An SEO’s Tools: A Hammer or a Paintbrush?

Filed in SEO by Matt McGee on April 14, 2008 9 Comments

Give a bad Web site to a good SEO, and you have a match made in heaven.

A good SEO knows what tools to use when fixing a site. I don’t mean these kinds of tools (i.e., Firefox plugins, Greasemonkey scripts, etc.) in the literal sense, I mean figurative tools. Like this:

Do I need to take a hammer and chainsaw to this site, or is a paintbrush more appropriate?

An SEO’s Tools

One of the hot topics last week in SEO circles was an article at SEOpranos about hiring an SEO expert/company. It’s a very good article, as evidenced by the amount of discussion it started both on SEOpranos and on Sphinn.

“Tear apart this web site”

One of the suggested questions to ask is actually a statement/test: “Tear apart this website.” When I interviewed for my current job, I was asked that same question, albeit in less violent words. When I did the SEO Site Clinic at SMX West in February, same premise: Quick. You’ve got a couple minutes. What’s wrong with this site? It’s a great question, and a great challenge.

Whether in a job interview, a client interview, or a Site Clinic, it’s easy to do when you’re dealing with a Bad Web Site. But what about when you start with a Good Web Site?

Quick Story

One of my current clients is a fairly large retailer who’s been with us since last summer. We began the engagement with our site audit product. This client’s site scored off-the-charts. It was one of the best sites I’ve had the pleasure of analyzing. In fact, when we flew to their office to deliver the audit results, I began by apologizing because the scores were so good, I feared they might think the audit was a waste of money. (They didn’t. Whew.)

This site didn’t need to be torn apart. It just needed some massaging. We identified a couple Big Picture issues, and a couple incredibly detailed, on-page tweaks. We provided some additional analysis reports, all of which also involved high marks for the client’s site. At the risk of tooting our own horn, I’ll cut to the chase: They fixed what needed fixing, natural search traffic went up 35% and sales went up 23%.

Conclusion

My point is this: Sometimes a paintbrush makes a better SEO tool than a hammer. Being able to tear apart a site is good, but knowing if a site needs tearing apart in the first place is even better.

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Photos: hammer by ppdigital and paintbrushes by john-morgan

Comments (9)

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Sites That Link to this Post

  1. A Week of Blogging | Matt McGee | April 19, 2008
  1. Reminds me of that A & E show Flip This House. People with drive and dedication can make gold from crap. I think I have to go register flipthissite.com now.

  2. tmintz says:

    Of course, sometimes a hammer isn’t enough and a bomb is necessary…

    BTW, I really like the new look here.

  3. havoc says:

    It’s always hard when you’ve been tasked to audit and you have to deliver good news. Most prospects hear about search marketing and immediately think their website needs a hammer.

  4. Matt McGee says:

    @havoc — very true. That was really a scary moment for me with that client, because the audit includes like 30+ elements, and they scored GREAT on about 25 of those things. Yikes.

    @tmintz – true, and thanks.

    @incrediblehelp – didya get the domain? :)

  5. Hells yes. Bought two of them. Thinking about doing a discount SEO shop. Something like 2-3-4 hours of work on a website to help it rank better.

    Or maybe partner with websites to help them on some sort of CPA deal.

    Any ideas?

  6. This is so true. Sometimes the projects where small tweaks are just enough are the most rewarding.

  7. SEO Visions says:

    Nice job Matt, have you ever come across a website where the entire site needed an overhaul (in other words the taxonomy and internal coding was soooo horrible that it would be a better idea to simply rebuild from scratch?

    I just had one of those and it was a 301 nightmare!

  8. My business, estate sales, is very specialized, yet difficult to market. Any suggestions? Best, Bill Thompson

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