Are You Getting A Custom Website or A Theme?


Over the years, we have worked on close to a hundred websites. A few of our current and past clients have come to us with websites created or designed by another company. In a few of those cases, the client has paid a web design company to “design” them a website.

But they haven’t paid for a custom design. Instead they’ve paid for a pre-made theme. I’ve listed one major reason why custom WordPress themes can be a nightmare. Another reason why pre-made themes are not a good option is that they are often bulky and very slow to load. Sure they look pretty, but they have way too many plugins and files that take the web browser too long to load. This obviously affects the user experience.

In the end, how can someone can call themselves a web designer or web developer if they don’t create custom websites from scratch or have little coding experience? I’ve heard of a few reputable web design companies charge $7000 to simply plug in content to an existing theme they paid $70 for over at Themeforest.

Full disclaimer: we have done this for a few clients on a serious budget. But we don’t take credit for the “web design”. We don’t believe this is true web design.

In saying that, should you employ someone to create a website from scratch, or buy a pre-made theme and plug your content in? Read on.

The system to use on a website varies on two factors: the server technical requirements and the developer’s level of knowledge on different platforms. Custom and pre-made templates have their share of pros and cons, depending on the site’s budget, goals and needs.

Custom Website Design

A custom website design involves a designing firm that will do all the professional work, someone who will focus on your brand, goals, and needs. The firm will take into account the SEO best practices and determine what ROI type you are looking for. With a custom website, you will have full control of the whole process and the features to be used.

Since custom websites don’t only consist of how a website will appear, the development process usually takes longer during the early stage. But, in the long run, it will save time since the designing firm will make sure that your website will perform as designed.

Website designing entails great effort and time, and glitches may arise if not done properly. This is where a designing firm comes in. Templates are great for simple organizations that want a website that works only as a business card and without intricate processes. However, if you desire more than that, then custom website design is ideal for you.

Theme-Based Website

With a theme-based website, coding and layout are already done. WordPress, an open-source blogging tool, and CMS, offers a wide variety of themes you can choose from. Theme-based websites are available on websites like ThemeForest, a theme website developer that aims to sell as many copies as possible.

With these premium themes, they often over do it with an excessive number of plugins that are unnecessary and too many plugins causes the page load speed to slow down. What these plugins achieve could be done with just a little bit of extra coding. When using plugins. You are prompted to update them for compatibility as WordPress updates are made. This can cause the site to break and you’d have to incur extra fees by hiring someone to do the maintenance updates to ensure no compatibility issues.

When using WordPress with too many additional and unnecessary functions like plugins and extra settings that are not applicable to your business, it can make your WordPress interface cluttered and confusing. Causing you to struggle to make simple website updates and changes to your site. We’ve lots of frustrated SEO clients with existing premade themes needing assistance to make, what should be, simple edits.

Some web designers prefer theme sites if a client isn’t too selective about the looks of the site. This way they can easily produce a website that is up and functioning quickly. Most of these theme-based sites have coding already written for customers. The only thing to work on is applying images and content, make some minor adjustments and you are ready to go.

Based on its quick setup, new WordPress sites produced from premade themes normally cost less compared to custom-coded websites based on a customer’s specifications. However, that is roughly the sole benefit a customer can get from buying a theme-based site.

The Bottom Line

A website can be an extremely potent tool if created properly, but a poorly made site can work against you. No matter what kind of website you require, the most crucial factor you should focus on is choosing the right designer.

So choose wisely and ask the question “Am I getting a custom website or a premade theme?”.

Exercise Caution When Using These Web Design Trends


There are many new web design trends are introduced yearly. Similar to the trends in fashion, new trends in web design are embraced instantaneously while the previous ones wane. New trends are inevitable due to the different needs of our society and the ever changing industry. However, web designers must be wise in utilizing these trends.

Below are web design trends to use with caution:

Hamburger Menu


The green highlighted box in the above image is known as a hamburger menu.

Due to various technological advancements, the most widely used devices to connect to the internet are handheld devices like smartphones and tablets. As a result, web developers have made designs much simpler by introducing hamburger menu. This menu hides all the navigations, and this resulted in the development of the desktop website. The hamburger menu helps by making the website clean and with one tap, you’ll open a menu instead of putting all items on the site.

But this type of menu doesn’t apply to all websites. With news and e-commerce websites you have to place each menu on the front end instead of hiding it all in a hamburger.

Front-Page Carousels

Many modern websites utilize carousels. Carousels keep the text formation and photos in order and permit the addition of visual interest. If a carousel is used frequently, the website will look almost the same and less difference will be observed. SEO specialists claim that a carousel isn’t good for search engine optimization since it has no text and prevents sufficient meta info from getting into a page.

It isn’t vital for a text to be over the fold; however, Google will not recommend placing the content lower down the page. A carousel will push the text lower, which greatly affects the usability.

A carousel gallery with high-resolution pictures will not only be under-optimized but will also slow down a front page of a site, which must load as fast as possible.

Floating Elements

It seems that you can find floating element almost everywhere – from floating social media icons that let you click it to floating menu, which does not disappear even if you scroll down the page. It’s no wonder that they catch the attention of users. However, floating elements can push away users by obstructing the content they want to look at.

For users who access a website through their mobile, floating elements can be a nuisance, since the small screen can block more of the content. This is a sure way of dissuading users from staying or going back to your site.

Flash Animated Load Screens

Nobody wants to face a complex load screen which can’t be easily removed and forces users to sit through it. If a site has a flash animation that lasts more than 10 seconds and doesn’t let the user see the content, it’s likely they will not revisit the site at all. Another loading screen that prevents the user from revisiting is a counter that climbs to 100 percent. This counter is normally placed in the middle of the screen and requires the user to wait until the site finishes loading.

Parallax Scrolling

Parallax scrolling produces an impression of depth by letting the background of the content move slower than the foreground content as the user scrolls down.If used well, the results are amazing, and recently it has become popular. A good example of parallax scrolling used effectively is the site for the Firewatch game.

It is perfect for sites that require amazing presentation and have less text, like websites that showcase services and products. However, issues may arise if parallax scrolling is applied on sites with a lot of content. Parallax sites have the tendency to use a single page instead of separating the content into various pages. This can badly upset SEO for it can restrict the amount of content that search engines can crawl. Sometimes there are texts that are embedded in graphics, which further restrict content visible to Google.

Sites that utilize Parallax also tend to have slow loading time because of the heavy usage of JavaScript and graphics. This problem will worsen if handheld devices are used to view the sites.

All of the mentioned trends are amazing if they are used properly, however, be careful and take into consideration the possible problems you might undertake prior to using them. Websites greatly vary, and it is in the hands of web designers to determine what’s best for a certain website.

How to Use White Space in Web Design


Whitespace, also known as negative space, is a part of the page that has been left unmarked, left blank or the page’s empty space. In the world of web designing, white space refers to the space between images, columns, text, graphics, and other components. This space is intentionally left untouched to smooth everything out and turn the page into something amazing. Whitespace also aims to show that simple designs are elegant and a page doesn’t have to fill its layout with graphics and text to convey a message that’s clear and direct.

Even though it is termed as white space, it doesn’t have to exactly mean that it has to be white. The blank space may be coloured, blue, green, red, etc. as long as it doesn’t have any graphical and text elements. Whitespace is also linked to style and intricacy since it’s an approach to organizing elements and help users in attending to particular elements.

For you to have more white space in your layout and provide a much better outcome, begin by discerning a page’s every detail. Think about the images, words, menus, letters, items in a list, header, footer, and margins. Think of all the above mentioned elements, and try to provide more space between those elements, considering that you want to make something stylish and clear and at the same time improve the user experience. A good user experience means having enough space for elements to breathe and letting the eyes of the readers relax. Putting size 11 text and filling it in the bottom part of the page will not provide a good experience for the readers.

Below are tips on how to use white space effectively.

Use white space wisely

As previously discussed, white space is the blank area around a page’s design elements and it’s not necessarily white as other colors can be used. One of the feelings that a white space convey is open-air and calm feeling. It’s highly recommended to leave huge portions of white space surrounding the vital area of the page, which will make it more noticeable. A good example of a website that uses white space effectively is Apple’s website.

Obviously, the same concept applies in designing black or dark-coloured themed websites; however, having a dark background can somehow convey something different. Objects on a page that are surrounded by a huge dark background convey drama and excitement.

Let some elements float

Normally, layouts of web pages are equally geometric and boxy. Though it is usually a great idea to have all your elements align in a grid, if you follow this rule exactly your page can appear too rigid. To make the page noticeable, play around with the vital elements. Let a vital element break the rule a bit and fall outside the grid. This will help your page stand out.

Remember, less is more

Obviously, the less things you plan to put on your page, the easier it is to take into account floating elements and white space that stands out in the grid structure. Try to restrict the number of less trivial things on your page, and instead place these on another page that focuses on that particular element.

Layer elements by their importance

Distinguish a value proposition from actionable info on how to start with differentiating product offering with balance white space. Position the vital messages on the top of the page and use white spaces to guide the eyes of your readers from one content asset to another.

Avoid monotony

White space needs balance instead of symmetry. Even a site that’s made from the huge amount of images like Pinterest will try to avoid using images that have the same size. The white space all appears even around the elements; however, the elements themselves have different sizes. White spaces will only work great along with well-made positive spaces. Make sure that the positive spaces of your page are layered, natural, interesting or enclosed by white spaces for a spectacular visual result.

Pay attention to micro white space

Micro white space can be seen inside individual design elements instead of the broad spaces in-between elements. The visual experience of users can be greatly affected by line spacing and letter spacing. All text, which includes button text, headers, and footers, must not look too cramped and hard to read. Links and navigational menus must also have micro white space to help improve reading.

The Bottom Line

White space doesn’t only generate balance and harmony, and aid in creating a design, it is also useful in leading a reader from one element to the next. A designer’s goal should include making sure a website looks simple and organized, and be able to provide information that readers will enjoy.

It’s vital that white space isn’t only considered as a “blank” space, it should be treated as the element of design that makes objects for a page to exist. It’s the space that helps in balancing things out in a page. Although white space is unquestionably something good to utilize, it can also be something that can produce a great amount of resistance between clients and web designers. This is mainly because most clients do not want to look at a huge amount of space on their sites, which leads to designers to have to talk about the importance of white space and its role in website designing.

Sure, at first glance, white space just seems to appear empty and ordinary. However, in the end, it will help the whole look and feel of the design of the site.

Beware Of Negative SEO


I’ve talked a lot about SEO throughout the 4+ years of this blog. One thing I’ve failed to shed light on is negative SEO. This will be a very short post on negative SEO but you can read more over at Moz.

What is negative SEO?

It’s an SEO campaign that is launched to HARM and not improve the rankings of website.

Who would do such a thing?

In most cases it’s a website and business owners looking to drop the search rankings of their competitors. They’re many business owners out there who will do whatever it takes to beat their competition. It’s unfortunate but it happens.

In other cases it could be an SEO company who doesn’t know what their doing or is operating on old SEO principles that Google now frowns upon.

How does it work?

The most common case of negative SEO I’ve seen deals with un-natural ways of link building. This would be adding a bunch of backlinks on low quality sites pointing to a website with the exact same anchor text. It’s the exact same issue one of our clients faced a couple of years ago when they hired what they thought was a trustworthy SEO company.

How to prevent it?

Last week I was doing some link building for a client when I noticed they had 29 00 new backlinks pointing to their site!!


Certainly wasn’t me. When I dug deeper I found all the new backlinks were spammy.

In short, there is no way to stop someone from building spammy backlinks. But there is a way to stop Google from connecting those backlinks to your site. You can use a backlink checker tool like Ahrefs to monitor your backlinks. Then you can use the Google disavow tool to disconnect these spammy backlinks and negative SEO campaign from your website.

By using Ahrefs you will be able to see the majority of backlinks pointing to your website. When you add your website to the dashboard, you can set up automated emails to be sent to your account whenever a new backlink is discovered. This is very helpful and a much easier way to monitor your backlinks.

Yellow Pages NetSync Review

yellow pages netsync review

I was just on Facebook and saw a sponsored post for Yellow Pages and their NetSync product. Being that I deem YellowPages a competitor of ours, I clicked the ad to find out more as I wanted to review the service.

YP has really gotten their stuff together. Their website looks way better and they are heavily marketing their services to business owners like yourself. I still believe their online marketing services are expensive for the customer service they provide. Over the last couple of years I’ve received plenty of emails from business owners who are not pleased with the cost of YP online marketing services.

What is Yellow Pages NetSync?

Upon clicking the NetSync link, you’ll see a couple of boxes where you can add your business name and phone number. I used my company and business as a trial. After less then a minute you are greeted with a score and a few websites/business directories where your business may or may not be listed.

Effectively, NetSync is a tool to track down mentions of your business name on business directories to see how your business contact information is displayed. It’s also able to see which of the top directories you are or are not listed in.

YP is pitching NetSync like this:

“Errors are costly. 3 out of 4 people lose trust in a business with wrong information and won’t search for that business again.”

Of course I don’t disagree with this statement. But I strongly believe this is the wrong pitch. Instead, having correct and consistent business listings is important for local search rankings.

Also, when anyone searches for a business name online, you’ll see that business’ website, their Google listing and contact details, then perhaps a Yelp and YellowPages listing. It should be a given that you have the correct contact information on all four of those platforms. Very rarely, if ever, will someone be on directory like Weblocal looking for a business.

Again, having consistent business listings is way more important for local search. That’s the second time I’ve linked to that post. Please read it!!

Back to it.

Within 5 minutes of me filling out my business details I received a call from a local number. Turns out it was a YP sales rep.

I started chatting with them and they are basically Yext in Canada. Yext is a company out of the US who provides the same business listing clean up service. They have taken control of many business directories in Canada and how they collect and update business date like name, address & phone numbers. So when someone signs up with NetSync, you plugin in your correct business contact details and then they update all of their directories they control.

It’s a really great idea and it saves the business owner money.

My only issue is with quality score they give you. My business was giving a score of 37%. I believe this is a bit of a scare tactic. I can say for sure that when I started Meaningful Marketing, I listed it correctly on many business directories. A business name and phone number search for Meaningful Marketing confirms plenty of consistency listings. I haven’t moved or changed business address which can really harm your local search rankings if not corrected.

If you see a low score, just search do a search. Something like “business name+phone number+address” and see what information the business directories have for your information.


If you clicked the “Fix Errors” button you’ll be directed to the costs page. This is a breakdown of their packages and costs.

YellowPages NetSync review

The premium package is very similar to our Google My Business package which you can see below. The $50 is per month but with a 1 year contract so $600 + tax for the year.

  • Google Local

  • Add Business ListingsHaving many listings is important for your My Business page rankingsAdd Business Listings
  • Business Listings Clean UpMoved or changed phone numbers? Having inconsistent business listings can hurt your rankingsBusiness Listings Clean Up
  • Google ReviewsReviews are another ranking factor for your My Business pageGoogle Reviews
  • Website RecommendationsWebsite Recommendations
  • Platinum Package

  • $499 CANADIAN

    +5% TAX

  • Add Business ListingsWe'll add your business to the top 50 directories your not listed in50 Business Listings
  • Business Listings Clean UpWe’ll do 4 rounds of business listings clean upyes
  • Google ReviewsWe'll create and help you implement a strategy to get more reviews for your page Strategy + Implementation
  • Website RecommendationsWe'll provide you with a list of recommendations to be implemented to your website to help your Google My Business rankingsyes

Our Google My Business package is $500 but we offer 25 more business listings, a review strategy for YellowPages, Yelp, and Google, and we make website recommendations to increase your local search performance.

I think the two services are quiet similar. Obviously I’d like to work with you but can understand choosing YP and NetSync. I’ve been critical of YP but having seen how Yext has offered this service, it’s a solid choice.