Torpedo and Sink the Ship SS Search Engine Ranking

I was recently contacted by one of my best clients who askedme what I thought of his decision to make a major change toone of his highly ranked pages. His initial concern was thatvisitor sales conversion ratio was low. At almost one percent,it was just below normal, but I'm always happy when a clientwants to improve. Conversion and rankings though, are verydifferent beasts and his concern was overly focused on theformer to the total exclusion of the latter.

As his SEO I should have realized that the top rankings ofthis already optimized page were in danger when his firstsentence referred to the existing "Dusty, tired old page, thatjust isn't getting enough sales." That page had just beenoptimized for search engines about 6 months previously, andwent from page 10 (invisible) or so of the Search EngineResults Pages (SERP's) to the top three on the first pages ofall three major search engines virtually overnight after a fewtweaks to gain traction from a popular movie reference to hisproduct.

The page had been up for several years before the movierelease without gaining substantial web sales of that sameproduct, but our optimization six months ago lead to a leap insales and consistently improving page visits after thattheatrical release. But sales plateaued over time and slowlydecreased after the movie which had mentioned his producttransitioned to DVD sales. Somehow he hadn't forseen thatdecrease and wanted to continue the level of sales he hadenjoyed while the movie mention was fresh.

To achieve the continued sales though, he wanted to completelyreplace the page text with new material he'd been given by themanufacturer of the product. As is the case with marketingmaterial provided by many companies, keyword density wasnon-existent with emphasis was on slick new photos, coveredwith stylized, graphical text. Text with keywords thatcouldn't be repeated in any page text since they had alreadybeen embedded in the image graphics several times.

What to do? I suggested creating an entirely NEW page with themanufacturer provided information linked within his site menulinks on each page and from the sitemap. While maintaining theold page for it's top rankings in the search engines we couldsimply use internal linking to keep the search enginescrawling that (old dusty) fully optimized page. That way wewould still rank in the top 5 for that page and it's covetedkeywords and provide the new conversion focused page to sitevisitors from the menu links.

For some reason though, the client insisted on using theexisting filename for the new content and moving the oldcontent to a NEW filename! Why? Because he wouldn't have tohave his programmer change a script which loaded a rotatingbanner to a select few highly trafficked pages. The programmercosts too much to change a few lines of code for a profitableproduct page?

This tactic meant that we would completely lose the existingrank on the next visit of the search engine crawlers after thenew page was posted. I was convinced that we could gain therank back, but only over time and with substantial extra work.The cost to the client to get a new page into the top five onSERP's was going to exceed the cost of programming updates ofbanner rotation scripts. But he insisted we use the newmanufacturer provided (image only) content on the oldfilename. OK, I relent.

The web designer wanted to use the new manufacturer providedpage in an iframe and embed the old page text in noframes tags- making it visible to search engines, but not visitors. Sillyidea and borderline spam technique that may drop our top fiverankings off the charts. I dug my heals in and refused thatidea.

The client suggested simply keeping previous metatags andtitle tag to maintain ranking. Sorry, that simply won't work.If it did, we'd return to the bad old days of simplistickeyword stuffing in those (no longer) magical metatags. Istarted to wonder ... "Am I here as an SEO only to stopdesigners from using SE spamming techniques, programmers fromhaving to write new code and clients from doing absurd keywordstuffing in metatags?"

No you actually have to use carefully crafted keyword richtext on the visible page - and NOT embedded in graphics filesas text painted across photos with photoshop and illustratorsoftware. Search engines can't read text on images and thatimage "Alt" text in the HTML is no longer useful in SEO sinceit has been so badly abused by simplistic optimizers forranking gains before the search engines began to ignore it intheir ranking algorithm.

The new page may initially see sales increases due to thepretty new photos (there is zero text on that new page) butafter a long series of email exchanges with this client and afinal phone discussion over ranking issues, he proceeded withthis change anyway. I normally don't hope for poor rankings onclient pages, but since this one runs counter to every fiberof my SEO being, I'm actually looking forward to that torpedostriking and the ranking to sink off the charts and the clientto pay attention to his SEO's advice.

The old page is still showing up in cached pages at the searchengines, so they haven't yet crawled the new version. I willdutifully point out the sinking of the venerable "SS SearchEngine Ranking" ship next week when Googlebot revisits thisclient site and finds all that text has disappeared from hispreviously #1 ranked page and suggest to him that he reviewhis WebTrends traffic reports to see that it has settled tothe bottom of the ocean.

I guess I better get busy finding a way to rank the previous(old optimized) page on the brand new shiny filename. Won't hebe surprised to learn that most of his sales come from that(newly named) "old dusty page" within a few weeks?

Copyright September 3, 2005

Have you done anything to torpedo and sink your ship "SSSearch Engine Rankings" lately? Call me at 562-572-9702 if youneed a salvage operation to raise that venerable ship from thebottom of the vast search engine rankings ocean. Banks Valentine operates the article distribution site and a Small Business EcommerceTutorial for Web Entreprenuers at

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