I took a long hiatus from “SEO Report Card” when my capable colleague Jeff Muendel filled-in for me. But now I’m happy to report, “I’m baaaack.” Our lucky contestant this month is Gosatellite.com. Steven Hutt, echannels director with that company, requested this site grade.
Home Page Content and Title Tags
Title tag, meta description and meta keywords on the home page are all way too long. I’d go with half the length on all three. Meta keywords are of no real value to search engine optimization, so I’d even consider dropping that meta tag altogether.
Also on the home page, all the copy related to each of the featured products is trapped within images. In fact, if you use the handy Seobrowser.com tool to examine “www.Gosatellite.com” you will find the only significant amount of text that is not part of a link is the block of text down by the page footer. I refer to this as “SEO copy” and I don’t like it one bit. I’m surprised I see it as much as I do – and from big brands even. For example, scroll down on Patagonia.com and look at the text: It is a much more egregious example than Gosatellite.com.
I understand the reasoning. There is very little copy on the home page and monkeying with the “brand experience” for the sake of SEO is a hard argument to make to designers or to upper management, neither of who frequently appreciate the value of SEO. The worst designs are frequently by interface design “experts” who don’t know SEO from SMO (social media optimization), and often say, “Visually appealing is the way to go.” That’s a false choice. You can have both – an attractive design and a layout that’s also search engine optimal.
But Gosatellite.com is not through tucking away keyword-stuffed copy into a part of the page that is hopefully out of the user’s view. This is an “old school” SEO tactic and it’s high risk [of getting removed from Google’s search index]. It would be even riskier if the SEO copy were arranged near the top of the HTML but displayed at or near the footer using CSS. Thankfully that’s not the case here.
Another old school SEO tactic that no longer works and will likely be construed as “keyword stuffing” by the search engines is hiding keywords within HTML comment tags. If you “View Source” on the home page of Gosatellite.com you will see this directly after all the meta tags. That should definitely be removed.
Inbound Links and PageRank
Moving on, I reviewed the redirect present on Gosatellite.com without the www. Since many folks linking to your site will get lazy and leave off the “www,” it’s critical that you redirect the link juice from the non-www version to the www version, so you don’t split your link juice between two identical sites. Unfortunately in the case of GOSatellite, it’s misconfigured in two ways. First, it’s the wrong kind of redirect — a 302 (which doesn’t pass link juice) instead of a 301. Second, the redirect’s destination should be the “canonical” URL of http://www.gosatellite.com but instead it’s http://www.gosatellite.com/Default.asp?Redirected=Y, a duplicate copy of the true home page, but at a differing URL. The improper configuration gets worse: Dropping the www from the URL http://www.gosatellite.com/satellite-internet-s/544.htm redirects to: http://www.gosatellite.com/URLrewrite.asp?404;http://gosatellite.com:80/satellite-internet-s/544.htm&Redirected=Y.
Curiously, the Gosatellite.net domain has the proper 301 redirect in place and points to the canonical www.gosatellite.com.
Speaking of duplicate content, the Canadian site Gosatellite.ca has significant overlap with Gosatellite.com. For example, compare http://www.gosatellite.ca/rg6-cable-strippers-s/757.htm with http://www.gosatellite.com/rg6-cable-stripper-s/757.htm. They are mighty similar. Is this a significant problem? Probably not so much, because the .ca in the domain name provides a strong signal to the engines that it’s a geographically focused site. Content overlap with other geographically focused sites is not uncommon and Google is almost certainly accounting it for in its algorithm.
I don’t want this column to sound negative, so let’s give Gosatellite.com a hearty pat on the back for something done well. I noticed the rewritten URLs contain keywords and use hyphens to separate the keywords instead of underscores. That was refreshing to see. Note that Google still does not treat the underscore as a word separator; this was confirmed by Google engineer Matt Cutts in February 2009 when I saw him at a conference.
Internal Hierarchical Linking Structure and Keyword Choices
Also, Gosatellite.com has done its homework on the keyword research side of things, judging by the keywords in the anchor text of links on the home page. It has weaved these keyword-rich text links into the page in a user-friendly manner, within the “Shop By Department,” “Popular Products,” and “Popular Search Terms” sections.
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SEO Report Card
Home Page Content: F
Inbound Links and PageRank: C
Internal Hierarchical Linking Structure: B+
HTML Templates and CSS: D
Secondary Page Content: C-
Keyword Choices: B
Title Tags: D
OVERALL GPA: C