For many businesses and individuals, summer is a time for vacations and refreshment while the weather is good and extended school vacations open up time for family time. In my almost 20 years of working with e-commerce sites, I have yet to find that summertime is time when the living is slow and easy. The retail e-commerce calendar is so compressed and focused on the October-to-December selling season that summertime is site development time. Any site enhancements, redesigns and relaunches must be completed with adequate time for testing and rollout before the critical autumn selling season. This usually means that August and September are very busy for organic SEOs, with clients making significant changes to their sites for the upcoming holiday season.
The amount of work that the SEO must be involved in depends largely on how extensive the changes are. For example, a reskinning of the site without any fundamental changes may require just a brief review. Implementing a new architecture or platform takes substantially more SEO time and resources. Unfortunately, it is humans who develop sites, and humans make mistakes when they rush or are distracted. I’d like to share a couple of small human errors that had big consequences. They were all created by hurrying to meet a deadline.
First, the Site Must Be Indexed
With Google’s advanced technology, site indexing is no longer the wait-and-see game it was years ago. With a combination of site maps and the tools made available to Webmasters, it is virtually impossible – unless you are on vacation and not watching the tools – to pull off the stunt a client of mine did some years ago. I was called in to help solve a problem. The problem articulated during the sales cycle was simply: “Please, SEO, answer why my lovely new site has no traffic from search?” The answer was very simple. It took me just a few minutes to figure out that in the excitement to launch the new site, someone had forgotten to remove the small line of code in the robots.txt file that warned the spider not to traverse the site while it was under development. This simple oversight was costing the company both revenue and momentum during the run-up to the selling season. Even though development and testing environments have come a long way since this incident occurred, it points up how easy it is to make a small mistake that has consequences.
Second, Get Dirty With the Code
Among my many hobbies is gardening, and I love to dig in the dirt. Organic SEO requires that you dig in the code as vigorously as you might dig in a garden. This is particularly important when a site undergoes major changes. Again, it is the little things that can create havoc. One client launched a major new section to the site and complained that in the early stages when business was up, the new section just wasn’t performing, particularly in search. Again, a quick look revealed that someone, another pesky human, had failed to implement the analytics tracking codes on the new section. After the codes were added, it quickly became obvious that the new section was, in fact, performing outstandingly well. These and many other similar incidents have made me very cautious about sites making changes during the summer. My mantra for site changes is: Review the code, watch the changes and don’t go on vacation when the site is about to launch or relaunch.