SEO Report Card:

For this SEO Report Card, I’m responding to the Yarnware’s heartfelt plea for a site grade. Meredith Bright of Yarnware writes: “I used to have much better organic search rankings, but they have been dropping recently. I can’t figure out what is wrong.” It wasn’t hard to see why. The site is running Lotus Notes Domino — not a platform that is very friendly to search engines because of its long, complexlooking URLs. However, the issues with the site were much more fundamental. The site has broken some cardinal rules of SEO.

The first “cardinal sin” was the lack of a title tag on the home page. Remember, the home page is the page given the most weight by search engines.

SEO report card for

Frames a no-no

Another problem was that the site was built in frames. In its Webmaster Guidelines, Google advises against the use of frames. is the sort of framed site where users can’t even bookmark internal pages. Upon closer inspection, I discovered that the home-page frameset was only an empty shell with absolutely no content. In fact, the only reason the home-page listing on Google has a title and snippet at all is because Yarnware has an open directory listing.

Need better title tags

Title tags across the site are not in natural language. The components of a good keyword phrase may be there, but the words are all jumbled. On most pages, the title starts off with the word yarn, kit or pattern. Nobody searches for “yarn cleckheaton merino supreme,” the wording in one title tag. Searchers might type in “cleckheaton yarn” or “merino yarn” in which case “yarn” is much better placed at the end of the title tag. Doing that makes the word order in the title tag matches the word order of the user’s search query.


Despite the ugly-looking URLs, Google has done a good job indexing the site with an estimated number of pages indexed at 18,600. However, this number includes numerous duplicate pages. This is, in part, due to the fact the site responds to as well as without doing a .301 redirect. Because all the links in the URLs are relative, rather than absolute, the spider can dig ever deeper into The duplication problem is further evidenced by the differing PageRank scores between and (five and two, respectively).

The left nav is text based, however, none of these links contains the word “yarn” in the anchor text. It looks like they tried to compensate for that by inserting the word “yarn” into the title attribute of each link, but that won’t help. Revise the anchor text to read “Angora Yarn” instead of “Angora,” “Mohair Yarn” instead of “Mohair,” etc. Just don’t do that to all 81 links in the left nav. That’s right, it has 81 links! I haven’t seen a left nav that huge in a long time! Let’s cut that down to fewer than 20, OK?

There is no breadcrumb navigation anywhere on the site.

I like the cross-selling, e.g., suggesting patterns on yarn product pages. However, the links use spider-unfriendly JavaScript.

Need better keywords

Search-term popularity does not appear to have been taken into account by the copywriters. The home page does include a few mentions of “knitting,” but none of phrases “knitting yarn” or “knitting patterns.” Not one page incorporates either phrase into the title tag. Unsurprisingly, they are invisible for those terms.

The HTML was in bad shape. Lots of “code bloat” – comment tags, in-line JavaScript, tables for layout, redundant font tags, … The HTML also has errors in it, e.g., multiple and tags.

Need inbound links

They are in desperate need of quality inbound links. They have a few links from blogs like – a good start. Try wooing knitting bloggers en masse with what I call a “blogger’s kit” – a package of goodies including some new types of yarn, patterns and so forth. No strings attached. Links will inevitably follow.

SEO Report Card

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

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Stephan Spencer

Stephan Spencer

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