One of my duties at ACCM 2008 in Orlando was to host a table at “Lunch with the Experts”. The table’s stated topic was one Netconcepts specializes in — SEO for large-scale ecommerce sites. Most of the table’s discussion revolved around two representatives from a company in a true SEO crisis. Their product pages were invisible in search engines, and their ancient and outdated CMS was about as search-unfriendly as possible — it even used frames! To add insult to injury, the people who understood that the website had problems were having a great deal of trouble convincing management to redesign the company site.
So the first element of the crisis is the technology. The site in its present condition is unable to generate any natural search engine traffic to the company’s many hundreds of product pages.
The second element is internal company politics; for whatever reason, someone high in the corporate hierarchy had an interest in using an inappropriate and underperforming CMS and wouldn’t relent unless the two ACCM attendees were able to present a solid business case for making dramatic technical changes. The two men’s purpose at ACCM was to collect information and material that would help support that business case.
The third element to the crisis is that the company is losing potential customers. Through extensive research, they’d determined that the Web was the number one way to attract new customers, and so they have relied on paid search placement via Google AdWords. They’ve had some success there, but understand that they’d do much better through high placement in organic results. They really needed their product pages to place well for their selected keywords (I didn’t ask them much about keywords, so I don’t know for certain that they’re on the right track as far as determining placement).
A few missed customers might not seem like a serious enough issue to label the situation a crisis… until you take into account the fact that this company’s products are such that potential customers only buy once about every ten years. So if you miss today’s opportunities, they will likely not show up again for quite a long time. A lost sale is a major problem for this corporation, and improved search engine optimization is the quickest, easiest, and least expensive way to solve it.
You might have guessed that I recommended GravityStream, Netconcepts’ proxy-based automated SEO platform. As fun as it is to battle one’s IT department, upper management and the accompanying internal politics, IMHO a proxy server that sidesteps these things adds to one’s career longevity. 😉
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