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Website Design and SEO Project 2

This is the 2nd part of a series of correspondence between a website owner and website design and SEO company,

[Website Designers] We have updated some code, your ‘indexed’ pages are now at an all time ‘high’ due to the extra pages we added and your news posts. The ‘bounce rate’ which is the % of people that leave your site within 15 seconds is much lower now (under 10%) which is really good and means more are staying and looking at your site longer and hopefully phoning/emailing you. We like the fact you are adding loads of news that’s great.

We are broadly happy with the SEO / website and the visitor numbers but you only have visitor numbers going back to 2011 so the first ‘real’ month on month comparison cant happen until September 2013 but I’m confident they will be up. Reviews give a direct and indirect benefit but yes I know they are hard to obtain, keep going/trying to get them.

Some further website design / SEO updates and something for you to do:

Updates Completed in the last week:

1, Address added to pages (home page / contact page / news pages)
2, Removed unused plugins on blog
3, Changed spacing on mobile number
4, Added alt text to social icons (home page, contact and news pages)
5, Set Alt text on Gallery Photos (181 Photos)
6, Ensured the page containing your ‘best link’ is now indexed in Google
7 All HTML / CSS warnings and errors (24 of them) removed from index page (home page, about page, prices page and testimonials page) This took 3 hours !! Lots of errors removed from other pages also.

To Do

1, Get at least 5 reviews from ex-customers from different locations/accounts on Google

Perhaps send this to them and ask them to click ‘write review’

[Website Owners] Ok cool, good to hear, has the site’s traffic increased much too? Will bear that in mind for future posts, trying to keep up with the posts, am having a bit of trouble getting people to review on Google + by the way, you know what people are like.

Just to say, I am trying to get some reviews on Google+ but it’s proving difficult still. I have asked people, but they’re lazy, so I’ve only managed to get one small one so far.

Also, just wanted to check again to see how the optimisation is going, as I still haven’t seen much of an increase in sales at all still, were we expecting a noticeable increase at all by now?

[Website Designers] I know its hard to get reviews but I suggest just sending out emails with links to the places they can review you. Regarding SEO progress, the SEO update list showing the 57 action points and the suggestions sent to you is really the bulk of the work and now we review and tweak, sorry for the lack of ‘sales’ but in terms of website visits its going in the right direction, see the figures below to compare the last 30 days with the same period last year

2013 – 2014 figures for last 30 days

Sessions +254.72% 188 vs 53
Users +385.29% 165 vs 34
Pageviews +134.36% 457 vs 195

I know this is meaningless unless your phone rings and your email starts filling up with enquiries but rest assured all changes and recommendations are positive and long-term. Google doesn’t react immediately to your changes otherwise it would be easy to identify what changes work and what doesn’t work.

I have reviewed the site again this weekend and am confident of the changes, we have made a couple of updates since last time and have documented them in the SEO document

The news posts you are creating are being indexed in all 3 main search engines so every post/photo you upload improves your website

I will re-review in a couple of weeks and send you the update report

[Website Owners] I am a little concerned with the way things are going if I’m honest. I am aware that optimising a website takes time and many things contribute to this; I have been keeping up with everything you have suggested I do, the news page, etc, etc (although I am aware that I haven’t managed to get more than one review on the Goolgle+ which is proving difficult to get people to be bothered to do) however, by the start of next month, it will be 6 months since we started.

I was under the impression that the work you have done would start to show after 3 months and gradually build from there, however, currently, I haven’t really seen any increase in inquiries at all. I also searched Google with “Essex wedding photographer” today and got to page 20 without finding my site, which means I have drastically dropped rank over the past months, and although I know you mentioned it was about traffic and not to focus too much on rank, you can understand how this is a little concerning for me to say the least.

Another thing I’d like to mention if I am being completely open with you is that I am aware that you haven’t requested the remainder of the money I owe you. In my mind, this lends itself to me to believe that you yourself may not be entirely happy with the progress achieved so far and this is why you may be reluctant to request it. I may be completely wrong, however, personally, as soon as I have successfully completed a job, I make a point of perusing any outstanding payment due to myself.

I would like to ask you honestly if you are happy with the progress we have made so far in your professional opinion, or whether my particular field of profession is proving harder to work with than you first thought maybe? I mean, in our initial meeting, you said that you couldn’t guarantee Google rank and anyone who says they can is lying, which I accept under your professional knowledge, but you did say that you could guarantee you could improve my business, which in almost 6 months, there is no sign of.

I’d like you to know your thoughts and talk about what the situation is, or where we possibly go from here, as in the near future I am also going to be looking to add a new area of photography to my services and I need to take that into account too.

[Website Designers] Pretty frustrating to not see the website showing up for its primary search term ‘essex wedding photographer’, cant understand why it has dropped but looking at your website stats I see that year on year (last 30 days) we are up 148% website visits and 345% website individual visitors Other stats aren’t so good and am disappointed so far and yes you are correct even though the ‘work’ has been completed I haven’t requested final payment as I wanted to have the search terms ranking higher by now.

Any doubt that we must have harmed the ranking was removed when I reviewed (with my colleague) all the actions are taken on this site about 3 weeks ago and they are all good improvements that cant be classed as ‘spammy’ The best link we got you on another Essex Photography website isn’t even indexed yet so this indicates how ‘slowly’ Google moves sometimes. This link was re-submitted last week so fingers crossed it will be included soon.

Be assured that we know what we are doing and have had great SEO success with other sites before and during the time we have been working on your site so am confident that improvements will come.

On re-evaluating the site these could be some things that possibly holding you back

1, The relatively young age of the site – to counter that you can renew the site in advance a few years (currently its renewed until Jan 2016) – We have done this for a few clients now and believe it’s a positive SEO ranking signal (can renew 2 to 10 years in advance)

2, The lack of house name on the site (Name Address and Phone number or NAP being consistent on the domain registration / website / directories) is a ranking signal

3, Having a non-responsive (not touch friendly) website is probably now a big negative ranking factor, as an average to all the websites, we monitor 45% of visitors come from tablets / smartphones. I actually don’t think this is such a big ranking factor but is one of the things that comes to mind to suggest for later updates.

Am committed to this project still and probably as frustrated as yourself to the lack of high ranking search terms but if I know one thing its that Google works in strange ways but eventually always rewards high-quality websites accordingly.

We reviewed all our correspondence and the work done on the site and am totally happy with the actual work completed, I did review my initial notes and saw I suggested a better use of money would have been to make the site into an e-commerce site which would have ‘naturally’ improved the SEO by potentially having 1000s of photos indexed in 100s of events / weddings. I stick by that suggestion but here are some other suggestions that I strongly recommend you do:

1, Tweet more often – the last one was 9 months ago.
2, Share posts on the news section on facebook / twitter (with some introduction text about the post on twitter / facebook)

Recent updates:

1 We have created a favicon for the site (small logo that appears in the browser tab)
2 We have noticed that since the middle of October Referring pages / domains has become consistent (the numbers of both have both been falling since March) assume this was Google disregarding lots of spammy links that may have been created. Also since October the pages indexed from your site has risen to 57 (from 6 at the end of last year)
3 Noticed that some ‘spammy’ or low-quality sites are linking to you, can you identify any you recognise (full list attached) have removed the links we have created and the ones we know are ok.


Long Term Further Suggestions

1, The News section of the site (blog) has been created to be ‘responsive’ (looks and works better on mobiles / tablets) We could re-work the rest of the site eventually to work the same way as the news section so its 100% responsive (SEO positive and better visitor experience)

[Website Owners] In regards to the suggestions of renewing the domain / hosting in advance and the ecommerce option for the website, I am very reluctant, as I’m sure you can understand, to spend any more money at all, currently. As I previously discussed with you, the ecommerce was something I was definitely planning on doing around about now roughly, as I assumed things would have progressed to the point where I would be in the position to do so, both financially and progressively, in regards to the businesses status.

I will try to Tweet more, however I have been focusing more on Instagram and Facebook, but I will try. I will also post news / blog post links to Facebook and Twitter in future.

With regards to the site being responsive; as far as I was aware, it was intended to be responsive from the start, this brings me to another collective point, which is that points you have recently highlighted, such as responsiveness, the “spammy” / low links to the site (which I don’t know anything about, I assume are from my past SEO company), the favicon, lack of house name (which I assume I need to change on my Google+ account?) are issues which I would have thought would have been addressed more towards the start of the project as they seem to be fairly basic things from what I gather and I am wondering why they are only being brought up now, 6 months (almost) down the line.

I appreciate that you are frustrated, but to be frank, so am I. Being completely honest with you, I am really trying to build myself a successful business. Although the money is obviously a large factor (as with any business), the time lost that this project’s progress has been prolonged by, compared to it’s projection, is time that I am not building a business, career, income, and ultimately life for myself, without trying to sound melodramatic.

[Website Designers] In Response to the points you raise:

Website Renewal – this website hosting money has to be spent eventually and it’s a positive SEO factor that will also save money by having your hosting paid at a ‘frozen’ rate. This is a ranking factor / signal that we can control easily and cheaply and that’s why it was recommended.

I am sure you remember myself not ‘guaranteeing’ anything and even though the website is now up 400% on unique visitors compared with the same period last year, if your bookings aren’t being improved then I can see why you are concerned. The more I go back to the e-commerce option the more I think that this would have been a better ‘cost effective’ improvement that would now have 1000s of your photos indexed and potentially made website visitors more ‘comfortable’ and trusting that you do good work and could potentially improve the ‘conversion’ rate of website visitor to customers of yourself.

Regarding Responsiveness of the site – it never was when we took it over, any other thoughts / suggestions are incorrect but for interest, every single new website we create is fully responsive.

I understood you didn’t want your house name listed on the site but I am now mentioning it as it ‘could’ be a factor that is holding your site back in Google’s ‘trust’ checks. I believe best practise would be to include the full postal address. Please tell me if we can put it on the website

The favicon is a very little thing that I just noticed is missing, it’s probably nothing to do with SEO but improves the site usability possibly and therefore thought I would add it, the spammy links were not reviewed previously as I assumed we were working from a blank canvas but its possible that these spammy links have negatively affected you – I will now take steps to ‘distance’ your website from them (disavowing). If you told me that there were link building attempts previously I would have investigated this if you did already then I apologise for not investigating further. The option to distance yourself from the links as an SEO option has only recently emerged and your site is only one of two that we have found these ‘dodgy’ / spammy links for so far.

Your site was never responsive, a full redesign would have fixed that, as by default all our new sites are fully responsive and content managed. You can compare the news section and the rest of the site while viewing using a smart phone / mobile to see that the current site doesn’t resize automatically on smaller devices. We have done our very best by taking over an older static brochure website that had a huge amount of problems and wasn’t very ‘search engine friendly’ but ultimately you want a ‘generation 4’ website (Responsive / Content managed / SEO friendly with Ecommerce system).

We understand your concerns but a 400% increase in visitor numbers year on year could be classed as a traffic improvement / SEO success. If you are not getting additional bookings then that cannot be a success.

I can assure you that I am acting in your best interests in my advice and the SEO and website updates we have recommended and performed. The SEO project was for 3 months the fact that we are still working on the site hopefully is an indication of how much we ‘care’

[Website Owners] Regarding the “spamy” links which I assume are leftover from the last guy who I did mention did SEO work on the site before; are these the most likely detrimental cause to our progress? From what I gather, these types of links were beneficial before the last major change in Google, and then became a negative effect. Either way, I assumed that this would have been addressed by yourself, due to the fact that I did mention that I had a guy working on SEO, as well as the fact that my Dad also gave you their full story before moving over to you and also mentioned that I had been using the same person and so was basically in the same situation / status, so I find it hard to comprehend that you weren’t aware of this and the previous SEO work attempt that would have accompanied. Are you working on getting rid of them if they are damaging the progress?

Basically, leaving all specific points raised alone for the moment, how do we move forward? From what I gather, you are suggesting that I need to spend more money. Spending more money is something that I am OK with doing in theory, and was expecting for the future, as I understand that SEO work requires upkeep. I would be quite willing to continue to spend reasonable money on SEO where needed for the duration of my companies ongoing business. However, so far I have seen no results from my spending and therefore, am not willing to spend in return for the hope of results, as I have already spent money with you in good faith.

As I have mentioned before, aside from the money, I have been just floating around on hiatus for 6 months, waiting for the work I have commissioned to give me results and it hasn’t. As a result, my career is currently “on ice”. I have done everything that you have asked me to do my end, blogging on the news section, Facebook, I have now picked up Twitter again, I renamed all the images for upload as you said and although it’s going slowly I have started to get reviews on my Google+ (oh and I have changed my address on there too and you can use full address on site where needed). I remember you saying something along the lines of “rank is vanity, sales are sanity” as a way of looking at the success of a business, currently, I have neither.

Getting down to brass tacks, I cannot justify spending money when I haven’t yet seen any result in the previous large sum that I have spent. Also, I need to make this business work, I cannot sit around waiting and wasting my life in the hope things will pick up. When will I see results? Only then can I look to move forward, with both my co. and building upon it’s advertising / SEO / outgoings. It’s that simple really. If it isn’t soon, then I will have to find some way of achieving progress. I am not afraid or reluctant to spend money on boosting my co., but I need to spend my currently limited funds wisely.