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March 23, 2010

WWW Need Not Mean WordPress Website Woes!

I am deeply distraught, depressed and correspondingly enriched by the second example of blatant stupidity this week. The world appears to have an ever-increasing abundance of genii with more enthusiasm than expertise, unleashing themselves on unsuspecting clients. They churn out born-again websites with reckless abandon, and nary a passing thought to the potential for damage in the process…

In the first example, a high-ranking HTML-based photographers site was converted to WordPress. Exactly what I’d have done too, if the job had been given to me. Sadly, whilst the photographer was a previous client, and had long reaped the benefits of top organic SERPs, she did not think to run the site rebuild idea past me. To be fair, the new design is nice – the site looks excellent and showcases her work well. Never mind that search engine rankings have completely gone down the toilet! Why? Well, no one thought to;

  1. add 301 Redirects on old page names to new page names. That meant all indexed and well-ranked internal pages suddenly started generating 404 Page Not Found errors, and were eventually purged from all search engines indexes. All internal Page Rank was lost…
  2. Previously optimized on-page content was NOT moved to the corresponding new pages
  3. None of the image Alt text was moved to new images
  4. None of the meta-tags were moved to the corresponding new pages
  5. No XML or HTML Sitemaps provided

Suddenly, Googlebot was left devoid of internal clues as the content and purpose of the site!

In the second example, I have no idea what the original site was like, but it was on a 10 year old domain! The new WordPress site has severely compromised the company’s web-based new business by completely eliminating the search engine traffic potential;

  1. No 301 Redirects on old page names to new page names – all pages lost from SE’s indexes, PR set back to zero.
  2. Whilst there is an SEO module in the theme, zero meta-tag content was set up on any page!
  3. Admin / Privacy settings were set to “I would like to block search engines, but allow normal visitors”
  4. JavaScript main menu that SE’s cannot penetrate to find internal pages!
  5. No sitemaps, just to make it even more difficult to find internal content!

So, if you’d deliberately set out to kill off a site, thats a reasonably effective way to do it…

There’s a lesson here! If you are going to rebuild your website yourself, or pay someone else to do it, you’d best ensure that the person responsible for the changes has a plan that includes at least the basics! Failing to plan is planning to fail ,as these two examples clearly show!

Let me be explicit on this aspect – WordPress is a totally excellent choice as a Content Management system, and capable of easily achieving 1st page search engine rankings. I personally will use nothing other than WordPress in my business websites. Make no bones about it – I am a raving fan of WordPress!

The examples shown illustrate that its not the tools, its the quality of workmanship that makes the difference.

If you’re a website designer, you owe it to your clients to ensure you do more good than harm! If your stupidity causes the newly rebuilt website to vanish off Google’s radar screen, it does not matter one iota if the site looks stunning! Page redirection is such a fundamental requirement, its verging on criminal negligence to overlook it! Not using freely available, fully automated WordPress sitemap and meta-tags generation tools is quite unprofessional. It confirms the designer’s incompetence, so by all means, add your name to the footer credits to let the world know who to avoid!

Of course, if your underlying objective is to keep people like me in business, feel free to ignore all my well-intended advice…

Ben Kemp, a search engine optimization consultant since 1997, is a specialist in website redesign, and a veteran of 25-plus years of experience in the IT industry.

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