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For one reason or the other, site owners are more than happy to pay big $ for web designers and programmers to create what they see (or rather think) great sites. And site owners do celebrate the day when those sites go live.
The same story repeat itself when sites are redesigned or migrate to new platforms.
Then weeks and months pass and the same site owners notice that mighty Google wouldn't index more than few pages of those sites. And they notice too that the amount of traffic they have been expected wouldn't show up. And they realize at that moment that something must went wrong.
Sometimes those merry web designers and programmers tell the site owner, don't worry... nothing wrong with your site... its Google which has been broken for sometimes now :-)
Mostly, its only then those kind site owners call for the assistance of a SEO Specialist to clean the mess which web designers and programmers left behind ;-)
And you would be surprised what the SEO Specialists might find at such sites:
- no robots.txt files
- sites not crawlable
- titles and metatags problems
- duplicate contents
- no sitemaps
- redirect codes problems
I just wonder, why site owners don't "incorporate" SEO Specialists from the beginning as part of the site building / site migration team to be sure that their sites would be "search engine friendly" too?
The best web development firms develop a site from the ground up and have there own dedicated SEO department that's focus is driving qualified traffic to customers sites through content optimization and then quality link development relative to the sites target industry.
Alot of web development firms granted, may build a 'search engine friendly' web site.. but the fact is alot of times they struggle with the duties of off-page optimization which is Google's be-all and end all to being able to get that 'brilliant content' positioned accordingly.
But we are seeing gradually more and more people spending alot money more on the SEO aspect of the site than say the actual 'design', which is the way it should be.
As they say, what's a pretty picture if you don't have the audience to view it?
With alot of web designers/programmers it's more like an EGO thing. They believe they know Google, hey everyone's an expert right? Yeah in there own head.. :)
However the owners seem to hate to think they have a lemon of a site so often are not interested in help or advice.
Traditional webdesigners seem to come from the coding or design side, with little interest in the seo side of websites.
Be thankful, it provides jobs for many others and means that the competition is less for markets :)
If they are lucky, their Developer is well versed in SEO and builds it into the site eliminating the need for a so called SEO specialist.
I've done it that way since 99 and all my customers are happy with the site I build for them and the positions they get in the searches. Since most of the sites I build are not in very competitive areas, just building it correctly from the start is usually enough to give them good positions.
merry web designers and programmers tell the site owner, don't worry... nothing wrong with your site... its Google which has been broken for sometimes now
As if they "know".
The problem is that SEO provides bad stories like this often. First the web designers says they "know" SEO ; then the programmer says "they know" SEO ; then the self acclaimed or newly appointed SEO say's they know, and ofen the person making the decisions to appoint the whole project chain "knows little" and listens to all "snake - oil selling " with little ability to check the stories.
So it's a never ending circle. Just try selling the truth to someone who doesn't understand!
I regularily come into contact with folks issuing directives in appointing teams on large projects who very much "don't know" enough.
btw - I'm no SEO , but think i know what to look for [ ... did i say that? ]
Both may sometimes be true, but neither are generally true.
As a sort of jack-of-all-trades independent it is my business to know enough about every aspect of making a website work - which includes design, programming and, yes, seo. You don't need to have any special or arcane knowledge or skills not available to the ordinary mortal to take care of the very simple and basic aspects of SEO mentioned in the post.
I often do redesigns of sites, and have without question spent more time and effort undoing the work of "SEO specialists" who have made a complete pigs dinner of a site than I have spent altering anything else.
Yes, there are good SEO specialists out there, but there are many who are frankly incompetent, out of date and lazy. Ditto for programmers/designers.
The trick for an independent like me is to know your limitations - take on only work which you know you can complete to a high standard and know when to outsource and, more importantly, who to outsource to.
For the poor mug who knows nothing about search engines or seo or web design and just wants a decent website that does the job for them it's a minefield. But quite frankly I think the worst thing that could possibly happen to them is that they fall early into the clutches of a poor "SEO specialist".
It has gotten to the point that I will turn down clients based on the "quality" of their design people. I just dropped a regular because his design people insisted on picking and choosing from my long list of page changes and then uploaded before I got a look at it. Client came to me a couple of weeks later wondering how to get back to the first page.
No matter how carefully I explain SEO to the client and his design people, and how well they claim to understand, I have come to believe that none of them actually do understand or remember.
To answer your question - Clients do not understand SEO!
They appear to get it, but when it comes to decision time, it becomes obvious that they don't.
Ahhh. That feels better. I needed that.
Some of the Flashistas are unhappy at their perceived loss of status, but it probably shows a growing maturity in both clients and industry...
IMHO there is a big difference between a web developer and a web designer. Most of the designers I have had the pleasure of meeting are artsy fartsy people usually involved with prepress, printing, or advertising. They tend to be very visual people with a good eye for creating logos, buttons, flash, etc. They concentrate on colors, layout, etc. They tend to pull all the stops in relation to the way things appear and how the information is displayed. They tend to use other programs to write their code, ie. frontpage, etc. They don't want to be bothered by the nuts and bolts of the site, just the end result. I have worked with a lot of these designers and they just look at you cross-eyed if you even mention anything like titles, descriptions or metatags. Many of the sites I have taken over from a designer would have all duplicate titles, desc, etc. or no metatags at all. Who cares about that stuff? It doesn't add anything to the page. They have a tendency to spend more time in photoshop and illustrator then any other programs. I have even seen some sites that will use art files for all the text because the designer didn't like the limitations placed on them when it came to fonts. A lot of them use Macs because they seem a lot less complicated then Windows or Linux. They are right-brain people.
A web developer, on the other hand, is quite a different animal. They tend to be more mathematical. They live and breath code. A lot of them are still coding by hand. They have a tendancy to make sites look and read like a newspaper. They also like databases and how they work. A lot of them use tools no more complicated then a glorified, colored text editor and I bet a lot of them are proud of that fact. They have a tendancy to write code and save it for future use, not for a client, but for the joy of figuring something out. Many still use the cmd prompt and have a good knowledge of things like DNS, ODBC, ipconfig, etc. They will spend hours perusing log files or will find a particular IP and search for it through days of logs to find patterns. They love stat programs and will use them for a lot more then just "how many pages were viewed." Many fall asleep with a particular coding problem and will wake up with an answer. The red stopsign in the event viewer freaks them out and they could spend hours trying to find out why it's there. They are left brained people.
Now before I get blasted for pigeonholing designers and developers, I must say that I am going to extremes here. I bet a lot of us kind of fall someplace in the middle. But I also believe that SEO people tend to fall more on the left brain side. I mean, how many times are we discussing algorithms, data structures, result sets? I would tend to think that a very good site would probably be a combination of a left brained person and a right brained person working together. There are a lot of designers out there who know nothing of SEO, and quite frankly, they probably could care less. That is why I am not suprised that a lot of sites have/are...
- no robots.txt files
- sites not crawlable
- titles and metatags problems
- duplicate contents
- no sitemaps
- redirect codes problems
They just don't think that way.
On the flip side, though, if all the sites out there were were made by developers, the web would probably be a much more boring, black and white place to be.
RIGHT BRAIN FUNCTIONS
"big picture" oriented
symbols and images
present and future
philosophy & religion
can "get it" (i.e. meaning)
knows object function
LEFT BRAIN FUNCTIONS
words and language
present and past
math and science
knows object name
The Middle brain guy.
-Got the artistic background, but uses a PC because it's more logical
-Gets basic code but uses Notepad to create a Web page, but is definitely not a programmer. Doesn't care about W3 compliant code, only about small code!
-Major influence - the MARKETING AND SALES RESULTS AND CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE
That means, everything is done, not for the love of art or code, but to reach the results and make sure the real customer, not the person ordering the site, but the person ordering FROM the site, is good.
All I care is improving conversion. I don't dig code for code's sake. I only use it where it will improve the overall picture. Ditto for fabulous design. It's not supposed to rock the world. It's supposed to generate sales and results.
So I'm part creative, and part logical. And whatever I sure like to delegate a lot of the design and coding to others and make them fit my strategies.
I'm a middle brain person! ;)
[edited by: Harry at 3:25 pm (utc) on Dec. 5, 2006]
There are website building guidelines you should always follow such as google guidelines, w3c standards, yahoo guidelines, msn guidelines, etc....
Before anyone ever pays to have a site built, they should do some homework. If they fail to do their homework, then its their money they are spending and someone will always be there to take their money and do a bad job.
I always tell people, research the business that they are planning to use and demand to see a complete portfolio of sites the company built.
Design and SEO do go hand in hand, because google depends on historical data a lot of the time and changes in indexing are slow...
Build it right the first time....
But as I tell people, search engines are life for your site. Better a plain vanilla website that gets indexed easily than one that is hardly visited.
One of the biggest problems I find with designed sites is the desire to use techniques resulting in massive amounts of code in the header, for simple effects such as loading different pics each time the page is visited.
That viewers really don't care about the glitz seems to go over the heads of some people as they seem lost in the wonderment of what they have bought / produced.
A great example are CMS systems - forums, that owners seem to try and make more and more complex, with the hope of attracting and holding posters with neato bells and toys.
However the more complex the forum structure and code the less easily it gets indexed in google. So whereas up to 30% of my traffic is from google, on my ultra stripped down forum, others remain empty with only existing members providing input.
Really the best rule for successful webdesign is KISS (keep it simple stupid)
I'm with Texasville and Patrick... I truly feel that a good 'designer' should build for SEO from the beginning as well. I don't believe the two should be done by two separate parties or be separate thoughts for that matter.
My goal is always to provide an attractive and professional looking site that has visual impact - and at the same time, is SE friendly and has all of the elements consistent with good SEO (the list you've mentioned repeatedly). I'm with 'Harry' on this one - it's all about results. This foundation should answer the two main goals - 1.) visitors find the site 2.) when they arrive, they will buy.
One thing I realize now is that I should be taking this into account when quoting on projects ("Yeah it's more but you get what you pay for") - something I've had trouble with in the past (undercharging when competing against 'the designers').
Depending on how your site is designed, you need a robots.txt file. For example, most CMS have areas that should be off limits to robots.
If you're running a site that uses mod_rewrite, you also need robots.txt to prevent duplicate content.
If a robot can gain access to a CMS area then you have severe security issues to resolve :)
To top it off, the site looked great in internet explorer, but the flash was using an old netscape embed tag and it did not even show up in a firefox browser.
Its a mess....and its already indexed in google.
Get it right the first time... In his case he has no real civil recourse against the company who built the site. So I have been fixing it for him at a much reduced rate since he has been a long time friend of mine.
A designer or a program has left the following robots.txt behind:
# Be nice.
Thats not some theoritical example, or a jock. Its exactly what happened in real life!
Maybe it was done in good faith while developing the site, and the designer/programmer just forgot to edit the robots.txt after finishing the developement work to read, for example:
But he/she did write the "# Be nice.". Go figure ;-)