Search engine optimization can be extremely difficult for small and large businesses. Some strategies have simple concepts like creating content to generate brand awareness and loyalty, but there are many technical elements that businesses need to be aware of to ensure their site is being found and is something that will keep their visitors coming back for more. We do what we do because sometimes these technical elements can make search engine optimization a little overwhelming for the average online business owner.
To demonstrate how we help some businesses with SEO, we decided to challenge ourselves by finding a random, local business that is not a client of ours and see what we would do to turn their site around. We hope to turn this into a monthly challenge. As a marketing agency in Mississippi, we know what to look for and how to fix it. Take a look at our current challenge, the Beauvoir (the historic home and presidential library of Jefferson Davis). Gain some insight into what other websites are doing wrong or right and apply our lessons to how you manage your SEO marketing online.
What We Will be Grading in this Challenge
- Site Speed
- Meta Tag Issues
- Title Tag Issues
- Responsive Design
Tools Used For This Challenge
- Screaming Frog
- Majestic SEO
- Feed the Bot
- Google Page Speed /YSlow
Having great content is key to a successful website. If your visitors and search engines have a reason to come back, they will. Beauvoir has a lot of useful content but none of it is displayed on the home page. I was reading through their content and found out many things about the home, Jefferson Davis, and the community…this is great, just not where it should be. The content is unique but some of it seems like it has not be updated in a very long time. Updating your website with unique and informative information is crucial for keeping your website’s bounce rate low. A blog would go a long way with a type of website like this since there is plenty of history and events that visitors would love to read about.
Beauvoir tailors to it’s audience and keeps a fun and informative approach to a historic monument. It lacks updated content and would benefit from having a blog. There is a lot of potential that can be had with a website for the historic house of President of the Confederate States of America.
One last note, why are there animals on the home page and not some of this informative content?
Setting up a proper scheme goes a long way to ensure that your content and links are being spidered correctly and with the correct annotations.
Now, this is probably an unfair test for this site since it was probably design before a schema was something important for a website to have. However, there are a lot of opportunities to implement a working schema that would help their visitors and search engines such as: menu, openingHours, address, photo, review, telephone, and logo schema markups.
A growing number of online business owners understand that a very important part of their website’s SEO is a strong backlink profile. The perfect backlink profile should contain links that seem natural, that include follow and nofollow links that return from many sources in their niche. Every link should return from a site with a high domain authority and also return from sites within their own niche.
Due to the nature of Beauvoir, they have over 13,000 backlinks for almost 500 different domains using a variety of keywords. They are heavily featured on high domain authority sites and many .gov and .org TLDs.
Site speed is often overlooked by most online businesses and even a lot of developers as it has never been an issue because the internet was just slow. Now, the faster, the better. With more and more users using their phones or data connected devices to browse your site, you have 5 seconds or less to get their attention…if that precious time is eaten up by a slow website, they move on.
Beauvoir rates well due to the style and size of the site. It is a basic HTML site with a handful of images and no real jQuery or other scripting sources. They are not perfect and can work on some server side issues to increase their speed, but overall their site loads quickly and efficiently.
Meta Tag Issues
Optimizing meta titles and descriptions is an important step for just about any business that needs to focus on with their website to ensure that search engines and users know what a typical page is referring to in order that proper expectations are set for users who find it in the SERP. Particularly, you wish to ensure that any keywords a typical page is targeting is contained in the meta description in order for those keywords to be highlighted in the SERP result for individual keyword searches.
Beauvoir does a decent job at keeping up with meta tags, but over 40% of the pages do not have a description. Not having a description meta tag hinders your visitors when they search for your website on Google or Yahoo because they cannot see what the page is about. This type of issue was found on important pages such as the Jefferson Davis library and the about page. Every page should have a meta description, a meta title, and OpenGraph meta tags. Beauvoir does not have any OpenGraph meta tags (probably because of the age of the site). These missing tags hinder your social ability and doe not help your visitors share what you want them to on social networking sites.
Title Tag Issues
There were a lot of changes to best practices in SEO during the last couple of years, but a page’s title tag continues to be among the most crucial factors for good SEO. Including a title tag that is properly optimized for an appropriate keyword could be the difference between getting almost no traffic at all and getting tons of qualified traffic to your website that helps generate a sizeable quantity of sales.
Beauvoir has informative title tags. Some of the titles could be better written to incorporate more predominate keyword placement but what they have does not leave the visitor guessing what the page is about at first glance.
Every website should have responsive design to meet the growing demand of mobile and tablet visitors. Not a mobile redirect or subdomain, but a responsive site. This means that your website code responds to the device and resizes, removes, or moves items on your site accordingly. This increases speed, user experience, and allows you to have a fully functional website at your visitor’s fingertips.
Beauvoir does not have a responsive site, but we did not give them a F because they are responsive in the sense that you can view the site on a mobile device and it will work properly. Their site is slightly responsive due to 100% width on some of the elements, but it is not close to a truly responsive site. At least there is not a mobile redirection that would cause duplicate content in search engine results.
Considering the size of Beauvoir, they can make a few changes that would dramatically effect their SEO marketing. If a website redesign is not in the cards, adding more meta tags including OpenGraph meta would help them control what is shared online about their site and pages. They can increase keyword recognition by adding description tags on all pages and making sure the description is clear and is in line with the content of the page. Considering the majority of their foot traffic will come from visitors not familiar with the area, they can use this opportunity to help them find pages and information on their site easier.
Beauvoir could compress their site files manually and use GZIP in their server files to speed up their site easily. They can optimize their images a bit more to prevent lag time on mobile devices.
Overall, their site is in need of a redesign to help with responsive design and incorporating a better schema. Their site has a huge following online and has multiple high ranking authority sites linking back to it, so essentially, a better presentation and a blog would greatly benefit their online presence.
Overall Grade: C+
Would you like your website critiqued in one of our blog audits? Let us know in the comments below, and you may become our next challenge!
About the Author
Director of Website Development
With over a decade of experience designing and developing websites, Eric has worked in every position of the agency ladder. He is fluent in multiple backend and front end programming languages and has written multiple international best selling plugins for WordPress. He has been part of or is still part of many startups. He is the Director of Website Development for Future Design Group and one of it's founding partners.