Q and A: How Do I Convince an SEO Client to Start from Scratch?

QuestionHello Kalena,

I don’t know if you remember me or not from last year, but I’m a graduate of Search Engine College and I’ve now launched my own SEO business, though it’s going very slow, just out of the gate. Great potential in my small town within Colorado USA, but still trying to gain momentum being a new business.

Anyway, here’s my dilemma and subsequent question.

Recently when talking with a potential client, he informed me that he wanted to give one my business cards to his wife. He said she would definitely contact me regarding her own website which is in need of SEO. He was right, she did contact me and I met with her for an initial visit to discuss matters. I’m not quite sure how to break it to her that she might be better just scrapping her site and starting over! On her site I’ve found aspx, iframes, javascript, tables, nested tables, php, hidden items as well as excessive and duplicate code bloat on every single page, which I think is due to a .dll pulling from another site for her search field feature! Please help, because her husband is the executive director of another company in our town who could be a potential huge client for me.

I don’t want to offend her and be the recipient of a trickle effect for lost work. I typically don’t divulge my clients or the issues involved, but this case requires professional input and therefore I must provide you the info: http://www.clientsite.com [Actual URL hidden for privacy reasons]. My suggestion would be to design a new, optimized site using WordPress and then use a robot.txt file for her Products page and only have the search field on that page since she has over 800 products, am I right? How would you handle this client tactfully and would you use the same remedy? Any suggestions would be immensely appreciated, thank you in advance Kalena.

Sincerely,

Angela

————————————–

Hi Angela

Lovely to hear fom you and congrats on launching your SEO business.

Regarding your question, it can be a bit tricky giving advice to potential clients when you’ve looked at their site and it’s a SEO nightmare. Often, you know it is going to be easier for them to wipe the slate and start again, but convincing them of this can be extremely difficult!

With SEO, what I recommend you do is to ALWAYS go with your gut. If you are performing a site analysis and there are more ticks in the *negative* column than the *positive* one, you should absolutely not fear recommending a new start to a client – whether they are a big or small potential client, they are asking for your advice and you should give it to them honestly, without fear. If you explain to them the reasoning behind your recommendation and they trust you, they should have no problem taking your advice. If they baulk at the idea or refuse to discuss it as an option, they are probably not a good match for you as a SEO client anyway. You want to take on clients who trust you to know what you are doing, welcome your advice and encourage you to educate them along the way.

Here are a couple of tips you can use to help convince a potential new client to start over:

1) A site analysis or SWOT report that points out the many negatives of the current design and the many positives of shifting to a new design.
2) A graphical mock up of the new site you have in mind (e.g. using a WordPress theme or similar)
3) A ranking report that shows how poorly they rank for target keywords against their major competitors.
4) Take them through Google’s Webmaster Guidelines – a list of recommendations as to the best way to design pages so they are found more easily.

It’s hard to argue with someone when the truth is staring them in the face!

Now, in the specific site you are referring to – there are quite a few SEO issues to be addressed, including the many you brought up yourself. There is also huge SEO potential in the site that is not being utilized. For example:

  • All your client’s product categories are database driven *dynamic* pages generated on the fly based on multiple search parameters instead of stand-alone hard coded pages. So while humans see the pages: http://www.clientsite.com/search.php?product=ducks&catnum=291 and http://www.clientsite.com/search.php?product=caps&catnum=143 as separate pages, search engines will usually only index http://www.clientsite.com/search.php and ignore the parameters following.
  • Best case scenario, Google might index URLs containing single parameters, but your client’s pages are stuffed with multiple parameters. Google highlights multiple parameters as problematic in their Webmaster Guidelines. This means that hundreds of pages of product content are likely not being indexed by search engines. I see your client has a XML sitemap that consists of a number of those dynamic pages, but that’s pointless if they are ignored or can’t be indexed.
  • If you conduct a site search in Google for the URL: site:http://www.clientsite.com, you’ll see that – as suspected – only about 12 pages on your client’s site are indexed. What a lost opportunity! Imagine if all product category pages were stand-alone, keyword-optimized pages such as http://www.clientsite.com/products/rubber-ducks/ and http://www.clientsite.com/products/caps-hats/ etc? To address this, your client could use WordPress to create static product pages or, at the very least, implement a parameter work-around to turn the dynamic pages into static URLs and add them to her sitemap, which will encourage deep content indexing.
  • Another major issue is that when you click on some product types within a category page, you are taken to a completely different web site (the dll issue you found). On second look, it seems that much of the product content for this site is actually being fetched from http://www.thirdpartysite.com and presented in iframes on the http://www.clientsite.com site. If the third party product company own the product content, it may be problematic for your potential client to re-design their site from scratch. But it would certainly be worth looking into. Product specific content on your client’s site would make great SEO content if optimized well. Sadly, the way the content is currently being presented means that the third party site gets all the benefit of link popularity, TrustRank and SEO while your client’s site gets none.

Anyway, those are just a couple of major issues I spotted. You sound like you know exactly the best way forward for this client so all that remains is for you to convince her.

Good luck and let us know what happens.

Kalena

————————————–

Keen to get more traffic from search engines? Download our Free SEO Lesson. No catch!

Share this post with others

Q and A: What SEO rules apply for ecommerce sites?

QuestionHi Kalena

Could you please tell me if there are any special seo rules to keep in mind when developing or commissioning an ecommerce site?

Thanks
Natalie

————————————–

Hi Natalie

It’s hard to answer that question because every ecommerce site is different and presents its own challenges.

For example, if it is a large e-commerce site, it may be database driven, which means that product pages may contain session ids or multiple parameters that might confuse search engines. That would require a server-side solution of some kind.

It might offer thousands of products, meaning keyword research is a huge job and optimizing individual pages is extremely time consuming. That might require a script to integrate a meta tag / title tag template on every page.

It might be in a very competitive industry, meaning SEO of pages may not have much of an impact unless the site is hugely popular with very strong Google PR and backlinks.

I would say the most important thing you can do before SEOing an ecommerce site is RESEARCH. Your SEO Requirements Document will be crucial here, as will a very good dig into the site and the client company. To learn more about what should be included in your SEO Requirements Document, see my article: Before Launching Your SEO Campaign.

Learn as much as you can about the company, their customers, their goals and their target markets before you start any SEO activity.

Share this post with others

Q and A: Is it absolutely necessary to remove parameters from a URL?

QuestionHi Kalena

Is it absolutely necessary to remove numeric parameters from a url such as: www.site.com/keyword/category213.html to ensure the page is indexed and if so, why?

Thank you
Lana

Hi Lana

The URL you provided doesn’t contain any parameters. It’s a flat HTML file so search engines shouldn’t have any problems indexing it.

It’s URLs that contain “query strings” that generally contain parameters or variables. For example:

www.site.com/product.asp?productid=2

The question mark indicates the page is dynamic and therefore requires some type of server computation to display. The page URL above contains only one parameter (productid).

See more about how Google defines dynamic vs static URLs.

These days, most search engines can index pages that contain a single parameter. It is generally when multiple parameters are used in page URLs that search engine indexing problems occur.

As Google says in their Design and Content Guidelines:

“If you decide to use dynamic pages (i.e., the URL contains a “?” character), be aware that not every search engine spider crawls dynamic pages as well as static pages. It helps to keep the parameters short and the number of them few”.

Multiple parameters are often needed for large sites with multiple page templates and dynamically generated content for each section of each page. Multiple parameters are separated via an ampersand (&), for example:

www.site.com/product.asp?productid=2&producttype=large

The URL above is instructing the template for the page product.asp to query the database and load the page content for product id number 2 AND specifically the data for the large version of this product whenever anyone accesses this web page.

This type of URL is more difficult for a search engine to index because they can’t identify what the multiple parameters mean or whether the URL is a unique page.

So in this case the webmaster has the option to re-write the URLs at the server level to remove the parameters or else block search robots from indexing URLs containing multiple parameters.

But if you’re in doubt, I wouldn’t worry too much about your dynamic URLs. Google and the other search engines are pretty good at parsing and determining what parameters to ignore.

——————-

Like to learn more about SEO? Download my free SEO lesson. No catch!

Share this post with others

Q & A: Duplicate content with dynamic sites.

QuestionDear Kalena…

I’m working on a CFM database driven site and Google thinks we have hundreds of duplicate title tags and descriptions because pages on the site can be accessed using the normal page # and/or the page # plus navigation query strings.

Example: (these 3 urls all go to the same page and Google is logging them as 3 different pages in my Google Webmaster View)

1) body.cfm?id=19‎

2) body.cfm?id=19&oTopID=19‎‎

3) body.cfm?id=19&oTopId=62‎‎

To avoid a duplicate content penalty I cleaned up my sitemap.xml to only include the page # with no query strings. (Example = body.cfm?id=19‎) In my robots.txt file I’ve also added the disallow code to block any file with ‘TopId’ in the url. I’m hoping this will help…have you experienced this type of problem before?

Thanks! Mitch

Dear Mitch,

Your question was the source of some debate over here, so thanks for bringing it up! There is a question as to whether Google will actually index pages with session ID’s, and the general thinking is no, so you may be in the clear.

You seem to be handling the problem of duplicate content with database driven sites well, however. It’s best to pick one of the URL’s to include in your site map. You can also be sure NOT to link to any of these pages with duplicate content, from within your site. If you do need to link to these pages, be sure to use “no follow” tags on your link.

Best of luck, Nick Loeser

TheSmallMerchant.com

Share this post with others