Homepage SEO: large firms of accountants can also make mistakes

published on March 5, 2010 in SEO & PPC

Please note: MacIntyre Hudson commented that the addition of the code was deliberate, so take the second part of this article with a pinch of salt.

MacIntyre Hudson blocked search engines from indexing their homepage. Be sure not to make the same mistake.

Nine times out of ten, your homepage will be the most important page on your accountancy website. It is the page that is the most trusted by the search engines, the page that receives the most traffic and the page that should hold the number one spot when a web user searches for your practice name.

The home page is the starting point that allows people (and search engines) to easily access deep pages on your site and its main function is to act as a “dispatcher”.

Blocking search engines from indexing it will have a seriously negative impact on your Search Engine Optimisation efforts. Your website home page really is the heart of your website, and it is essential that search engines can access it, index it and follow links that appear on it.

Even big firms of accountants make mistakes: MacIntyre Hudson

MacIntyre Hudson is a fairly large firm of accountants in the UK (Top 50). However, when you search for MacIntyre Hudson in Google, you do not get their newly designed website homepage as the first result. Instead you see their careers page holding the top spot (see screeshot below).

MacIntyre Hudson results on Google

MacIntyre Hudson results on Google

A quick look at their source code tells us that the culprit is a misused meta robots tag – code that tells search engine robots (the software they use to index websites) how to treat a web page. The meta robots tag is the last meta tag that still plays a major role in the way websites are ranked.

MacIntyre Hudson Meta Robots Tag

MacIntyre Hudson Meta Robots Tag

The above highlighted line tells search engines to completely ignore the page, to not follow any links that are on it, and to not show it in their results. The noindex command is what made the MacIntyre Hudson homepage disappear from the search engines.

This really proves that you should be very careful when working on Search Engine Optimisation for your website. A relatively small mistake, like forgetting to remove a meta tag from a development site, can have serious consequences once the site is live.

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Edit 09/03/2010: the code has now been removed and MacIntyre Hudson’s home page is back in Google with its sitelinks.

MacIntyre Hudson Site Links

MacIntyre Hudson Site Links

{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

Collette Easton March 23, 2010 at 2:36 pm

Hi there Leo, you article makes interesting reading. It is, unfortunately not accurate. The ‘nofollow, noindex’ code was included as a very deliberate action on our part, for reasons that we shall not go into on this forum.

Reply

Eva Barnheim March 23, 2010 at 3:15 pm

I appreciate you are trying to make a point and think that you have a good example to showcase. However, this was not a mistake, it was a deliberate action on our part. We inserted the code for a couple of days as a precaution when we launched our new site, to ensure it all worked 100% as planned before we made any announcements about it. To therefore say in your edit from 9 March that “the issue has now been resolved” is misleading as there never was an issue in the first place. However, the fact that you happened to ‘catch’ our website at that particular point in time clearly highlights to your readers the effect of the code – whether intentionally added or not.

Eva Barnheim, National Marketing Manager, MacIntyre Hudson

Reply

netaccountant March 23, 2010 at 3:49 pm

@Collette, thank you for your comment. May I ask – off record – why you did decide to use the meta robots noindex/nofollow on the home page only? I have previously used 302′s or 503′s but never the meta robot – this is a genuine question to may be learn something new :)

@Eva, I have changed the text from the edit. I have also added a note as an introductory paragraph, I hope this is OK.
As you said, the fact that Google caught the code and acted on it in the short time it was live really shows that website owners need to be very careful with their SEO.

Reply

Phil Faren March 24, 2010 at 2:26 am

This is very valuable information for all site builders & website owners. I had a similar disastrous experience when I started my site. I used the fantastico route to installing wordpress. Unfortunately for me , using this method by default would cause your site to not allow/block the search engines like google & yahoo from crawling your pages. My site was never crawled for months even with dozens of links from friend’s sites. Its a good thing I searched through the SETTINGS and found the button that allows search engines to see my site.

Reply

netaccountant March 24, 2010 at 8:38 am

Hi Phil, yes blog settings are even worse because you could be stopping the indexing of the whole site if you forget to edit the settings > privacy.

Reply

Dave Doolin April 16, 2010 at 4:52 pm

Leo, this is very cool.

I hope this doesn’t sound as arrogant as it, uh… sounds, but you just made a new fan!

I’ll be digging around in your archives shortly.

Meanwhile, if you like to write code, we may have common interest.

Reply

netaccountant April 17, 2010 at 11:03 am

Well it’s doesn’t sound arrogant at all, and it is REALLY cool :) I am a fan of yours as well, and yes I like writing code and designing sites, been doing it for almost 10 years and really enjoy it.

Reply

Eric July 16, 2010 at 9:28 am

That was a good example of how NOT to use meta Robots tag on webpages… I Personally I prefer using Robots.txt file instead of the tag on any page on my website… Thanks for the post.. that was very helpful.

Reply

netaccountant October 21, 2010 at 10:24 am

Hi Eric, the meta robots is usually the best solution as the URL might still appear when you use the robots.txt file. Check out this video from Matt Cutts.

Reply

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