Combatting misinformation in web design

Thursday, March 11th, 2010

I received an email from a client recently, informing me that they have hired someone to redevelop their entire website in php, as they have been informed by their SEO company that ColdFusion is ‘bad for search engines’.

Frankly, I think it’s astounding that any SEO company could make such an assertion, anyone in the industry would immediately understand just how ridiculous this statement is – but unfortunaty our clients are not experts and can only make their decisions based on the advice they receive from the people who claim to be. My clients in this case have made an informed choice, based on patently false information…

So I’d like to state definitively: ColdFusion has nothing whatsoever to do with SEO… Neither does php, asp, ruby, python, perl, or in fact any back end language at all…

Search engines read the ‘mark-up’ of a website, that is to say the HTML that anyone can see by clicking ‘view source’ in the browser… A back end language such as ColdFusion, php or asp, will generate HTML mark-up according to the templates that have been coded by a developer. It is entirely possible for any of these back end languages to generate identical mark-up.
My clients in this case have paid to have their website recoded, but the HTML produced will be exactly the same as their existing website and so their search engine results will be completely unaffected… In fact, since the file extensions will change on every page, many incoming links will no longer work, so unless their new developer puts 301 redirects in place, they will most likely drop in the rankings.

As a developer working primarily with ColdFusion, it’s easy to feel angry that my clients have been mislead into believing that the work I have done for them is somehow inferior because of the language used, and indeed if I knew the name of the SEO company involved I would be in contact with them directly to argue the issue as well as naming them here… But what’s worrying is that it’s really the clients that are suffering. Through ignorance of how the Internet works, they have been led down a route that is both costly and futile, by a company that either has no knowledge of their own industry, or even more worrying, is ruthless enough to take advantage of the ignorance of their clients.

I only want what’s best for the people I work for. I want their sites to work well, to become popular, to generate revenue – and I try to give the best advice I can to help clients understand what can be
gained from their web presence. I’m sure we all do… But in a technical industry such as ours, one that combines so many different disciplines, one that every virtually every business needs to interact
with and yet very few understand, how can we combat misinformation like this?

The average client doesn’t need or want to understand how the Internet works. Mention CSS, JavaScript, back end software, web standards, etc. to the average client and they will at best, stare at
you blankly… At worst pretend they know what you’re talking about when in fact they haven’t a clue. In my experience, the best clients to work with are those that have enough knowledge of the web to understand that user experience is key, that copy is important, and that their website is an ongoing project. They don’t need to know the intricacies of code, servers and the like, but they need to trust
us to make certain decisions on their behalf.

Perhaps it’s time we tried to educate our clients. I don’t know how much information is out there to explain the basics. Maybe we should have a simple guide explaining how websites are put together that we can give to clients at the beginning of new projects… Either that or perhaps SEO companies should be licensed and regulated!!!

As I write, I’m not entirely sure what the point of this post is, but I feel it’s an issue not generally discussed and I’d be interested to know what others think. Perhaps the larger agencies don’t run into
this problem due to their reputation as experts or their tendency to work with bigger clients; but at my level, developing for small companies with little or no online strategy, half the battle is guiding them in the right direction.

So how do we compete with liars???

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Filed under: ColdFusion, General, SEO, Website Development.

6 Comments

  1. Al The Procrastinator

    Mar 11th, 2010
    7:51 pm

    What a bunch of guff… As an advocator of php, even I know what these guys are saying is complete tosh. Shame you lost a client but hey, leaves you more time to work the Stanton magic on tour own creations! ;p

  2. surf_bird

    Mar 16th, 2010
    8:22 am

    I have been fighting the same battle so I understand your frustrations. I get very angry that companies ring my clients up and say we can get you on the first page of Google, charge large amounts of cash and the set up an ad words campaign. I recommend such campaigns where necessary but still surprised on how people still get hooked in. Answer I tell them all this before I start work.

  3. Gary

    May 25th, 2010
    5:49 am

    I’ve been keeping an eye on the ex-client in question, and it’s interesting to note that while they were on page one of Google for their main keyphrases when I was working with them, their new ‘recoded for SEO’ website, is now at the bottom of page four.

  4. David

    Jun 9th, 2010
    1:20 pm

    Idiot SEO “experts” they say anything to get work from people!

  5. Paul

    Jun 25th, 2010
    1:26 pm

    Gah, I’ve fought this sort of rubbish before, both from people criticising ColdFusion and PHP (in the latter case they wanted to go flat file for everything.)

    To be honest, this is one of the reasons I got in to SEO as well as doing development. There are so many complete f-wits doing SEO that it was pretty easy to carve myself out a niche by just having a clue on the technical side. Oh, and not lying, although that often seems to work against me when pitching to some clients.

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Simian Enterprises is the trading name of Gary Stanton, a freelance web developer working by the sea in Brighton, UK. Gary's been creating websites since 1996 and still loves it. Read more

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