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

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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
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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

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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

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Q and A: How do I add Google Analytics code to my WordPress site?

QuestionHello Kalena

I have a couple of questions about my WordPress site.

I have signed up for a Google AdSense and Google Analytics account but I am confused as to where to place the tracking codes.

Can you help me at all?

Thanks
Sarah

Hi Sarah

I recommend you review Google’s own instructions for adding the Google Analytics code.

If you’re adding the code to a WordPress site, you need to add it to the header.php file from within WordPress. You go to the *Editor* area under Administration from your WordPress dashboard. Then you copy and paste the code into the header.php page, just before the closing </head> tag.

Google also provides instructions for adding the AdSense code. However, if you want to put AdSense on your WordPress site and you’re not confident editing code, you’re probably better off installing an AdSense plugin that will help you to add AdSense ads to your pages without messing around with code hacking.

Hope this helps

Kalena

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Q and A: What web-based software do you recommend for practising SEO?

QuestionHi Kalena,

I would like to practice integrating SEO techniques. In your SEO101 lessons, you recommend using a web based site editing software. Please recommend one I can use for this purpose?

Thanks
Darlene

Hi Darlene

Probably the best option for you to practice on is to create a site using Google Sites.

Another good option is to create a free hosted web site using WordPress.com. It is traditionally used to create blogs, but because of it’s functionality and search engine compatibility, many companies use it to build their web sites these days (including Search Engine College!).

Just keep in mind that this creates a hosted site on wordpress.com (e.g. http://yoursite.wordpress.com) rather than your own domain. To achieve the best results using SEO, you need to use a hosted domain with your own domain name e.g. http://www.yoursite.com. If you have your own domain and want to use WordPress to build a site on it, go to WordPress.org and follow the instructions for installing WordPress on your domain.

WordPress offers a range of SEO plug-ins that pretty much automate the SEO coding process (e.g. All in One SEO Pack).  But for educational purposes, you should really work on integrating your SEO tags into the raw HTML code rather than taking these short cuts at first.

Kalena

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Q and A: What is the best way to use social bookmarking for my blog posts?

QuestionHi Kalena…

I am trialling social bookmarking submission sites. I just installed Only Wire to find it does not actually really work. I though this was a good one and now I have lost my faith a bit in using an automated service to achieve this objective.

I see you have a list of icons at the bottom of your blog. Have you manually put them there or do you use a piece of software or an online tool for that? I want to start using the power of submission to social bookmarking sites.

What is your view on that? How will it help rankings and how much time should we put into this effort? Can you suggest one that does work well?

Jen

Hi Jen

I decided to answer your question via video today. The plugin that I mention in the video is Sociable for WordPress.

To learn more about social bookmarking for your blog, please view my video answer below:

If for some reason the embedded video doesn’t work, you can view the video on YouTube.

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