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There many factors that go into a website search engine ranking, including both on-site factors and off-site factors. The on-site factors have to do with your actual website, including the title tags of your web pages, the content of your site, and how it’s “programmed”. The off-site factors include what other people (other web sites) are saying about your web site, how many other websites link to your website, and soforth. In the search engine optimization review, I will cover both.
For this search engine optimization review, I am going to review a website that sells water filters.
Website: Water Filter Corner – www.WaterFilterCorner.com
On-Site Search Engine Optimization Factors
Let’s first take a look at the site’s home page at www.WaterFilterCorner.com. The first thing I typically look for is the amount of content on the home page: the website is not built in Flash and appears to be search engine friendly. There is plenty of text on the home page (text that can be indexed by the search engines) that describes what you will find on the website. There also appears to be a good use of links within sentences that link to other pages on the site. The category links on the left side of the page appear to be text links (which is a good thing), while the main navigation in the top middle of the page (FAQ, Policies, Site Map, etc.) are images, though. I recommend changing those to text links (images links are not preferred).
The next thing I look at is the actual html code of the home page. You can see this by viewing the source code (Select the ‘View’ manu and then “Page Source” in the Firefox web browser). Let’s start right at the top of the source code.
The first thing I see is the title tag of the page. The current title tag, “Get the best drinking water filters, shower filters, whole-house water filters, and more at Water Filter Corner. Come in and shop today!” is way too long. In fact, I suggest that the title tag focus on one or two of the “most important” keyword phrases.
I have not performed in-depth keyword research, but it occurs to me that “Water filters”, in this case, is probably one of the more important phrases to focus on, as well as “water filter accessories” and “water filter replacement filters”. So, I would most likely update the title tag using those keywords. For example, a title tag of “Water Filters | Replacement Filters | Water Filter Corner” might be better than using a long sentence in the title tag. In fact, there are several pages on the site that have a long sentence in the title tag: these should be updated to include the most important keyword on the page only.
Next, let’s take a look at the meta tags. I generally recommend two meta tags, the meta description tag (the search engines often use this in the search engine results, right under the title tag), and the meta keywords tag (some search engines out there might still use it). Other meta tags such as the copyright, classification, revisit-after, rating, distribution, owner, author, rights, category, and reply-to meta tags just are not necessary: I would remove them. For more information, I would refer to my remove unused meta tags search engine optimization tip.
Many of the site’s URLs include numbers; if you can, rename the URLs so they include the main keyword phrase targeted for that page. For example, use a URL like www.domain.com/replacement-water-filters.html rather than www.domain.com/store/12354.html.
I took a look at the product pages, and it appears that many of the product descriptions are taken from the manufacturer. While this can be helpful for users, the search engines (mainly Google) see this as duplicate content: which is a problem. Google does not like to index duplicate content. What you’ll need is unique content on all of your web pages. I suggest that you take some time to write unique product descriptions or hire someone to write them for you. Another option would be to add product reviews to your site, as well.
As Mark Jackson mentioned in his Search Engine Watch site review, there appears to be an issue with the content in the H1 tags. The only information that should be found within the H1 tag is the heading text, like the product name. The actual text can be changed via the CSS style sheet, but in the code that changes the look and feel of what’s in the H1 tag should appear “outside” of the H1 tag, not inside the H1 tag.
I ran OptiSpider on the site, a tool I like to use to spider web sites: this will give me some additional information about a site. I have included parts of the OptiSpider report here for reference.
Here is an overview of what OptiSpider found:
Total Pages Found = 135
Total Links = 6687
Total Internal Links = 6430
Total External Links = 257
Site Wide Reputation = water more info filter filters
Site Wide Topic = water filter filters price drinking
Average Reputation/Topic Match = 2
What this tells us is the there are 135 pages on the site. Internally, there are 6687 links (6430 internal links to the site’s web pages and 257 external links pointing to other web sites).
257 external links on the site seems to be rather high for a web site that sells products; I would take a look at the outgoing links to see if that number can be significantly reduced. The “site wide reputation” is a combination of the internal link text that you’re currently using point to other web pages on the site. The major keywords appear to be used (water, filter, filters), but I have some concern over the use of “more” and “info” in the internal linking. Rather than use “more” or “more info”, that could be changed so that it is more descriptive. Ideally, the link text that someone clicks on to go to another web page on your site should describe what they are going to find when they click the link. For example, using something like “more about water filters” in the link text would be preferred to using “more info”.
The overall site wide topic, “water filter filters price drinking” seems to be on target with the actual site’s topic. The site certainly is about water filters, water, and drinking. I realize that it’s an ecommerce web site selling water filters, but there may be too many references to the word “price” on the site. The word “price” is used quite often on the site, and this may be due to products being shown in the right side bar on the product pages (see this product page as an example).
This really may not be a big deal, but since it shows up in the overall site wide topic, it probably should be reduced. There are a few options: reduce the number of times the word ‘price’ is used, or increase the site’s overall content. Ideally, more content could be added to the site’s product pages and product desriptions so that the overall site wide topic does not include the word “price”.
The Average Reputation/Topic Match is a 2 on a scale of 1 to 5, with 5 being the best. The reputation/topic match is calculated for each web page on the site. The page’s topic is compared to the page’s reputation (the links pointing to that page on the site). Currently, there are 35 of the total 135 pages on the site that I would consider to be “optimized” in that the text used in the links pointing to those pages are “about” the topic of the page. So, if there is a page about “water filters”, and if the link text pointing to that page is “water filters” then there would be a match. Otherwise, if the links pointing to that page are “water filter” or something different, then there would not be a match. The site’s home page’s reputation is “home” (all the links pointing to the home page use the link text of “home”), which is to be expected. There may be some opportunities to link to the home page with a different link text, though. So, you might consider adding some links to the home page from within sentences using the link text “water filters”. As articles and other content is added to the site, adding some links other than “home” may be an option. I wouldn’t go overboard with it, but consider adding some additional internal links to the home page.
Looking at the number of inbound links that pages on the site have, it appears that about 20 of the 135 pages on the web site have the majority (107) internal links. About 20 of the product pages have 4 internal links, some have 3 internal links, and some of the product pages even have only one internal link. Certainly the pages that have only one internal link do not have a chance to “rank well” in the search engines. Ideally, the pages that have only internal link on the site would have more internal links. There are several ways to increase the internal link counts to the product pages, which would include adding “related product” links to the product pages. So, if you are on a page like the Complete Countertop Filtration System product page, you might also add links and a short product description of the filters that you would use with that system as well as other products that someone might like to purchase. Adding internal links to “related products” will help other product pages have more internal links; and if those links are from pages that are on the same overall “theme”, then that will help those pages rank better in the search engines.
I sorted the list of web pages and their title tags and found some things that should be changed. There are many pages on teh site that have similar or the same title tags. This is an issue you will want to correct, as there every web page on the site needs a unique title tag. Furthermore, there are also 14 pages on the site that are “not found”. The site has links to those web pages but the page does not exist. Those page are delivering a proper 404 Not Found error, but I recommend that you remove the internal links to those pages. I’ve also noticed that there are two “site map” pages on the site, one here and another sitemap here. Keep in mind that the site map page is different than an XML sitemap file which is here but does not currently look like it’s in the proper format.
Off-site Search Engine Optimization Factors
The first thing I usually do when looking at a site’s search engine optimization off-site factors is to go to Yahoo.com and perform a linkdomain search like this:
This search shows all of the site’s links from other websites to all pages on the site, excluding the links from the own site. The goal is to perform this search not only for your own site, but to perform this search against the domains that are currently ranking for the keywords you want your site to rank for. In this case, there are currently only a few links showing. I took at look at the sites that are currently ranking have a lot more links, somewhere between 2,000 and 5,000+ links to their website.
So, I would make it a point to try to build links to your web site each and every day. Start looking at your competition and figure out where their more “important” links are coming from. There are many tools that are available, including the SEO Book tools (I like the new Seobook Firefox toolbar), as well as the SEOMoz.org Linkscape tool.
Make sure that you get a few of the more important web directory links (submit to dmoz.org), including a Yahoo! Directory, Business.com, and BOTW.org link. You can also find links that your competitors have in common, which includes the “Traffic Marks” tool. Keep in mind that it isn’t necessarily the quantity of links that you have, it’s the quality links that you have pointing to your website.
As far as linking and social media promotion goes, I would first start by going to www.UserNameCheck to check to see which, if any, of your brand or your main keyword phrase is “taken”. For example, you might check “waterfilter” and “waterfilters” to see if they’re taken, and register the ones that are not already taken. You should set up a profile and add a link back to your website on every one listed. If there are services that are already taken, you might consider using a similar unique ID such as “waterfiltercorner” or your keyword with a number. Ideally, you won’t want to use a unique ID for every service, you would want to use an ID that you can use on all of the services so that your “brand” on the social media websites is consistent. I personally like to use ‘bhartzer’ as my ID on all of the social media web sites. Many of these sites allow you to add a link to your website as well as import your site’s RSS feed into your profile. Fill them out as best you can. Many of these social networks are important, but pay particular attention to setting up a Digg, Friendfeed, Twitter, and LinkedIn account. LinkedIn allows you to add several links and you can choose the link text: so adding a link to your site’s home page with “water filters” and a few select other interior pages on the site will help. I would also set up a Businessweek account at http://bx.businessweek.com, which also allows you to add some links to your profile.
Work on getting new links to your web site each and every day; getting new links to your web site is something that will take time. If you have writing skills or have access to a writer, then adding a blog to your site will be helpful (remember to “add it” to the social media bookmarking sites whenever you have a new blog post) and getting articles published on your topic’s overall theme, water filters and drinking water. You can get articles published on sites that are related to water filters and water filtration, but also consider contacting other sites such as sites that are related to health and nutrition and other places where your ideal customers visit. You might also start reading blogs that interest you, including health and nutrition blogs as well as other water filter blogs; comment on their blog posts to start getting some exposure for your site.
Overall, I think you’ve done a good job so far with Water Filter Corner. The site could use some additional tweaking and changes. I would pay attention to working on the off-site factors once the you’ve fixed the things that I’ve mentioned. Get in a regular routine of adding content to the site in the form of articles or a blog, and getting additional links to the site from other on-topic sites, and you’ll be successful in the search engines.