Ask the Online Marketing Experts – Website Audits
For our first Victoria Web Marketing Meetup of 2016 we asked members to submit their website for review. We had a panel of Metamend technicians do quick audits of the sites and present their findings to the group. The beer was flowing at Vancouver Island Brewery, the appetizers were delicious and we had some great websites to audit.
These audits were done very quickly but still uncovered a fair number of issues. Our audits generally come in at over 40 pages and take as many hours to complete. A normal technical SEO audit would contain information and recommendations for every single onsite and offsite SEO element. We have two types of audits we typically deliver; a technical mini-audit that looks at all onpage technical elements and a full SEO audit which includes link building, social media, etc. For the sake of time during the meetup and length of this blog post, we have just quickly hit the main points for each website. We were able to get through 5 websites at the meetup and have had permission to post the findings of 3 of our audits here on our blog. There were a lot of questions about the different tools we use to find these issues, so we’ve listed them at the bottom of this post.
If you’re interested in an SEO audit of your website you can find an SEO quote request form here.
Website #1: http://www.bopomavillages.org
The Bopoma Villages site is a very nice website and was probably our favorite site that was submitted in terms of layout and design. It’s a very clean site with great use of rich media and obvious calls to action. It is also a great cause, so head on over and send a donation if you feel so inclined! Our audit uncovered a few issues that should be remedied in order to improve search engine rankings and conversion rates.
Since the site was rebuilt recently, some redirects were missed. Many Google results returned 404 errors. Anytime you do a website redesign you must make sure that, if you’re changing URL’s, you have proper 301 redirects in place. We have seen many sites completely tank in rankings after a redesign. The Bopoma Villages website didn’t have major rankings to lose in the first place, so it’s not as devastating as it could be. We’ve seen major ecommerce websites lose hundreds of thousands of dollars in sales due to implementation of a new URL structure without proper 301 redirects.
We did get a good chuckle out of the 404 page. Someone asked how this came about and the webmaster mentioned that he “saw the picture and knew right away that she was totally the 404 lady”. That she is.
There are a few issues with the heading tags. This is likely more on the theme developers than the webmaster. Many WordPress themes come out-of-the-box with inherent SEO issues. Heading tags need to follow a logical order and only text that is actually used as a heading should be tagged as such. We found the following heading tag issues:
- The main pages of the site are missing <h1> tags
- The first heading tag on the page is an <h3>
- There is a whole paragraph in the footer wrapped in <h4> tags
Call to Action
There is a prominent donate button before any explanation of why one would donate to the cause. Some information about the program up front would likely increase donations. In general, there is not enough content on the homepage to give users a good overview. Making users click to find out what the site is about will always decrease conversion rates. We recommended using HotJar to see how users interact with the website and then a program like Optimizely to A/B test different layouts for conversion rates.
The video testimonials on this site are great! They should be used more prominently on the home page and be placed above the donate button. This improved flow of the home page will allow users to connect to the program through the videos. They will then be in a better position to decide if they would like to donate or not.
It’s also worth noting that, when it comes to SEO value, YouTube is a much better place to host videos. If done correctly you can gain traffic and rankings from YouTube videos that you cannot get with Vimeo.
Internal Linking / Menu Navigation
There are a few issues with link placement, anchor text, links missing or buried in menu’s, etc. The full list is in the bullets below:
- No contact us link at the top of the page
- Blog link is not prominent
- Inconsistent capitalization of Recent News links
- Farming, Clean Water, Healthy Living, Orphan Care links should go to relevant pages
- There is some really good content that is not accessible through navigation or menus
There are a number of images over 100kb in file size. The site does score decent on all site speed tests, but there are very few cases where an image needs to be larger than 100kb for the web.
Each and every page needs to have unique page title and meta description tags that target the main keywords of the page. There are a few issues with meta tags as listed below:
- 22 pages are missing meta description tags
- Title tags are very generic and could use some keyword targeting
Website #2: http://speakwellonline.com
SpeakWell was another website that had a nice clean and fresh looking design. The website had some great online marketing techniques such as: links out to social media accounts, a blog, CTA buttons and an FAQ page. However, our quick audit brought up a few ideas that, if implemented, could help take this website to the next level.
The biggest, most obvious omission on this website is the use of social proof. What some write off as a design trend, has actually proven to be a major factor in improving conversion rates. The use of social proof is the way for unknown products and companies to show users that they can be trusted. An example of some elements that could be included in this website to build trust with their potential clients would be:
- Awards won
- Badges of certifications
- Professional associations
- Client logos
- Media pieces featuring the product
Premium vs Free
The home page features a huge list of videos that cannot be watched unless payment is made. This can be kind of frustrating for a user that is looking for a sample of what they can expect if they make a purchase. Some ideas that came up during the meetup included:
- Make all intro and level 1 videos free
- Make some popular videos free
- Use Google’s first-click free method
- Hide at least some of the premium videos on the home page
- Categorize videos
YouTube Video Hosting
Using YouTube as the video host would work much better. YouTube is the second largest search engine in the world and would be a great place to promote the free versions of these videos. With the potential for more views plus SEO value back to your website and free transcripts? What’s to lose?
Video content is great for metrics like time on site and can very positively affect conversion rates. The problem is that Google and other search engines can’t actually watch videos, so some of the value is lost in translation. A landing page with just an embedded video will never gain and keep top search engine rankings. An easy, cost-effective way to get more textual content on a website is to transcribe the videos. A video landing page with proper schema mark up and the video transcribed for textual content is a winning combination!
Keyword Research / Long-tail Optimization
It is most likely that people are searching for terms like: “how to improve my English”, “how to lose my Spanish accent”, etc. The developer told us that they are targeting “accent reduction” which gets about 2,500 searches per month. There does, however, appear to be tons of traffic out there for a variety of long-tail search terms that are not currently being targeted with website or video content. A member of the meetup had a great suggestion, saying that it would be good to target specifically Spanish, Russian, French and other popular accents in English speaking countries.
Questions like this one pop up on Q&A website such as: Quora, Yahoo Answers, etc. all the time. These are potential customers actively seeking exactly the service offered by this website. Taking some time each day/week to search out and answer these questions can help build links and improve rankings. These websites tend to rank very high and the website with a link in the top answer will get traffic. Be sure to answer the question with an in-depth answer that speaks to the question rather than just posting a link.
We don’t recommend making major URL changes after the fact in most cases. However, close attention should be paid to length, structure and readability of URL’s when building a website. The URL’s of the videos on this site are extremely long. Some categorization and file structure might help for scalability as the site gets bigger as well. An example of how we would have written these URL’s would be:
- Current URL: http://speakwellonline.com/pronouncing-the-english-language-vowel-a-practicing-words-with-short-a-sounds/
- Recommended URL: http://speakwellonline.com/pronouncing-a-in-english/ or http://speakwellonline.com/sounds/a
As with many content management systems, these URLs are being created from the title of the post. The page title meta tags are also being created in this manner. In a case such as this, where the post title is 12 or 13 words long, it is important to customize these elements so that they are not longer than necessary.
The contact page has email addresses that will not work. The www. in the address is not necessary and will result in failure to send. Also, it is not a good idea to put email addresses on a website as a hyperlink. There are millions of bots crawling websites trying to scrape email addresses to spam – wind up on one of those lists and you can say “RIP inbox”.
Website #3: http://www.roundhousecafe.ca
The Roundhouse Cafe happens to be a favorite coffee/lunch spot for Metamend staff. The website was built with no previous website experience by the owner using GoDaddy’s website builder. Considering this, it is very good. It is currently a nicely designed brochure website that will do well for branded traffic. However, during our audit, we found that it was not positioned in a way that will gain new customers.
The Roundhouse Cafe website lacks any onpage optimization. Beginning with the meta tags, nothing but the CMS defaults have been added. Writing unique title and meta descriptions will go a long way to gaining relevant traffic. For example:
- Current home page title tag:
- Recommended home page title tag:
Roundhouse Cafe – Coffee and Lunch in Saanich BC*
- Current home page meta description:
Roundhouse Cafe – locally owned and operated, ” bringing=”” community=”” together…our=”” coffee=”” is=”” your=”” destination.””=””
- Recommended home page meta description:
The Roundhouse Cafe is a locally owned and operated cafe and coffee shop in Saanich BC*. Stop by for breakfast, lunch or coffee today!
There is also clearly some weird issue going on with the formatting of the meta description tag.
* In many cases it will be better to optimize for Victoria than Saanich. The Google Keyword Planner is a great tool to find out if there is any search volume for the local area.
There is currently a News section on the website that (sort of) functions like a blog. The content is updated fairly regularly with things that are happening at or around the cafe. This is a great way to attract website traffic from potential local customers. In order to maximize the effectiveness of this section, some updates to help turn it into more of a traditional blog would be beneficial. Ensuring that each new post has it’s own URL will help Google index this content specifically as well as allow for easier sharing on social media. It does appear that GoDaddy’s website builder has the functionality for this.
The images on the website have a couple of issues. When uploading images, it is important to add alt tags and name the file with some keywords that describe the image. Since Google can’t view images, these are the two ways that we can tell Google what the image contains. In some cases you can gain traffic from Google Image searches, the alt text is good for visually impaired users and it is a way to get your main keywords (if they apply to the image) on the page a couple of more times. The other important aspect of images if their file size. A general rule of thumb is to keep images below 100kb.
It is a big debate within the SEO and web design community right now as to whether having multiple <h1> tags on HTML5 layouts is acceptable. Even if it is acceptable, it is certainly not recommended to have trademarked logo’s as <h1> tags.<h1> is reserved for the most important text on the page, usually the title.
The website does pass Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test. However the text is doing some very strange things when viewed on a mobile device. It’s safe to bet that in the cafe industry that mobile accounts for the largest share of traffic so it would be important to pay special attention to the mobile version of the site. When looking at the desktop site, some of the text is black and some is white, so when viewed on a mobile device on a black background some of the text does not show up.
For a local business it is imperative to have things like address, phone numbers, directions, etc. placed in obvious spots on a website. We couldn’t find the address until we reached the contact page, the Google map embedded in the page doesn’t allow for directions and the phone number is not listed on the website at all. It is also important to ensure that any 3rd party listings (YellowPages, Yelp, TripAvisor, Zamato, etc.) have identical location information. A good program to check all local 3rd party listings is BrightLocal, which also provides tools to find new websites to list a website on.
Any website audit requires a number of tools. There are tons of great auditing programs and free and paid tools out there. We use a certain set of tools that work for us, but this list is by no means exhaustive. Whatever works within your budget, is user friendly for you, will work just fine as long as you are able to uncover all of the different SEO issues. We tend to stay away from large tools that claim to do everything (Moz, WebCEO, Raven Tools, etc.) and use a number of tools that do the little things better. Below is a list, complete with links to all of the tools used in the audits of the 5 websites we went over at the Meetup as well as a couple that we recommended using for optimization moving forward.
- Screaming Frog
- Google Site Speed Test
- Google Mobile Friendly Test
- Google Keyword Planner
- Tag Assistant (by Google) Chrome Extension
- RedirectPath Chrome Extension
- Web Developer Chrome Extension
- Majestic SEO
A big thanks to everyone that came out. We’ll see you next time!