1 Hour SEO Audit Challenge: Shake Shack

Shake Shack SEO Audit

Search engine optimization can be extremely complicated for online businesses big and small. While there are some relatively simple concepts like creating great content to generate brand loyalty and increase traffic, there are a number of more technical elements that online businesses need to be aware of in order to take their website to the next level and attract new sources of traffic through SEO. This can be a complex process, but one of the best ways to understand what your business needs is to take a look at what other business are doing right or wrong and applying those lessons to your own website.

This month’s audit is about a brand that I’ve gleefully allowed to play a starring role in clogging my arteries for years – Shake Shack (full disclosure in case it isn’t abundantly clear already: I’m a fan of their food). Shake Shack first started off as a hot dog cart in Madison Square Park back in 2001 – about a 2 minute walk from the Blue Fountain Media offices. In 2004 they set up a permanent kiosk in the park and have since expanded to sell burgers, milkshakes, hotdogs, and ice cream in 11 states and 9 countries.

Just as we’ve done with the rest of our “1 Hour SEO Audit” posts, we’ve based our grades on the following things:

  • Content
  • Schema
  • Backlinks
  • Site Speed
  • Meta Tag Issues
  • Title Tag Issues

Tools Used
In order to keep the 1 Hour SEO Audit Challenge series consistent, I’ve used the same tools we’ve been using for all of our audits in order to give Shake Shack a fair grade:

  • Ragepank
  • Screaming Frog
  • Majestic SEO
  • Mozbar
  • Open Site Explorer
  • Copyscape
  • Microsoft IIS
  • SEMRush


Having great content across a website is one of the best ways to engage users and build brand loyalty while also helping to boost SEO rankings for long tail keywords. Having great content is also a great way to attract relevant and authoritative links without having to go through the outreach process, and can help flush out a domain’s overall backlink profile. Getting these sorts of links is a great way to build your website’s overall organic traffic while simultaneously adhering to Google’s best practices so that you can be sure your organic traffic will grow at a steady rate.

Shake Shack does a pretty good job with their content overall. They do have a blog, which is branded as the “Stand of Something Good Blog”, which we’re big fans of – it makes it more interesting than just having a “blog” button in the top navigation and entices users to click through to see what it's about, while still setting the expectation of a “blog”. They also have a presence on Spotify that they highlight in their posts, which is a very cool way to integrate users directly into the stores – by effectively letting them choose what music their stores will be playing on a monthly basis.

Where the blog falls flat is character count. Most posts are at least 250 words or more, but it’s hard to imagine that they generate much traffic with such a small character count, as various studies have shown that most page 1 blog articles tend to have a significantly higher word count than that. Shake Shack does make up for this lack of character count by including a variety of mouthwatering images, and if you’re a user, that’s great. However, for search engines (which are effectively blind short of img alt tags – which are widely missing), this does little to help them understand what the content is about.

The same can is true for their top inbound link page – the “Custard Calendar” - which shows what flavors they will available have each week. I’m a huge fan of this concept, and it’s very cool to know that things are constantly changing so that no one dessert gets old, but there’s very little that this does for search engines while it’s in .pdf format.

Overall the content that Shake Shack has is great for users, but needs some serious optimization for search engines to understand the value the site brings to its audience.

Grade: C+


One of the biggest themes we’ve identified since we started this series is that a ton of websites are extremely lacking in the schema markup department. It’s not particularly surprising given the amount of extra, manual work that needs to be done by online business owners, but it’s definitely something that businesses need to take a serious look at and press on with. We’ve mentioned that Google Authorship is no longer part of Google’s SERPs, and this plays in to the idea that adding visual elements is an important part to generating more visits to a website in the modern era of SEO.

Shake Shack Map
Shake Shack is no exception to this pattern, and in terms of visual elements in the SERP they actually did worse than Tiffany & Co. from last week's audit. While they do have things like sitelinks and Google maps set up with their locations, it looks as if they don’t have a Google My Business page properly set up to give extra information about their business when someone searches for them by name in Google. This should be addressed immediately. There are also a lot of opportunities for schema on-site, such as: menu, openingHours, address, photo, review, telephone, and logo schema markups.

Grade: N/A


A growing number of online business owners now know that an important part of their website’s SEO is a robust backlink profile. As we’ve touched on a number of times in this series, the ideal backlink profile should contain links that appear natural, while featuring both follow and nofollow links that come from many different sources. Each link should come from a domain that features a high domain authority when available, and the links you get from should come from sites that are relevant to what your business does. The anchor text of each link is also important, and should be varied on a link to link basis so that you don’t just have a couple of anchor text phrases that don’t include keywords you’re trying to actively rank for with individual pages.

Shake Shack has a pretty solid backlink profile. With a domain authority of 70 and 12,134 total links from 3,079 root domains, they have a variety of different links and average only 4 links from each website, which is pretty good in terms of link variation.

In terms of anchor text, Shake Shack also does a pretty decent job. They of course have their branded keywords, but also feature keywords like “park”, “burger”, and “shake” that will help them rank higher for food-related relevant keywords. It’s easy to see as you look through their overall backlink profile that it has largely been built naturally, and there is almost surely no black hat SEO tactics going on.

While everything Shake Shack has is done well, it’s a bit surprising given their stature that their domain authority is only 70. Perhaps it’s because we have a bias living in New York where they are much more of a focus than in other areas of the United States, but it seems like they should be able to get more inbound links from better domain authorities than they currently are doing. There are definitely opportunities for the brand to increase their online stature to more effectively reflect the brand loyalty they so widely enjoy offline.

Grade: B

Site Speed

Now we come to the factor that I personally find the most interesting, as it is so often overlooked. While page speed has played a very small role in SEO ranking historically, it is increasingly becoming a factor as more users access the internet on mobile devices and speed gets more important for usability. On the tail of the news that Google might not even show non-mobile optimized websites in the results for mobile users, there has never been a more important time for businesses to tweak their onsite speeds.

Shake Shack Pagespeed
Compared to our last audit, Tiffany & Co., Shake Shack actually does a pretty good job in this department. However, there are still a lot of things that they need to fix:

Shake Shack Pagespeed-elements
The most glaring is their lack of specified image dimensions. That’s a pretty easy fix, and should help their image heavy content on the blog and sitewide to load a bit quicker than it is currently. The other elements include a lot of the usual suspects like leveraging browser caching, preferring asynchronous resources, and adding expires headers – but another interesting problem is making fewer HTTP requests. This basically means each page should be reducing the amount of files that a user has to load on a page – whether that is a JS file, images, or other development resources.

Grade: B-

Meta Tag Issues

Optimizing meta titles and descriptions is an important step for any business that needs to take on their website to make sure that search engines and users understand what a page is talking about so that proper expectations are set for users who find a result in the SERP. In particular, you want to make sure that any keywords a page is targeting is included in the meta description so that those keywords are highlighted in the SERP result for individual keyword searches.

I’m a huge fan of Shake Shack, their burgers, and their delicious shakes, but I’m not a fan of their meta descriptions. Hopefully they don’t ban me from their locations for pointing this out (I might starve if they did), but they have the same meta description for every single post except for a June 2013 blog post, which is missing meta descriptions altogether.

While “Shake Shack is a modern day ‘roadside’ burger stand serving the most delicious burgers, fries, hot dogs, frozen custard, beer, wine and more!” is a pretty decent meta description for their homepage, it doesn’t make any sense at all to reuse the same meta description sitewide.

These should be changed to reflect what each page is about so that when people search for other keywords that blog posts or the gift card page might be targeting, the description clearly demonstrates what those pages are about to users. This should substantially increase their clickthrough rate and traffic to other pages outside of their homepage.

Though I’m not counting this against Shake Shack because I haven’t touched on it too much in our other audits, the use of meta keywords is ignored by Google, and Shake Shack has them nearly sitewide. It’s interesting then that despite the other SEO problems the site has that Shake Shack actually took the time to include meta keyword descriptions for each page. However, the keywords they do include are also duplicative.

Grade: D- (Read: F, I just don’t want to be blacklisted and forced to abandoned my beloved Chicken Dogs)

Title Tag Issues

There have been a lot of changes to best practices in SEO over the last few years, but a page’s title tag continues to be one of the most important factors for good SEO. Including a title tag that is properly optimized for an appropriate keyword can be the difference between getting very little traffic at all and getting tons of qualified traffic to your website that helps generate a sizeable amount of sales.

While Shake Shack doesn’t have any single massive issue when it comes to title tags like they do in the meta description department, there is definitely room for some improvement. Once again, this is particularly true when it comes to page titles being duplicative. While there isn’t just one page title repeated over and over again, 99.81% of crawlable page titles on their website appear on at least one other page. In order to make sure that each page is targeting a unique set of keywords this really should be fixed, as it will increase traffic dramatically.

Another issue is general title tag lengths. 33.27% of page titles are over the absolute max of 65 characters in the title tag, and 21.28% are below 30 characters. The ideal title tag should be between 55 and 60 characters. Not abiding by this rule means that title tags aren’t displaying properly in Google results, and might be changed by Google automatically as opposed to Shake Shack being able to define exactly what they want their title tags to be. Once again, there are a lot of lost opportunities to generate more organic traffic here.

Grade: C-

General Suggestions

There are lot of things that are wrong from an SEO standpoint on Shake Shack’s website. Luckily a lot of them are relatively basic fixes that, once addressed, should help them get a sizable amount of new traffic. Outside of the things we’ve already mentioned, image optimization needs to occur sitewide (41.65% of images are over 100kb) to help site speed. Canonical tags need to be added to each page on 48.96% of the website as well, and there are a few pages (only .25% to be fair) that need 400 errors resolved.

Furthermore, there are a lot of H1 and H2 tags that are duplicated sitewide, and those should be checked to make sure that each page is providing unique value that will generate different kinds of SEO traffic when possible. Overall, Shake Shack needs to take the time to optimize their website for search engines like they’ve clearly spent the time doing for their users.

Overall Grade: C+

Would you like your website critiqued in next month's SEO audit? Let us know in the comments section below, and we might choose you!

Search Engine Optimization Whitepaper

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