Trust Me – I’m a Professional … SEO

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professional_small.jpgADOTAS — At WebMetro we typically provide SEO Action Plans as part of campaigns. As the name implies, an SEO Action Plan is a strategic plan to achieve the ranking, traffic and return on investment objectives from the SEO campaign. Typically our SEO Action Plans are 90-days in duration, but sometimes shorter or longer depending upon the specific circumstances of the campaign. After 90 days we re-evaluate the progress along with the market at that time and develop a new 90-day plan.

As I was outlining the first 90-day SEO Action Plan to a new client the other day, the client asked me why I was not following best practices. Having thought I missed something in my plan, I asked the client to explain his question. He asked why I did not include an XML Sitemap in my Action Plan. Apparently he read on Google Webmaster Tools that every site should have an XML Sitemap and that not including one goes against SEO best practices.

I informed the client that in general Google Webmaster Tools is correct. It is a best practice to have an XML Sitemap. In fact, depending upon the content a website could have several types of sitemaps including video, mobile, news, etc. However, in this specific situation creating and uploading an XML Sitemap was not advisable.

It turns out my client’s eCommerce website was “over indexed” in Google. With most clients over indexing happens more with MSN than Google, but not this time. In my client’s case, Google was reporting that it indexed 50,000 pages. My client has about 7,600 products. With the integrated blog and other pages, the site only has about 10,000 pages.

After analyzing the situation, Google was over indexing the site due to a quirk in my client’s content management system (CMS). The CMS appended a few sections of the website with an extra parameter giving the appearance that the website has more web pages (content) than it really has. Worse yet, my client’s website has top rankings for several of the keywords that are included in this over indexing.

It turns out if I implement an XML Sitemap, I am essentially telling Google they have made a mistake in over indexing and they will flush roughly 40,000 pages from the index. Almost overnight this will drop the existing rankings for my client because the site is not as relevant for a given set of keywords.

Instead of losing rankings and thereby revenue for my client by blindly following a “best practice”, I’ve elected not to follow a best practice. Once the client is able to replace the website with equivalent content – I will then create and upload an XML Sitemap.

This is not the first time I have not followed best practices in my 9 years of SEO. Last year I inherited a website that has 25 doorway pages. Doorway pages are intended only for the search engines and are not intended for people to access.

We discovered the doorway pages during the initial audit. Our analysis suggested these pages were contributing to the site rankings. Upon finding these pages the client wanted me to immediately delete the pages but I advised against it to preserve existing rankings and revenue stream. Instead I decided to slowly remove a few pages a month and replace them with real content. This was a painstaking process but it was successful. Today my client has first page rankings and no doorway pages.

Rankings and traffic are key metrics that SEOs should measure. However, an SEO’s job should not end there. We are also responsible for return on investment from the campaign. As a result we must understand and appreciate the business side of SEO – cash flow, revenue and profitability. Yes, my Bachelor of Science degree is in business administration and management. From time to time, I will not let SEO best practices get in the way of business.

So trust me – I am a professional …SEO.

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2 COMMENTS

  1. Hey John,

    Good catch and pointing that out to the client. And of course, at least he asked the question rather than look at you like an idiot and call it quits.

    Over indexing has certainly helped him out, but I wonder if it will come back to haunt him later on down the road if nothing was done. Hmmm.

    Smart move on your part in slowly exfoliating those pages and replacing them with real content. I’m sure it was a real pain to deal with though.

  2. Kevin,

    I appreciate your comments. It sounds as if you have some experience in this situation.

    Managing thru overindexing and removing doorway pages is not always easy – nor is it always initially appreciated by clients.

    For example – the client with the doorway pages initially thought his #5 ranking should move to #4 or 3 with the new content.

    Instead I was tickled pink with just maintaining his rankings.

    However, today he understands the work. Instead of building content to support the primary keywords – we built content for Latent Semantic Indexing. Now his traffic, unique keywords and conversions has increased as a result of personalized search.

    Cheers!

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