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SEO Site Clinic: American Express

Mark Jackson
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Last week we started discussing the American Express Web site and a redirect issue. The primary domain (www.americanexpress.com) 301 redirects to home.americanexpress.com (for some unknown reason). I cited some examples of how this may be degrading their SEO (define) "efforts." Aside from this, a good portion of their Web site exists on https rather than http.

For universal SEO reasons -- tips we can all use -- we'll move past the https issue and speak to some other SEO issues.

Section 508

You'd think most large companies would try their best to be compliant with their Web presence. After all, blind people probably use credit cards a lot and might prefer to buy online.

Creating your Web site to be Section 508 compliant makes it more search engine friendly. By following the rules/Section 508, you're creating a Web site that's accessible to screen readers and making it more SEO friendly. Sounds like a win-win to me. Why don't more people do this?

Title Tags

The American Express home page has a decent title tag ("American Express Credit Cards, Business Services, and Travel Services"). However, there's a problem here. Since a majority of the home page is built in Flash, there's little evidence of actual text on the page to support the keywords mentioned in the title tag.

I decided to check out the Small Business section of the site: https://home.americanexpress.com/home/open.shtml (Yes, it's https secure, too.)

A decent title ("Business Credit Cards, Charge Cards And Business Lines Of Credit By OPEN: From American Express") here, too. Once again the cool design kids seem to prevail. We see few instances of actual text on the page to support keywords listed in the title tag.

When I did a Google search for "business credit cards" I found American Express listed in the SERPs (define). This is the home page. This tells me something. If these guys would just change a few things about their site, they could rank like crazy.

The search engines must really want to rank this Web site. Remember, it's Google's job to deliver the best quality search results to those searching. So, American Express, why don't you help Google -- and help yourself by making these modifications?

Site Structure

Yahoo is showing almost 99,000 pages indexed for americanexpress.com. There are also 2.9 million links indexed.

I was able to find some URLs that weren't half bad, assuming you look past the https issue.

For the keyword "travel," American Express has https://www134.americanexpress.com/consumertravel/travel.do ranking at number 75 on Google (from the datacenter I'm hitting). Can you imagine how well this page might do if it existed at http://www.americanexpress.com/consumertravel/travel?

With a little more text on the page, American Express could dramatically improve its search engine visibility. Move the word "travel" to the beginning of the title tag. Another missing element: internal linking to this page, utilizing the site map and/or other internal links. A few hours of work might equate to a lot more revenue.

As in all my Web site reviews, I can't mention every single item that should be addressed, but each of my fellow SEOs out there would agree. American Express could do a lot better with their SEO efforts. Too bad (according to their public affairs contact) they believe SEO is a matter of "opinion."

I'd love to turn American Express marketing members into true SEO believers. If you're a member of the American Express marketing team, feel free to reach out to me.

Here's my challenge: I'll go over these recommendations with you and prioritize what you need to do. In return, implement the recommendations and allow me to report back to Search Engine Watch readers on the success you've had with SEO.

My goal here isn't to make American Express look bad. I want to show everyone SEO is a worthwhile investment that provides tremendous returns.

We need to get SEO in the marketing budget of every company, small and large.

Join us for SES New York March 17-20 and for training classes March 21.


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