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October 31, 2011

Policing Your Site – Becoming Your Own Webmaster – A SPN Exclusive Article

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Generally I will not lead an article by stating the intended reader(s) or target audience. However, I decided that I would clearly state that this article is targeted primarily to website owners. At the same time, I am hoping that all online businesses will take note of this. These include advertising companies, web host providers, web designers and programmers, and even my own field – Search Engine Optimization.

Many online businesses (especially those in the marketing field) are plagued with bad reputations. I mean the field as a whole. A clear example is my very own category of online marketing, site management, and search engine optimization. The term “Black Hat SEO” wasn’t pulled out of thin air, nor was the idea to combat this “label” by clearly stating (or in many cases) professing to be above-board, or “White Hat”. For those that are unfamiliar with these terms, you can go with the sound…”Black Hat” having an almost evil connotation, while “White Hat” is seemingly “angelic”. This example applies to other online service providers as well, including web host providers, web designers, programmers and advertisers. I was prompted to finally write this article after my blood had boiled over in dealing with dirty, underhanded companies (again, including my very own field).

About two months ago, I was approached by a “Brick and Mortar” company that had been online with a simple site for about 3 years. The client of course wondered how I could help get her site on page one. I was up-front with her in saying that “Brick and Mortar” was a hair trickier than a business with a large online presence (or even strictly online). Nonetheless, I assured her that we would give it our all. Her site, like you would expect from a strictly “Brick and Mortar”, was not very interactive, and contained very little content. From face-value appearance, this site was “ok”. Behind the scenes was a different story.

When checking a potential new client’s web or blogsite, the very first thing that I do is really quite simple. I use the tool on most browsers by right-clicking and selecting “view page source”. This is perhaps (in my past experiences) the fastest indicator of simple site factors like the meta title, meta description, and keywords – first for the home-page. Is the title too long? Is the description poor, spammy, or too long?
Are there too many keywords? Is a particular keyword used too often (spam)? This two minute drill can really tell you a lot. By asking the owner who “described” the site, you’ll know even more. Was it the web designer? A third-party, outsourced content writer? All important to know. Now I dig deeper.

After running a full site analysis (broken links, ranking details, keywords statistics, etc.) I then use what I truly believe to be the single most important SEO tool available…Google it! By doing a search engine query using numerous keywords, you’ll find out exactly what you’re stacked-up against. What is the SERP count? Are the top SERP results articles or the actual site home-page?

Ok, right about now is when you should be asking me, “So what’s the deal with policing my site and becoming a webmaster?” We’re getting there…I promise!

So you give your potential client your facts, your theories, and your hopes. They accept your proposal. Now what do you need? You need site access, file manager access, database access, and website log-in (with administrative) access. Depending on what needs to be done and the degree of your programming or coding skills, you may need a programmer on your team. I happen to have been blessed with the knowledge and know-how to do just about everything that needs to be done to correct site issues.

Regardless of the content management solution (CMS), somehow or another me and my trusty code editor seem to plug away until we get all the “kinks” worked-out. Now comes the policing and loss of respect that give others a bad name in such a competitive area. I won’t name companies, web designers, or advertisers. My goal is not to expose or “call them out”, but rather to raise a website owner’s awareness that they exist, and what to look out for.

While I am only going to use one example, please be aware that I have encountered this on numerous occasions, and always with a unique twist or seemingly “organized” way of accomplishing their mission. I am going back to the recent “Brick and Mortar” company, as this one simply disgusted me the most.

At first appearance, the site consisted of a landing page, an about the company page, a contact page, and an FAQ (frequently asked questions). All things considered, this was ample for establishing an online presence (although I have since added a blog!). So what are we looking at, a four, five page site? Also keep in mind that this site is a simple html only site. No php.

Not even a database. Accessing the Control Panel and file manager should show me very little, right? Wrong! Unbeknownst to her, there were dozens of “hidden” files in her site. Provided by? Her web hosting company. In viewing these files (and I viewed them thoroughly), I found page after page that promoted her web hosting company’s site with countless “dofollow” links. Let me cite one example:

Her site is delivered from the folder “public_html”, meaning that the files directly from this folder are the next page, post, or folder directly from her domain, like example.com/ contact-us/. In her case there were odd file names like /Fbq573s.html. Of course no-one will EVER know to view this page and it isn’t linked-to. However, it is VERY much alive, crawled and cached by search engines, absolutely sapping this paying customer of any potential of being exposed for anything. Bottom line, she would NEVER see page one. Why? Why do this?

Don’t you want to see your customer succeed? My hosting company uses no dirty tricks. I want my web host user’s site to flourish, to expand. That is true credibility.

Lesson – even if it’s the basics, learn some basic html, view your website’s file manager, and if you have to, get a second opinion. To your success.


Bryan P. Hollis is the founder of Mid Carolina Freelance, LLC – A Complete SEO and Online Marketing Firm. He started the firm about 5 years ago and has progressed into many areas including affiliate management, social media marketing, web hosting and Linux server development.

4 Responses to “Policing Your Site – Becoming Your Own Webmaster – A SPN Exclusive Article

    avatar Bryan P. Hollis says:

    Hi Phil,
    Thanks for reading the article and your feedback. I very much agree about the site’s measure of success through traffic (and bounce rates). Page one means little if the viewer lands on a garbage pile! Take care,
    Bryan

    Great article, Brian, and I commend you for making these facts more widely known. I’ve never come across that particular brand of sneakiness before, but at least I am now forewarned!

    Just thought I should add that in checking a site’s SERPs position, you’ll need to have logged out of history in your Google Account, otherwise you will get a false reading – even though it is not widely known and therefore most searchers will have a different result depending n their default search history, you’ll still get a more accurate picture of the average position.

    IMHO the site traffic is a better measure of success (or otherwise), and the level of engagement gauged by time on site, pages viewed, bounce rate etc.

    Of course, that’s harder to create a comparative measure from in relation to competition, especially for related keywords – but then if SEO was easy then everyone would be doing it properly, wouldn’t they?

    And we’d have nothing to do!

    Thanks again, Phil

    Great post once again.
    You always are on the edge of thinking outside the box and very clever.
    Thanks!

    avatar Bryan P. Hollis says:

    Hi Shilpi,
    Thank you for the compliment and for reading my post.
    Bryan

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