As some of you know back in December Mark E Wright won the UK Apprentice. As the winner he was given £250k to create an Online Digital Marketing agency. Part of his unique value proposition was that he would revolutionize the SEO and Online Marketing Industry. Given his only real experience with SEO was selling the services for Reach Local, these claims seemed dubious at best, but it seemed the devil would be in the details or you know, the website. After all, as an SEO you do not need to have a website, but if you do it better be a good one.
Our SEO product is unbelievable….!! It will change the way SEO is done in the UK. White Hat, ethical techniques that get page 1 results.
— Mark Wright (@Mark_E_Wright) January 4, 2015
Over the past 2 ½ months there has not been a lot to dissuade watchers from the opinion that what Mark was likely selling had more to do with smoke and mirrors than a solid understanding of PPC and SEO. From missing a major opportunity to build brand (not having an online presence for after the win) to basic failures on standard SEO practices on the one page holding site to simple things like putting “.@” in the middle of tweets because he does not seem to understand how the “.” works in Twitter. These issues and others put experienced SEOs in a wait and see pattern.
As of yesterday March 8th, the wait was over; Climb Online launched their site. It would be great to report that they got the SEO right and the website is a success. It would do a lot to reassure others in the industry that the company would become a welcome contributor to the community. Unfortunately, the site is rife with mistakes even the newest of serious SEOs would not likely make.
Since I am not up for offering a free site audit, I will just post some of the findings and let you draw the conclusions.
For instance, what is wrong with this image?
Or this one?
Or how about this?
Ah and this?
Lack of alt tags (as in none)
Or this content?
- Lack of content due to parallax scroll (site only has 13 pages)
- Descriptions that are too long
- The page speed score for mobile that is under 60
- The page speed score for desktop that is under 80
- Lack of OG tags, schema or proper click to call implementation
- Site architecture issues
- Certificate issues
- Lack of proper navigation
- Improper responsive implementation
- Deprecated coding techniques
- Improper internal redirects
- Improper placement of their GA code
- URLs that allow any case and a form that takes html tags
- A link profile that would make Matt Cutts cry why?
- Etc. Etc. Etc. there are so many more, but you get the idea
What about these page titles?
4 are too long, 3 too short that leaves 6 that are still not formatted correctly.
Or what about the design?
- Improper breakpoints (the site becomes mobile at 1070 pixels)
- A maze of page flows that don’t lead to pages, but segments of pages
- Hamburger menu is oddly formatted
(There really is no better way to describe it)
- Reuse of the same secondary navigation anchors across site sections
- Breaking usability on internal link patterns
- Etc. etc. etc. unfortunately the list goes on and on
Or this sitemap?
Well had this person not been on a nationally run TV Show, where he called other digital marketers “unethical”, that you could do this work for £400 a month and claimed he would revolutionize the white hat industry, no one probably would care. After all, people put out their SEO shingle every day.
The issue here is TV infers legitimacy and not only legitimacy, but attracts followers. Mark has speaking gigs and radio show appearances now. He has a swarm of fans who think what he is doing is ok. It isn’t.
— James Godfrey (@Jamesgods1) March 10, 2015
SEO is a knowledge base, not a service.
Like it or not, Mark is now the public face of SEO in the UK now.
People know little about what we do, let alone enough to “suss” out the smoke and mirrors salesman from the real SEO practitioner. While there was a time when you could say, “hey give a benefit of the doubt”, the issues in this site show that no one on the team has even a basic understanding of SEO practices today. That or they let it go live without checking it; neither option is a good one.
SEO requires vast amounts of knowledge, that on average most SEOs spend hours per day keeping up with in order to ahead of the algorithms. It is not simply a service you need to sell better, especially when you cannot seemingly back that service up.
People can get hurt.
This matters because real businesses, real jobs and real money are on the line. It matters because if his website and tweets are an indication of the work their clients will receive, people’s businesses could get hurt. It matters because real SEOs are already getting pushback about the cost of their services because the potential clients saw the UK Apprentice. It matters because as an industry we fight the negative image of the industry on a daily basis. Sadly this image is not brought on by the people who do the real work, but by people who seek to make a buck off the industry’s back.
The past two months have shown that Mark E Wright, as charming and well spoken as he might be, should not be held up as a representative of the SEO industry. No professional and experienced practitioner of SEO would allow their site to go up with so many errors, many of them basic. It just wouldn’t happen. And while Mark may be excellent at sales, he is not saying I hired SEOs, he is saying he is one. So in all fairness, he is responsible.
Guess the best that can be said, as always with SEO Services, buyer beware, do your due diligence and don’t assume a TV show winner knows more than anyone else.
Disclaimer: There is no one method or definitive linear approach to SEO. Everyone optimizes their sites differently. Our internal view is SEO and website visibility is a holistic exercise. We try to meet as many points on the organic and usability algorithms as possible to promote not only visibility, but engagement. If the site in question only differed with our view of how you implement SEO, then we could say “ok we just differ”. However, the lack of attention to so many aspects of SEO and Usability are what indicate a lack of oversight and/or knowledge and that is where the issues seem to lie.
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