REAL “Experts” Don’t Call Themselves “Experts”

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An excellent, eye-opening, and insightful article entitled “Social Media Consultant Gone Bad… Real Bad!” recently written by Pam Moore, (someone I’ve grown to respect over the past year and consider an “expert”), coupled with something I recently witnessed prompted me to write this article.  I’m not sure if I’m more saddened for the unsuspecting and trusting business owners and non-profit executives… or if I’m more upset by self proclaimed “experts” who have no business being in business!  FYI… “upset” is a mild word and doesn’t really express my true feelings at this point.  I’m reminded of an article I wrote back in 2005 entitled “Webmaster… Doesn’t Mean Expert”.

I’m going to do my best to keep this professional.  In no way do I want to appear critical, judgmental, or condescending.  Part of my job requires me to evaluate and assess in order to help those who come to me.  I’m not a “know-it-all”… and I believe those who ARE successful in their field of choice will admit to constantly learning on a daily basis!  THAT, in my humble opinion, is what separates the “experts” from those who have no business IN the business!

On Monday, I watched a non-profit organization lose seven solid and consistent years of web presence and go back ten years or more with a “flip of a switch” by listening to a self-proclaimed “expert” web designer.   Here’s the story.

A website was developed, pro bono, for this group back in 2004.  The original developer, who happens to have 20 successful years in the industry, had been working with it pro bono ever since.  Although the developer moved away from the area physically, it continued to maintain a professional and modern appearance and email requests were handled as they were made.  More significantly, monthly efforts were made in the area of SEO (Search Engine Optimization) and, in early 2010, the website was modified in such a way that it included the ability to be viewed correctly on mobile devices.  These aren’t things that the average person typically notices when visiting websites.  The group, thinking it was time for a change and thinking it would be easier to work with someone “local” turned to one of their volunteers who claimed to be a web design expert.  A new website was developed and the domain name was redirected to this new website on Monday.

This web design “expert” claims to have 15 years in the business and admitted on Monday to “just starting to learn CSS”.  For those wondering… that’s the equivalent of someone saying they’ve been an expert auto mechanic for 15 years… and then asking “What’s a wrench”?  My curiosity got the better of me and I started to look at this new website along with some of the others designed by this “expert”.  I was dumbfounded.  Forget the fact that they all look like they’re fresh out of the 90’s with the cartoon graphics, gaudy icons with the “click here” text, and textured backgrounds.  Who knows, this might be the “look” those customers insisted on.

Here’s what really disturbed me.  There was not one single element relevant to SEO (Search Engine Optimization)!  The “titles” contained NO keywords or phrases.  There were NO meta tags for “keywords” and “description”.  NO “alt tags”.  NO “alt text”.  If you’re a business owner reading this… and asking yourself “What’s he talking about?”… these are web development “101” things.  These are aspects of web development that should be second nature to an “expert” with 15 years in the business!  This would be like you taking your car in for new tires and the tire tech not knowing that tires need air!

It’s important to know that this particular non-profit organization is located in a very rural area.  The city itself has a population of approximately 4500.  The service they provide is specific to the area.  Here’s what they lost the moment the new website went online.

Prior to Monday, they were averaging between 5000 and 6000 visitors per month to their website.  Nearly half of those visitors entered the website, for the first time, through pages OTHER than the home page.  The website itself had a VERY strong presence in all of the major search engines.  Not 4 or 5 pages cataloged in Google… but 4550!  Yes… 4550!  Except for the home page, which will probably lose visibility soon, ALL of those other 4549 pages listed in Google are now broken links.  They were averaging 70 unique visitors per month via mobile devices.   The new website is no longer mobile friendly.  What kind of “expert” suggests “starting from scratch” after seven years of effort and consistency without doing some “homework” to see if anything is going to be disrupted?

I know it’s a conundrum for business owners.  You don’t know what you don’t know.  Read that again.  You don’t know what you don’t know… and you expect an “expert” to know their field and “have your back”.  Examples like this are what hinders us from trusting each other… and “trust” is, without a doubt, the MOST important element in a successful business relationship.

Those who have chosen to become self-proclaimed experts in the fields of web development, SEO, and Social Media have chosen to take on a huge responsibility.  Knowing basic “mechanics” is nothing to boast about.  That should be a given.  It’s why we have this mess to begin with.  ANYONE can learn the mechanics.  And they do.  Then they call themselves an “expert”.  And then the business community is disappointed.  And the TRUE experts have to work that much harder to gain that trust.  But be assured… we will.  Because YOUR success is the most important thing to a REAL “expert”.

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