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Site Review:

by Lisa Barone, June 30, 2008

Last week on the Bruce Clay, Inc. blog we introduced you to Joe's Jeans, a funky jean retailer with an edge and absolutely no search engine optimization skills. In our initial blog review, we ran you through some of the high-level SEO blunders that the site was committing. We covered how creating a site entirely in Flash had caused most of the Joe's Jeans site to be completely unspiderable, while also mentioning the site's canonicalization issues and how it failed from a usability perspective.

This time around we're going to dig deeper and create a list of SEO recommendations that we feel, if acted upon, would help the site see the greatest SEO impact. The goal is to highlight issues that you can apply to your own site, as well.

Recommendation #1: Create a static version of the Jeans silo

The Joe's Jeans Web site is built almost entirely in Flash. It may be appealing visually, but it presents a number of obstacles to the search engine optimization process. A site constructed entirely in Flash can lead to unspidered pages, poor usability or even complete dropping from the search engine's index, if not careful.

Because the very important Jeans silo on the Joe's Jeans Web site is built entirely in Flash, none of those products are being indexed by the search engines. This has eliminated any hope they have of ranking for their proprietary terms (brand names, etc). As a result, when a user searches for their favorite brand of Joe's Jeans, they'll be greeted with resellers instead of the actual site. This is because search engines are still unable to read Flash.

The Joe's Jean's home page is also entirely Flash-based. When the search engines spiders (and users without Flash enabled) stop by to visit, they see only this:

Nothing is indexed.

This presents an even bigger problem when you consider that most of the links coming into Joe's Jeans are pointed at the home page. With no HTML links on that page, none of the link popularity generated is being transferred into the rest of the site. The PageRank is literally dead on arrival. This will make it almost impossible for the product pages found in the Shopping silo to rank in Google. Right now we see that they're cached but they have zero PageRank.

Our SEO recommendation would be to create static HTML versions of every Flash page on your Web site, with special care being shown to the pages in the Jeans silo. We feel that these pages represent the site's strongest opportunity to produce original content and to rank for proprietary terms. By creating static versions of these pages and linking to them from your home page, you'll pass PageRank and give yourself a chance to rank for the terms most important to your users.

Recommendation #2: Create Site Content to Engage & Attract Users

To rank, you need content. Every page on your site should have copy designed to help users understand what your site is about and to lead them down the conversion path. The Joe's Jeans Web site is virtually void of any of this.

By failing to offer content, the site is missing valuable opportunities to use keyword-rich text to build trust with their users by explaining what they offer and how they're different/better than their competition. With the exception of the Shopping silo (which has text content that is lean, at best) any content the site does have has been put inside an image or Flash file, rendering it completely useless for users searching for it.

Our SEO recommendations for adding content to help users are as follows:

  • Create Silo Landing Pages: The first thing Joe's Jeans needs to do is to create landing pages for each of its product categories. Landing pages are important to search engine optimization because they're the first step in creating a cohesive site theme. They also give people a place to link to and provide important information for visitors looking to gather information about your product offerings.
  • Create Product Descriptions: The next thing Joe's Jeans should do is create product descriptions for each product it sells on its Web site. Without any information as to what the product is made out of it, the type of fit, or washing instructions, why would anyone take the risk of purchasing online? Your customers want to know what they're getting before they give you their credit card information. Product descriptions give site owners a great opportunity to answer any questions their customers may have, while also paying attention to keywords.
  • Utilize a Sub Navigation System: The more you use your site's keywords on a page, the more likely the engines will find that page relevant to those terms and display it when a user performs a search. This means it is very important for site's to create natural opportunities to add keywords. On a site as lean as, they should consider implementing a sub navigation system on product pages to give them room to use certain terms. The site should also break out its About Us page. Right now, the page is nothing more than pictures of articles they've appeared in. This page should be used to tell customers about the company and help them build trust in the Joe's Jeans brand.

Recommendation #3: Provide Adequate Content for Search Engine Spiders

When we talk about content, we're not only talking about the kind that's important for users. It's equally important to create content that will feed the search engines. Unfortunately, this is an area where Joe's Jeans is doing itself a great disservice.

The Meta data on Joe's Jeans site looks like this:

It's the Meta data for the shopping cart site they're using, not for their site. This is obviously not going to help the search engines properly rank their site.

Here are our SEO recommendations:

As a SEO-conscious site, you want to at least make sure all the standard Meta data is in place. That means filling your Title, Description and Keyword tags with keywords that are relevant to your content. Right now the Joe's Jeans Web site is using keywords relevant to their shopping cart software because they didn't take the time to edit it. This is inexcusable as the X Cart software they are using is highly modifiable. To make their site search engine friendly, Joe's Jeans needs to list their unique Meta data and modify its page naming system to use real page names instead of relying on dynamic pages. Using unique, keyword-rich page names will help the jeans retailer to tie its site themes together in a more cohesive way. Also, by placing their proprietary names on key product pages, it will help the site to rank for those terms, bringing in highly targeted traffic.

The site must also begin using <H1> tags properly. <H1> tags are arguably the most important on page (visible) SEO factor and yet they've been completely ignored on this site. Using <H1s> and Meta data appropriately will help the site to create themes around its site content and lay the foundation for their ranking strategy.

Other content areas that the site should capitalize on include adding keywords to the alt attribute for each image and creating a robots.txt file for the site.

Recommendation #4: Encourage the Engines to Spider Your Site

Once you have a static version of your Web site and an adequate amount of content to help users and the engines understand what you're about, it's time to alert the search engines. One of the easiest ways to do this is to set up an XML feed for the search engines to help them discover the pages on your site. Bruce Clay, Inc. SEO Analyst Maryann Robbins wrote a detailed article about the benefits of building an XML Sitemap that may be of value.

We'd also recommend creating a traditional site map to provide HTML links for every page on your Web site for the search engines to follow and housing your JavaScript externally to move your content up higher and make it more accessible for the search engines.

If you're interested in capitalizing on the vast opportunity to use your Web site to increase conversions and ROI, creating a Web site that is accessible and search engine-friendly is an absolute must. The recommendations listed above will help any Web site increase their rankings in the search engines and accessibility for users.

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