This is interesting reading, how some business owners act and try to change the goal-posts / reponsibilties during a website design project, we have some sympathies with the website design company as it appears that the company employing them acted in a non-professional way.

[Business Owner]
I am now taking complete responsibility for our web site in terms of finances, optimisation design and content, I would therefore be obliged if you would send all future e-mails or correspondence to me.  Just to let you know where I am with the website at the moment, I have never been happy with the design since the start. When we came down to see you at your office we raised our concerns about it being rather bland, although you didn’t agree you asked us to wait till it was finished before making any judgment.
Apart from some pictures and testimonials you say the website is now complete, my opinion of it hasn’t changed and it doesn’t present the image I want to project. There are some basic and fundamental issues with it, that I don’t think it should be necessary for me to flag up to a professional web design company i.e. there are places where text doesn’t line up, the text is far too close to the edges, the grammar and language used is naive in terms of our industry, there are several more issues I have but I think that is enough to make my point at this time.
You tell me you have done quite a bit on the SEO of the site, upon investigation I can see that you have done a certain amount but by no means enough to have it rank well on search engines. When I look for the site on generic rankings using search terms that I expected to be ranked highly for. I can’t find it in the first 5 or 6 pages, I would have thought that given the limited geographical location we want to be found in and the fact that it has been running several months now, it would rank at least on the first page of the major search engines.
You have sent some Google Analytics reports and seemed to be impressed with the number of visits we have had to the site, this actually worries me even more as we have had very few enquiries. Those we have had from the contact form have been pretty dire as most of the people render false information, we then can’t get in touch with them to try to arrange appointments. My Marketing manager raised concerns about the search engine at our last meeting, you told us you were confident it would work as you knew it had for other companies, but you weren’t willing to tell us the names of those companies as they were competitors.
As I pointed out from the start, I want to expand the site to include many other products, which we asked you to include several months ago, to my disappointment you still haven’t done this despite several reminders, this together with the other points raised above leaves me lacking confidence that by working with you I will ever achieve a website we want.
Given the above we need to reach an amicable agreement on how we move forward, from memory there approximately 50% of the balance outstanding to be paid when the website is finished, in my opinion it is far from finished, certainly not to my satisfaction. I suggest I will have a new site built and transfer the domain name, I think this is fair and hope you will agree. The price engine was a big part of the cost, so I hope by removing that you will not lose out.
Another option is we come to a financial arrangement and we change the existing site to a trade company we have and use the price engine to allow trade customers to access prices, I think that would be a more suitable use for it. We could change some details such as logos and content to easily change the site over, that way neither of us will loose out. The design of the site isn’t quite so important for the trade and we may be able to make that work. I would be obliged if you would come back to me as soon as possible with your comments.
[Previous Thurrock Website Designers] Thanks for the email, obviously a bit confusing for me to receive it as we have been dealing with your manager up to now but hopefully we can address these points, I will do my best to divide your concerns into sections and hope this is going to be acceptable for you.
Needless to say your email has given us a bit of a shock so we have been reviewing and working on your project all day. To recap how this project has evolved, initially we identified that your existing website had been hacked and left with loads of links to ‘dodgy websites’ (adult / political) and redirects to other websites that are unrelated to your website. We also found that the majority of the text we checked was copied / matching other sites the website being left in that state would have definitely adversely affected your Google rankings and even though I have resubmitted the re-inclusion request for your website to Google its possible that as its only 6 months ago it may not have ‘forgiven’ the site and may need a little while longer to trust it.
 [Business Owner] If the site has been punished by Google because of spammy, untrusted or ‘dodgy’ links, even though you have submitted a re-inclusion (reconsideration) request, my understanding is the domain might never recover enough to top rank on Google. Although the domain has a certain maturity, which Google obviously likes, it may have been a better policy to start afresh with a new domain as there is only a limited amount of competition in the relatively small geographical location we work in. If we had done that several months ago the new domain would now likely rank above the original one which, as I said previously, might never recover. Good luck waiting for Google to respond to your re-inclusion request, as this is a manual process and there are probably hundreds of thousands of requests submitted, also given our irrelevance to Google, we might all be retired before we hear from them. I think the best advice you could have given us would be to start again. Given the history between our site and the previous owners and the fact that they bothered with the spurious links and re-directs, are you using the various Google Webmaster tools to ensure there are no unwanted links to the site?
[Previous Thurrock Website Designers] We have created a website exactly as required and after presenting the draft to you was told to proceed as it was ‘looking great’. I appreciate that everyone has different views on website looks but we think it also looks and works great. Must insist that we really have tried to please yourself here, additionally I must stress that pure website appearance isnt the only thing that matters here.
[Business Owner] To a certain extent we agree that pure website appearance isn’t everything but why not have a site that looks good as well as performing. is your statement “additionally I must stress that pure website appearance isn’t the only thing that matters here” an admission that the site could have looked better but you didn’t think it was important to do so? Surely it is a fundamental that customers will judge by appearance and aesthetics as well as content. I don’t doubt you have tried to please us and we do take a degree of responsibility in not providing you with images and certain content, the reason for this is we lost faith in you after the meeting we had at your Thurrock Webdesign offices. We felt it would not be easy to work with you in the long term as our vision and aspirations for the site seemed to be a long way apart. I expressed my feelings to you in this regard but your retort was to ask me to wait until the site was finished, hence the delay until now before presenting my feelings to you.
[Previous Website Designers] We know any website needs to work perfectly in every browser and on internet device (tablets and phones), it needs to be easy to use and navigate, it needs to be ‘coded’ in a compliant / standard way, it needs to be search engine friendly, it needs to be optimised, tweaked, updated after launch (seo ongoing process), it needs to look appropriate in its business sector. Once the website framework is complete (as it is with your website) changes to text / images / photos is pretty simple and welcome your comments
[Business Owner] We don’t suggest there are any cross browser compatibility issues, unless there are some you are aware of that I am not. I am aware that the site would be organic in terms of updates, SEO, text and image changes, the same point applies as before, given the outcome of the most recent meeting at your offices, I don’t feel I would be comfortable working with you long term.
After our meeting what we did and how we left it:
1. New background selected and put on site / New revolving Images applied to site / Price Calculator updated / Text changes to front page.
[Response] We don’t like the new background, I would have preferred that you had come back to us with several options and given us the opportunity to select one before putting the current one on, I think it looks cheap and doesn’t do anything to enhance the site. Text changes to front page might be a slight improvement but still doesn’t meet the standard I would ultimately want.
2. Logo – this was discussed with one of your managers at length who requested we redesign the logo using his specification – this was done and the logos supplied for review, the manager then gave new instructions to redesign the logo based on its current look after this instruction, this instruction was then dropped as a new logo was deemed not necessary.
[Response] To be very honest we gave up on the logo change via yourself as we thought all of the offerings you made were naive and amateurish, we got frustrated that you couldn’t take the brief and produce a logo that came anywhere close to acceptable.
3, You indicated that you would tell us what photos / text he wanted changing and was happy to change anything but no requests received.
[Response] Again we became frustrated, we wanted to wait to see if you would improve the aesthetics of the site, despite several attempts to talk to you, you didn’t seem to want to make enough significant changes which we thought may eventually make it acceptable to us, you didn’t seem able or willing to take our brief and act upon it satisfactorily.
4 All rankings / website visitor number metrics should be reviewed with the knowledge that 6 months ago the website was a ‘copied’ and ‘hacked’ website. The website currently ranks at the bottom of the 2nd page for its key search term am confident of getting your website on the first page (top 10) once the website is fully completed and the SEO continues over the first few months. Again please look at concerns expressed above.
[Response] It wouldn’t have taken three months for a site with a new domain with good content and SEO, especially in a limited geographical location, to rank on the first page of Google. Had we been aware that you were concerned enough about the history of the site in reference to the hacking and ‘dodgy links’, we may have requested that we start afresh with a new domain name. As stated earlier in this e-mail, I believe there may be a chance that the site will ever fully recover. Given the mysterious workings of Google, I don’t think this is a chance we can take.
5 Traditionally we do a lot of offsite SEO once the site is live, this is normally initiated by the final payment but it’s important not to ‘over optimise’ a site too quickly to make its content and linking seem natural and real to give it the best chance of success. We have a huge amount of SEO success in your business sector as you already know, these websites are either created new by us or were not in the top 50 for that search term before we took on the project.
We have also created an ‘internationally’ ranked website that received 10,000 visitors per month as it ranks number 1 or 2 for its key search term over the whole world. Hope that gives you some idea of what we can do and gives you confidence we can get the website working for you.
[Response] It depends what you mean by over optimising a site in terms of making it look natural and organic, I don’t see however that a good amount of  quality ‘White Hat’ optimisation with relevant content and making the user experience as best as possible, could possibly do any harm. You continue to ask us to search specific search to prove how well ranked the sites you have built for builders or out site is, these are very specific search terms which it is easy for you to optimise sites for in order that you can point clients to them. Having searched using similar, but different search terms, the sites don’t rank anything like as good.
6. Have initiated your Google places listing; please expect a postcard to yourself then give me the auth code to enable your listing.I assume this is the correct address as that is the one you asked for on the website and its the one that needs to be matched in your local listing.
[Response] I guess the post card is being sent because we have used the same physical address previously, otherwise they would have called or texted with the code. The address you have been given is our registered office and not the one we would want on our Google places listing. I would have appreciated it if you would have checked as it will now be a couple of months before we can change this.
7 Cosmetic Fixes –
a)     The text spacing (close to the page edge) has been amended (border around all text)
b)     Contact form links within the text created
c)     Text overlapped the ‘tick’ in the tick boxes at the bottom of pages
d)     Formatting in faq pages tidied up
e)     Margin in the news pages between the columns increased
f)       Website seo improved for your local area
[Response] The above few points dealt with in answers above.
8 On reflection I think some of the bits above were missed as we were waiting for the updates from / yourself that you told us you would be sending but they never came. These final updates would have initiated our checking and testing but it wasn’t done as the updates didn’t arrive. That is not me making excuses but thats what happened.
[Response] You told us the site was all but finished, now you tell us you are waiting for updates from me to check and test, surely you would expect us to judge the site based on the so called finished product, now you are saying otherwise. Why didn’t you tell us you hadn’t checked or tested the site because we hadn’t sent updates?
9 Ref Text / Webcopy – This was send to you to review when it was first created, its search engine friendly and possibly sounds naive you to but if you give us some indication of what you want changing we can do it.
[Response] Yep, I agree with that.
10 Regarding webcopy that we requested, we have to-date received no text / images for this, assuming you want a page of this we can do that no problem and make it a sub-menu choice on the main menu.
I read your suggestions about the possible outcomes but can’t think that any will be in either of our best interests as the site has had ‘massive’ amounts of work / optimisation (SEO) tweaking done on it to ensure it ranks higher and brings in more visitors over the coming months / years and apart from some cosmetic changes believe the site was delivered exactly to that purpose.
Perhaps you can read this very long email and understand what has gone into this site and supply us with the final bits to complete it and then let it grow to promote and compliment your business
[Response] I think you will gather by now that we don’t want to continue with this site as the main company website. The problems associated with punishment from Google, the layout and aesthetics all give me great cause for concern. I don’t feel we have been delivered what was promised and don’t feel that we can work together long term for the benefit of my company.
I appreciate you have put in a certain amount of work which needs paid for, I don’t however feel that you have met the brief given to you or were flexible enough in listening and taking on board our concerns at an earlier stage. We need therefore to come to a figure which is acceptable to both of us to bring this matter to a conclusion.

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