Is Honesty the Best Policy in SEO?

Has this ever happened to you? You’re giving a presentation about your products or services to a prospective client and how to fix their website all of a sudden you notice that they are becoming very uncomfortable about what you are saying and you stand there wondering what went wrong.

This is exactly what happened to me a few weeks ago.

We had received a request from a B2B digital marketing firm who related they had been getting a number of inquires from clients who were interested in having local websites developed and have their Google Places accounts optimized and managed.

The caller explained that they had been outsourcing this work to another agency, however they were not happy with the results and were now interested in having a SEO training-consulting firm come in to provide training.

So I headed out to their corporate office for a presentation.

Everything was going great and within an hour we were wrapping up our presentation which focused on Local Search but then the Vice President asked if we could also provide consulting services for their own company website.

I told him yes and in fact we could begin this process right then by doing a real quick site review.

As the VP pulled up their site on the overhead projector other high level members of their organization were ushered into the meeting, which included the marketing director and the IT director.

Initially the group was in total agreement as I reviewed their site;

  • Lack of Trust, no branding images above the fold
  • No Call to Action, there was no call to action above or below the fold
  • Visual Distractions, rotating header image that took up too much of above the fold real estate
  • Stock Images, clients have seen these images before, they know that this isn’t you and they feel as if you’re lying to them

We then reviewed the coding of the website

  • Non optimized Robots.txt file
  • XML sitemap that was last updated 6 months ago
  • Title Tag, no keywords
  • Description Tag, lack of keywords and poor copy
  • Code to Content Ratio very high
  • Java based menu system, spiders unable to read and follow

The Marketing Director then related that they had just launched this site six months back and asked, “How hard would it to fix all this”.

I paused a moment knowing my answer was something that I was sure they didn’t want to hear but felt if they were serious about having a successful online business that it was something that they needed to understand and fix. So I found myself in the position that many of us in the field of SEO consulting that I had to break the news that they had an “Ugly Baby Website” that needed serious attention.

I also knew from looking at the outdated Java programming that the easiest solution was to build a new site by using more modern CMS and CSS platform so I turned, looked my audience in the eye and said “I would recommend starting all over and putting it on a more SEO friendly platform such as WordPress

After the rolling of the eyes and gasps from the corporate staff what happened next was something I wasn’t expecting.

After a long pause the VP explained that the CEO’s son was the developer of the website and that he had come to the board six months ago explaining that he had worked at a SEO firm and that he totally understood what it took to build and optimize a site for SEO for their company.

So if in fact what I was telling them was true, that I was placing them into the uncomfortable position of breaking the news to their CEO his son’s website was in fact not SEO friendly and all the time and resources that had been expended was all wasted.

Over the past several weeks the VP and I have exchanged a few e-mails and in the last he related that they were not interested in moving forward as planned.

If you had found yourself in this same position what would you have done, I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comment area below.

Would you had been as blunt as I was in telling them that their website “sucked” and it needed help, or would you had sugar coated it hoping to land the contract and then made suggestions to make the site better?

In retrospect I think that I may had been a little more diplomatic and to ask them what their goals were for their website. However at the end, if they were not as committed as I would be to optimize the site and to have the right tools and platform, I would had walked away at the end.

Certified Master SEO Instructor by the Search Engine Academy and CEO and founder of SEO Training SW.
Roy Reyer
Roy Reyer
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27th March 2011 9 Comments

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