Search engine optimization is a phenomenal addition to any businesses digital marketing initiatives when it is done correctly. It can provide high quality, profitable, qualified traffic to a business with a relatively small financial outlay. While it can take a lot of time and be a relatively tough to task to put into practice correctly for any business, the time invested can lead to massive gains for any online business. This is particularly true for start-ups, as we explored in last month’s SEO audit of Casper. While SEO can be particularly powerful for a new company that is disrupting a vertical, it can often be even more useful for companies that are creating a new category of business altogether.
Enter our subject for this month’s 1 Hour SEO Audit Challenge – Breather. Breather is a unique service that rents out extremely nice spaces across a multitude of different cities. From business meetings, to yoga, to a quiet study space, Breather doesn’t have a clear purpose for its rooms – they can be anything you want them to be, which makes them relatively unique in their industry.
In the interest of full disclosure, I brought the Corporate Marketing team to one of the Breather locations here in New York City a few weeks ago for our monthly creative brainstorm session. Their spaces were unassuming from the outside, but were great for our purposes – and our 2 hour session in their very nicely maintained space was well worth the price.
While the service itself was quite nice, this series is less about the products companies offer, and more about how well their SEO is set up to get people to their website through organic search. So while we definitely had a good time, that’s not entirely relevant for this audit – which we’ve done like every other “1 Hour SEO Audit Challenge” complete thus far, based on the following categories:
- Site Speed
- Meta Tag Issues
- Title Tag Issues
- Screaming Frog
- Majestic SEO
- Open Site Explorer
- Microsoft IIS
While the allure of content marketing isn’t quite the hot button topic it was last year, it’s still something a lot of businesses take very seriously. Some even go so far as to say that just having great content is enough for a website to have great SEO (here’s a great video by Rand Fishkin debating this). While I might not entirely agree with that sentiment, creating top-notch content that is unique, entertaining, and valuable to a target audience is definitely a great way for companies to generate traffic and increase brand awareness and sales. When done properly, content marketing can help a business attract new audiences to their website by increasing organic rankings for long-tail keywords by building out things like blog posts, videos, and infographics.
Breather does a pretty good job with their content marketing initiatives, particularly with their blog. Their posts are all pretty substantial and each one features a great use of imagery. The blog itself is clean and straightforward, and provides a lot of insights as to who the company is and what people can get by using a Breather space. That being said, there is definitely room for improvement – most importantly from a technical standpoint. For some reason their blog is hosted on a subdomain at blog.breather.com instead of at breather.com/blog. There has been lengthy discussion as to how subdomains hurt SEO value comparatively – and this should be fixed. Furthermore, the site has many pages that are over 100kb (25% of the domain, to be precise), and there are a number of pages that are under 300 words and should have more content added (41.67% of the site). The blog is a great start, but the site needs more written content and image optimization in order to take their initiatives to the next level.
As we discussed in last month’s audit, approximately 0.3% of websites currently have schema markup on them. We’ve discussed this before, but our audits have shown time and time again that this number is certainly true. Most websites are failing utterly when it comes to implementing schema, and for a process that isn’t particularly complicated it’s odd that many businesses still see adding it as an unnecessary luxury when it could provide their businesses with so much more real estate in search engine results – with websites with schema mark-up averaging 4 positions higher in results than their competition.
Breather fails utterly when it comes to Schema markup. They have OG tags for social media, but otherwise they have absolutely no mark-up on their site at all. They don’t even have a Google+ business page to push office locations to their branded search – which is a huge issue considering it is the most important part of their business. Missing schema tags are an expected casualty for a relatively new site and business, but local results for each office location and a Google My Business page are an absolute must. To be missing this information, I can say with certainty, is killing their sign ups – and it should the number 1 priority of the business to get this information added as soon as possible.
When it comes to important aspects for overall SEO success, a strong backlink profile is one of the first elements that every SEO thinks about pretty much straight away. Having a variety of different links from external sources coming to your website is one of the best ways to build a website’s domain authority while helping a business to rank for new keywords on a page by page basis. A variety of different anchor texts is also paramount, making sure that each features a good combination of branded terms, target keywords, and other natural anchor text variations like “read more”.
Breather has one of the most fascinating backlink profiles we’ve seen on this series thus far, and is a great example of how naturally being an interesting business that is a disruptive force can lead to good backlinks with very little SEO involvement, as there is clearly little or almost none in terms of trying to get links. The domain has a total of 235 links from 99 different sources. That’s barely 2 links per source, which is a ridiculously low ratio that points to great link diversity. Even more interesting is that despite the fact that there are so few links, their domain authority is 55. I’ve seen sites with thousands upon thousands of links that have lower domain authorities – and this really speaks to how relevant and strong most of the links Breather has amassed are.
With an average domain authority of 48 from the external sources that are linking to them, the vast majority of Breather’s links are strong, relevant, and authoritative. There is no directory or spammy links at all – and that’s phenomenal. Furthermore, there is a very natural smattering of anchor texts that includes natural, branded, and a few targeted keywords. If there’s one drawback, it’s that there isn’t quite enough targeted keywords – some link remediation, or going through and seeing if external sources might consider changing an anchor text to a more relevant keyword, would be nice. Otherwise, Breather is doing a great job in this department.
Meta Tag Issues
Including meta descriptions and other meta data tags on each page is a key aspect of good SEO for any online business, and is essential in order to make sure that users want to click in your search result. While they don’t have any direct effect on your search engine rankings, they can be the difference between lots of people clicking on your rank 1 search result, and larger percentages of traffic favoring results that are further down the page. Including a strong call to action, and keyword-rich description text that search engines bold for users is a great strategy to help make sure that users click through to your page and are impressed by what you’re offering.
It’s hard to say how Breather is doing with their meta descriptions – because they have none at all. If you just did a double-take, trust me I did the same thing as I was looking through their site, but it’s true. I even manually checked each page because I didn’t think ScreamingFrog had crawled their website correctly. Breather doesn’t have a meta description on any page – not even their homepage. I’m not quite sure how this has happened. For a site that is designed and created so nicely, to not have any meta descriptions at all is likely crippling their click-through rate and making people uneasy even when they’re doing a branded search for Breather. This needs to be fixed immediately, as Breather is likely losing a lot of traffic as a result.
Title Tag Issues
Title tags remain the first and most important part of any page when it comes to Search Engine Optimization tactics. Even with Google’s rolling algorithm updates over the years, which have covered topics that range from content and local rankings to technical implementation, title tags remain first and foremost when it comes to good SEO. Including a title tag that is optimized correctly for keywords, brand name, and location can be the difference between very little SEO traffic and a site that drives tons of qualified traffic that generate new sales.
Breather has title tags on every page, but has a lot of room for improvement when it comes to what each title tag has in terms of content. The first and most obvious issue is the length. 79% of their title tags are either too short or too long, and need to be optimized to the Google recommended length of 55-60 characters. The second issue is keywords. Breather has clearly done almost no keyword research, if at all. They’re currently using their title tags for branding, which is good, but there is no focus on keywords they could potentially rank for being included in title tag. It’s little wonder then that they only rank for 19 keywords total according to SEMRush – and only 3 rank on the first page of Google search results (“breather” - rank 1, “on demand office space” - rank 4, and “hourly office rental nyc” - rank 9).
We’ve touched on it already, but issues with local SEO raise their ugly heads again when it comes to title tags. Specifically on their “locations” pages which don’t have any defined title tag whatsoever. This would be a great opportunity to create pages that are location specific for Breather in each city they operate in, using a title tag along the lines of “Boston Office and Meeting Spaces Ready to Rent | Breather” (Note: this isn’t keyword targeted), and if they want each of their pages to rank better in local results for cities they operate in this would be a smart addition to their site.
With serious increases in mobile internet usage of the last few years, site speed is increasingly more important when it comes to both the usability and SEO ranking of a website. In the past, website speed was only noticeable when sites were seconds slower than their competitors, but with the rise of mobile, the threshold for noticeable upload time has shrunk to less than a second. As a result, it is important for every online business to take the time to optimize their website’s speed at a much more granular leve than ever before – so they can not only give the best user experience possible on mobile devices, but so that they can also make sure site speed isn’t hindering rankings for otherwise phenomenal content that is properly optimized for search engines and valuable to users.
Breather does a pretty decent job with their site speed. Their page load time is under 4 seconds, and their Pagespeed and YSlow scores are both in the high 70s – which means that there are a number of things that are being done correctly, but still some definite room for improvement.
Pagespeed recommends minimized redirects and image optimizations. This is a relatively easy fix – Breather just needs to make sure that they include image dimensions with their [img] tags, their running their images through optimization software pre-upload, and that they’re serving scaled images when they can.
YSlow recommends a number of more difficult technical changes, including avoiding RL redirects and reducing DNS lookups. While YSlow recommendations don’t make sense for every website, Breather should take a look back through some of their technical reports in Google Webmaster Tools and see what they can do to make fewer HTTP requests and how they might more effectively implement cookies if it is deemed to be a sensible decision for the business.
I normally leave this section for a variety of other small issues that didn’t really fall into the categories of the audit, but for Breather I have to re-iterate the fact that not having a Google My Business page and local-friendly pages needs to be the priority of any SEO efforts going forward. It’s mind-boggling that this isn’t taking place frankly.
When someone searches for “breather nyc” they should immediately see where the locations are – right now the only thing that comes up for that search is the breather homepage and a PPC ad that takes people to the homepage (that’s an entirely different issue I’m not even going to touch right now). For a brand that does so much right with their service, not having any sort of local SEO is a major, major flaw, and I really hope the good people over at Breather do something about this in the very near future. The amount of potential business they are likely losing out on as a result is likely significant.
Overall Grade: C