Most businesses understand that in order to truly succeed online they need to do two things – have a great website that is accessible on all devices, and rank well for key terms when users are searching for products or services they provide in search engines. This is easier said than done – and search engine optimization is increasingly becoming something that requires a business to not just make slight technical tweaks to their site in order to rank – but to actually go out and do old school marketing tactics to help them get the exposure and links that are required for good SEO ranking.
This often means that taking the time to do SEO properly and attract the level of massive organic traffic that businesses are looking for is a much more significant financial and time outlay than it has ever been before. That being said, the investment can still lead to massive ROI gains for any business that is looking to establish themselves as a leader in their vertical online.
With Halloween right around the corner, it felt appropriate to turn our sights in this month’s SEO audit towards businesses that flourish during the scaretastic season in order to see how well companies that are focused on Halloween are doing with their SEO efforts. While massive Halloween-friendly retailers like Party City would have made for an ideal audit, the reality is that there is no way I could have done anything even close to complete with the size of their websites.
As a result, we looked into the more niche online retailers of Halloween, and settled on custom fit vampire fang retailer VampFangs.com. Founded in 1993 in Salem Massachusetts, VampFangs.com has become one of the leading retailers of custom fit fangs worldwide. They offer all sorts of Halloween and “Gothic/Alternative/Vampire” goods that range from fangs to contact lenses, and even scented body oils.
We’ve made a slight edit to our “Schema” section in an effort to provide a bit more insight. If you’ve read any of our previous audits you’re well acquainted with the fact that most businesses simply don’t have schema on their site whatsoever. As a result, we’ve looked in recent audits at things like Sitelinks and Google My Business page. In order to try and reflect this a bit clearer, we’ve changed this grading rubric’s name to: “Schema and SERP Friendliness”. The grading has remained unchanged – we’re just making the section a bit more reflective of what we’re looking at. Otherwise, just like every other “1 Hour SEO Audit Challenge” we’ve completed, we’ve based grading on the following categories:
- Schema and SERP Friendliness
- Site Speed
- Meta Tag Issues
- Title Tag Issues
- Screaming Frog
- Open Site Explorer
- Microsoft IIS
While talk of content marketing being king has waned somewhat in recent months, the reality remains that when it comes to creating the ideal website for search engine visibility and organic traffic, content is one of the first and most important elements a business needs to focus on. Creating fantastic content not only helps keep visitors engaged with your website and coming back to look at new content you provide – it also provides your website with a vehicle with which it can rank for relevant keywords that are added to the header tags, body text, and other important sections of your content. For a full list of things you can do to optimize your blog content for search, you can check out one of my more recent blog posts here.
With the recent growth in content marketing being a standard for websites across most verticals, it is more important than ever before that businesses not only produce content – but content that is truly unique and valuable to audiences.
Vampfangs.com has a lot of room for improvement when it comes to their content marketing initiatives. While they do have a blog, there are only a handful of posts current on there, and most are not very substantial at all. They lack imagery, would is really a necessity for things like Halloween contact lenses and fang products, and most posts are about how the business is improving or growing. To take things to the next level they really need to start thinking about how they can write content that actually helps their users. While informing people about company policy changes and growth is a nice start, it should be a very small percentage of the overall content on the blog, not the majority.
Outside of the blog there are some positives. Most pages feature content that doesn’t go overboard and cause long load times – only a handful of pages go over the suggested size of 100kb by Screaming Frog, which is a great sign:
That being said, there is also an issue in the footer of the site. There are some links to other websites that are partner sites/product sites that Vampfangs.com carries – these links are sitewide and are marked as followed. This goes against Google best practices – while the links can stay, they should be marked immediately as nofollow or removed altogether as soon as possible.
Schema and SERP Friendliness
I touched on it briefly in the introduction, but if there’s one section of these audits that is continuously underwhelming it has been our continuing search for a site that does schema well. I’ve mentioned it in lots of these audits, but as of April 2014, only .3% of websites feature any sort of markup at all and our audits have continuously come up empty when looking for this on the sites we’ve chosen. Websites really need to take this more seriously, because whether it’s getting additional images in the search engine results or providing business information like logos and locations, schema can do so much to give businesses added real estate in branded and product search results pages.
In an effort to provide a bit more insight I’ve expanded this section to include other things that make a website more accessible on a search engine results page by providing more real estate – this includes sitelinks, Google My Business data, and schema mark up.
The great thing about VampFangs.com is that they are actually in the very, very small minority of websites that have taken the time to do some kind of schema. Even if it is only person schema on a few of their blog posts, it’s something – and that’s great to see, particularly from a website that clearly doesn’t have the budget or resources of much larger retailers that are missing schema altogether.
VampFangs.com also has sitelinks set up for their branded search, which is a great way to get people to go to product pages directly from a branded search – and they’ve clearly taken the time to customize this somewhat within the Google Search Console so that their best selling products are showing up and things like “About Us” pages are not.
One of the most important things to have when trying to be an authoritative website in your space is a variety of backlinks coming from other authoritative websites. Having a good mix of equity-passing links and nofollow links that come with different anchor text, different sources, and to different pages on your domain is a great way to quickly and efficiently increase your domain authority and rankings at the same time. This is obviously easier said than done, and requires a good mix of good natural links from audiences who read your content and feel that it is valuable enough to link back to and a measure of digital PR to get your company’s name in front of sources who are going to be interested about writing what you do.
In a lot of ways, VampFangs.com has many of the same issues as our previous audit: RBH Sound. There is a good platform from which they can build their backlink profile, but right now it needs a lot of work. With a domain authority of 39 and only 941 links coming from 122 different website domains – VampFangs.com needs to work on their reach and acquiring new links from authoritative websites. I don’t think there’s any doubt that their backlink profile is more or less entirely natural (the footer links I’ve mentioned in the content section and any sort of reciprocation they’re getting from their vendors for including those aside), and that’s a good start – but they need to also work on getting better mentions in the trade publications, blogs, and more. With Halloween right around the corner, now would definitely be a good time to start these kinds of initiatives.
The anchor text that Vampfangs.com’s links come from certainly seems to support the claim that their links are more or less entirely natural. Their top terms are almost entirely branded, with the only differentiations coming from keywords like “fangs” “superstore” and “alternative”’. While this is good, it would be nice to see a bit more variation around anchor text, particularly around some of the products that are offered outside of just fangs – even though that is certainly their main product.
Good SEO is all about providing a great user experience and being rewarded for it by search engines with great rankings. As a result, while site speed isn’t the biggest ranking factor for good SEO ranking, it is certainly one of the most important when it comes to giving users a great experience – particularly on mobile devices. Often, it is also one of the easiest to fix through things like technical changes, image optimization, and better site hosting providers – so there is really very few excuses to fail your audience when it comes to your site loading slowly. Not only does it annoy users – but it can often cause them to leave, losing you sales in the process.
While the site might look a bit dated in terms of layout, Vampfangs cashes in on its relatively minimalistic look when it comes to site speed – receiving an impressive 90% score from PageSpeed, and featuring a homepage that loads in less than 3 seconds.
While the site is by no means failing users when it comes to site speed, there are a number of easy fixes that VampFangs.com can make to their website to make it load even faster. The most problematic of the bunch is the fact that their homepage is missing and a header 1 (H1) tag. This needs to be fixed immediately – it will add lots of value to the website, as H1 tags are the second most important element on a page after a title tag and will help the homepage in particular rank for target keywords much more efficiently:
Meta Tag Issues
We’ve discussed how disappointed we’ve been with schema markup in this series so far – but surprisingly a close second when it comes to problems is meta descriptions and other assorted meta tags. Many businesses willfully ignore defining meta descriptions for each page, allowing Google to just pull the first text they find on a page in order to populate it that way. While this means that at least there is text in the meta description it can actually be detrimental to click through rate on your posts. Meta descriptions that don’t include focus keywords or a strong call to action add little to no value and should be defined for this reason.
While VampFangs.com doesn’t do as poor a job with meta descriptions as RBH Sound did last month, there is certainly room for improvement. They are missing meta descriptions on about 58% of their site, and many are over character limit or duplicative from other pages. This should be addressed as quickly as possible – it will help increase click through rate and when changes are made across as many as the 1,000 pages VampFangs.com should ideally be addressing they could see significant organic traffic increases very quickly because their pages will look much more enticing in google search engine result pages.
A bigger issue that we found in terms of meta tags in this audit was the inclusion of meta keyword tags on almost a quarter of the VampFangs.com website. At one point having this was helpful for search engine results rank – nowadays Google has expressly stated that they don’t want websites to include them. These should be removed immediately, as they’re likely doing more harm than good to the VampFangs.com search engine rankings.
Title Tag Issues
I’ve mentioned this many times in previous audits, and already hinted at it earlier – but title tags is the most important on-site element to get right when trying to optimize content for search engine rankings. Google algorithms have changed a lot over the years – but the fact of the matter is that title tags remain one of the key indicators, and it is little surprise considering that they are the first thing a user sees and clicks on when it comes to choosing a particular result that shows up in a search engine. Making sure that your title tag is optimized for relevant keywords at a range of 55-60 characters can often be the difference between a website attracting lots of organic traffic or being completely useless in the grand scheme of attracting organic traffic.
VampFangs.com does a pretty good job with their title tags. Across the 1145 pages crawled, not a single page was missing a title tag, and only about 28% of the site featured title tags that were slightly longer or shorter than the 55-60 character range suggested by most SEO professionals. While some pages do have duplicative elements, they are entirely categories that a product falls under, such as “Alchemy Gothic”, which is featured for a variety of products. The only thing we’d recommend there is to put the specific product first in title tags that feature categories as well (i.e. “Imperial Dragon Watch – Alchemy Gothic”, as opposed to the current “Alchemy Gothic – Imperial Dragon Watch”) as it will help rank for those specific products, which should be the aim of these pages.
For a website that is relatively small for an ecommerce retailer, VampFangs does a surprisingly good job. It is one of the best examples we’ve had on this series so far that speaks to not judging a website by its design. While I think many people would have guessed that a site with a relatively dated design would have issues like meta keyword tags, I don’t think many would have anticipated that the site would feature schema, solid site speed, and by and large surprisingly well-optimized title tags.
That being said, the site is hampered by content that needs a lot of work and very strange footer links that need to be addressed immediately. Moving forward, a lot of work should be put into their content marketing intiatives. It is extremely lacking right now and it will help the site rank for more longtail keywords around their product offerings so that they can flush out the amount of keywords they currently rank for (above).
Overall Grade: B-