Q and A: Are WYSIWYG design tools bad for SEO?

QuestionDear Kalena,

As I have no seo background and nowhere else to turn for professional advice, I decided to submit a matter that is troubling me, as you not only have a staff of SEOs but you have the first professional SEO site I have found that invites questions from the general public.

This is my issue: I am wondering if using a modern WYSIWYG website application would be better than trying to hand-code a 20-30 page website?

I ask since there seems to be a consensus that such programs hinder SEO efforts. The reasons cited is that programs like XsitePro 2.5 use tables. Yet, Google says there is no real difference between tables and CSS regarding SEO.

Others claim that apps like WYSIWYG Web Builder 8 are bad for SEO due to their use of span tags. Finally, both the above-cited apps do allow access to the source code for changes and adding scripts, as well as to meta title and keyword tags, etc.

As I have witnessed multiple instances of websites created by such programs occupying spots #1-#5 on Page 1 of Google, would it not be better to use these design tools and devote the time to “more important” SEO matters such as content, keywords, and other on-off site practices?

Any/all information you can provide would be greatly appreciated as it would put this issue to rest for me.

Sincerely,
Guy

————————————–

Hi Guy

There is absolutely nothing wrong with using WYSIWYG software or a Content Management System (CMS) to design your web site. Some web design tools are better than others in terms of SEO friendliness and you should do your own research on this before deciding. But most web sites these days are created using some type of software or application, rather than built by hand.

In fact, the free blogging platform WordPress is one of the most popular CMS’s used to build web sites these days – we use it almost exclusively for our own sites and those of our clients. From my observations, Google seems to prefer indexing web sites built using WordPress. Developers working on the WordPress themes have taken great care to make sure the code validates, is as concise as possible and uses logical CSS. WordPress also has the benefit of SEO-related plug-ins, which short cuts the job of hand-optimizing a web site.

So you’re absolutely right – don’t be afraid to use auto-design tools and WYSIWYG software to create your site. Then you can devote more time to the most important features of SEO: content, keywords and link building.

——————————————————————–

Need to SEO your site but not sure where to start? Download your Free SEO Lesson. No catch!

 

Share this post with others

What to Include in a Web Site Audit

What to include in a web site auditThe other day, I found the very first web site audit that I ever performed for a client’s site, way back in 2000. The page load times were hilarious!

But it got me thinking about how things have changed over the years and how sophisticated web site audits need to be these days. From the conversations I’ve had, there is still some confusion over what should be included in a web site audit.

This prompted me to write an article What to Include in a Web Site Audit which has been published over at SiteProNews.  Let me know what you think!

Share this post with others

Q and A: Should I optimize my existing site or start over?

QuestionHi Kalena,

I have a question. I want to start optimizing my own site. Would it be better to start fresh with a new site or should I try to fix the existing site? And does it make sense to purchase a template or have a webmaster design it from scratch?

Thanks
Nelson

————————————–

Hi Nelson

Whether you optimize your existing site or start from scratch depends on a lot of factors:

  • Are you happy with the design of your current site?
  • Is the current web site designed with users in mind?
  • Does it convert well and/or attract a lot of traffic?
  • Does the current design allow for SEO to be performed easily?

If you’re able to quickly answer YES to these questions, then you may not need to start from scratch. If you hesitated even a little, you would probably be better off redesigning your site from the ground up.

In other words, if there are more ticks in the *negative* column than the *positive* one, you should absolutely not fear scrapping your existing site and starting a new one. If you are worried about losing current search rankings for existing pages, you should consider 301 redirecting those pages to their replacement pages when you create them.

In terms of a new site template, I have been recommending WordPress for SEO purposes for a long time now. I advocate keeping your own domain and installing WordPress on it, with an attractive theme that is easy to use. Google and other search engines adore web sites built with WordPress and there are a lot of SEO-related plugins that will help you. Plus it’s free! Can’t argue with that.

If you aren’t confident using WordPress, there are a lot of talented WordPress designers out there who can be of assistance, or you can teach yourself using the detailed WordPress user documentation.

As an alternative to WordPress, you could also consider Google Sites.

Hope this helps.

Kalena
————————————–

Sick of paying others to SEO your site? Download my Free SEO Lesson. No catch!

 

Share this post with others

Q and A: How Do I Prepare for a Large Site Migration?

QuestionHi Kalena

I work for a medium sized hospitality chain (in the marketing dept) and our leading chain of hotels is about to undergo a brand change. I’ve just found out that management has approved a full domain name change for each of these hotels and scheduled it with our IT department to happen next month. My General Manager bought the domain name without consulting IT or marketing.

I’m freaking out a little because I’ve been given the task of making sure the change goes smoothly and doesn’t impact our Google rankings or traffic, which I’ve spent years building up. There are 3 different regional hotel properties that will be affected and the content will be transferred over to a single domain! What should I expect? Is there anything I can do to make the transition go smoothly?

Regards
Belinda

————————————–

Hi Belinda

Oh boy, I don’t envy you. Yes, you are right to be freaking out – at least a little. Site migrations are a royal pain in the you know where and can result in masses of lost traffic and lost search engine rankings.

By the sound of things, your site migration will be complicated by the fact that there are multiple domains shifting to a single domain. Now before you start hyperventilating, there are some things you can do in preperation:

1) Read this terrific presentation about site migration by Aidan Beanland of Yahoo and then read it again. Create a plan for your own migration situation.

2) Go spend some time with the IT department. Hopefully you get on well with them because you’ll be spending a lot of time talking to them over the next few months. Provide them with a copy of Aidan’s guide so they know what to expect. You’ll need to find out their strategy for the roll-out, including pre-switch benchmarking, 301 redirect integration and testing, specific dates for content transfer, the big switch and final DNS propagation.

3) Consider shifting the content of each individual hotel into distinct region-based sub-domains on the new site e.g. Dallas.HotelBrand.com, Austin.HotelBrand, Houston.HotelBrand rather than trying to combine all content into a single site. This way, you can optimize the sub-domains as distinctive sites and retain the location-related Google rankings you have spent so long building up. If you can prove large traffic losses will occur if you don’t do this (and they will!), it should be easy to get IT and management onside.

4) Take an active role in the pre-migration benchmarking process, particularly in relation to site analytics, most popular content and search engine rankings. Ensure your company keep ownership of the old domains and keep all sites live until the new domain has fully propagated.

5) Be prepared with other online/offline marketing activities to promote the hotels in case of sudden traffic loss.

6) Make sure your manager and stakeholders know what is within/beyond your control! Make it very clear what can go wrong during the move and protect yourself by warning them ahead of time of the potential negative outcomes.

Good Luck!

————————————–

Struggling to get your site higher in Google? Download my Free SEO Lesson. No catch!

 

Share this post with others

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