• Thursday, December 18th, 2008

Do as we say, not as we do

If you are even remotely involved in marketing, communication or PR, you have no doubt heard of Ragan Communications.  The good folks at Ragan have been providing expert advice for years.  Ragan, like many others in their field, have been getting more involved in Social Media, e-marketing and even Search Engine Optimization (SEO).

One of Ragan’s staff writers recently posted an “aticle” (UPDATE: Original article now resides in member’s only area.  Here is a Google cached version) (UPDATE: Now the Google cache is dead too…sorry) on how to land on the first page of Google.   In the story, author Michael Sebastion summarizes for us a presentation made by John Spagnuolo at a recent Ragan conferance (which generally are quite good – you should go to one).

Michael’s summary was well-written and John’s suggestions, aside from implying Web teams are slow and difficult to work with, were accurate.

How many SEO rules can one article break?

The page this article is on breaks many of the rules talked about by John, and a few other  important rules of SEO.

Code bloat

Most SEOs advise that in order for Google to be convinced your page is relevant, you need to use a lot of good content and as little code as possible.  Of the roughly 1,500 lines of source code in this document, only 30 of those are the article.  I’m baffled by the insane amount of JavaScript and embedded CSS.  The site layout mixes Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) and static layout from multiple tables, nested within each other.  Even in the days before CSS, nesting tables four deep was a bad idea.

There are no hard and fast rules on code-to-content ratios, but having a page with less than 10% content (like this one) is certainly not a good idea.  The article tells us “content is king” and I agree.  It’s too bad that on this page code is king and content is … well, the king’s 3rd cousin on his mother’s side.


Michael and John tell us to start our optimization by finding and using the correct keywords.  I’m sure what they meant was content keywords, but the keywords must also be included in the Meta tags.  Meta tags are less important now than they used to be, but they can not be ignored.  Let’s take a look at this page’s keywords meta tag.

<meta name="keywords" content="Articles, aticle, title, story, ragan select, related stories, related products">

It seems that Ragan wants us to find this SEO article by searching for “aticle” and not something SEO related.  The description tag is even more puzzling – it’s empty.

Alt tags on images

John & Michael remind us to always include alt tags for our images – that’s good advice.  This page has very few images, one of them though is the company logo.  Too bad the only image I could locate an alt tag for is the icon for the RSS feed.

Page titles

The title for this page is not horrible, though I don’t know why they felt the need to tack “Article | Homepage Articles” to the end of it.  This page title is better than the rest of the site though, many of the other pages on use the same title over an over again.

Page URLs

Michael does call out Ragan for it’s reliance on long, dynamic URLs.  Google has said that it can follow simple dynamic URLs with a few parameters.  This page passes eight url parameters and none of them are something a human can understand.  Google may be able to find this page, but I’m not holding my breath.


I’ll end my article where Ragan started theirs, with credibility.  John and Michael discussed a few ways your site can lose credibility.  I think they actually showed us a better way.

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11 Responses

  1. 1
    Marc Meyer  //

    Ive heard of the cobbler not making shoes for their own children..but this is like the children running around without clothing…

  2. 2
    QualityGal  //

    “Do as I say, not as I do.” Apparently.

  3. 3
    Alex Hill  //

    Ha! That’s actually pretty funny when you think about it. Thanks for the quick read Jack, you’ve made some very salient points not the least of which is the value of proof reading.

  4. 4
    Seo Meta Tags  //

    i was actually surprised with the title.. hehe..

  5. 5
    Mark Ragan  //

    Thanks for the article, Jack.

    I gathered the staff on Friday to go over your points. We plan on tackling these obvious problems when we return in the new year.

    Just wanted to say how much I appreciated your critique. Will you check back on us in the Spring to see how we’ve done? We’re also undergoing a major redesign of now that we have 14 months under our belt.

    We’d love see your review of that as well.

    Stay tuned.

    Mark Ragan

  6. 6
    Maurice  //

    well thats asp sites fo ryou obvisly devloped by a hobby prgrammer – adding url rewriting is harder in IIS as you need to install componants into the webserver.

  7. I think any company or single person looking to venture into online marketing should learn the basics of SEO. Find out how to use keywords naturally without making spammy marketing mistakes.

  8. 8
    Denver SEO  //

    Well I know I have been in situations where I understood what needed to be done, but the company said that things needed to stay how they were!

  9. 9
    Eric Yerke  //

    The best way to not get on search engines is to focus on SEO before content. SEO comes naturally with great content because people link to you. But great content is the real challenge (for me).