The Web Site's Technical Foundation as a Key Success Factor

What Web Insiders Know and Do

Web site engineering framework.

A building must have a solid foundation. If the foundation has problems, repairs may be difficult and costly. A good example is a new home with a leaking basement. Even non-invasive repairs can be expensive and disrupt normal day-to-day routines. When the backhoe drives into the backyard, the home owner knows first hand how a short cut can skyrocket repair costs. Web sites work in the same way.

Most people with Web sites have never looked at the foundation of their Web site. The more exciting part of creating an online presence is selecting the design, choosing content, and describing the “to be” functions. The excitement of using the “free Internet” to build revenues or gain market visibility is adrenaline-pumping work.

The foundation, the plumbing? Who cares? That is the job — most people with Web sites assume — someone else's job.

The blunt truth is that the engineering framework — the foundation and plumbing for a Web site — is very important. Over time, the engineering framework becomes increasingly important. The reason is that most first generation Web sites are relatively basic. The owner of the Web site does not know what he or she does not know. With each passing Web site review, the owner of the Web site gains insight and begins to layer additional requirements on the team and infrastructure.

At some point in the evolution of a Web site, the foundation begins to leak. Unfortunately this happens all too often and just when the owner of a Web site is beginning to see some payback from the investment in technology, content, and design.

SEO is one factor that can reveal the technical shortcomings of a Web site. The Web site may have been designed in such a way that needed optimization adjustments such as automated content updates have not or cannot be economically integrated. Another situation arises when a Web violates a guideline known to affect SEO rankings. A good example is the use of invisible frames, metatags that contain semantically unrelated words and phrases, or a page naming convention that gives each Web page a unique name each time a page is dynamically constructed. The problems technology poses are numerous, and more troublesome, changing.

Google, MSN, and Yahoo have to modify the way their systems determine page ranking for one very big reason. People figure out how to beat the system and cause a page to rise to the top of the ranking through trickery or outright fraudulent behavior. The search sites protect themselves by adjusting their algorithms for determining relevancy.

The situation has several consequences that are now institutionalized as standard Web operating procedure. These are:

  1. SEO changes are made, and a site’s ranking goes up. Then the site’s ranking goes down. The Web site owner questions the time and cost required to repeat standard optimization practices over and over. Some Web developers wonder if there is a “conspiracy theory” for this type of boost and drop pattern.
  2. Web advertising works. The clickthrough rate on Google and Yahoo ads is not as high as appearing first in a list of results. But one percent clickthrough is better than zero traffic. What many Web site owners conclude is that spending money on Web advertising is somewhat more predictable and possibly less expensive than cyclic SEO exercises.
  3. A growing awareness that Web sites are engaged in a version of the Cold War. New technology comes on the scene. Sites that make effective use of this technology pull ahead of older, more established Web sites. Web site owners are now faced with another round of costs. This money is needed to remain at parity.

The bottomline is that SEO is the tip of an extremely large iceberg. The composition is not hydrogen and water; the make up of the SEO iceberg is technology and marketing.

There is not single “silver bullet” to address these three interrelated and complex issues. One defense is to focus on the “plumbing.” A Web site with a solid foundation from an engineering perspective is more likely to be one that can address most of the concerns identified in the three Web standard operating procedures. Well-engineered sites can be manipulated programmatically, which generally is less expensive than manual processes. Second, the well-engineered site can accommodate specialized landing pages and metrics necessary to verify that traffic has come about from advertising. Fraud is a handmaiden in online traffic counts. ArnoldIT has some experience dealing with log analysis as a consequence of the firm’s work for certain government entities in the United States and elsewhere. Finally, when new technology emerges, the “well-tempered” Web site like its metaphorical cousin the “well-tempered clavier” can include that technology somewhat more easily than ad hoc sites.

ArnoldIT’s engineers can assist new Web endeavors with their framework design and budgeting. For established Web sites, Arnold IT can provide guidance for recompeting a Web site’s core foundation or remediating all or part of an existing site’s infrastructure.

To learn more about ArnoldIT’s programmatic optimization services, call or write us. There is no cost for an initial discussion and review of your Web site.

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Harrod’s Creek, Kentucky 40027, USA
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