SEO Site Review: Time to Clean Up Home-Yard

Thanks to everyone who sent in sites for me to review this week. I ended up with so many quality Web sites that I may just review another site next week.

Today, however, we'll look at a Web site that has so many issues that there's going to be something here for everyone. So thanks to Sam, who submitted this Web site, and apologies in advance for any harsh comments.

Web site: Home-Yard

Overview

This brand new Web site has no SEO history and is trying to compete in a pretty competitive space. The keywords used in the home page's title are "Yard Decor, Indoor Lamps, Home Decor."

All good SEO efforts should begin with keyword research. When I checked these keywords in Google AdWords Keyword Tool, I found some enlightening numbers.

First, "Home Decor" is extremely popular, featuring heavy-hitters like Pottery Barn, Overstock.com, and HGTV. Google's tool estimates that this keyword has been searched for 2.7 million times within a 30-day period. However, to gain traffic from this you would need a high ranking.

Competing here isn't impossible (anything is possible, given time and money), but a new Web site like this might want to focus its efforts on keywords that it has a good chance of ranking for, and build the necessary authority to eventually compete for "home décor."

Meanwhile, "Yard Decor" doesn't seem to have any search traffic, according to Google. There are quite a few searches for "yard decorations." A look at Google's top results reveals that the competitive landscape here isn't too bad.

What's Your Business All About?

Almost every title tag of this Web site uses the keywords that we've discussed above. However, it also sells baby gifts, globes, models, picnic supplies, prints, statues, and ornaments. What's the focus here? Pick one.

With a URL of home-yard.com, the site should narrow its focus to selling home and garden supplies/products. Build a Web site that can be an authority within this space.

Too often, people try to build a Web site that is a "catch-all." It's much better to focus your efforts and build a high-quality Web site that can compete within a given industry. Then, search engines will be more likely to believe your Web site is a quality result that should rank organically.

The day I find this Web site while searching Google for "globes" or "baby gifts" is the day that I know that something has gone awry with Google's algorithm. If you want to sell baby gifts, find a domain that makes sense and build a Web site for "baby gifts."

What Will it Take to Compete?

Assuming that this site refocuses its efforts around "home and garden," what then will it take to compete for "yard decorations"? My favorite "quick" analysis tool: Yahoo Site Explorer.

The Backyard Shoppe is ranking first for "yard decorations." When I check this Web site out in Yahoo Site Explorer, using the "site:www.thebackyardshoppe.com" search, I see they have 1,228 pages indexed in Yahoo and 169 backlinks indexed in Yahoo.

When I do this analysis, I usually look at the top 10 ranking results in Google and get at least this basic information for each of the top ranking Web sites. So, for those who may not have access to tools that help you with this, just open up a spreadsheet, list every top-ranking Web site for a particular keyword, and then track pages indexed and backlinks indexed for each of these.

For a different keyword, open up another tab in your spreadsheet and repeat the process. This will provide you with the information necessary for what kind of a Web site you might need to build to be successful and which links you will need to get to be successful.

Now let's explore Home-Yard's numbers. Yahoo shows 51 pages indexed and 190 backlinks indexed/.

Wait a minute. These backlinks look a little "iffy." OK, Sam, you run a few different Web sites, huh? And, you have them all interlinking to one another. And, some of these actually show me that you know how to create a "theme" for a Web site, such as your ancient sculpture Web site (that's what I call a niche).

All of these Web sites linking to one another share the same class C IP. Read this old SEW Forum Post for more information. Some hosting plans will allow you multiple class C IPs.

Where's the Content?

Basically, there's no content on the home page. A common failing of e-commerce Web sites is that they lack quality content. Search engines don't read images (only the alt text associated with the images).

Write quality content. You must find a balance among usability, branding, and SEO. Check out our client's gift basket Web site. Their site is pretty, presents images in a very usable fashion, and has content. It really can be done.

Basic Details Never to Be Ignored

Every page of your Web site should have unique content. As such, you should be writing unique title tags and meta descriptions for every page. If your page is about Birdhouse Musical Figurines, then let the keywords in the title tag be specific to this (no need to list "indoor lamps" in the title tag of this page), and the same for the meta description.

Site Structure Issues

If people can't afford full-blown SEO services, then -- at a minimum -- they should have an SEO Audit, including a site structure analysis.

When I checked to see pages indexed in Google for home-yard.com, I saw 2,400 pages. Contrast that with what we saw on Yahoo (51 pages). Again, something seems fishy.

Many of the pages showing in Google's results are 404s. If you take a closer look, you'll see that you've also been redirected (URLs have changed). What makes this even more interesting is that the URL Google shows is also a 404.

So, follow along with me. We have a 404 page/URL showing in Google, which is then 302 (temporary redirect -- no good for SEO) redirected to another 404 page. That needs fixing. To check this out for yourself, use Rex Swain's HTTP Viewer.

Robots.txt

There's no page for robots.txt (www.home-yard.com/robots.txt returns a 404), but if you look at the source code on the home page, you'll see this:

What does this mean, boys and girls? It means, "please, search engines...don't index or follow my home page."

Sam, I hope this review helps you with your efforts for home-yard.com and your other Web sites. And, of course, I hope that all readers can take something away from this review as well. I may write another review next week, to try and find areas that weren't covered this week.

About the author

Mark Jackson, President and CEO of Vizion Interactive, a search engine optimization company. Mark joined the interactive marketing fray in early 2000. His journey began with Lycos/Wired Digital and then AOL/Time Warner. After having witnessed the bubble burst and its lingering effects on stability on the job front (learning that working for a "large company" does not guarantee you a position, no matter your job performance), Mark established an interactive marketing agency and has cultivated it into one of the most respected search engine optimization firms in the United States.

Vizion Interactive was founded on the premise that honesty, integrity, and transparency forge the pillars that strong partnerships should be based upon. Vizion Interactive is a full service interactive marketing agency, specializing in search engine optimization, search engine marketing/PPC management, SEO friendly Web design/development, social media marketing, and other leading edge interactive marketing services, including being one of the first 50 beta testers of Google TV.

Mark is a board member of the Dallas/Fort Worth Search Engine Marketing Association (DFWSEM) and a member of the Dallas/Fort Worth Interactive Marketing Association (DFWIMA) and is a regular speaker at the SES and Pubcon conferences.

Mark received a BA in Journalism/Advertising from The University of Texas at Arlington in 1993 and spent several years in traditional marketing (radio, television, and print) prior to venturing into all things "Web."

Read more of Mark Jackson's columns at ClickZ.