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SEO No-No's in Site Redesign
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Search Engine Optimization SEO No-No's Site Redesign



Throw Away Your Money on Search Engine Optimization

Developer Doh's & Programmer No-No's in Site Redesign

by Mike Banks Valentine © October 1, 2004

Search engine optimization consists of some relatively arcane issues that are not obvious to anyone. That I can be thankful for, I suppose, or I wouldn't continue to be in demand as an SEO specialist. But why do clients throw money out the window with developers who don't understand they are bulldozing down site naming structure and careful page architecture when they do a site redesign?

Today I got a call from a very good client who was excited to have me see his site redesign and sent me off to visit while he was on the phone. I typed in the domain name and watched the page load in my browser. Nice color scheme, interesting scrolling header, clean design, good navigation. "Looks Good," I said, and then my heart sank when I noted that my carefully crafted title tag was missing from the browser title bar.

I clicked to the sitemap and noticed that my naming convention for pages, subdirectories and image files had been discarded like yesterdays trash. I went to the source code and saw that all the javascript we had neatly pulled off page and assigned to independent off-page .js files was back on the page again, along with the CSS styles. Oh, and no description metatags.

I began to groan audibly as I made each of these discoveries, forgetting that my client was on the line. My heart leapt back into my throat as I looked for all the great articles, press releases, additional text content I had conscientously added and found them missing from the site entirely!

My client responded to my noises with an exclamation that his new site was "State of the Art!" and "Completely Automated" as he pointed out the cool new functions and slick scripts. "Only one problem," he said, still gushing about the expensive toys, goodies and googaws on his pretty new baby - "We dropped from our first page rankings in the search engines, what happened?"

I won't detail what I said as I exploded in anger at the havoc his developer wreaked upon my lovingly optimized pages, but after I calmed a bit (thank goodness he's a good client and a friend) I detailed the developer's unknowing destruction.

Do you realize that ALL links to previous pages will generate "404 Not Found" errors from links in the search engines until these new pages are crawled? Do you realize that EVERYTHING I did to get top rankings has been destroyed?! Do you understand that ALL the money you gave me to optimize your site will have to be spent AGAIN?

This exchange has happened with several clients over the past few years. Even though I warn each new client that they must take care to avoid exactly this scenario when they have a site redesigned or upgraded. DON'T CHANGE FILENAMES, DON'T OVERWRITE TITLE TAGS, KEEP JAVASCRIPT & CSS STYLES OFF THE PAGE, ETC.

This week I had a client call asking why the site changes he had agreed to a month ago had not been completed. I reminded him that he'd asked me to send those changes to his developer so that the changes were in-house rather than giving me server access.

I've got a new excuse to use now. The developer did it, or in this case - didn't do it. This developer saw no need to post my thoroughly researched title tags, based on keyword density of each page, to every one of the site's 300 pages. No matter that I'd spent days researching keywords, adjusting page text and massaging all title tags to match. The developer was busy.

The last straw for me came today though. A client called to find out if we could avoid the extensive rework of his site needed to do the "URL re-writes" that he'd agreed to do in the contract we signed recently. Why? "My programmer tells me it will take him a month to do this without breaking the site scripts." I reminded him that this had been discussed in our meeting last month when the programmer balked at all the work that would be required of him.

No problem, I said, we can go another route, but it will cost you twice as much for my immediate work and ultimately more than three times as much in your Pay-Per-Click budget forever. You won't rank nearly as well in the organic search listings.

Most of your site will never be indexed by most search engines unless you pay for mass URL inclusion, and that only works for one search engine - Yahoo, since everyone else has stopped the paid inclusion programs. Google doesn't offer paid inclusion. (Google and partners send nearly 70% of search traffic to him and most other sites.)

"Oh!", he exclaimed. "Well, ultimately the programmer will do what he's paid to do, like it or not."

Hmmm. Well I like it! Maybe my best weapon against developers and programmers opposed to SEO requirements will be reminding their employers of those PPC budgets and Google's lack of paid inclusion program.

Mike Valentine is SEO at and at where he had some of the experiences detailed in the article above.

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