Don’t Make the Same Mistake with Your SEO Clients!

Learn from the mistakes of others, you can’t live long enough to make all them yourself” – Eleanor Roosevelt

I’m sure that you have heard about the JC Penny Google slap that happened last month where they were outed in a New York Times article in using link farms to promote the products they sell on their website.

Initially the campaign worked very well that their website was ranking for pretty much everything they sold in their stores until this article was published and Google took action pretty much deindexing their entire site.

This was a nightmare for the retail giant immediately firing and blaming their SEO agency SearchDex for the entire debacle claiming that they knew nothing of the arrangement and promised that they would began the tedious process of cleaning up the mess.

Well it has been over a month lets see how far they have gone and lets first visit the home page of the retail giant.

Those of us familiar with SEO and usability can see that there are numerous problems here right out of the gate:

The entire content of the home page is a collage of un-optimized images and java based navigation.

Now ask yourself this, where what (if anything) are they asking you to do next? What is their call to action?

Grab that magnifying glass because your will need it to find that tiny button labeled “shop now” hidden below the ottoman.

Now lets take a look at the pages source code  and you can see that it too still in shambles:

  • Lack of MIME media type definition tag
  • No meta description tag
  • Code to content ratio too high
  • Java navigation structure

Next run their home page through the W3C Markup validation checker and see those 7 errors and 8 warning that are given?

So at this point you maybe asking yourself, “Did JC Penny fire the right people? Shouldn’t they have started by firing their web developer and/or web development agency?

As you go through their website you will see example after example that the very basic of on-site SEO is missing.

Lets break this down and I will point out three of their biggest mistakes so you will avoid making the same ones on your website or your clients website.

Bad Website Architecture

I’m not sure what type of platform they are using, however if you type in the web address of http://www.JCPenny.com you will see that it redirects you to the URL of http://www.jcpenney.com/jcp/default.aspx with a .aspx file extension.

This is telling us that their website is based on the ASP.net or Active Server Page Extended architecture.

Next lets click on the men’s section of the JC Penny website and here is the URL String that we are provided:

http://www3.jcpenney.com/jcp/XGN.aspx?DeptID=70673&CatID=70878&cmCatLevel=3&shopperType=G&CmCatId=&cmAMS_T=G1&cmAMS_C=D3

Does this look like a keyword friendly URL string to you?

Not only are these strings very keyword unfriendly, they can also cause duplicate content issues and a “spider trap” where the search engines get stuck in indexing your site. (Thus they avoid sites with these types of URL strings entirely)

ASP is notorious in this arena infact several of the new clients that we are consulting with who were recently slapped down during the Farmer update were all using active service scripting architecture with third party applications such as OSCommerce.

The fix:

1.     I would avoid using ASP.net entirely and move toward a more PHP friendly environment.

2.     However, if this is a current site your only alternative maybe using the URL rewrite extension until you can make the switch:

Title Tags

The most important area of your website is your title tag, lets look at some of the title tags of the JC Penny website:

  • Men’s tie page:  JCPenny: men : big and tall
  • Children’s clothing page: JCPenny : kids
  • Teen fashion page: JCPenny : jcp teen

The fix:

I’m sure that someone even at the most basic level of SEO and Internet Marketing could come up with title tags that would be more informative to both the readers and to the search engines.

Content??

You and I are both asking the same question, where is it?

From the moment you enter the website till you finally get to a product page you’re bombarded with a collage of poorly optimized images with no written content or video.

If you (or the search engines) do finally get as far as finding a product that you may be interested in you will find a few lines of poorly written text with absolutely no customer reviews or comments.

The fix: Watch our webinar on the “8 Critical Steps for Successful Content Marketing” and follow our recommendations

Did They Fire the Right Person/Agency?

Now I would like you to think about this and answer by using the comment area below this article, do you think JC Penny fired the right people?

Here we have an example of a retail giant that just doesn’t get the basics of SEO or Internet Marketing and you have to ask, who was in charge and who makes the decisions?

Those of us in SEO consulting face this same dilemma with other businesses/agencies because some of the clients we deal with just don’t understand or appreciate the importance and basics of good SEO or perhaps “the son of the CEO” developed the website and he told them this was the right thing to do.

I’m certain that SearchDex told them JC Penny early on that their website “sucked” but were told by the powers to be that they couldn’t touch the site.

And I’m also certain that someone at SearchDex is saying that they should had just walked away rather then doing the only thing that they could do to promote JC Penny by spamming the hell out of it.

Don’t make the same mistake!

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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20th March 2011 7 Comments

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