Practical Ecommerce

SEO Report Card: Change Home Page Links

This month’s selectee, Millcraftfurniture.com, is an outdoor furniture manufacturer operating a small (less than 100 pages) MIVA Merchant-powered ecommerce site. Its rankings are in the doldrums. The store does not appear in the first 100 listings in Google for critical terms “Adirondack chairs” and “Adirondack chair.” This site is buried deep in Google’s results for many other key terms, such as “outdoor furniture,” “patio furniture,” “garden furniture,” “porch swing” and “bench swing.” Millcraftfurniture.com does rank No. 2 for both “poly furniture” and “poly outdoor furniture,” but these two terms get little to no search activity, according to Yahoo! (specifically, the Overture Keyword Selector tool).

SEO report card for Millcraftfurniture.com

Considering its home page PageRank is only a three out of 10 (on a logarithmic scale), and many of its product and category pages fare worse in terms of the PageRank importance, it’s not surprising the site’s rankings are so poor.

Because this is such a pivotal issue, let’s dig a bit deeper before we cover any other SEO issues. A look at the links (with the help of Yahoo! Site Explorer at Siteexplorer.search.yahoo.com) reveals 711 web pages linking to pages in the Millcraftfurniture.com site, excluding internal links of course. The number of links seems passable at first glance, but in reviewing the links, I find a number were obviously obtained through commercial means.

Clearly, this site needs an injection of new, high-quality links. The company doesn’t need links from a bunch of directories and link exchanges though; it looks like they’ve already gone down that route. Considering how much ground they need to make up, I think this calls for some serious link baiting. Time to think creatively:

Idea No.1: Create an article or blog post featuring wild and wacky furniture. Great examples of this include: Scrabble Furniture, furniture made from FedEx boxes and DIY cardboard furniture – complete with patterns and instructions. Consider commissioning the guy behind the FedEx furniture to create a gazebo out of FedEx boxes and leverage that into a PR campaign.

Idea No. 2: Launch an outdoor patio decor blog in a similar vein to the popular blog Apartment Therapy, perhaps even calling it “Patio Therapy.” Maybe even develop it as a satire of Apartment Therapy, poking fun in a playful, but not litigation-inducing, way.

Idea No. 3: Shoot a video showing the process of recycling milk jugs into Adirondack chairs: The grinding up, cleaning, drying, melting, mixing and extruding. Make the video fun — e.g., add a funky soundtrack and make it into a music video, hire a comedian to do the narration. Try to get it featured on Rocketboom.

Drop some mentions of this link bait in the blogosphere and in social networks like Digg (with the help of a social media consultant, so it’s done right). Make sure the link bait article is devoid of commercialism or there will be a backlash from Digg users. After the link bait has peaked in its popularity and the Digg traffic has died down, you can then change out some of the content and links on the page to make it more commercial — e.g., adding links pointing to important products/categories, and search engine optimizing the page and conversion optimizing the page to drive more purchases.

Switching gears, let’s look at the SEO within the site. First off, I was pleased to see most URLs were devoid of “stop characters” and contained keywords separated by hyphens. The tabs at the top of the pages are comprised of keyword-rich text links. These are great SEO features.

There were plenty still to optimize, however. For starters, I’d advise:

  • Changing the links that point to your home page using /index.htm to / instead, so the spiders will no longer find a duplicate home page while exploring the links of the site.
  • Switching from using HTML tables for layout to using CSS. Such a change is friendlier to users and spiders alike.
  • Appending rel=”nofollow” to the product image and “more info” links, because those links aren’t as useful as the links with the product name as anchor text. Nofollow is a great way to channel a larger share of PageRank through to the links that matter most.
  • Not having so many H1 tags on the home page. That looks over-optimized.
  • Dropping the “links” page, or, at a minimum, drop all the directories from that page.
  • Installing a 301 redirect on Millcraftfurniture.com because there’s currently a duplicate site for the spiders to index there — which isn’t helped by the fact that all the links are relative instead of absolute.

SEO Report Card

Millcraftfurniture.com

Home Page C+

Inbound Links D

Indexation B

Internal Linking Structure B+

HTML Templates C

Secondary Page Content C+

Keyword Choices B

Title Tags B+

URLs A

OVERALL GPA B-

Want your site graded? Email seo.report@practicalecommerce.com.

Stephan Spencer

Stephan Spencer

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  1. Legacy User June 14, 2007 Reply

    This paper might be of interest to developers , who might want to implement their own PageRank Algorithm. The authors of this paper, Dr. Amy Langville & Prof. Carl Meyer are leading researchers in developing variants of PageRank that are more robust compared to current ones:

    "Deeper Inside PageRank"
    http://meyer.math.ncsu.edu/Meyer/PS_Files/DeeperInsidePR.pdf

    — *Falafulu Fisi*

  2. Legacy User June 14, 2007 Reply

    Thanks for the review. We will get to work on all the optimization tips at the end.

    The link baiting ideas are good, but we will have to see about those. Do all ecommerce sites do such things to get quality links. Seems kind of gimmicky for lack of better word.

    Thanks again.

    — *Joshua Brown*

  3. Legacy User June 15, 2007 Reply

    Before I was concerned about SEO grades, I'd take a look at maximizing conversions for the traffic that you are getting. The first thing that caught my eye was the rough layout, hyperlinks blending into the background and the overall unaestheticly pleasing design. However, the pictures of white furniture against a white background took the cake. That is just awful! Please either use other color furniture or shoot them against another background color. Many sites have links where you can view other color variants. That would be nice to employ in your current light-box feature. I, like most of your visitors, didn't even make it to the checkout portion due to my general disinterest. You're selling furniture, which is supposed to enhance your living space. Why would I by something like this from someone that has such non-appealing looking cyberspace?

    — *Ross Grant*

  4. Legacy User June 17, 2007 Reply

    Here are some useful papers for developers:

    "Adaptive Website Design using Caching Algorithms"
    http://webmining.spd.louisville.edu/webkdd06/slides/justin-brick-using-cache-algs-webkdd-slides.pdf

    "Ten Supplementary Analyses to Improve E-Commerce Web Sites"
    http://www.acm.org/sigs/sigkdd/kdd2003/workshops/webkdd03/wkdd03-paper4.pdf

    — *Falafulu Fisi*

  5. Legacy User August 2, 2007 Reply

    Yep. He's right. The links are lousy and ought to be more prominent upon the page. Some eye-catching color would work well as well as a redesign to a clean page that exhibits uniformity. That page is bland and difficult to navigate. Above all, the copy writing it miserable and utterly boring. On the SEO end, though, the copy writing is virtually worthless. LAZY. When it comes down to it, the copy writing and the design is a top-two factors in earning its rankings and its sales.

    — *FidelGonzales*

  6. Legacy User September 28, 2007 Reply

    I'm a photographer and getting into graphic and web design. You can see what I've done so far at http://www.phcdesigns.com

    My humble opinion about the millcraft site is that the overall design is not very appealing. The photography is also not great. There is nothing wrong with high key compositions in general but the photos of the millcraft products are not very attractive. The site reminds me of clothing sites that have the garments hanging in front of a plane background. I cant imagine how the products would look in real life. I have bought many garments on line and every one of them was displayed on a model.

    I think that products need to be shown in a way that prospective customers will get a sense of ownership. Let me see the clothing on an attractive model and let me imagine how they will be on my girl. Put the benches in their intended setting and photograph them in a way that I can see them in my yard, perhaps with my kids and wife and dog.

    I am a real wood, real leather, whole-berry cranberry sauce, 12 grain bread kind of guy and the PVC look of the furniture was a turn-off to me. When I see a name like "millcraft" I think WOOD and I was dissapointed with teh plastic. I did notice the text stating that the products are made of recycled mateials and I liked that.

    I'm also very busy and I like the "no maintenance" as as well but I still had the PVC feeling. I think that better photography, models and maybe covers / cushions would eliminate the plastic look. You definately need to show the products in the various colors available.

    I know that you have many photos and I think that the majority of them could be taken in the same setting (same photo set-up) which could be simulated in a studio. Perhaps each group (tables, chairs, benches, etc) could have a different set-up with each item in the class shot in the same way.

    I didn't look but if you don't have a page with information about the environment and the problems of waste / benefits of recycling, you need one. Specific imagery of milk jugs morphing into an opportunity for your family to congregate and bond in your yard would be a good idea. FLASH banner?

    Sorry I didn't comment on the SEO, I'm still learning it as well as css layout. I have been reading a lot and It seems that links to your site from popular sites which do not have many links are very helpful. Have you considered a cross promotional deal with a related, well established web vendor?

    — *phcdesigns*

  7. Legacy User May 5, 2008 Reply

    XAVPh4 Hello! I'm Samuel Smith, i'm from Switqerland i and find your site really brilliant!

    — *Samuel*