Bill Hartzer

Web Marketing Association Best Web Sites Lack Search Engine Optimization

The Web Marketing Association has named the Best Web Sites in 96 different categories. The awards are out today. I took a look at the top award winning web sites and the web sites of those who produced them: and am horrified to see a lack of basic search engine optimization techniques being applied.

For the second year in a row, Extractable was named Top Agency at the 2010 WebAward Competition, taking home 23 WebAwards. The Top Agency Award is given to recognize the consistently outstanding development going on at interactive firms. The Bay Area interactive agency specializing in web strategy, web design, custom technology, was recognized with Best Computer Hardware Website, Best Credit Union Website, an Outstanding Website WebAward and 24 Standard of Excellence WebAwards.

But there is only one problem. I am amazed at the lack of Search Engine Optimization associated with these award-winning web sites and the web sites of those who created them. I recently took a look at several of the top award winners and their web sites, and was simply shocked at what a bad job was done when it comes to on-page search engine optimization.

Extractable – Won 23 Awards
While this agency’s web site, www.extractable.com, may look good on the web, the agency does not conform to what I would call “SEO Best Practices”. In fact, of the top Web Marketing award winners this year, they are one of the worst when it comes to a lack of search engine optimization on their own web site. Among the SEO mistakes I reviewed are issues like a horrible internal linking structure and duplicate copies of their content on the site. For example, Extractable is linking their header logo to a duplicate copy of their home page (they link to http://www.extractable.com/index.shtml instead of to http://www.extractable.com/), they link to pages like http://www.extractable.com/wwd/default.shtml and http://www.extractable.com/blog/index.php when they should be linking to the directory, not the actual file (default.shtml). Other issues include the blog not being optimized: for SEO purposes, the main blog page (http://www.extractable.com/blog/) should only contain snippets of the blog post and not the full blog post. Only the full content of each blog post should appear on the blog’s home page. The blog also does not use search engine friendly URLs. They blog, built in WordPress, could use an SEO plugin, such as the All in One SEO Pack (http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/all-in-one-seo-pack/). The title tags on web pages could be optimized better, I would typically not use the name of the company at the beginning of a title tag. Other search engine optimization problems include no meta description tags on some page, a lack of H1 tags on pages, and the alt text of images not being optimized.

Hitchcock Fleming & Associates Inc. – Best of Show Web Site
The 2010 Best of Show WebAward was presented to Hitchcock Fleming & Associates Inc. for their exceptional work on “Glidden Website” website at URL http://www.glidden.com/. The site was also recognized as Best Manufacturing Website. It is a horrible shame that both Hitchcock Fleming & Associates Inc. and Glidden have not optimized their web sites properly for the search engines. Both the Hitchcock Fleming & Associates Inc. web site and the award-winning Glidden.com web site have set up 302 redirects (Not even 301 Permanent Redirects like the search engines recommend) to another web page on their web site. There are several reasons why setting up the wrong type of redirect is bad for search engine optimization purposes, let alone have one on your home page. Everyone (other web sites always link to your real home page, which is http://www.domain.com/ (without a file name). Why would you possibly shoot yourself in the foot (so to speak) and have all of your internal links on your web site link to another web page, not your real home page (which is http://www.domain.com/). Furthermore, the “Best in Show” web site, Glidden.com, while I commend Hitchock Fleming & Associates for doing great web design, I give them (and their SEO firm) a grade of F on their search engine optimization. Take a look at all of the internal links to the index.do pages on the web site:

If you are linking internally to a filename like index.do then you have not set up your web site up properly. I realize that Glidden does not link to the subdirectories like http://www.glidden.com/products/ because the page isn’t found: it does not exist. This is a simple setting on the web server itself. There are so many other major search engine optimization problems with the Glidden web site that I don’t know where to begin. There are issues like the web pages that are “not found” do not return proper 404 errors. For example, when I go to http://www.glidden.com/products/ it delivers a “200 OK” server response when it absolutely must return a 404 error on ‘not found’ web pages on the web site. I won’t even mention the fact that there are multiple meta description tags found on some of the web pages on the web site!

Here we are in 2010, and we have the 14th annual international WebAward Competition, and we are giving all sort of “kudos” and “congratulations” and awarding web sites for having slopily-created web sites that do not conform to search engine optimization best practices and even many web design “best practices”?

Search Engine Optimization has been around longer than the Web Awards have been around: and we are still back to square one, when we are creating fabulous-looking web sites that do not have any regard for basic search engine optimization best practices, like optimizing the internal links on your web site, adding the proper meta tags (like meta description tags) to web pages, and including proper image Alt Tags so that our web sites are accessible.

Sure, I have been practicing organic search engine optimization since 1996. And maybe because of that I am a little bit biased here. But I also know that the Web Design and the Agencies out there have a long way to go. How could you produce an award-winning web site and not be SEO friendly or use SEO Best Practices? I just don’t get it.

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