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SEO Website Audit

Opt Out of SEO at Your Own Peril!

July 14, 2010

If you're a small-business owner, you know you need a website in order to compete online. But I sometimes wonder how many owners know they don't just need a website, but one that's been developed with SEO baked in from the start.

Unfortunately, it's more likely that they don't even know what SEO is.

Part of the problem is that many business owners take a do-it-yourself approach to their Photo Credit: quatro.sinkowebsite and use whatever free or low-cost website creation tools they can get their hands on. And those who do hire a website designer assume that they will "do that Google stuff" when they develop the site.

Some website designers mention SEO as part of their services, either built into the design or as an add-on, but there's often not a lot of detail describing exactly what SEO services are offered. Other designers or agencies never mention SEO at all, either because they don't understand it, don't think it's important, or don't even believe it's possible.

Whose responsibility is it to bring up SEO?

If the business owner doesn't even know what SEO is, it's unlikely he or she will bring it up to their website designer. In which case, the designer may be relieved and assume they aren't interested in it. Except that the business owner may be thinking that all they will have to do is "tell Google which keywords we want" and they'll be all set. (I still get emails asking if I can do that!)

Yes, SEO does cost money.

On the other hand, getting most small-business owners to part with their money for something like SEO can be like pulling teeth. Many of them aren't willing to pay the extra costs involved in designing a website that has SEO built into it. But if you opt out of SEO services during the website design, you've got no one to blame but yourself when your website is a ghost town. And you may not be happy when you learn that the cost of SEO just doubled now that you're trying to wedge it into an existing site rather than baking it in from the start.

Every website needs SEO.

Many designers and do-it-your-selfers are now using freely available content management (CMS) tools such as WordPress, which makes it easier to ensure that they're built SEO-friendly. But, as with most tools, every CMS is only as good as the person using it. There are right and wrong ways of using WordPress when it comes to SEO. An out-of-the-box WP installation is likely to cause many SEO problems for the site owner when it comes to SEO. In fact, the default installation of WordPress often adds a nofollow, noindex robots meta tag to every page! I see at least 1 WordPress site a week that is inadvertently blocking itself from ever getting listed or found in Google. Whether the website is designed professionally or by someone's niece, it takes someone with knowledge and experience of the intricate world of SEO to ensure online success.

Let's face it, a site that is invisible in Google may as well not exist.

Yet every day websites are designed with no thought to it, and business owners are left to believe that this "Internet thing" is just a waste of time. The solution is for all business owners to insist on SEO right from the start. If your designer isn't an SEO expert (and most aren't), it's critical that they be partnered with an SEO consultant so that they're not designing invisible websites. While the cost of entry for a small business is going to be higher, investment will pay off many times over later on.

Jill Whalen is the CEO of High Rankings, a Boston SEO Consulting Agency.

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 Ellen Thompson said:
We specialize in doing website for apartment owners and have a long history of great SEO in this vertical (where we have the content and deserve it). Even though we are the low price bidder with a similar product, we are about to lose a website to another firm that forcefully says they know what they are doing, but it's clear they don't. E.g. the name of the property management company as the only content in the Title of the index page on their demo site.

I don't mind losing the business so much as I hate to see the prospect in the wrong hands. If only they would do a few of the 2 and 3 keyword searches I suggested for each site, they would see the difference.

What I did learn from this experience is the other company did a better job of telling the world about their supposed expertise, and we are going to change our site accordingly because for better or worse, some people believe everything they read.
 Greg Seers said:
Great article, so "on the button" as I am a marketing consultant - websites & the whole bit. It is true Ellen, you need to promote yourself just as your client would wish you to promote them. Incidentally I like your site -very clean. My site is shocking re SEO so how can I give advice to others - a bit embarassing yep!! I am able to use an SEO/Adwords guru though. Fortunately most of my work comes via WOM. My question is why is it "so difficult" to bring SEO into an old site? Here's the biggy: Would not just changing the content of the site fix the problem?
 Jill Whalen said:
While it can be true that just changing the content can help, that's only the case if the site was built in a crawler friendly manner. Very often the basic site architecture has to change on a site, which is a lot easier to do when it's being built.
 Wendy Chamier said:
I couldn't agree more Jill. I have the exact same conversation often with clients. Not so long ago a client actually sent me a list of 250 keywords he wanted me to "get up on his site" the next day.
The good news is that I am beginning to work with more and more web designers who are recognising that they don't have the necessary skill set, but know they need to bake SEO in from the start - so thats encouraging and hope it continues this way!
 Greg said:
Thanks Jill, your "crawler friendly" answer makes sense.
Tell me, Google are always changing/improving their algorhythms for their rankings process. Do the "crawler friendly site architecture" specs change often?
 Jill Whalen said:

Google only change their algo to stop spammers so anything you do that makes your site better for it's users will never go out of style nor be affectected by algo changes.
 Anna said:
I completely agree - SEO isn't about "tricking" the search engines - it's about making sure users can get to the information, products or services they want. Keep the user in mind and the rest follows naturally.
 Zunaira K said:
Great article Jill, you've touched on many points that consultants deal with when handling a new client - especially from a small business standpoint. Many of my clients came on board with sites completely built in flash with high hopes of ranking on 1st position of Google. They too, had the same theory that as long as we plugged in the keywords in the back end of the website, they would rank automatically, ie, that's why they were surprised at how much an SEO campaign would cost. I liked the question you posed in your post "Whose responsibility is it to bring up SEO?". Personally, I think some of the responsibility goes on the client - not that they know what SEO is naturally, but small businesses especially need to clarify why they want a website in the first place. As soon as they know the answer to that, the web designer / SEO consultant can advise them accordingly.