February is an interesting month. Following the craziness of the holiday season and the joy of a new year, it seems like it has very little to offer by comparison. This isn’t quite true though. As we’ve discussed in our Valentine’s Day infographic, there are a lot of opportunities for marketers to create campaigns that reach target audiences to generate massive ROI. From Valentine’s Day to the Super Bowl, there are tons of opportunities for marketers to take advantage of – and one of the biggest to round out this month is the Academy Awards.
Hosted by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to recognize excellence in cinematic achievement, the Academy Awards or “Oscars” is one of the most well-known and widely watched awards shows on television. Their brand recognition spans across the globe, and they are widely and consistently mentioned in the press including some less-than-ideal news revolving around their nominee ballot of entirely white actors.
Something that has been discussed less frequently are their search engine optimization ("SEO") efforts. Does their website provide them with the kind of search engine visibility they need to attract traffic from search engines like Google? Using our standard set of ranking categories and tools below, we’ll decide whether or not the Oscars website deserves a nomination for SEO Presence of the Year.
- Schema and SERP Friendliness
- Site Speed
- Meta Tag Issues
- Title Tag Issues
- Screaming Frog
- Open Site Explorer
- Microsoft IIS
Any good SEO strategy has to have a strong content strategy as a key part of the overall plan. From a practical standpoint, creating high quality content on a website allows businesses to keep visitors engaged and coming back time and time again to look at everything that has been added since their last visit. In terms of SEO, content allows businesses a way to target and rank for relevant keywords by creating great content that provides value to users who are searching for answers around a certain topic or question that a business can speak towards with authority. For more specifics on what you can do to optimize the content on a blog, check out my blog post on enhancing search rankings.
The Oscars provides a lot of content for its users that ranges from news about nominees to cooking recipes so audiences can throw their own Oscar viewing party. There are lots of great videos, photos, and news items – and they are updated fairly regularly so that audiences are always up to date on the latest happenings related to the Academy Awards. The value this brings audiences is undeniable, but the Oscars website falls short when it comes to SEO value. It is widely accepted that a page needs at least 250 (Screaming Frog says 300) words for Google to properly rank it for related keywords. The Oscars falls woefully short here, with pages on more than 84% of the site featuring less than 300 words. While all the content they have is well done, there needs to be more written content to match the quality of all the images and video the site currently features.
Schema and SERP Friendliness
When done correctly, adding schema and taking the time to create a branded search engine results page that properly shows your business information can be key for not only increasing traffic, but for increasing the rankings of individual pages that properly use schema to their advantage by making them a more attractive option to users and cashing in on user interaction SEO factors. While the websites we’ve looked at in this series have been overwhelmingly underwhelming in terms of their adoption of schema and SERP friendliness elements, two of our most recent SEO audits, Sarabeths and Dollar Shave Club did a phenomenal job.
The Oscars website continues our ongoing trend of positive schema and SERP friendliness adoption for businesses. Not only does the website have a beautiful branded page that pulls information from Wikipedia, every single page on the domain except four feature some kind of schema. The payoffs for doing this are huge for the website, with the branded search for “Academy Awards” and “Oscars” pulling schema used on the website to show this year’s nominees as well as all the past winners. This is a phenomenal addition to the search engine results page, and is a fantastic example of how sometimes the time investment for schema can pay huge dividends for a business.
One of the most important elements for a domain to be successful in the world of search engine optimization is to build a strong backlink profile. Having high quality equity-passing links and nofollow links that come from a variety of different sources is one of the best ways to build a website’s domain authority while simultaneously helping you to rank for new keywords on a page-by-page basis in the process. Having a good variety of different anchor text is also key in order to show Google that your backlink profile is filled with naturally amassed links that have not been bought, coerced, or otherwise questionably obtained.
The official Oscar’s website is an interesting change for this series, because it is actually not a standalone domain – it’s a subdomain that lives on the Disney-owned “Go.com”, which has a domain authority of 97. While the entire website’s domain is strong, the fact that the Oscar website is a subdomain makes it more difficult to fully understand because there are a lot of other subdomains on the go.com domain for other events, movies, and businesses. That being said, the Oscar subdomain still boasts an impressive 9751 inbound links and a higher than average inbound link domain authority of 67 from a variety of different authoritative domains including Adobe, the BBC, CNN, Aol, PBS, the Wall Street Journal, and many more established brand and businesses websites.
The subdomain also has a lot of unique anchor text, that is led by variations of branded “Academy Awards” and “Oscars” terms. It also has some vertical specific keywords like “acceptance speech”, “best picture”, “nominated”, “red carpet”, and various movie titles and actor names as well. The anchor text is quite obviously naturally acquired, and has a strong mix of branded and vertical-specific keywords.
While site speed isn’t the biggest SEO ranking factor, it is still certainly one of the most important overall things for a site to focus on. Not only does it help users have a better time on site, lower bounce rate, and play a role in SEO ranking, site speed is increasingly important in order for a business to flourish in the growing world of mobile internet. A website that loads quickly and correctly can be the difference-maker for any business when it comes to attracting new customers, and this should be reason enough to optimize site speed without even considering SEO. Site speed should be a focus for any business owner that is looking to take their website to the next level in terms of both general on-site experience and SEO rank.
Meta Tag Issues
Optimizing meta tags, and particularly meta descriptions is an important step for both SEO and user experience. Having meta tags and a meta description that properly reflect what a page is about so that proper expectations are set for search engines and users is a great way to increase click through rate in search engines. There really is no excuse for meta descriptions that lack a call to action or a description of the page, as businesses will get more traffic when it’s done correctly. While meta descriptions in particular aren’t a factor that directly affects SEO ranking, the boost they give in terms of traffic can play a role in increasing a page’s ranking based on previous user behavior.
Many of the businesses we’ve looked at in this series willfully ignore meta descriptions and leave it up to Google to pull its own. This effectively leaves Google to pull whatever copy it can find on the page - and while it can be beneficial at times, the greater percentage of sites that allow this to happen end up with disastrously bad meta descriptions that lower overall organic traffic as a result.
The Oscars does a decent job at making sure they include meta descriptions for each of their pages – only missing them on about 8% of their site. However, they do fall short at creating unique meta descriptions, with 86% of the meta descriptions they currently feature acting as duplicates. A particularly strange element of the meta descriptions is that a lot of them (808, to be exact) have p tags featured for some reason. These should not be included. Furthermore, almost half of the meta descriptions are over Screaming Frog’s recommended character limit of 156 characters. These should be whittled down a bit, as Google is known to rewrite meta descriptions that go over (or far under) a certain character limit range.
Another meta tag issue we found was the inclusion of meta keywords on about 13% of the website. The tags are included in posts that are as recent as 2016, and is an extremely dated SEO tactic that hurts websites more than it helps these days. Google has come out and expressly said that meta keywords should not be included on websites, so these should be removed as quickly as possible so that everything stays in line with Google’s best practices.
Title Tag Issues
Title tags are undoubtedly the most important single element of on-site SEO. This has been a standard tenant of SEO for a long time, and there are no signs that any other single on-site element will usurp the title tag for this honor any time soon. This shouldn’t surprise anyone who has even the most basic working knowledge of SEO, seeing as the title tag is the first thing a user sees and clicks on as they browse through a search engine results page. Making sure that your title tag is optimized for targeted keywords and has an appropriate range in character lengths (55-60 characters) is clearly an important step for any online business that is trying to attract increased amounts of website traffic from anyone doing a Google search.
The Oscars do an extremely good job with their title tags overall. The entire site only has 4 pages that are missing them – two variations of a “contact us” page, and two pages for the animated feature film “Anomalisa”. Not a bad showing for a subdomain that has 1,868 pages total. The one issue that the site does run into is duplicate title tags. This issue is particularly noticeable with things like movie trailers, photo galleries, and events. When all is said and done the site has title tags that are duplicated 92.77% of the time, which is quite high. Furthermore, they have 33.05% of title tags that are over 65 characters, which leaves the site open to having Google potentially rewrite the title tags as they see fit, which could be problematic.
The website for the Oscars does a lot of things fantastically well. Particularly noticeable is their focus on schema markup and how helpful a role it plays in terms of transforming their branded search engine results page into something unique and interesting. Their site speed is also fantastic, and their backlink profile is understandably extremely strong given their widespread brand recognition.
Two of the big places that the site can improve upon is content and duplicate title tags. The title tag issues are easily solved by making sure that each page has its own, unique, title tags instead of relying on duplicate titles on each page. Content should be flushed out to be a bit more in-depth than it currently is – there is too much of a focus on visual elements and videos. While these are great for users, Google has a very difficult time understanding their value because it can’t properly read images as of right now. Copy would definitely provide users with more value, and would provide absolutely massive value to search engines in the process.
Overall, the Oscars website is extremely solid, and while it probably wouldn’t outright win an award for “SEO Presence of the Year” if we were actually giving one, it would certainly be among the nominees.
Overall Grade: B+