area are searching for. Plus, there are some other strategies to get the word out in other local markets.

Your packages are so expensive and I don’t have the budget. Is there any way we can start smaller and then expand?

Always remember you get what you pay for. Many agencies package services together to charge a cheaper price providing them separately. If you have a website built for $1500 because you cut out many other pieces of value that made the price $3,000. When you realize you need it, you could end up paying way more than the original $3,000.

If I want to do my own marketing but aren’t sure what to do, do you have any consulting services to help me?

Some web design/digital marketing agencies provide a consulting service you can hire to keep on retainer. That way you can get access to training, weekly meetings, and other services to assist you with your own marketing. That way you won’t be paying higher prices each month to have them advertise for you. But, be aware it will take you longer to see a return on your investment since their will be a learning curve.

What’s the difference between hiring one web design agency for $3,000 and this guy I found for $500?

You get what you pay for. We hear it over and over and over, but it’s true. Good hosting alone costs between $200 – $300 annually. If someone is going to sell you a website for $500.00, you can guarantee the web designer isn’t providing high-quality plugins (software), optimizing the website for Google rankings, or learning your business and target audience well enough to write the content so it promotes lead generation. You can contact us and hear horror stories about our client’s previous experience with lower-end web designers and SEO specialists. But in the end, if you cut out everything to only get the website, you will end up paying more in the future when you realize the website isn’t seen by anyone on Google, you need to advertise, and it gets hacked because proper security measures were never installed.

Do you use any other content management systems or website builders besides WordPress?

Always ask this question because each content management system or website builder is suited for different business goals. If all-around growth and integration with other systems is your main goal then you want the website designed and built on WordPress. If you concentrate only on physical products Shopify is a good choice. Beware website builders such as WIX and Squarespace. You don’t own your domain name with these website hosts/builders and the website design quality is generally not as high-quality. At M.J. Web Design. WordPress is our main concentration because it has the best ratio of pros vs. cons. Some of the other builders are finicky, don’t perform well when it comes to SEO, and are harder to optimize. Plus, you can’t beat the integration abilities WordPress provides.

What do I do if I already paid for hosting but your hosting is going to be better?

This is an important question to ask the web designer you’re interviewing. You should NEVER, EVER purchase the domain name and hosting before consulting a web design professional. Many hosting companies are better than others and less well-known. You can host on WIX and Squarespace, but then you don’t even own the domain name. There are solutions to this situation though. If hosting has already been purchased, see if your web designer has options for ongoing website management & maintenance. Many of those plans cover hosting costs and the website can be moved when the annual fee is due.

How long will it take you to complete my web design project?

All web design agencies have different parameters when it comes to how they complete projects. M.J. Web Design starts projects with an “ongoing basis” mentality since we have intense questionnaires and learning curves about your business. When we design a website for your small business, we’re out to do it right the first time so you have everything you need for the future. If a web designer asks very basic questions and says okay, 4-6 weeks and guarantees it. Make sure you ask exactly how they are going to provide a quality website so fast that suits your business’s needs.

Do you do every aspect of the web design project in house or do you outsource to another company?

Web design agencies work in a few different ways. You can hire one who has multiple employees on a team who specialize in different aspects of the process. This business model results in the highest initial web design cost, and it isn’t necessarily due to quality. It’s because of the larger overhead the company has to cover. You can also work with a web design agency that outsources parts of the process. Some companies have outsourced work to M.J. Web Design so we know how this works. You could hire a web designer and the web designer build a gorgeous site, but they might hire someone in India to write the content for cheap. It’s the equivalent of hiring a roofer, and the roofer goes ahead and hires a subcontractor you don’t know to do the work. Finally, you can hire an all-in-one company. This is how M.J. Web Design is built. It takes the longest to complete a project, but that’s because the build of the work is performed by the project leader. We do have assistants to help. But I, the owner handle the overall work.

In Conclusion to Our Post on Choosing The Best Web Design Agency for You.

Choosing a web design agency for your website build and ongoing marketing services is a big, complicated decision. You will be dealing with local and national agencies who charge anywhere from $1,000 to 15,000 dollars just to complete a project.

You must ask the right questions and get the right value for your money because if you don’t you could end up with a website that does nothing to grow your business, doesn’t show up in search results, isn’t marketed properly, or isn’t build to be marketed and sell properly. In which case, you will have to hire another company to fix what was already completed and you will end up spending the money you thought you didn’t have before anyway.

That’s why we have put together this guide. M.J. Web Design is unique among the local agencies here in Richmond, VA, and around the country (yes we work with clients around the United States). We utilize all of the principles that were listed above with each of our clients as our concentration is getting LEADS NOW and not branding for the future.

We value your success, and we bank on it. Now that we’ve been in business for years (feels so good to say that), we are around for the long haul.

You can contact us and set up a free 30-minute ZOOM consultation. I would love to speak with you. This is Michael, the owner and CEO of the company.

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