It was a rainy night outside my office window. My day had just ended. I reached into my desk and brought out a bottle of liquid comfort to take the edge off. Being a web developer in this town ain’t easy seeing how stiff the competition is.
I poured a glass, threw it back and tipped my hat over my eyes to get a bit of shut eye.
That’s when she walked in.
I could see right through this dame. Somewhere some web developer had put egg on her face. And here she was. In my joint. Wanting to make things right.
“My website don’t work”, she said.
A gum-shoe like me could smell it a mile away. “Tell me your troubles,” I said and handed her my bottle.
The Case Of The Google Murder
“Google’s dead to me,” she said and then paused. “Well, maybe my site’s dead to Google. It needs fixin’ and fast.”
Turns out this this Jane Doe’s name was Sandra. Sandra hired a marketing outfit in her town to build her web site. But in the end, Sandra didn’t have her head on right to make sure her web site worked.
I fired up my computer and went to Google. I typed in Sandra’s company name and, wouldn’t you know, it came up first. That was the good news. The rest of the news ain’t so good.
Under her company name in Google were the words, “A description for this result is not available because of this site’s robots.txt – learn more.” I’d seen this a hundred times before.
Some Joe Web Developer creates a robots file to prevent search engines from crawling a site while it’s under development and then forgets to get rid of it when the site is finished.
“What’s a robots file,” she asks looking weepy eyed and angry.
“Robot files give directions to search engines,” I said looking away from the screen. “They tell search engines which parts of your site they are allowed to see and which parts they ain’t.”
“Your developer told the searchies to ignore, well . . . everything. Don’t worry, I can fix it.”
Then I look deeper and boy, I wish I hadn’t. On my tube, the site looked great, the company logo was bright and colorful, but when I made my browser smaller, the site began to change and that’s when it happened.
“What’s happening,” she whimpered after taking another sip of Whiskey.
“Your developer made the site responsive.”
“The site changes so it looks good to any Tom, Dick and Harry on any screen.”
“That’s good right?”
I could tell this next bit was gonna be painful for her.
“Yes, but in your case, when the screen becomes smaller, your company logo is replaced by the logo of the fella that made this theme.”
“It’s showing someone else’s logo on your page.” I said cautiously.
I could see the tears beginning to swell in her eyes. I knew enough to pour her another drink. She downed it like drinkin’ was goin’ out of style.
“Don’t worry, Sandra,” I said. “We’re going to fix this and make sure it never breaks again.”
“But don’t take my word for it. You have to make sure that you protect yourself by checking the site independently on your own.”
She took another sip and gave me a glare. “But why should I have to do that? I put a lot of dough in that rotten egg’s hands. I shouldn’t have to check anything.”
She turned away from me with a victorious flare and stared out the window.
“Listen, doll. The fact is you’re the only one who has something to lose. You owe it to yourself and your business to make sure the project doesn’t get bungled.”
She didn’t even open her yap to argue. She just looked down at her purse, opened it and pulled out a blank check. “Fix it. But I’m warning you, I’ll be watchin’ ya to make sure it gets done right.”
I took the check and said, “I wouldn’t have it any other way.”
Join the discussion 12 Comments
Great post! I haven’t had to use a web developer yet, but I will remember your cautionary tale when I do!
If you are doing your own development, you can apply this tale to yourself as well. Don’t assume the work you’ve done is perfect. Double check yourself as well.
That was really entertaining and what’s scary is that such things do happen. Wow, I guess it’s safer to never hire a Web designer Joe off the search engines, but rather someone we know and trust.
Thanks for the fun read.
Unfortunately, the story above is a fictionalized version of true events. I’m hoping that this article helps at least one person not make the same mistake.
Great article, Ralph. Highly creative and highly effective at getting across your points. I’ve seen many instances of the Disallow error, and many other technical SEO issues in my work. Not to mention web developers and/or black hat SEOs stuffing footers with irrelevant links or using other spammy tactics that can now get them penalized thanks to Google’s recent algo updates.
Usually, the site owner just assumes the developer knows what is he/she is doing and doesn’t question their decisions. And, unfortunately, too many lazy, ignorant and/or unethical developers and SEOs alike take advantage of the fact that most small business owners don’t know what they don’t know.
So, small business owners: educate yourselves! Use free tools like Google Analytics and Google Webmasters tools to keep an eye on how your site is performing and read blogs like this one, as well as Search Engine Land, Search Engine Watch and Moz.org to educate yourselves about the basics of SEO.
Here are a couple of free guides to get you started:
Thanks a bunch. I’m glad you enjoy it.
Thanks Nina, for the kind words and the resources.
My pleasure. Your article was one of the most creative blog posts I’ve read! Truly enjoyed it.
Wow. I’m blushing.
I gotta be honest…I almost pulled it at the eleventh hour because I thought it would be too weird.
Glad you didn’t!
A little creativity with a solid case study can go a long way. Probably the best thing I read all week, Ralph. I might even reference this one when I speak next week.