Lee Odden

Don’t Step on Your SEO

The good advice over at ISEDB from Scott Buresh regarding how ways clients sabotage the search engine optimization performed on their site has motivated me to write a few of my own along with comments on some of Scott’s suggestions:

  • Chase after the “latest SEO tactic” – The fundamentals of good SEO have not changed that much and chasing after the latest trend can compromise months or years of solid SEO work. An example is changing a site’s dynamic urls to keyword-rich urls solely for SEO benefit. Search engines are smarter than ever at crawling urls with variables. Just because a url is database generated does NOT mean it is bad for SEO. Making a sitewide url structure change without considering the effect on current rankings, redirection strategy, site map, 404 handing etc is also problematic.
  • Expect better rankings with no changes to the site – This is a good one as my SEO company continues to get inquiries from “agencies” that are stuck on all-Flash or image heavy web design and their clients want better organic rankings. A few years ago, we added language to our SEO client agreements to acknowledge the fact that changes to on page text, links and the addition of new content are required. We also indicate that SEO suggestions must be implemented in a certain timframe.
  • Make major updates to the site without advising SEO firm – After hiring a SEO firm to extensively research keyword phrases, then carefully write updated title tags, meta description tags and on-page copy, nothing wrecks site optimization more than overwriting pages with old data or posting a new design without any previous SEO work included. Having said this, I would say my firm’s position is to NOT have the client reliant upon us for a SEO consultation whenever a change is made to the web site. That is why we provide best practices information. But to make a site-wide change without consulting your SEO can be disasterous.
  • Test your own SEO theories on the site – A long term client had great rankings, traffic and sales when in a 30 day period of time, their results went supplemental. We noticed this before the client did as part of the monitoring of site positioning and web analytics. We discovered a robots.txt file disallowing all search engine spiders had been placed on the client site. A web developer for the client had placed the file there in order to eliminate server load as a result of search engine indexing. “Ugh” is an understatement. Get in the habit of having your IT staff, web development agency and even marketing consult your SEO firm before making such changes. Additionally, part of what you pay your SEO firm for on an onging basis is to monitor such activities – be sure they are doing so.
  • Change in your marketing message without informing your SEO firm – Recently a client called to say they are no longer using a certain descriptor as an attribute for a key product. We modified the keyword glossary, reviewed the site for all instances of change (search replace would have been disasterous) and made new tag and copy recommendations for the site. This is a good example

And here is one of my favorites:

  • Staff changes at client company – I read in a research study, perhaps it was something from SEMPO, that the most common reason clients drop SEO firms is when there is a staff change at the client company. I’ve seen it happen where a new marketer comes into the SEO situation feeling intimitaded by the whole idea of natural search (as opposed to paid search) and wants to revisit every edit on every page along with a specific outcome justification for every optimization recommendation ever made. Really! Such micromanagement is not productive.One of the most significant benefits of natural search optimization comes from a long term engagement. The results of long term content optimization refinement and ongoing link building should be cumulative.Dropping the current SEO vendor simply because they were hired by a predecessor is not a good business decision. Hiring a new SEO firm because the past agency did not fulfill it’s obligation is indeed a good business decision. Note to clients and SEO firms when there is a staff change: focus on the metrics and everybody wins.

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Lee Odden About Lee Odden

@LeeOdden is the CEO of TopRank Marketing and editor of Online Marketing Blog. Cited for his expertise by The Economist, Forbes and the Wall Street Journal, he's the author of the book Optimize and presents internationally on B2B marketing topics including content, search, social media and influencer marketing. When not at conferences, consulting, or working with his talented team, he's likely running, traveling or cooking up something new.


  1. God…i love this blog. I’ve learned so much from here. You are great!

  2. Good points Balazs. You may notice that the name of this blog is “Online Marketing Blog”. That’s because SEO is only one marketing channel.

  3. Avatar Balazs Balint says

    Hi Lee,
    As I’m reading your site just a few weeks ago, I’ve started reading your archives. You know I’m from Hungary, where online businesses have a little bit handycap. In Hingary less then five percent of the inhabitants use web applications as a part of their daily life. So this qiute old post seems very fresh to me. I meet such attitudes daily. Of course I made many mistakes less than a year ago, when I started my recent site.
    Otherwise this post emcourage me: not my country is the only one where theese myths cause problems. Myths: I’ve read some weaks ago Your 5 Myths about SEO post. It is interesting to compare with this archive.
    Another thing came into my mind: Why we call our activity SEO? SEO means a purely technical activity for me. I prefer using SEM- ’cause it represents a wider range of tools used for improving organic traffic, isn’t it? But sometimes I think this is still too narrow. In your recent (27.12.2007) post you mentioned, that pr is also a part of your activity. Why we simply say we are dealing with online communication and advertising? Or just online marketing?