Practical Ecommerce

SEO Report Card: Poor SEO Choices Cost Worthy Charity

Although you might not think of nonprofits as having ecommerce sites, they do. They accept donations via secure transactions. Rarely will they have a shopping cart, but nonetheless, nonprofits suffer from a number of the same search engine optimization ills that plague traditional ecommerce sites. Combat Blindness Foundation is one such charity that collects donations via its website, and staff of CBF requested this SEO review.

SEO Report Card: Combat Blindness Foundation

Home Page Content

Combat Blindness Foundation volunteer John Pinto laments that donations via its website are non-existent. This isn’t surprising given the state of the site and its SEO. For one thing, important keywords such as “charity,” “cataracts,” “donate,” and “donation” are not present on the home page. Furthermore, the amount of text on the home page is minimal and more focused around numbers (i.e., third world population numbers, numbers of people affected by preventable blindness, length and cost of surgery) than on the services offered.

Secondary Page Content

The home page isn’t the only page with sub-optimal content. The issue is endemic throughout the site. In fact, the site even has “coming soon” (that lack any content) pages like the ones at http://www.combatblindness.org/cms/africa.html and http://www.combatblindness.org/cms/projects.html.

Keyword Choices

The keyword choices and the sub-optimal content can be easily addressed. After all, Combat Blindness Foundation (CBF) is running Joomla, a content management system. It would only take a bit of effort on the part of CBF staff or volunteers. What is more problematic is the poor site architecture, which includes server-configuration errors.

Canonicalization issues abound. (“Canonicalization” is Google’s word for picking the best URL when there are several to choose from. This includes “www” vs. non “www” URLs, “https” vs. “http”, and so forth.) For example, there are duplicate “https” pages getting indexed. That’s because the Donate page, which is on an https URL, contains navigation with relative links (links that omit the full URL) that will point to https versions of all the site content when viewing a https page such as the Donate page. These URLs lead to copies of the same pages at the http version of the site with no 301 redirects present. The non-www version of the home page (http://combatblindness.org) does, in fact, redirect via 301 to the www version (http://www.combatblindness.org), but the good behavior stops there. No internal non-www pages are redirected. In fact, they are all broken, leading to worthless 404 error pages (e.g., http://combatblindness.org/cms/aboutus.html).

The navigation has mouse-overs that rely on JavaScript. Thus, text links such as “Cataract Blindness” under the “About Us” navigation item are all invisible to search engine spiders. This oversight isn’t really fixed by the HTML site map page linked in the footer across the site (http://www.combatblindness.org/cms/sitemap.html), because several important pages are not there, including the aforementioned “Cataract Blindness” page.

URLs

The site’s URLs don’t have any word separators (e.g., http://www.combatblindness.org/cms/tarabaidesaieyehospitalandresearchcentrejodhpur.html), thus keywords contained in the URLs are not visible to the spiders. An appropriate separator would be a dash, so that the URL would read “http://www.combatblindness.org/cms/tara-bai-desai-eye-hospital-and-research-centre-jodhpur.html”.

Calendars allow for infinite spidering because many calendars automatically create dynamic pages when links point to the next day or year. In Combat Blindness’ site, 123 of the 178 total pages in Google’s index are content-less calendar pages. Google engineers have specifically called out calendar applications as spider traps, stating, “The classic example of an ‘infinite space’ is a calendar with a ‘Next Month’ link. It may be possible to keep following those ‘Next Month’ links forever! Of course, that’s not what you want Googlebot to do.”

It gets worse. A Joomla extension called “JoomSEF” is installed that inserts keyword-stuffed spam into non-viewable elements in the HTML. Get a load of the garbage I found in the HTML source of the home page:

“Joomla! – Copyright (C) 2005 – 2007 Open Source Matters. All rights reserved. JoomSEF SEO by Artio (http://www.artio.net) – databases, information system and web applications, sponsors: Battery King (www.batteryking.eu) – Accu, Batterij, Camera; Dr. Steven Morris (http://www.michiganmakeover.com) – Plastic and Cosmetic Surgery in Michigan and Anwalt für Deutsche Firmen und Privatpersonen in den USA (http://www.pecher.com) – USA ANWALT, IMMIGRATION, USA RECHT, FIRMA GRÜNDEN USA, DOPPELTE STAATSBUERGERSCHAFT USA”.

Title Tags

Also within the HTML templates, I find that there are no H1 tags present anywhere on the site. And the “recipe” for generating title tags is in pretty bad shape. Most titles lead with an unfocused word or two followed by the organization name. For example:
“Current Projects – Combat Blindness Foundation”
“Board of Directors – Combat Blindness Foundation”
“India – Combat Blindness Foundation”
“Kenya – Combat Blindness Foundation”.

The similar-looking title tags, along with the same meta description and meta keywords being employed across the entire site, doesn’t put the site in a good light in the viewpoint of Google’s duplicate content filter.

Combat Blindness Foundation doesn’t own the URL Combatblindness.com, which is unfortunate. Who knows how many potential donors accidentally go to the .com instead of .org? And sites that mistakenly link to .com are not helping the CB.org’s link authority. Combatblindness.com is a parked page available for $588. Perhaps some kind soul reading this article will buy the domain as a gift for CBF.

Speaking of domains, the CBF blog isn’t on a domain owned by it. Clicking on the “Blog” link leads to a content-less page (http://www.combatblindness.org/cms/combatblindnessfoundationblog.html), which then leads to a Blogger.com URL (http://combatblindness.blogspot.com). If CBF ever decides to change blog hosting services, any link authority would stay with Blogger rather than being under CBF’s domain.

Does CBF possess any link-worthy content that could be seeded into social media? Unfortunately, no. They do have an “informational video” (http://www.combatblindness.org/cms/video.html) that was professionally produced, but unfortunately it is not very engaging. Instead CBF needs shorter, more dramatic videos with some sort of viral hook.

Inbound Links

Finally, there are minimal inbound links. There are only 73 of them, according to Yahoo Site Explorer

Summary

In short, this site is a real fixer-upper. Do any SEO pros out there want to donate some assistance to this worthy cause?

Request an SEO Report Card by emailing seo.report@practicalecommerce.com.

SEO Report Card

CombatBlindness.org

Home Page D

Inbound Links D

Indexation C-

Internal Linking Structure F

HTML Templates D-

Secondary Page Content C-

Keyword Choices C-

Title Tags F

URLs D+

OVERALL GPA D

Stephan Spencer

Stephan Spencer

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Comment ( 1 )

  1. Christopher Skyi February 17, 2013 Reply

    These are all terrific observations, and easy to fix. SEO is all about making sure a site is "optimal" so it is getting the most traffic it can right now (w/out working on links or producing content), and it is not that hard to do (Note that SEO is NOT about increasing ranking and traffic independently — that takes quality links and content). A comprehensive SEO technical and performance audit can immediately uncover a lot of problems that are relatively easy to fix and that can immediately improve a sub-optimal site in terms of ranking and traffic.

    Another over-looked opportunity is Google’s adword program for non-profits. All relatively large non-profits should apply. A great combination is to have a blog on the main site domain, and fill it with "how to help" articles centered around keywords that potential donors use when searching for information about causes they’re interested in. You can then use adwords to help drive extra traffic to the blog and site.

    Note that adwords, at least for me, isn’t that effective for getting direct/immediate donations but it is great for getting extra traffic that wants to learn more about a cause or organization, and that eventually leads to more donations. ~ Christopher Skyi, christopher DOT skyi DOT nyc @ gmail DOT com