Over to the dark side: WordPress

After a year (or more) of struggling with getting good SEO for a website I cobbled together, my client and I have decided to bite the bullet and switch out custom .NET site over to WordPress. This was a much taller order than I had hoped. Worse, we’ve lost some functionality along the way. 

I’ve been developing website (large sites) using .NET for about 15 years now. Admittedly, I’m behind the times as I am still more comfortable developing a forms-based site rather than a MVC site (although my last site was a pure HTML site with a LOT of AJAX calls to some .NET services for content).

About 18 months ago, I was approached to create a website related to tattoos. There were some interesting ideas involved so I (foolishly?) said “yes.” The site came together over a period of weekends and eventually launched, and then flopped.

We were getting very little traffic to our site. I reviewed our site output and realized that the site we put together had some pretty neat features, but I had not “plumbed in” any support for SEO. One does not simply launch a site without SEO and expect to succeed. We proved that!

One of the challenges that I faced was that my site’s content was dynamic and my data source was external. So I do not know ahead of time what content my page will display. Initially, all my pages had the same page title, description and keywords. When the search engines see this, they penalize you. So I had to come up with alternative ways of populating the traditional fields that are the mainstay of SEO. After some pondering, I was able to develop some methods to create proper SEO for the 7000+ dynamically generated pages on my site. Some more tweaking, and the posts to Facebook and Twitter started looking pretty good too.

But still, there was very little traffic on our site. I’m still unsure of the exact cause. But I do know that we have some challenges that we are not overcoming.

First, is the focus of our site. We offer a search service through which users and find laser tattoo removal clinics near them. So when setting up our SEO, we optimized for search phrases such as “tattoo removal”, “laser tattoo removal” and “laser tattoo removal clinics.” I believe one challege is that any search with the word “tattoo” often returns over 16 million results. So a new site, needs to fight its way up past 15,999,999 other sites to get to the top spot. No mean feat! Nonetheless, we prevailed and are regularly in the top 50 results.

But as you know, being in the top 50 is the same as being in the top 1000. Nice, but it doesn’t do you any good. If you are not in the top ten (top 10) pages in a result set, no one will see your site. That’s just a sad reality of life with Google. And this is where we’ve been for the last year.

  • My client then reached out to some SEO experts who re-iterated many of the things that I had been saying but that my client had resisted:
  • get more content
  • get some backlinks
  • buy some adwords

They also suggested switching to a WordPress platform. I’d resisted because I’m not convinced that having pages served up by WordPress as compared to a custom .NET application will make much of a difference. The HTML generated by both systems is essentially the same. So the only difference would be other offereings not related to the rendered HTML. So I’m not expecting much of a change. But I could be wrong. I’ve eaten crow before and am prepared to do so again if needed.

So for now, I’m waiting for Google to re-crawl our site and re-build its index of dynamically generated pages. In the meantime, if you are looking for a clinic to get some tattoos, visit www.TattooRegret.Net and find a clinic near you!

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