According to the site’s “About Us” page, Back 40 Books is run by back-to-nature people and the books they sell on their site are predominantly focused on issues related to that lifestyle. It also sounds as if the website was put together by these same outdoor people with little help from web professionals. This is to be commended, but everyone needs a little help sometimes. Let’s take a look:
Home Page Content
Back 40 Books could use some permanent, textual content on their home page that is reflective of the focus of the site. As it stands, much of the text is contained in graphics or is in book descriptions that, more than likely, rotate in and out (in other words, they have no permanency). A few sentences about the site and what it offers could make a big difference. The left-hand navigation is the strongest asset of the home page, featuring some fairly keyword-rich links to all the site’s major categories. This allows search engine spiders to easily find and crawl those categories through the links. The text directory is good to have, though it might be better named as a sitemap. Regardless, more permanent text is the key here!
Inbound Link PageRank
PageRank for the site is 5, which is respectable, but could be improved. Inbound links create PageRank, and Yahoo! shows 677 inbound links, and while Google only sees 71, this is a good start. Directory submissions could help here, as would a blog. A regularly updated blog of book reviews associated with the site would likely draw both more links and more traffic. Don’t forget about partners; pursue textual links from book publishers and distributors.
Google finds 5,500 pages and Yahoo! sees 6,822. MSN Windows Live lists 14,500 pages, almost three times as many as Google. No obvious page duplication presents itself, but the site owners should verify the actual number of pages on the website and compare it to these numbers. Either Yahoo! and Google are not crawling a large number of pages or MSN is seeing some form of duplication that the other search engines are not.
Internal Hierarchical Linking Structure
Though the link naming convention throughout the website is not always reflective of keywords and focus, the site features decent textual interlinking. The text directory (sitemap) flows well down to individual product pages. The use of bread crumbs is good, too.
HTML Templates and CSS
Secondary Page Content
While individual product pages have decent, descriptive content, like the home page, many category and subcategory pages lack permanent, keyword-rich content. Some landing pages feature subcategories broken out by generic dates like “June 2007.” Keywords need to be added to these links.
The keywords chosen for the major pages of the site are focused and relative, but they are not properly applied in most cases. Identify the focus of each and every page. Select three or four keywords for that page, and apply them throughout.
The site has serious issues with title tags, starting with the home page. For some reason, Google Central Webmaster code is in the title metatag. This code should be in its own metatag and a descriptive title for the site should be put in its place. Deeper in the site, title tags improve, describing at least the basic category or subcategory. Title tags are valuable SEO real estate, however, and much better use could be made of them.
URLs should be keyword–rich and descriptive, using dashes to separate words. Back 40 Books does not take advantage of this, instead using generic coding that probably comes from a central database. The URL for Amish Life, for instance, is http://www.back40books.com/getdept1199.htm. A much better URL would be http://www.back40books.com/amish-life-books.htm. The site also needs to add a 404 Error Page for pages that have been removed or do not exist.
SEO Report Card
Home Page D
Inbound Links C
Internal Linking Structure C+
HTML Templates D
Secondary Page Content D
Keyword Choices C
Title Tags D
OVERALL GPA C-
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