One of the most difficult barriers to overcome in beginning a relationship with a new organic search optimization client is the need to face up to the reality of a broken website. “Broken” doesn’t always mean page-not-found errors or web servers going down. Gorgeous, 100% uptime sites with the latest bells and whistles can be very much broken from a SEO perspective. The problems are woven into the “essence” of the site. All SEO work is compromised, as is traffic, for the lifetime of that website.
Cut to the meeting…Here we sit, looking at your website (the one you just spent a lot of time, energy, and money to develop) and I may have to tell you the site is broken.
We’re facing a tense moment of truth. How clients deal with this is telling, and predicts well how any SEO project is going to go. The designer has had free reign to make this shiny thing for you without the hassle with talking to an SEO consultant during development. It’s eye candy, and now we’re going to shred it. Crap.
It’s about this time some designers; fearing for the health of their masterpiece, chime in. All we need to do is tweak the tags! Google does index flash! We can add a site map! … the client is now completely confused, and tension builds. The SEO effort is in jeopardy, and everyone’s motivation to develop a relationship is reduced. The site is doomed to a quiet existence, fed only by the 15% of potential traffic that regular PPC injections can bring.
How can we avoid this? I have an idea…
Our neighbor is doing renovations to their house, and I’ve noticed a stream of municipal vehicles coming by, presumably to issue permits for various phases of the job. Electrical has to sign off before plumbing, plumbing before drywall, and so on. Since each trade is trained in a specific discipline, a process of quality assurance is required by law to reduce the chances of a homeowner being faced with a costly re-engineering of any part of the project, possibly hidden under plaster and paint.
While websites are not physical things, they are still constructed in logical stages. Smart use of CSS and server-side include files can help, but the regular advice of a SEO may guide more than programming. It might help to direct content development, marketing plans, and even some nuggets of opportunity.
Engage the SEO when the site is just getting started (in new design or redesign) and have the site plan audited. Bring them in with the directive of focusing on organic placement, usability, and analytics deployment. Listen to them, and encourage a positive, friendly relationship between all site developers.
With a little planning, we can avoid ripping out walls and ceilings, enjoying the bounty of a well indexed and beautiful web site.