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Thursday, August 7, 2008

The Web Developer and His Wife (A Fairy Tale)

There was once a mom and pop kind of web shop selling auction products, making money through the affiliate commissions. She (the wife) would do the design and customer contacts, and he (the husband) would do the programming of the site. Mind you, they had no products of their own. The only thing they could do to sell more was thus not to improve the products, but simply improve their site to bring in more people and do more sales.

Their sales, while affording them a small income to live by, were anything from impressive. A couple of dozen people came by each day, only some of them buying. Compared with other web shops they heard of they were a small fish in the sea. The web developer knew about programming, alright, but didn’t feel his code did anything to attract more customers, and that’s what counted, as his wife used to remind him.

One day, the web developer went to a web lunch meeting with a couple of people from the industry. One man he met introduced himself to him as Leslie, a search engine optimization consultant. The web developer had read an article or two about this business, but wasn’t quite aware of the latest tricks of the trade, so the two chatted a bit and it was all interesting.

When the web developer returned home, he told his wife about the event, and the people he met. Upon hearing of the search engine optimization consultant, the wife said, “What, you did not ask for anything? Our site’s not doing too well at all, go tell him we need his help.”

It was good the web developer had exchanged cards with the consultant, because the next morning, he called him up to ask for help. “We talked it over and my wife convinced me we need your help!” After Leslie received the credentials to connect and change the web shop, he immediately started the first adjustment, and called back an hour later. “Alright. I made sure your page titles are all unique and meaningful to search engines. Give it a while for the engines to rank you anew, then check your traffic,” Leslie said, “You’ll find you’ll have a couple of hundred people come by each day now.”

After a while, the mom and pop shop was indeed buzzing with several hundred visitors each day, just like the consultant promised. The web developer was quite happy, though his wife started complaining. “We have so much more potential. Go check with the consultant again. There should be more he can do for us.”

Somewhat reluctantly, the web developer called the consultant again next morning. “Leslie, my wife says we need more optimization. Anything you can do to help?” The consultant thought for a bit, and then told the web developer to wait for his call. Another hour or two later, Leslie called. “Alright, I optimized the navigation structure of your website... some parts of your site were unreachable without script and plug-in support. In some weeks, go check your traffic. You’ll find you’ll have a couple of thousand people come by each day.”

A few weeks later, the consultant’s prediction had come true indeed. With great joy the couple looked at their statistics and sales, which weren’t anything they’d ever seen before. After a while, the wife started contemplating again, though. She came up with the idea that more had to be done still. “Go call your consultant again... there must be more to this.” The web developer wasn’t too convinced, arguing they had good sales already by now, but the wife kept pushing.

“Alright, I’ll call him,” he said. The next morning, the web developer gave Leslie a call. “Is there anything more you can do, Leslie?” he said. Leslie was quiet for a bit. “We tried a lot already. I’m not sure there’s anything else I can do.” The web developer said, “Please help us, my wife thinks we still got potential.” Leslie asked for some time to consider, and called back later that day. “Hey,” he said, “There’s something else I just did. The product images of your site now have alternative texts, and users can tag the products now, too. Go check back in some weeks,” Leslie said, “You’ll find your traffic should be in the region of a couple of ten-thousand visitors a day.”

To the amazement of the web developer and his wife, a couple of weeks later, their traffic got another enormous boost, and was in the region promised by the consultant. The couple felt its time to open a bottle of wine for the occasion. After sipping some glasses, the wife said, “This is amazing. Our sales are up through the roof. Go give your consultant another call and ask him to optimize the site once more... the sky’s the limit!”

The web developer did not have a good feeling about it, but he would lose the argument in any way... the two were a couple for too long for him to believe otherwise. The next morning, with a bit of a headache from the second bottle of wine they had opened the evening before, the web developer dialed Leslie’s number. “Yes?” The web developer told Leslie, “You are doing great work, and we want to thank you for that. My wife asked you to keep going with your optimization. Is there something you can do?” Leslie, in a dry voice, replied, “Congratulations on your current traffic... but I did everything I could already.”

The web developer kept pushing Leslie. “We know there’s more to this. Could you give another optimization a try?” Leslie told the web developer he would call back in some hours. “Hi again. I made some adjustments. I started repeating the keywords in the title, I bought some links for you on other websites, and I scraped descriptions for the products from the web and hid them below the page footer to have more keywords. Go check your rankings in a couple of weeks,” Leslie said, “You’ll find your traffic in the region of a couple of dozen daily visits again.”

And that’s the traffic the web developer and his wife get to this very day.


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