SEO Report Card: BalancedLifeProducts.com
Welcome to “SEO Report Card”, where I assess how well search engine optimized a selected ecommerce site is. For this first installment, our guinea pig is BalancedLifeProducts.com, a small ecommerce site, based in Madison, Wisconsin, that sells meditation and massage products such as yoga mats, meditation cushions, and reiki timers.
The site doesn’t fare well in the search engines in the natural (unpaid) search results, so they have been relying on Google AdWords to fill in the gaps.
It wasn’t hard to see why their rankings in natural search traffic were so low. After a quick health check-up of their level of search engine optimization, I made the following diagnosis:
- Overall, the shopping cart software is really holding this site back. Technical issues like redirects, URLs, and the inability to customize title tags and link text really make this a difficult situation for the site owner. He tells me he is looking at a total site rebuild with another vendor rather than trying to fix his existing site and I would concur that this is the right approach.
- Home page is way too light on content. There aren’t enough words on the page for search engines to sink their teeth into and ascertain a keyword theme.
- The URL of the home page immediately redirects to another more complex URL. In many cases, this causes PageRank dilution because PageRank doesn’t always flow from the first URL to the destination URL.
- Title tags are too similar to each other across the site. Consequently, product and category pages don’t have the opportunity to develop a unique keyword theme very well. Search Google for site: www.balancedlifeproducts.com and you will see what I mean. A much better title tag for a product page like their Gong Clocks page would be “Gong Clocks from BalancedLifeProducts.com” rather than “Balanced life timers and clocks, gong clocks, meditation cushions, yoga mats, massage mats and timers” – the latter lacks a strong keyword focus.
- Site is completely devoid of .edu or .gov inbound links. A quick check didn’t reveal any high PageRank authoritative pages linking to this site either. The site doesn’t even have a Yahoo! directory listing. Furthermore, the inbound links include spam sites like ultimate-high-human-growth-hormone-releaser.com and wazoopoker.com. Apparently they participated in a link farm or signed up for a link spam campaign in the form of a “Submit to thousands of search engines for $99.” Ouch. The likely ranking penalties they are receiving will be hard to recover from.
- Product and category page URLs are devoid of stop characters (&, =, ?), which is good. However, these URLs are not user friendly and, as such, they are unlikely to garner many deep inbound links. A much better URL for a product page would be something like www.balancedlifeproducts.com/reiki-timer.html and use rewrite rules to remap that URL to the appropriate dynamic URL.
- The links out include reciprocal links, some of which are totally off-topic. I would add a rel=nofollow to all the reciprocal or irrelevant links on the links page, so that no link gain (e.g. Google PageRank) is passed to those sites.
- Product pages seem to have a good amount of content on them, however the secondary page labeled “products” is almost completely devoid of content, which is a shame considering that that page has a lot more link gain than deeper pages.
- None of the product categories appear as text links on the home page, which is a real missed opportunity. Product and category pages do not contain any text-based breadcrumb navigation, which is again a missed opportunity. Text links are crucially important to conveying to the search engines what a page’s keyword theme is. The higher up in the site tree these links appear, the more these text links will be worth. Home page logo does not link to the proper URL: it links to index.htm instead of /. This often times causes PageRank dilution and duplicate pages getting indexed.
This article appeared in the January 2006 issue of Practical Ecommerce magazine.
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