SEO Report Card: United States Golf Association, Photo Store Website

USGA Museum, photo store home page.

USGA Museum, photo store home page.

This month in “SEO Report Card,” I’ll be reviewing the photo store for the United States Golf Association Museum website. This was at the request of Robert Sabin, the president of Metropolitan Collections, the firm that manages the USGA Museum Photo Store.

The site offers a comprehensive collection of vintage golf photographs dating back to the earliest days that photos were taken of the sport, as well as an extensive selection of contemporary images. There are currently more than 500,000 images in the USGA’s collection, with hundreds of additional photos being added each month.

Too bad that only a tiny fraction of those images is represented in Google Images (62 photos — according to a query on Google Images). The site doesn’t fare much better in Google web search–with 245 pages indexed, dozens of those pages are “Email this to a friend” forms.

Home Page Content

What goes into the home page–the copy and the internal links–is critically important, as this is the page that holds the most PageRank, at least for most websites out there. Unfortunately, the USGA Photo Store’s home page doesn’t offer much to the search engines in terms of textual content. There’s only a short paragraph welcoming the customers and inviting them to “browse our collection of historic and modern-day images” and an oddly capitalized sentence enticing customers to “Purchase a Piece of Golf History, From the USGA Museum Collection!” The rest of the text on the home page is anchor text, which helps the engines determine what the linked-to pages are about, and not so much the home page itself.

Keyword Choices

This website is for golf enthusiasts (and those trying to reach those enthusiasts, such as journalists), and yet the word “golf” only appears twice on the home page. There are many pages where this all-important word isn’t even present, like on the “Bethpage State Park Black Course No. 18.” It’s also important to target multiple word phrases that include the word “golf,” such as “golf course” and “golf courses”. Unfortunately, the USGA Photo Site misses the mark there, too. For instance, the Championship Courses category page never mentions the phrase “golf courses.” The acronym USGA is used profusely in the text, headings, and title tags. Unfortunately, this doesn’t convey to the spiders the organization’s focus on golf. Just spelling out USGA once or twice as “United States Golf Association” would be a good way to incorporate the word “golf” into the copy. The USGA Museum should also target other permutations of the term “golf”–such as “golfing” and “golfer”–into the site pages and into its home page in particular. This should go without saying, but of course this must be done in a way that doesn’t sound spammy. If it doesn’t read naturally and it doesn’t add value for the human visitor, then don’t do it.

Curiously, the keyword “photos” isn’t used anywhere on the home page either. “Images” is used in favor of “photos” across the site. I’d argue that “photos” is a better keyword to target than “images.” But don’t take my word for it, test it and see. Swap out some of the occurrences of “images” for “photos” and see what happens to the traffic and sales. Also, “collection” is the favored terminology rather than “gallery.” But Google’s Adwords Keyword Tool showed that almost no one searches for collections (as it relates to golf photos).

The singular form “photo” appears in the title tag but only once in the copy. When looking online for image rights, most users tend to search on plural forms of the word (“photos” or “images”) rather than the singular. Consider other variations, too, such as “photography” and related terms like “posters” and “prints.”

Simply sprinkling popular search terms throughout the copy won’t buy the USGA Museum much in the way of search-delivered traffic. It’s important to focus each page on a unique keyword theme, which is combination of keywords that conveys the page’s overall purpose. For the home page I would suggest focusing on the phrase “golf photos.” Not only is it a relatively popular search term, but also it’s specific enough to communicate what the page is all about. As an added bonus, it’s short enough that it can be easily incorporated into the text without screaming “keyword stuffing!”

Internal Hierarchical Linking Structure

The images in the Photo Store are divided into five galleries:

  • Championship Courses;
  • Vintage Black & Whites;
  • Memorable Moments;
  • Archivist Favorites;
  • Silver and Gold: The USGA National Championship Trophies.

These categories might make sense for usability and conversion, but they’re not terribly useful for SEO purposes. Someone searching for golf photos online is not going to type “memorable moments” or “archivist favorites.” Instead of grouping all of its photos into these vague categories, the USGA Museum should consider focusing on specific golfers and events, and highlight those on the home page. For example, “Arnold Palmer Photos” would be a good link to include in the list of galleries.


Secondary Page Content

As with the home page, the secondary pages don’t really send a strong keyword theme. The problem is that there is just too little copy. Each gallery page shows thumbnails of the photos, along with brief text links that each lead to a detail page. These links need to be longer, and should incorporate keywords to make them friendlier to search engines. For example, consider “Margaret Curtis Vintage Golf Photos,” as opposed to just “Margaret Curtis.”

In addition to the links, each photo could use another sentence or two of description. Even a simple phrase elaborating on the images would be helpful in adding more textual content, or meat, to the page. This would also allow the USGA Museum Photo Store to chase after some excellent secondary keyword markets, such as the names of specific golfers or events.

Title Tags

Each page seems to have a unique title tag, which is good. However, only 13 pages across the entire site incorporate the word “golf” into the title tag, and only one page (the home page) includes the word “photo.”

The home page title tag is “USGA Photo Store – Home.” The word “Home” on a home page is superfluous and only serves to dilute the keyword focus. I’d suggest changing the home title tag to something like “Golf Photos: Official USGA Museum Golfing Digital Images, Framed Prints & Posters for Sale.”

The title tags on the subpages ought to include top keywords along with the secondary keywords to increase their relevancy. For example, the Arnold Palmer picture currently has a title of “Arnold Palmer – 1954 U.S. Amateur Champion,” which is informative, but doesn’t really contain any keywords (apart from the name) that people would search on. Most users, if looking for a photograph of Arnold Palmer, would simply type “arnold palmer photo” or “photo of arnold palmer” into the search engine. So it would make sense to incorporate at least one of these terms into the title tag as early as possible. I’d suggest a title tag like “Photo of Arnold Palmer – 1954 U.S. Amateur Champion.”


The URLs are pretty decent. They aren’t overly long and complex with numerous ampersands and equals signs. The photo store also made an attempt to incorporate keywords into the URLs. Unfortunately it was a failed attempt as the words are all run together without any word separators (e.g.

Inbound Links

The U.S. Golf Association commands some serious link authority. Not to the level of the PGA, but still it’s pretty good. If it can leverage this authority more effectively on the photo store, it will undoubtedly see a nice uptick in traffic and sales. For example, the photo store’s home page (a PageRank 5) does receive a link from the home page (also a PR5), but it does not receive a link from the home page (PR6), which is a big missed opportunity. The photo store link on the home page (also PR6) under the “Shop” tab is a great link to have; unfortunately it is JavaScript-based. Although Google can parse some JavaScript-based links, don’t assume a JavaScript-based link is being followed or counting for PageRank. It would be safer to change the link to non-JavaScript.

SEO Report Card

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

Stephan Spencer
Stephan Spencer
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