On my SEO Emails section (where I share helpful responses to commonly asked queries) I recently shared a not uncommon occurrence, where a site owner gets the SEO work delivered and then blames the work for causing problems with the front-end of the site.
It’s actually very rare for that to happen. On-site SEO has two main components:
- site wide SEO work. For example, default settings for social sharing, sitemaps, robots.txt files, all manner of things.
- page specific work. This includes title and description tags, social sharing meta tags, image alt and title tags, things like that.
When clients do suggest that SEO has somehow changed their site’s layout or display, it’s usually related (to their mind) related to that second part, that certain pages don’t show like they should, or used to, etc.
But the information output there is all very standard. Title tags are ubiquitous, descriptions, social tags and the like are all just meta content. They live in the head of the page’s code – meta head tags of this nature are there to be read by search engines and browsers – they don’t impact the display or front-end of the site at all.
And image tags like alt and title tags are added to the code that makes an image display – it was showing anyway, so again there’s no change to how the page looks.
So what’s going on? Why do clients occasionally worry search engine optimisation work has impacted how visitors will see their site?
Quite simply – and when you think about it this makes perfect sense – the problem were already there. A lot of website owners don’t check their site thoroughly regularly. They might just preview new blog posts, or see the homepage fairly often. So they’re not always going to notice errors.
But after paying an SEO professional for a service as vital as organic search marketing, or indeed paying any web developer for a service, they’re much more likely to flick through their site to see if anything has happened to it.
And that’s when they notice the historical problems.
Fortunately from my perspective as an SEO expert who works in this field full-time there are ways to illustrate that. Google has a recent cache of the last time they scanned a page (so as long as that’s not been updated in the meantime, it can be used to show the problem existed before any SEO work was done) and the Wayback Machine (from the Internet Archive) can fulfill the same role.
So it’s usually fairly easy to prove.
When I complete an SEO task for a new client I usually get a great big thank you in my inbox. But when something like this happens the email will usually be quite accusatory and aggressive, not allowing for the the possibility something else could have caused the problem – even quite a long time ago.
I suppose the moral of the story is quite simple. Website owners, keep an eye on your websites and make sure they work. This is important for a whole host of reasons; I really recommend checking your contact forms work too. My SEO work brings extra visitors (consistently) but if they can’t get in touch with you because something isn’t working it’s a tragedy. And if you do notice a problem be open to a variety of causes and reasons before placing blame. (Quite often problems with sites are caused by updating your theme, plugins, the WordPress core – those things can even auto-update which means you might not even know there’s been a change).
From my end of things I’ll keep doing my best to explain things to anyone with a question, matter-of-factly and politely, knowing full well when someone else is wrong it’s simply because they didn’t know something.
And who could blame someone for that?