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  1. #1
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    SEO and Their Programmers

    I am not as technically savvy when it comes to programming and code. I've typically worked well with most programmers and developers in the past or have worked with a friend who "gets it." My client recently brought on a new programmer. I worked very well with their original person.

    I recently discovered that their site was not functioning properly. I brought it to their attention and nothing was rectified. I was questioned about traffic and informed them that the main navigation was not functioning properly. Naturally, they are looking to blame me some how, some way. I'm not saying that the site malfunction is a direct cause for the traffic slip but I imagine it has something to do with it. I've been reviewing GWT's to see if anything was picked up by Google.

    Several questions:
    - How do you manage situations where you are working with a developer or programmer that is not yourself or someone you work with?
    - How do you circumvent the finger pointing and not be the fall person?
    - What is your policy for delivering results and things out of your control such as making sure the site actually functions properly?
    - Do you assume any responsibility when the site is not functioning properly?
    - Are you held accountable for knowing when there is something wrong with the site or do you leave it up to the client to see the more obvious?
    - What tools, if any, do you have in place to be sure the site is working properly?

    I don't want to lose a client and I certainly don't want them to think I'm screwing up but some people don't get it. Do I chalk it up to their ignorance and let the pieces fall where they fall? I feel like it's partly my fault for not noticing the issue sooner. At the same time, I have no responsibility or access to the site and provide recommendations to their programmer.

    Looking forward to any feedback.

  2. #2
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    Re: SEO and Their Programmers

    @Laustin1878 I think it's necessary to bring issues like this to the development team, because it will ultimately hurt the business owner since their potential customers will get frustrated with the site then leave. I wouldn't resort to finger pointing or assigning blame. I would circumvent that by outlining a plan of action and explaining that the problem was found, but here's the way we're going to fix it. If you start assigning blame, you'll probably make enemies quick and you really don't want to be on the bad side of the person tasked with fixing the issue.

    If the navigation isn't working on the site, then check recent javascript additions. A lot of times (if it's wordpress especially) code will conflict with each other and force certain elements to stop working.

    Ultimately I think bringing a solution on how to fix the situation to the table will, for lack of better words, blind the customer on who's really to blame for the issue. Explain that we have problem A with the site, but this is how we can fix it easily and quickly.

    I've been in that situation before, but i've also been the one making the changes to the actual site so... it might be a little tougher getting the developer on board.
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  3. #3
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    Re: SEO and Their Programmers

    Thank you for taking the time to respond Eric. I am not looking to blame or finger point in any way shape or form. I fully agree with your thoughts and stay away from that behavior. I don't agree with it and would explore all peaceful alternatives before I ever had to resort to the blame game. It's just not my M.O.

    The problem was pointed out by me to their new developer and through an exchange of emails, I learned that the problem may have existed prior to me noticing. Either way the developer did not rectify the issue and it just sat. Now they see a decline in traffic and are questioning me as to why. Meanwhile, there is a glaring issue with the site that potentially caused a dip in traffic. I feel a little to blame b/c I didn't notice the issue earlier as I've been focusing more on off-site activities. At the same time, the developer should be logging their changes, (I also created a shared spreadsheet for them to log any and all changes for the main purpose of tracking changes and potential errors so they can be fixed more easily).

    So I guess I'm looking to see how others manage the overall relationship when dealing with inside developers. How do you abstain from being held responsible for things beyond your control and more so, how do you mitigate these types of situation with business owners?

    I've also made a number of recommendations which have fallen on deaf ears. I've provided specific information for content creation and they have done little to nothing to help their own cause. Content can impact traffic directly yet it's something out of my control. Offering content creation services has been something I'm looking into for when I get going on my own two feet but i'm not there yet.

    Sorry for my quasi-vent but I am need of some advice to make sure I can offer a better service to anyone I deal with.

  4. #4
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    Re: SEO and Their Programmers

    In your contract or in your terms of service did you specify you would check the website at all, on a consistent basis for functionality?

    Chances are you didn't.

    In that case, it is not your responsibility. Lose the guilt.

    However, I think we can both agree that you perform a valuable service when you notice things like this, correct? You provided a valuable service that you were not obligated to provide. You went over and beyond the scope of your services. I say good job for you.

    I always go above and beyond for my clients but I also separate obligation from going the extra mile. You are not obligated to make sure their site stays up, works the proper way, etc. unless you specified you would (or unless you break it). They are the website company, they are in charge of that.

    I had a client whose site went down one day. I called the website company myself and got it back up and running, instead of notifying the company. Why? a) because every second the site is down is precious due to visitors bouncing and b) because I don't bring my clients problems. I either bring them solutions or solve it myself. I was not obligated to do that but I did it because I go the extra mile. It was not my fault the site went down and it isn't even my responsibility to make sure the site goes back up. But I did it anyway.

    Really, the only difference between going the extra mile and obligation is the responsibility. In each situation, you're going to do the same thing. I was still going to call the website company and get the situation resolved whether I was obligated or whether I was simply going above and beyond. The action is the same, the responsibility is different. Guilt comes from not doing something you were responsible for.

    So, if you weren't responsible for that, draw a line and say you weren't, especially to yourself. What you tell yourself will reflect how you end up interacting with the client on this issue.

    When it comes to talking to the client, don't even mention the traffic this time. Let them know the website isn't functioning properly and he needs to get that fixed. Offer to talk to the website company for him. Then, you can go to the company and say, "Hey, this needs to be fixed" not "Hey, this needs to be fixed because it's killing our traffic." One of those statements they are solely responsible for and there's no way out of that. One of those statements they perceive they have a little wiggle room on and may not be responsible for. Any time you let someone have a chance to not be the person responsible, guess what, they'll do anything to get out of it. It's not negotiable that it's their fault the navigation isn't functioning. It is negotiable (to them) that the traffic drop isn't their fault. Don't even give them that opportunity.

    Later on, talk to your client about the traffic. If you talk about them in the same session about both subjects, it looks like you're blaming the website company for the traffic drop and you don't know that's the reason. If the traffic drop is an urgent issue, find a way to separate the two things.

    ---------- Post Merged at 03:11 PM ---------- Previous Post was at 02:59 PM ----------

    Quote Originally Posted by Laustin1878 View Post
    Thank you for taking the time to respond Eric. I am not looking to blame or finger point in any way shape or form. I fully agree with your thoughts and stay away from that behavior. I don't agree with it and would explore all peaceful alternatives before I ever had to resort to the blame game. It's just not my M.O.

    The problem was pointed out by me to their new developer and through an exchange of emails, I learned that the problem may have existed prior to me noticing. Either way the developer did not rectify the issue and it just sat. Now they see a decline in traffic and are questioning me as to why. Meanwhile, there is a glaring issue with the site that potentially caused a dip in traffic. I feel a little to blame b/c I didn't notice the issue earlier as I've been focusing more on off-site activities. At the same time, the developer should be logging their changes, (I also created a shared spreadsheet for them to log any and all changes for the main purpose of tracking changes and potential errors so they can be fixed more easily).

    So I guess I'm looking to see how others manage the overall relationship when dealing with inside developers. How do you abstain from being held responsible for things beyond your control and more so, how do you mitigate these types of situation with business owners?

    I've also made a number of recommendations which have fallen on deaf ears. I've provided specific information for content creation and they have done little to nothing to help their own cause. Content can impact traffic directly yet it's something out of my control. Offering content creation services has been something I'm looking into for when I get going on my own two feet but i'm not there yet.

    Sorry for my quasi-vent but I am need of some advice to make sure I can offer a better service to anyone I deal with.
    When it comes to my clients, they have way more contact with me than they do with their website company. Normally, most people don't talk to their website company for 6-12 months. As long as the website is up and running, there's no reason to talk to them. Because of the nature of my business, I talk to my clients 2-3 times a month sometimes. Due to this and the care and attention I show their business, they know I'm on their side. When it comes down to a situation when it's me vs the website company, I own an unbelievable edge. This sets me up not to have problems with the website company. If it comes down to me vs them, I always win. Because I care about my clients.

    Normally, I don't have problems with the website companies. Actually, not sure I ever have. If I do, it's because they can't do something I need them to do which never turns into an argument. If they can't do it, they can't.

    Here's how I would handle your situation. I would probably have a sit down meeting with the client and say, "Hey, this has been a problem and it needs to be fixed. I have tried to call them and talk with them but I can't get them to budge. Normally, when the person calls who pays the bill, they quit being lazy and do what their responsible to do. Really, this shouldn't even be an issue as this is standard in the website industry. You pay people monthly to manage the site and these people are dropping the ball. Will you call them and see if you can get them to do what they should have done 2-3 months ago?"

    That will light a fire under him. He's not getting what he's been paying for? Watch out.

    Also, show him the site. Show him the issue. Be the website visitor for a second and say, "Look, I can't even go here, or do this, it's killing us."

    Then, address the traffic drop. Don't shy away from the possibility that this is your fault. Take a gulp and lay out all the possibilities. Check their ranking fluctuations, search engine traffic, compare them year over year, are they seasonal, etc. If it's a small dip maybe it's nothing at all. If it's a big dip, obviously something is going on.

    Diagnose the issue. If it's your fault, own up to it and let them know what you're doing to fix it. They'll probably be surprised you admitted it and have some respect for you. And chances are, they'll draw the correlation to the navigation as also being an issue for you, without you having to say it. You'll get bonus points for not blaming the other company for that either. If they don't draw the correlation, as you're about to leave, just say, "And make sure you talk to the website company about the navigation. That can only help us."

    You didn't blame them but as he's thinking about them, he'll draw the correlation at some point.

  5. #5
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    Re: SEO and Their Programmers

    We've experienced a number of challenges when it comes to web design orgs since many do not do not understand the nuances of the SEO or reputation, today we create a site that we work on exclusively.

    This is a strategy that removes us from the emotional attachment some business owners have to their site (often archaic and a mess) as well as gives us the added advantage of doing what we need to do and keeping control over the work.

    We've experienced owners being held hostage by their designers who won't give access to us and that don't do what needs to be done. In other cases, misplaced loyalty or contract terms have rendered the client indentured to the company, we actually fired a client in that situation after a year of labor intensive efforts to get things the way they should have been but that were being sabotaged by the other firm.

    In other cases, and don't cringe, we use a frame to port over some of our elements such as the review inbox so that it appears to be at their site instead of taking their clients elsewhere.

    We avoid getting into the back end of their sites as much as possible BUT I also have the luxury of working with one of the better local development companies who has no problem working with me. When there is a problem, I often find it and fix it. Or we cc the client and get authorization for him to fix it at his support rate.

    Finally, we clearly outline what we do in the contract, this manages client expectations and alerts them to the fact that we don't do coding and design for the site and that it remains the job of their design firm.
    Online since 1995, Team ARK offers assistance with business reputation, marketing, lead generation, online business training & more.

  6. #6
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    Re: SEO and Their Programmers

    I really appreciate the responses. I've had an opportunity to see how others would handle the situation and how others deal with a clients in-house programming team or 3rd party programmers. I've never really had an issue until this one instance and I thought I handled and addressed the problem correctly.

    I feel it is ultimately the responsibility of the web programmer to be responsible for the site functioning properly. Spending a lot of time doing off-page SEO, I am not actually on the site as often as I once was. I happened to do a routine check and noticed the issue and immediately addressed it. I do think some onus is on me but a small percentage. I even asked the new in-house programmer if he was able to find the problem and fix it and even offered to reach out to the previous programmer for help diagnosing and fixing it. I did not receive a response. At the end, this wound up turning into a finger pointing session which was the LAST thing I wanted. I guess it was inevitable.

    Again, thank you for the education. I found this thread very helpful. I'm doing my best to create an honest, budget conscious and successful search marketing plan for small businesses. This is not an easy task but I am determined to be the best I can be and deliver the very best service I can. I feel that these types of discussions are important as is knowing how to handle them and having solid in-house practices is an integral part of success.

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