Search engine optimization remains one of the best digital marketing initiatives when it comes to providing online businesses with high quality, profitable traffic with a relatively small financial outlay. While it takes a lot of time and can be a tough task to put into practice correctly for any business, the payoffs can be huge. This is particularly true for businesses that are relatively new start-ups with a decent offline presence, because those efforts can be leveraged into online success when done correctly. Particularly if the company is within a vertical with light competition, a business can start to monopolize high-value keywords in their industry and drive outstanding sales figures.
This month’s 1 Hour SEO Audit Challenge revolves around just such a business that has been making headlines in the financial world of late – Casper. With investors that include Ashton Kutcher and Steve Nash, and press mentions in publications like the New York Times, CBS, Buzzfeed, Forbes, and CNBC, Casper is one of the fastest growing start-ups in the world right now, and is making a huge splash in what has long been thought of historically as a un-sexy industry – mattresses. Their website acts as one of the main hubs to buy the mattress, and provides every feasible piece of information about the mattress that anyone could ever want to know before making a purchase.
Just like we’ve done in every other “1 Hour SEO Audit Challenge”, we’ve based our grades on the following categories:
- Site Speed
- Meta Tag Issues
- Title Tag Issues
- Screaming Frog
- Majestic SEO
- Open Site Explorer
- Microsoft IIS
While it isn’t quite as strong of a buzzword as it has been in the past, content marketing continues to provide businesses with some of the best ROI in the digital marketing space. Creating top-notch content that is unique, entertaining, and/or educational can act as a springboard for companies looking to generate better and more widespread brand awareness and sales online. While the amount of competition in the content marketing space makes it more difficult to break through than it has been in the past, websites that create top quality content are still able to boost SEO rankings for relevant long-tail keywords. When done properly, content marketing can help a business get new and existing audiences to come to their website in bulk while helping to build visibility on social media and amass natural links to their content to help round out their website’s backlink profile.
Casper’s foundation for content marketing initiatives is well created, and information about the product is plentiful, but they simply don't have enough blog and general resources content to make their content marketing initiatives top-notch just yet. This is particularly true away from product purchase pages and FAQs – which are both chock-full of information that clearly plays a role in the middle and bottom parts of the conversion funnel.
However, when it comes to the top of the conversion funnel (or initially attracting new customers to the product with long tail keyword searches on search engines) there is a lot of room for improvement. This is particularly true with blog posts, which tend to be short (little more than 500 words) and lacking in a lot of the standard SEO elements (like H2 tags, bolds, bulleted lists, and meta descriptions) to help them rank and generate traffic more efficiently from targeted long-tail keywords.
As of April 2014, a measly 0.3% of websites had schema markup on them – and while this may have changed somewhat in the past year, our audit series has proven time and time again that a majority of websites out there are falling completely flat when it comes to implementing this powerful tool. Even with Google manual penalties for gaming schema into showing up in results that aren’t actually relevant to a page, very few websites are taking the time to do schema implementation at all. The process for adding schema isn’t particularly complicated, but many businesses still see it as an unnecessary luxury to take on their SEO initiatives and don’t take them to do it as a result.
Even with websites with schema mark-up ranking an average of 4 positions higher than their competition, Casper is part of the majority of websites that are schema-less, and fails to do much in terms of markup on their website. That being said, they do have social media open graph tags for Facebook and Twitter tags, as well as local information in their branded SERP that shows their local office location and helps increase their local search ranking results in the New York City area. However, having schema on-site for things like pricing, images, and address would be a helpful addition for their website that might help them increase click-through-rate on their results.
When it comes to important aspects to have for overall SEO success, a strong backlink profile is one of the first things that comes to mind. Having a variety of links (both followed and nofollow’d) that look natural and come from many different relevant sources is one of the best ways to build a website’s domain authority and help you website rank for new keywords on a page by page basis. A variety of different anchor texts is also key – with some featuring targeted keywords and others featuring more natural link anchor text like “click here” or your company’s brand name.
For a company that has had much offline press and advertising, it is surprising that Casper’s domain authority is only 40. Seeing as they are widely considered to be the disruptive force in the mattress industry it is interesting that Casper’s domain authority is nowhere near other mattress companies in their field, such as Serta (domain authority – 59), Tempurpedic (domain authority – 59), and Simmons (domain authority – 51). These other brands have certainly been around longer and as a result have had a longer timeframe to capture inbound links to help their keyword rankings, but you’d think that Casper’s massive growth, offline advertising and public relations successes would help to close this gap a bit more significantly than it has.
With 187 total links and only 63 root domains, there is definitely space for Casper to grow their inbound links – both from existing placements they have which might not include links, as well as by creating more onsite content that naturally attracts links.
That being said, it is pretty clear that all the links that Casper currently has were won naturally by looking at their anchor text. They have a lot of links that include the Casper brand, but also have links from words like “sleep”, and “mattress” which are quite clearly from sources who chose to link to the site that way on their own.
With the rise in mobile internet usage, site speed has become increasingly important in both the usability and SEO rankings of websites. In the past website speed was only really noticeable when sites were seconds slower than their competitors and gave a poor user experience as a result, but with the rise of mobile this noticeable time difference has shrunk to less than a second for users. As a result, it is important for online businesses to take the time to optimize their website’s speed at a much more granular level than ever before - so they can not only give the best user experience possible on online devices, but so that they can also get the most SEO value available from their content and make sure that their keyword rankings aren’t being affected by slow site speeds.
Casper does a pretty solid job with their site speed. While their site speed on GTmetrix was clocked in at around 7.5 seconds, they did receive an 85% grade (B) Pagespeed Score and a 78% (C) YSlow Score – which is pretty good compared to most of the other websites we’ve audited on here. The two main areas where Casper could improve their site speed seems to be with images and by minimizing redirects.
Pagespeed gave them a failling grade when it came to specifying image dimensions and a C when it comes to minimizing redirects. Addressing these problem areas should help improve SEO and on-site experience even further. YSlow parrots Pagespeed’s findings that URL redirects could use improvement – so it’s definitely a place that Casper needs to focus on.
Meta Tag Issues
Properly optimizing meta descriptions and other meta tags is a key aspect of SEO for any online business that wants to make sure users and search engines can tell what they’re pages are about. A proper meta description helps get users clicking on your pages when they show up in search results – and while they don’t play a direct role in search engine ranking, they can be the difference between users navigating to your page or opting to go to another website in the search results. Including a strong CTA and keyword-rich description text that search engines bold for users is a great way to be sure that users come to your page.
When it comes to Casper, all meta descriptions are present on their site – which is certainly a good start. While they do run into some issues with duplicative content (mainly their brand name, which makes sense) they have meta descriptions on each page that are relevant to the page and include CTAs on a page-by-page basis. A scant 14% of their meta descriptions are under 70 characters, which should be addressed as soon as possible. Otherwise, they’ve done a very good job making sure that users have all the information they would feasibly want and need to decide to click on the page in the SERP.
Title Tag Issues
Title tags remain the first and most important part of any page when it comes to SEO. Even with a myriad of new Google algorithm updates that have covered topics from content and local rankings to technical implementation, title tags remain first and foremost to good SEO. Having a title tag that is optimized correctly for a keyword that has been identified as possibly driving qualified traffic to generate sales is often the difference between a website that succeeds in generating new sales for a business and one that goes largely unseen by a target audience.
Casper is the first company we’ve audited that isn’t missing a single title tag, and for that deserve major respect. The problem with that is that out of the 150 title tags they have on their website, 149 of them are duplicative insofar as they use "Casper" as their primary title tag first and then what the page is about second. So while they are making sure that every page has a title tag, they aren’t doing much in terms of targeting qualified keywords that could drive SEO traffic. This is a pretty major problem, but one that is relatively simple to fix. Simply switching the order so that the brand name is second in the title tag and a targeted keyword comes first should rectify this problem. While title tags are present – they aren’t really providing all that much value for the brand when it comes to finding qualified keywords outside of their brand name to target to bring in new buyers.
Suggestions to Improve
Casper has a very solid foundation for SEO on their website, but outside of the usual factors, Casper does have some room for general improvement on their website – the most noticeable of which is their canonical tags. It is best practice to have pages self-canonicalizing in most cases to keep your website from being copied easily by scrapers who copy all of your content and then throw it up on a new domain. In Casper’s case 64.67% of their website is not doing this, and while it isn’t a huge issue for SEO or usability, it should be taken care of where appropriate.
Overall Grade: B