So, a friend of a relative had some company design a web site for her new business. It was a simple web page.
Now, companies doing this are fine. They can do a good job, and the site in question looks fine as a really simple "shop front" web site to provide company details, a few pictures, etc.
There are, of course, a load of "self design" services that exist and could probably do just as good a job for way less money or even free.
Anyway, this is where the underhand part comes in.
They designed the site and then they tried to sell her search engine optimisation (SEO) for yet another fee.
Now, SEO is an odd business. At one end you have the simple matter of ensuring the web site is well written, contains all of the right things technically (headings, meta tags, and so on), to ensure it is correctly and hence prominently listed in search engines. A well designed web site does all that anyway.
Then there are the "tricks" - the less ethical methods that involve basically trying to trick the search engines in to highly ranking the site, at least for a while. I guess these have value to some, but it is a tricky business.
Well, this particular web design company has done a couple of odd things...
1. They registered the domain in their name, not the customer's. That is a tad naughty if they did not explain this. It makes it hard, or even impossible, to move the site to a new provider if unhappy with their service.
2. They added this to the pages:
<meta name='robots' content='noindex,follow' />
What does that mean? It tells search engines not to list the page at all. It is the total and utter opposite of search engine optimisation. It is telling search engines to totally ignore the site.
To put that on the page and then "sell" SEO to the customer is really underhand, in my opinion. The SEO they sell may simply mean removing that one line!
Our advice? Get out! In this case they can get the corresponding .uk domain and use that as a new site. As a new company it seems that will work fine, and maybe the .co.uk will come up one day.
Why do people think it is OK to run a business like that - it may not actually be illegal, depending on the terms agreed, but it is underhand and devious as far as I can see. Not the way to build a loyal customer base or get referrals!