Sometimes, hosting a website with a service that 'specializes' in your field may not be the best choice. I have been helping a friend optimize her Law Office website - JAMendelsohnLaw.com.
As of this writing, the site is hosted on a server run by a big firm that specializes in Law Firm websites. There are actually several of them out there, and they do seem to come up well in the search engines. However, they are basically marketing services, and a lot of times it appears they are best at just marketing themselves, and not their clients.
The Mendelsohn website is not the only Law Office website I've been involved with lately. I have been working with about 5 other law websites for a while now, including one client who left SevenSages.com for one of these 'Services'. So, this experience should not be viewed as related to their office.
I will not name any particular company, as it is just my experience with a few of them in the past year, and it may have just been my own dealings with each of them. So, no need to bad-mouth anyone.
Pushy Sales People
Wow. Talk about pushy. And not in your face pushy, but sly, sales motivated pushy. Promising traffic, but so much more traffic if you get this bundled package, and wait, there's more, order right now and get free this or that. "This offer only good till end of today, then price goes up."
Locked in contracts, auto-renewals with no reminder notices, and sneaky contracts that require 90 days cancellation notice from you. And then they conveniently are hard to meet with for the last 90 days of your service.
Funky Terms for Basic Service
I believe, in order to discourage a client from comparing services, they seem to invent their own internal terms. There are no normal terms that a tech/geek that actually works on the web would use.
Terms that we take for granted disappear, like
- Domain Name
Internet Entity, Service Account Name, or Address
- Mail Accounts
"comes with means of communicating electronically"
- Website (yes, this simple term transforms into something)
End User Interface, Business Presence, CustomAB Solution, Internet Solution
- Banner Ad
Viewing Placement, Outreach Program, Practice View
- PPC Marketing
'Our Solution', Outcome Performace Program, Web Marketing Solution
Product code, "internet user interface scripting", "Programming", modern advanced instructional code for Web Display interfaces
- Web Pages
Dynamic Content, Displays, Interface, Copyrighted Material
Looking over the terms, it was clear, at least to me, that it was common standard practice to use all sorts of legalize mumbo-jumbo to collectively hinder any understanding. Perhaps attorneys are used to this crap, and just scan the 'contracts' for obvious stuff. But, trying to find out how much just the 'hosting' portion of the contract was difficult.
- And who owns the domain name?
- Who owns the content and design?
- Who controls the content?
- How is the marketing verified?
- What happens to content and website at end of contract?
- Can you transfer the domain name to another registrar?
Some companies were ok with domain name ownership, and allowed control and transfers of this important, vital part of a company's Identity. Others, unbelieveably, attempt to maintain complete control of the Domain Name, not allowing any changes, and keeping the record ownership in their own name. So, you think you have a great name like MyNameOnTheLawFirm.com, and you have it on all your advertising and marketing. Then, your company gets so big you can have your own in-house server where you can put all your web content. Whoops, good luck getting that name.
Even though the company has no valid use for your name, and they in fact registered the name for your use, they will hold it hostage so you will simply renew with them. Looks like an Official Dispute is required, but how many people know how to initiate that. Even attorneys are not going to be on top of Internet Laws and Policies.
I think I am undercharging for services. It seems that, if I wanted to expand into the Lawyer Site service, I would have to charge prices like $800/mo, plus add-ons like claims of marketing, and promises of traffic. Then get it in a binding annual contract, paid up front, with a large cancellation fee, and auto-renew. Better yet, lock in for 2 or 3 years.
That doesn't include the intial set and design, so add an extra $3500 to setup this Virtual Office on the World Wide Super Highway to Success. Oh, you probably need on-going maintanence of the content, so go with Package Delta for an extra $227/mo. And Search Engines are important so updating your 'Interface' frequently should be added with our Service Papa-Alpha for only $80/mo ($67 if combined with the Seasonal Display Control at $33)
Of course, I'll have to brush up on my BS skills. But, my initials aren't BS for nothing. How many visits did you get? Oh, well, look right here. This is showing how often your ad is showing, and look at how much more yours shows over the others. (that's probably because the others are not paying for the crap). Pay no attention to those bot numbers, they still count on the stats because when a bot visits your site it means it is indexing your site on another site which will bring in even more hits. So, when you see 'bot', you can multiply that by 3 or 4 to get an estimate of future growth.
Never Say Goodbye
When someone wants to leave this incredible service being offered, be sure to scare them. Tell them that Google will drop all of their pages, and explain how the competition is brutal and someone will fill their spot quickly. And if they come back, once they realized that leaving the service has caused unrest in the Middle East and famine in Madagascar, and they are near bankruptcy, well, the price for the same service will somehow be twice as much.
So, stay if you know what's good for you. Pay the $1025/mo now to renew your contract, and maybe lock in the price with a 3 year contract. Or, come back in a couple of months and pay $2437/mo. Your choice, 1025 now or 2437 later. And pay no attention to those real web hosts that offer more for less, 95% less.