Search engine optimization – a case study

A while back I was visiting with a good friend of mine who works as a business consultant. I was telling her about the work I’ve been doing to try and creep up the search engine rankings. I’m by no means an SEO expert, but I’m learning a lot.

She told me about a client of hers that has been having a lot of trouble with their website. After a year, the site has just the one front page in the Google index and even that is difficult to find on most searches.

I agreed to give the site a SEO makeover as best as I could. I figured I couldn’t make the situation any worse. Take a look at the site here: (in a sub-directory since I already uploaded my changed version…a robots.txt file hides the old site from search spiders so the site isn’t penalized for duplicate content).

I don’t mean to pick on the person who developed and posted the page, I don’t know him/her but yikes…

Look at the page source…it doesn’t start out well:

<!DOCTYPE HTML PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.01 Transitional//EN"

<meta http-equiv="Content-Type" content="text/html; charset=iso-8859-1">
<meta name="description" content="Dr. Nancy O'Hara holistic DAN!, hyperbaric, immunologic, environmental and nutritional treatment of children with autism, developmental delays, Autustic Spectrum Disorder.">
<meta name="resource-type" content="document">
<meta name="revisit-after" content="15">
<meta name="classification" content="Health">
<meta name="keywords" content="Autism, autistic spectrum disorders, autistic, autistic child, treating autism, autism treatment, autism alternative treatment, austim alternative, alternative health autism, dr. o'hara, nancy o'hara, DAN!, DAN, holistic, hyperbaric, supplements, autism immunology, autism environment, autism nutrition, autistic nutrition, child nutrition autism, child development delay, child developmental delay, nutrition and learning">
<meta name="robots" content="ALL">
<meta name="distribution" content="Global">
<meta name="rating" content="GENERAL">
<meta name="copyright" content="Dr. Nancy O'Hara">
<meta name="author" content="Dr. Nancy O'Hara">
<meta name="language" content="en-us">
<meta name="GENERATOR" content="Mozilla/4.76 [en] (Windows NT 5.0; U) [Netscape]">
<html><title>Nancy O'Hara Nancy O'Hara, M.D. Doctor Nancy O'Hara- Integrated Holistic Care of Children With Autistic Spectrum Disorders</title>
<meta http-equiv="Content-Type" content="text/html; charset=iso-8859-1">
<style type="text/css">
.style16 {font-family: Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif}
.style17 {font-family: "Times New Roman", Times, serif}

A <head> tag that comes after all the meta tags can’t be good. Not to mention the fact that there’s no closing </head> tag. The description meta tags contains keywords, not a description. Then the body of the site is your typical old-style, table-based page…all code, very little content. No wonder Google can’t figure out what this site is about.

I ran the site through SEO Analyzer and it only got points for being small (score: 40). It’s already in DMOZ, which is good.

So I gave the site a makeover, keeping the content and design the same as I was requested to do so. Here’s the new site which now scores a 95 in the SEO analyzer, only losing points for not having enough content (I’ve mentioned this to them and I hope to be able to fix that soon).

Here’s what I did:

  • Completely valid XHTML and CSS (in an external file)
  • Semantic, clean code. Headers, paragraphs, lists…all clean and clear (using a little CSS image replacement for things like the main header so the text is there…use sparingly). Minimal presentation elements in the HTML, if any at all.
  • Main content comes before the navigation in the code. Not sure if it will make a difference, but couldn’t hurt and it makes the page more accessible.
  • Every page has a unique and clear title
  • Reorganized the site into directories. Consistent file naming scheme. Clear structure.
  • Created and uploaded a valid sitemap to Google Sitemaps

The site really needs inbound links and more keyword-rich content. I can’t help there, but this is an interesting experiment for me to see if site optimization alone makes a difference on a small, simple site. The site was last crawled by Google on June 28th. Let’s see what happens in a couple of months.