One of the services we offer at Sonet Digital is ‘red project solutions’ for online marketing. We are called-in to rescue sites that have a variety of problems, including poor or inappropriate website architecture. This includes sites that have been built by unscrupulous web firms who have taken the client’s money and then left them with a website that does not perform, or was not researched thoroughly for its effectiveness within in its specific market. These badly designed sites are not only created by web firms but also SEO’s who have ‘talked’ their client into contracting their services but did little more than fill a few pages with keywords and point a stream of useless free directory links without fully investigating the project requirements first.
The sad fact is that we see far too many of these mislead clients – they are at a loss – some angry and some deeply upset that they have put their trust and livelihood in the hands of such dishonest individuals. Our job is to give the client the facts and explain what has gone wrong. We offer a ‘light at the end of the tunnel’. We give the client our honest and professional opinion of the solutions that are required to bring their website back to a strong position in the search engines. Remember, everything can be undone and a positive outcome is always available, it just requires expertise and commitment from the professional one hires to do the job. Unfortunately it comes down to budget and having to spend a little more to undo and correct the mistakes and incompetence of the previous contractor.
Here is an example of a client’s website and business receiving ‘second-hand treatment’. We went to see this new customer two weeks after a request and recommendation from a colleague.
Mike has a service where he finds and locates businesses for sale on behalf of clients who are looking to invest or buy a business. He also sells businesses online on behalf of customers wishing to sell. Mike relies heavily on being in the top natural listings of search engines such as Google, Yahoo and MSN. His website has been online since 1998 and has slowly built up to reasonable positions. The problem is, Mike’s website was quite old and using old and out of date architecture with poor graphic work and it was no longer rendering properly in some of the latest browser updates such as Internet Explorer 6, Opera 8 and Firefox. Mike had previously built this site himself with the help of a 14 year old nephew. He had come to realise that his website is his shop window and thus rather urgently required an overhaul to bring his online showroom up to date. He was not wrong in thinking a good website design with modern site architecture and great coding would increase his search engine rankings further. He had put some money aside for this and decided to invest in a new website that would do all these things and would also allow him to update the website himself. He found a ‘web development company’ and they agreed to build him a site with a content management system that would allow him to upload content and images whenever he wanted, without any knowledge of technical coding and also to keep his website validated to accessible standards. The site would be search engine friendly as he hired an ‘SEO consultant’ who claimed he would move the earth for him to get those top positions.
When the project was delivered the client seemed quite happy with the look and feel of the revamped website, the SEO consultant delivered his optimisation services and an inbound linking campaign. Then a week later Google went through one of its updates and Mike’s new site actually disappeared from page one of Google for a high key-phrase and dropped to page eleven. It all went downhill quite rapidly from there, much to Mike’s dismay since he had spent six thousand pounds with the web firm and another three thousand pounds with the SEO consultant. He then went to both companies and demanded answers; they blamed each other, and then blamed Google!
What Went Wrong?
We went to see Mike who was in need of some serious TLC, and certainly some answers. We had already prepared an analysis of his website and we delivered the verdict to him.
Neither of the two companies had researched the client’s project in anyway but had happily gone ahead and taken the financial rewards! The web firm had given an off-the-shelf content management system (not the bespoke one they claimed they could build) and they had built a front end that not only did not validate to its Doc header but its navigation system was entirely in Flash, and the text was also flash based. Search engines do not read flash based websites, no matter what you are told, they simply CAN’T. The reason for this is that any flash based text will show up as a flash image. The only thing Mike was able to do with the CMS was upload images and make changes to his text on the contact and copyright pages, which is totally useless to him.
The SEO consultant had not even bothered to advise the web firm they had implemented a page on the site for reciprocal links – these were reciprocal links that were from free directories that demanded a link back. Most of these directories were ‘off-subject matter’ and had nothing to do with the clients business at all. He had paid listing on approximately four paid directories but even then he was giving them reciprocal links! There were links from online pharmacies that were selling the usual enhancers and back links from ‘adult’ sites. The client was linking to these sites and in turn the clients’ site was slipping way down the slippery search engine ladder.
We built a new solution for the client. We researched the project thoroughly, prior to making any changes, and implemented a CMS and built a XHTML front end that validated to W3C standards. We added fresh text based search engine copy and made his site more of a resource for his visitors by adding in a news feed for property buying, and business sales.
For the SEO solution we took down the reciprocal links and rolled -out a natural linking solution, Each inbound link was carefully investigated for its own quality inbound links and its unique C-Class Block and IP address. We implemented a resources links page and had the client link to sites that his audience would find useful. We then wrote to Google and told them the story, though they generally don’t admit there is anything going on, it does make them aware that things have been corrected. They wrote back and pointed out their guidelines for webmasters – it is a standard response but still quite effective and tells one they have seen the email and it confirm that sites do not get penalised if they keep to the set of rules that have been set out for webmasters to use as a guideline.
Today, Mike’s site has now gone from its page eleven position to page two in the matter of a month. As we continue to optimise the website and implement an online advertising campaign his site will reach his much sought after number one position.
More than ever, there needs to be some sort of standards met in the SEO industry. I am not talking about a bunch of SEM’s and SEO’s meeting at a conference and merely paying lip-service to this, or SEO firms working at odds against each other to see who can be the first to implement good industry standards, all that does is creates division and duplication. What is required is an organisation who come together, a conglomerate of the best minds in the industry to discuss and lay the groundwork for best practices.