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September 17, 2009


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not a bad list, but not one I really agree with. The presence of a robots.txt file might or might not be important, depending on exclusions you want, etc, esp. since you can set canonical URLs now. Likewise, there have been some questions about the utility of sitemaps. Absolutes rarely are always true in SEO/SEM, so the post needs a grain of salt.

For the impact dev can have on SEO see this post on SEOMoz: http://www.seomoz.org/blog/a-developers-adventure-into-the-world-of-seo

What I like about this is that it's an iterative, testing approach. Broad rules are a decent starting place, but there's no substitute for measuring things, tweaking based on knowledge, remeasuring and seeing what works for your site.

Mike Duffy

Thanks for adding to the discussion, Rick.

I'm a big believer in knowing what's going on with your site. The nice thing about this article was that most people (not just Web developers) could check for themselves what their site is doing. Does your developer say they've installed Google Analytics? You can verify it. Do you even have a robots.txt file? You can check. Marketing URLs and titles *are* very important for SEO (and there are lots of winery Web pages with bad/missing titles).

And the post you link to supports my contention that a winery owner/marketer should have some idea about what's going on with their site. Developers can be clueless about marketing.

Although it's not SEO related, I'd add "custom 404 page" to the list of things you should check about your site, since it helps people accomplish their goals even when a file isn't found:

Andrew Kamphuis

Rick, interesting link. I agree that in an ideal world you would do iterative testing (you should be doing iterative testing with your entire website, the conversion process, etc - but that's a whole other conversation)

Like Mike comment, I also think that a website owner should have some sense of what is going on their site. We see a lot of developers, crank out websites without thought to search engine marketing.

At Vin|65 we are not professional search engine marketers, we are web developers, so I'm not wanting to argue these points to much.

While a robots.txt file might not always be important (conical URLs are great, and we do that on some of our recent sites), it's an easy way to feed a site map into the larger search engines. (Of course you can feed your sitemap in through Google Website Optimizer). Sitemaps do decrease crawler time: http://searchengineland.com/report-sitemaps-increase-crawler-response-time-16031 and we are seeing them in use more on the web http://googlewebmastercentral.blogspot.com/2009/04/research-study-of-sitemaps.html.




Yes, you can check on the developer and probably should, though I'd say you have an issue if you can't trust them to do what they say.

Of course, there's an easier way to check on whether Google Analytics is installed - login and bring up the report! If a site owner is viewing the source to check whether the code's installed it means that they're not actually using the reporting - in which case the presence of the tracking code is meaningless.


I think my comment comes off as too harsh. My reaction is based on seeing too many people do checklists like this but not the day-to-day work of actually making their site drive business. Far too often people put up a site, sit back and when there's not a flood of business shake their heads and decide the web isn't for them. It takes work - just like opening your doors on a real store doesn't make you a success if you do nothing else, neither will just putting up a site.

Some things any owner should consider:

1) What keywords might people use? Do the obvious ones (the region you're in, the varietals you sell). Search on those words - what comes up? Look at your competitors - what words do they use. Search for their winery name - what comes up?

2) Use the reporting. Look at where people come from and if it's a search engine, look at the keywords that drive them to you. Search for those words - where do you rank? Are there paid ads? Should you buy some?

3) Use key performance indicators. See http://www.kaushik.net/avinash/2008/09/rules-choosing-web-analytics-key-performance-indicators.html for a great start.

4) Watch where people drop off - if a lot of people abandon an online cart, look at why - for example, do you force them to create an account to buy a product? Are you asking for things like a phone number that people might be reluctant to give out just to buy some wine?

5) Don't forget to use other online tools - email lists especially. Make signing up for a newsletter easy and obvious. Don't have an email newsletter? Start one. They're very effective when people opt-in and you can link back to your site. Imagine noting a positive review from somewhere with the wine name as a link to that wine's product page in your online store...

And yes, I do online marketing consulting as a part of my business. :)

Mike Duffy

Rick, you're gonna think I ripped you off! I've already got a post in the queue referencing the link you cite in (3) above.

My sense is that either (a) you have a big winery and the "marketing stuff" (including the Web site) is handled by employees or third parties, or (b) you're a small winery and you don't have time or money (or energy) to do anything about your online presence.

In a private communication, someone opined that less than 5% of wineries are even covering the basics of customer service, e-commerce, site design, and content strategy, let alone worrying about site metrics, facebook, twitter, or blogging.

Thanks to both of you for participating in the discussion.

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