Disclaimer: Kitchen Artworks is not a client and I am not proposing that they should become a client. Nor am I endorsing their service and products in any way. I have not asked for permission to reveiw the site or discuss it. This is a completely unsolicited review. The SEO suggestions I make are not comprehensive but they are intended only for the site being reviewed. Implementing similar changes on your own sites may or may not help or hurt your rankings (although I generally strive to share only good, fundamental advice).
Peggy Deras asked for help on the LED Digest. She has received numerous on-list replies and I suspect that several other people have probably responded but for one reason or another their replies have not been posted.
Peggy’s situation is unusual in that she complains scraper sites have moved into the search results she wants to perform in. When I and other list members looked at her query, we saw no evidence of “scraper” and “placeholder” sites. Why? One possibility is that Peggy saw mid-update surge and panicked.
People often overreact during search engine updates, concluding they have been penalized or surpassed by less optimized Web sites as the search engines churn their data through a fairly brief period. By the time interested third parties saw Peggy’s post on the Digest and went to look at the results, things could have settled down.
It’s also possible someone from a search engine saw Peggy’s message, realized some spam had slipped through, and took some action. I don’t know and won’t pretend to know why we’re not seeing what she is seeing (I can think of several other possible explanations but they’re a bit too esoteric for this post).
Peggy feels she has “done everything right” and that she has “great and original content”. I have looked at her Web site and I disagree with her. She is not a trained search optimizer so I don’t expect her to know the fundamentals of search engine optimization.
Two list members (Ron Coble and Lorelle Smith) offered some good advice to Peggy in the next digest. In the third digest to address this topic, Donald Nelson and James Miller offered some good advice, too. Michael Linehan got a little philosophical.
In the most recent Digest, a well-known reciprocal linking service manager used the topic to once again bash search engine optimization and tell the world that his service is the One True Solution for any Web site that cannot rank through SEO.
I have on occasion agreed with the gentleman on some of his criticisms of the SEO industry. Theer are no professional standards and no real baseline for quality service. But he has generally displayed a great deal of ignorance about what constitutes search engine optimization through the years and he is hardly a credible source of information on the topic. After all, his goal is to promote the credibility of reciprocal link management and to build his reciprocal link management business.
Everything may be rosy in the reciprocal linking world today as far as the guys who sells the picks and shovels to the miners are concerned, but the truth is in the search engine results. A lot of people who have been buying links, using reciprocal link management services, and otherwise relying on traditional link-based “optimization” are being slaughtered. Not this particular service’s clients, of course — never once have I seen anyone claim to be his client or share their experience, so I must assume that he is at least being truthful in his claims that his services help everyone who comes to him.
But let’s get back to Peggy’s situation. Has she done all she can do? No. For example, her internal link navigation uses the word “home” to lead you back to the home page. While most Web sites actually do use “home” in that way, it’s a waste of internal link anchor text. She can be linking back to the root URL with more descriptive, informative words — like “kitchen design”, “kitchen designer”, or “kitchen artworks”.
As has been pointed out by other LED Digest members, Peggy barely uses those expressions on her site. She has very little copy on it. She seems to feel that the visual presentation is most important, and in one respect she is right. The visual presentation is more compelling to a visitor looking for kitchen design services and resources than a page like — well, a page like the one you’re reading. I don’t publish many pictures in my blogging.
On the other hand, search engines need text and text is what you create copy from. But more importantly search engines are looking for relevance and you assert relevance through the emphasis you place on the words in your copy.
If “kitchen designer” is important to your copy, you should be bolding it for your readers so they can see quickly that your copy is talking about the kitchen design services and resources you offer.
If your topic is complex, you should use section headers (H2, H3, etc.) to show people where the transition points are. Search engines do look at these types of markup to ascertain what is most important in the page’s contents.
Your title tag should agree with at least some copy on the page, preferably bolded or italicized copy, even more preferably (in my opinion) with an H1 header or an equivalent construction (using FONT and BOLD).
Now, one of the things Peggy has done that I like is she offers on-site tip pages. Unfortunately, she doesn’t use her desired keywords in either the titles or the internal link anchors pointing to those tip pages. These are lost opportunities. The search engines will treat link anchor text as if it’s normal text on a page. Outbound link anchor text has always helped in that regard, although most SEOs have never really understood that (at least, I’ve rarely seen anyone mention the opportunity to that outbound link anchor text provides a page for building relevance).
The About Us page could be retitled to “About Kitchen Artworks - Kitchen Designer Services and Resources”. The page could also be rewritten. One of the most challenging tasks for an SEO is persuading a client to accept a little repetition in copy. For example, Peggy uses “kitchen, bath, interior, and cabinetry design”. If you’re writing an essay for English 101 this is what you want to do, but search engines like repetition. It’s better to say “kitchen design, bath design, interior design, and cabinetry design”. That tells the search engines that you’re actually relevant to those expressions. Search engines don’t expand text intuitively the way people who have been taught to write for English 101 have been.
The portfolio page is really hurting. None of the images seem to have ALT= text. Worse, the links underneath the images lead to larger versions of those images with descriptive anchor text that doesn’t help the SEO campaign. The larger images could have been embedded in HTML pages with wrapper text that emphasizes the keywords (you don’t need much wrapper text).
From a presentation point of view, I would get rid of the Google ads. Any site that purports to offer professional services but also carries advertising looks to me like the site operator is not serious about their business. If you’re doing so well as a kitchen designer, why do you need ads? They make your pages look spammy to people (although search engines usually don’t care).
Think about the user experience. For example, those large images will show up in browser-constructed pages (the browsers ALWAYS use a “page” even though you cannot “view source”). The images will be crawled for image search but you can still get them crawled for image search AND construct additional content that informs the visitor and doesn’t force them to use the BACK button to navigate through your site.
Our gentleman reciprocal link service operator attempted to look at Peggy’s backlink profile. He used some third-party tool that doesn’t tell you anything useful. I can see over 1,000 off-site references to Peggy’s domain in Google alone (he found about 300 domains). Most of those references, however, are on Supplemental Pages.
Supplemental Pages don’t pass value (in the form of PageRank and link anchor text). Now, a link on a Supplemental Page can still help your site if the link is on a well-visited page. People may click on that link. Also, just because a page is Supplemental in Google doesn’t mean its links cannot help you in Ask, Yahoo!, and Live (or other search engines). Search engine optimization and Web site marketing are not all about Google.
But as far as Google is concerned Peggy has very few helpful links. However she got those links, she does have a lot of visibility. Interestingly, Peggy only seems to have 180 URL references on Yahoo! although Yahoo! Site Explorer reports 737 inbound links from other sites. URL reference queries are not reliable indicators of how many inbound links a site has — but then, Yahoo! is less reliable for doing backlink research on Google than a URL reference query.
Peggy could verify her site with Google Webmaster Central to see how many backlinks Google will tell her she has (the list will still be incomplete) but unfortunately Google doesn’t reveal which links actually pass value.
Linking really is not Peggy’s problem. She has very little indexable content and that content is not very relevant to the expression “kitchen designer”. In fact, this article is more relevant today because I have used kitchen designer and emphasized kitchen designer in more than one way.
Should this page outrank Peggy’s site? Well, I wouldn’t expect it to for reasons I haven’t discussed, but you never know. Web pages can rank for the darnedest things.
After all, there are four factors that affect search engine rankings:
- What you do with your pages
- What other people do with their pages
- What the search engines do with their data
- What people search for
I have no control over what other people do with their pages or what the search engines do.
However, I can tell people to search for “Kitchen Artworks” and they’ll find Peggy’s site. Peggy could actually use advertising to tell people to search for Kitchen Artworks if they want to find out more about Kitchen Design or learn more about her services as a Kitchen Designer. That is part of search engine optimization and it is also part of Web site marketing. If you cannot rank 1st for “pizza”, tell people to search for “Michael’s Pizza Web site” and as long as you rank 1st for that term you’re doing okay.
Peggy’s site also comes up first if you search for “Peggy Deras”. She has brand value in the search engines that can be useful in a general marketing campaign (and I have no idea of how much she uses her brand value, so please don’t assume that she is not doing anything with her brands).
A little keyword research would help Peggy understand the dynamics of her vertical (it would also help her would-be saviors in doling out advice). For example, I see more opportunities based on “kitchen design” than I do for “kitchen designer”. Peggy could optimize for many more expressions related to “kitchen design” than for those related to “kitchen designer”. “Kitchen design” is more competitive, but it might actually be easier for Peggy to optimize for “kitchen design” than “kitchen designer” through the use of natural language simply because you can say more about “kitchen design” than about a “kitchen designer” or “kitchen designer services”.
This is by no means a full SEO analysis. I’m not about to give away the service for free. It’s just an unsolicited Web site review that I hope illustrates some of the points I have been trying to make over the past few months.
There are no sure-fire solutons. No one can honestly guarantee results, certainly not anyone who relies solely on links. If someone tells you that “content is king” is a myth, they don’t understand search engine technology. Without content you have nothing. You need links to be found, crawled, and indexed. You need content to have something worth linking to.
You can dominate search results through links, through content, or through a combination of both. Where do you think you’ll get the most leverage? You fail the class if you don’t pick “a combination of both (links and content)”.
Good luck, Peggy. And good luck to all of us.
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