This month’s report card is SolsticeSupply.com, an ecommerce site dedicated to closeout winter goods ranging from skis and snowboards to winter apparel. The site is very pleasant to the eye with large, expansive photos of wintry scenes and skiing action. But how does it do in terms of SEO? Well, pictures are nice, good design can convert, but search engines only see words. With that in mind, let’s take a look.
Home Page Content
This is the first spot where SolsticeSupply.com needs to make SEO improvements, especially with regard to textual content. The homepage – and much of the site – is graphically focused rather than textually focused. While graphics are certainly not a problem, for SEO purposes they need to be balanced with permanent, keyword-rich textual content. The Solstice Supply navigation is seen as textual by the search engines, which allows them to follow those links into the site, but there is no permanent textual content beyond that. Adding even a sentence or two with applicable keywords describing the site could make a difference. Augmenting this problem is the lack of any Alt tags to describe the graphical content. In a graphically intensive website, Alt tags become fairly important with regard to representing keywords in a textual format.
Inbound Links and PageRank
The homepage of the site has a PageRank of 2, which isn’t particularly strong. A Google link query shows no inbound links while Yahoo lists 15 to the homepage and 6,884 to the entire site. With that number of inbound links, I would expect a higher PageRank, and one that stays high throughout the site, but this is not the case. Many links appear to be from blogs and social media profile pages that don’t offer to pass much PageRank. Building high-quality links is in order, including making sure that the site is in all the large directories.
Google measures 980 pages for www.solsticesupply.com while Yahoo sees 3,104, and MSN Live Search finds 307 pages. Given the large differences in indexation by the Big Three, it would appear that issues mentioned regarding the structure of the site are, indeed, affecting indexation. It is all relative to the number of pages that actually exist. If that number is closer to 3,000, then the use of an XML Sitemap may help the search engines find more pages. If the number is closer 307, then there may be issues of duplicate content in play.
Internal Hierarchical Linking Structure
The main navigation at SolsticeSupply.com is designed primarily with CSS (Cascading Style Sheets) in such a way that search engines are able to see and crawl the entire navigation. This allows for search engine spiders to find their way deep into the site Landing pages for every major category are missing. From an SEO point of view, these pages allows for a place to describe the category in textual content and also allows for another level of interlinking to the pages within the category.
HTML Templates and CSS
Secondary Page Content
From an SEO view, the product level pages offer the best content. Still, there are issues there. For example on the Airblaster JFF Pants page, the header says “Airblaster JFF Pant”. No one searches for “pant” when they are looking for “pants”. There is descriptive content on the page, but it could be much better. The primary content reads, “I love the JFF. This stands for Just For Fun. The idea here is snowboarding is something we do for fun, we enjoy it and it rules. This pant is a little crazy.” What? This does not reflect keywords you’d expect, like “snowboarding pants” and “nylon pants”.
I have to say it again here – more permanent text to augment core keywords throughout the site is imperative.
Thankfully unique title tags appear throughout the website, probably in some automated way. Search engines see title tags as a primary descriptive attribute, so getting them right is important. Site title should be the last thing mentioned in title tags while the specific keywords related to a given page should be first. SolsticeSupply.com could improve here, but this is a better use of their SEO real estate.
It’s best to reflect keywords in URLs, and where multiple keywords are used, they should be separated by dashes. Search engines see dashes in URLs as spaces and make it easier for them to read keywords contained in a URL. SolsticeSupply.com does this in an acceptable manner.
The glamour of snowboarding is well represented here, and the eye-catching design makes it nice to navigate, but search engine spiders – that don’t see those spiffy graphics – do not have much to chew on. More textual content is in order along with copywriting that reflects keywords identified suing a tool like Keyword Discovery. A site with such a cool focus and feel deserves more search traffic!
SEO Report Card
Home page: D-
Inbound Links: D-
Internal Linking Structure: C
HTML Templates: C
Secondary Page Content: C-
Keyword Choices: C-
Title Tags: B
Final Grade: D+
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