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January 23, 2009
When SEO is Put into the Wrong Hands
 
Every day I hear from companies who have recently had their websites redesigned, and now suddenly their search engine rankings and traffic have tanked. While it’s normal to see some fluctuation after a redesign, there’s no reason why your site should have to start over from scratch—that is—if the development company knows what they’re doing.
 
Typically, a complete loss of rankings and traffic occur when a new content management system (CMS) is implemented and all the URLs of the website change. Many developers don’t realize they need to 301-redirect the old URLs to the new ones to preserve search engine rankings.
 
But every now and then I find something really fishy happening when I review an underperforming new website. And often it’s related to a rouge developer who has just enough SEO knowledge to be dangerous. For instance, one site I reviewed had a nice, professional-looking home page. However, near the bottom of the page was a scrolling window with a ton of keyword-rich copy contained in it. Scrolling through that window revealed a ton of keyword-rich text links. 
 
Neither of these is necessarily search engine spam in and of themselves, but because of the way they were integrated into the website, they certainly set off alarm bells in my head. Companies don’t bury great marketing copy that will help sell their products or services. They do that only when they don’t understand how to write for their users and search engines alike. Even though this copy was technically visible (one could scroll the inner window and read it all) the search engines may very well consider it hidden text.
 
A quick peek at some of the pages in the “hidden” links revealed more problems for this site. The links were pointing to a slew of old-fashioned doorway pages, the likes of which I hadn’t seen since the 1990s! Sure, they were a bit more sophisticated than the old 90s versions, as they were integrated into the site template. They could even be mistaken for real site pages when viewed individually; however, it was pretty much just “madlib spam.” In other words, all 20 or so pages said the same thing, only they switched out keyword phrases for other keyword phrases. They were poorly written and often simply gibberish.
 
[huge sigh]
 
It’s scary to know that there are still clueless developers out there creating this kind of junk. I don’t know who the company was that created this mess, so I don’t know if it’s a well-known firm or not. And I don’t know how much was paid for the pleasure of spamming the search engines either, but I hope it wasn’t much. I do know that the business had to lay someone off due to their lack of a search engine presence in Google for the past few months. 
 
Now, I don’t believe in relying on search engine rankings in order to successfully run your business, but when you think of the horrible impact unknowledgeable developers can have on a business, it’s frightening. I’m quite sure that one day in the not-too-distant future there will be lawsuits based on this kind of shoddy work. That won’t be good for any of us in the website marketing industry.

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As an SEO Consultant, Jill Whalen has been providing her no-nonsense, practical SEO advice since 1995. If you learned from this article be sure to sign up for Jill's popular High Rankings Advisor SEO Newsletter to keep up with the latest information in the ever-changing world of SEO. Follow her on Twitter @JillWhalen, "Like" her at Facebook, and "Circle" her on Google+.

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