Practical Ecommerce

SEO Report Card: PhotoWeights.com

This month’s site up for review is PhotoWeights.com. Owned by Susan Eaton, PhotoWeights.com sells personalized, do-it-yourself paperweight kits from family photos and other artwork. Eaton requested this “SEO Report Card” review.

Home Page

First things first, the home page has some major issues. When I turn off JavaScript, all the site navigation under the “Shop” section in the left-hand column disappears. Adding to that issue, the heading of the page is a graphic, and neither graphics nor JavaScript are visible to search engine spiders.

Aside from the text in the navigation links, there’s hardly any text on the home page. And, what text there is appears to be what I like to call “SEO copy,” which is basically keyword-rich text written for spiders rather than humans, and tucked away at the bottom of the page out of sight.

But it gets a lot worse. “Select all” on the page and you’ll see the following search engine spam is hidden as white text on a white background:

“paperweights, glass paperweights, paper weights, paperweight, paper weight, glass paperweight, glass paper weights, paperweight blanks, glass paper weight, paper weight kits, paper weight kit, paperweight kits, paperweight kit, blank paperweight, blank paperweights, paperweight blank, wholesale paperweights, clear paperweights”

Yikes! This is a banning penalty waiting to happen.

Inbound Links

As far as inbound links go, when I use the Yahoo! Site Explorer tool I can see that the site’s “inlinks” (as Yahoo! calls them) are very weak. Apart from the site’s own internal links, the total number of inlinks is 170 including the PhotoWeights blog (which is currently not active) and Caboodle.com, which is just PhotoWeights’ product reviews that have been repurposed and thus are duplicate content.

SEO Report Card PhotoWeights.com

Indexation

A “site:photoweights.com” search reveals 243 indexed pages. After navigating to page 2 of the Google search results, and switching my Google preferences to view 100 results per page, and clicking the “repeat search with omitted results included” option, I find that there are actually only 200 results indexed, not 243.

Perusing through the site: search results for PhotoWeights, I see some https URLs, which are almost certainly duplicate pages. This isn’t great news, considering every page offers an opportunity to rank for one or several keywords. And the more pages you have indexed, the more keywords you can target. Thus, a competitor with 10,000 pages would have an advantage over PhotoWeights with its 200 pages.

The indexation tab on the Yahoo! Site Explorer tool shows 343 pages indexed in Yahoo!. Even though I didn’t go through every URL, I’m pretty sure there are duplicates in that number.

I also notice the “Home” link points to “default.asp” instead of the canonical (i.e. primary) URL. This creates a duplicate page for the search engine spiders to find. Now, Google was able to figure out that the “default.asp” page was a copy of the home page and canonicalized properly, but Yahoo! didn’t fare so well: it indexed both separately.

The “Category Index” in the footer is presumably there more for spiders than humans and provides little value, because the only categorization the site offers is paperweights grouped by shape (of which there are only five). There is also a “Product Index” in the footer, which only lists 25 products and offers no way of getting to a second page. Presuming this is supposed to be a comprehensive product list, my question would be: are there truly only 25 products for sale on this site?

Keywords

I was able to access a nice list of long-tail keywords that incorporate the word “paperweight” or “paperweights” using the Google AdWords Keyword Tool. Many of these terms were not mentioned anywhere on the PhotoWeights site.

Curiously, the singular form of “paperweight” is much more popular with Google searchers than the plural form. According to the Google AdWords tool, “photoweights” was only searched 110 times over the entire month of July, compared with “paperweight” being searched 165,000 times.

So, it would behoove PhotoWeights.com to target the singular form on its home page more heavily than the plural. Also, PhotoWeights should focus less on ranking for its brand name because of its low search numbers.

HTML Templates and CSS

Examining the HTML source, I see that the meta tags need some work, or they could be removed altogether. When I go to the home page and view “source” I can see there is a fairly long meta keywords tag with quite a bit of repetition in it. You can probably guess which word is repeated most, “paperweights”. This is the case in the meta keywords across the site. Since the meta keywords tag doesn’t help rankings, and because this excessive repetition could be misconstrued by the engines as keyword-stuffing, I’d just remove the meta keywords altogether.

Secondary Page Content

Moving on to the secondary page, “Round Paperweights,” it looks more like internal search results (with “sort by” and “page 1 of __”). There is breadcrumb navigation, which is good. But there is no intro copy; and, again, the “H1” tag is “photoweights.”

The only copy on the page appears to be “sort by” and words that are incorporated into links pointing to other pages. This doesn’t give search engines much information for ascertaining a keyword theme. The same situation seems to appear in other secondary pages as well.

The “Design Gallery” section has a couple paragraphs of intro copy, which is refreshing, and it has a few keywords sprinkled in, too. Like the home page, though, the headlines on secondary pages are images, which means they are invisible to spiders. Even if they were visible, “design gallery” is not a good keyword.

Title Tags

There is an H1 tag, which is good. Unfortunately, though, it only says “photoweights,” which we’ve already established is not a good keyword. That same poor H1 tag is repeated across all the pages of the site

When I do a site:photoweights.com search on Google, I see that many of the title tags across the site either start with the keyword “paperweights” or with “photoweights.” I also found a number of duplicate title tags, which send a signal to Google that these pages are possibly duplicate content, and duplicate content ends up in the supplemental index, filtered out of the search results.

URLs

The URLs are inconsistent and fairly ineffective for indexing. Looking at the site: search results, I notice there are both rewritten and non-rewritten URLs; so some are search-engine friendly, with keywords and without ampersands or equals signs, while others are not as friendly. For example, “ProductDetails.asp” appears to be a script that serves up product pages.

Also, many of the rewritten URLs are indexed in Google using underscores to separate keywords. Google does not yet recognize underscores as word separators, so those keywords will look all run together in the eyes of Google. On the site, I notice these same URLs have hyphens instead of underscores, so I presume the underscores were replaced with hyphens recently and Google hasn’t gotten around to re-indexing with the updated URLs (although I do see a few hyphenated URLs in Google’s index).

The URLs in the home page’s navigation are relative rather than absolute, so when spiders find the secure version of the website at https:// they will find the entire site again at a different location, namely https://www.photoweights.com. Thus, as mentioned above, some pages were indexed twice, creating duplicate content issues.

This URL issue should never happen. Https URLs tend to be for checkout functionality, and such pages should be no-indexed and links pointing to those pages should be no-followed anyway, because they add no SEO value. One way to get rid of the https URLs is to canonicalize them with the corresponding http version using the canonical HTML tag, <link rel="canonical" href="http://www.example.com/product.php?item=swedish-fish"/>, that came out this year.

Summary

All in all, there’s a fair amount of work to do on PhotoWeights.com, but the good news is a lot of it is easy to implement with some technical skills.

SEO Report Card
PhotoWeights.com

Home Page Content F-
Inbound Links and Page Rank C-
Indexation B-
Internal Hierarchical Linking Structure D
HTML Templates and CSS D
Secondary Page Content D
Keyword Choices B
Title Tags C
URLs C

OVERALL GPA D+

Request an SEO site grade, by emailing seo.report@practicalecommerce.com.

Stephan Spencer

Stephan Spencer

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  1. Jared Brickman September 11, 2009 Reply

    The pitfalls mentioned in this article are helpful thanks!

  2. westfloridacomponents September 15, 2009 Reply

    Do you ever do any follow up on the sites that you review? I’d love to hear what steps the site owners took and the results.

  3. mermaidgirl September 19, 2009 Reply

    This was a great learning tool for me. Thanks!

  4. Susan Eastin October 27, 2009 Reply

    Thank you for grading my site, Stephan. Your report was extremely helpful when it came to changes PhotoWeights.com desperately needed.

    It’s obvious that I placed more importance on appearance rather than SEO. This is why a lot of my text was included as image files with different fonts and colors. I was also completely unaware that my shopping navigation disappeared when JavaScript was turned off. (I won’t even go into the search engine spam.)

    Most of the changes were very easy to make and were completed during a Saturday morning. I was almost certain my search engine rankings would drop as a result. Fortunately, the site has held its ground and may have even gained a couple notches.

    Thanks again for such a helpful, informative review. I’m truly grateful.