SEO Site Audit Case Study – Halfords.co.uk

Domain Statistics

Halfords.com is a 15 year old website with a good domain authority and Google page rank 5 for the homepage. The main stats are as follows:

  • The domain halfords.com has IP address 195.219.49.11 and is located in UK.
  • The domain’s age is 15 year(s), 2 month(s).
  • Domain PR  Domain Google PageRank    RP PR 5
  • Alexa Rank  Alexa Rank                 10355
  • Compete Rank  Compete Rank in Compete.Com               128960
  • Compete Traffic  Traffic according to Compete.Com        11823
  • DMOZ Listing  DMOZ Listing         Yes
  • Yahoo! Dir Listing  Yahoo! Dir Listing         Yes
  • Rel= canonical has been implemented on all pages
  • ok  0 pages have duplicate rel=”canonical” code
  • ok  0 pages have conflicting character encoding

Content and Structure Crawl Stats

I looked at the main SEO factors of page titles, meta description, content, graphic alt text, sitemap, robots.txtx and URL structure. Below are the most important metrics, the best practices and what was found following an http://pro.seomoz.org/tools/crawl-test  crawl of Halfords.com.

seofactorstable

Server Response Codes

Crawl-ability affects the way the search engines crawl and index the site. You want to see a high number 1xx or 2xx server response; a few 301/302 redirects and even fewer error pages indicated by 4xx and 5xx pages. A crawl test using http://pro.seomoz.org/tools/crawl-test produced 3885 pages with the following outcomes:

  • 2719 (70%) pages are good to crawl (their server response code is 200)
  • 9 (0.23%) pages redirect to other pages (their server response code is 301)
  • 690 (18%) pages redirect to other pages (their server response code is 302)
  • 1 pages have server errors (their server response code is 404)
  • 1 pages have server errors (their server response code is 500)

Server response 301 redirects pass link and page authority value but 302’s are meant for temporary redirects. We would need to investigate the high number of 302 server responses to determine if they are a correct use.

Load Speed

Google has stated load speed could be a factor in ranking similar sites.  The PageSpeed Score indicates how much faster a page could be. A high score indicates little room for improvement, while a lower score indicates more room for improvement.

Running Halfords.com in Google page speed tool  got an overall PageSpeed Score of 77 (out of 100) which is fast enough.  However a crawl of the site showed a warning 2727 pages have too big size (> 100 kB) which can affect load speed of the page and site. Main improvement recommendations are to leverage browser caching, combine images into CSS sprites and specify a cache validator.

Duplicate Content

Some product description has been copied from elsewhere possibly the manufacturers’ catalogue. An example is seen on the Carrera Kraken Mountain Bike page where copyscape.com has detected duplicate content with other websites.

Information Architecture

Information architecture affects the way search engines robots navigate the site and crucially also the user experience. Here we look at how easy it is for information top flow through Halfords site.

  • Site navigation: The main departments are represented by main categories from homepage with dropdown features detailing sections. This gives a good user experience and is search engine friendly.
  • Labelling and naming conventions: The category labelling is user friendly and keyword rich and without being over optimised.
  • Directory structures: The directory structure goes from main navigation to individual products in 3 layers or less which is what is recommended.

URLS

It is important to use a URL that includes a keyword, effectively describes its corresponding content and is not much longer than 115 characters. The URL’s on the site are not search engine or human friendly for example:

Observed: http://www.halfords.com/webapp/wcs/stores/servlet/categorydisplay_storeId_10001_catalogId_10151_categoryId_165555_langId_-1

It is better to implement a URL rewrite to get a URL like “Halfords.com/bikes”.

Page titles

Some page titles are not optimised – e.g. hybrid bikes category shows “Halfords | Hybrid Bikes | Best Hybrid Bike | Hybrid Bikes Reviews”. The word reviews should be substituted with a “buy” term to better describe the page.

Competitor Benchmark Report

Halfords.com is effectively in three markets of bikes, car accessories and camping. I benchmarked the bikes and car accessories keywords of Halfords.com against main competitors of each industry. The competing sites with high keywords visibility are evanscycles.com for bikes and eurospares.com for car accessories.

The keywords I used were selected by scraping the respective parts of the Halfords.com site using Google keyword tool. The resulting keywords for bikes and car parts can be seen in appendix 1.

Keywords Visibility Reports

In general Halfords.com has more visibility for the keywords than evanscycles.com in Google and Bing. The keywords visibility report shows Halfords has 59 keywords in top 10 (first page) of Google and Bing compared to 36 for evanscycles.com.

 

Keywords visibility report

The visibility of 136 keywords related to car accessories shows Halfords.com has 102 keywords in the top 10 first of Google and Bing compared to 37 for eurocarparts.com.

 

Keywords visibility report - car maintenance

Backlink History

The historical backlink history report is used to demonstrate the velocity and diversity of link acquisition. It should ideally show a steady rise in both number of links and linking domains over time.

Backlink profiles – Halfords.com/bikes vs. evanscycles.com/categories/bikes.

The historical backlink profile shows Halfords has had a higher velocity of links since October 2010 from a higher diversity of domains than evanscycles.com.

 

The chart below shows rate of link acquisition and linking domains to halfords.com/car-maintenance has also increased significantly since October 2010 whereas eurocarparts.com/car-parts has had a steady increase. It is noticeable however that http://www.eurocarparts.com/car-parts has surpassed Halfords in its diversity of linking domains which is a positive aspect of their profile.

 

Anchor Text Distribution

It is good to have some keyword rich anchor text links without overdoing it which can result in a Google penguin update penalty. A good rule of thumb is that 75% of anchor texts should be brand and the rest a mixture of money term keywords. So a high percentage of brand and other anchor text is a good indication of a healthy backlink profile.

Halfords.com/bikes has a healthy distribution of anchor texts with only 25% being keyword rich “bikes”. The majority of evanscycles.com/categories/bikes links (67%) are internal which do not pass as much value.

 

MajesticSEO Anchor text diversity

Below pie chart shows the anchor text report for eurocarparts.com/car-parts page has far more keyword rich anchor texts such as “car parts” (54%) than halfords.com/car-maintenance. This could be considered over optimised under the Penguin update which suggests only about 20-25% of anchor texts should be keyword rich money terms.

MajesticSEO Anchor text diversity car parts

Page Metrics

A high page authority demonstrates likelihood of the page to rank well for given keywords regardless of content.

Comparison of evanscycles.com shows they have a lower page authority than Halfords.com/bikes. Although they have more external links, Halfords have more links in total, more links to root and C blocks (diversity).  Halfords also has a better social profile in terms of likes and shares on Facebook, Twitter and Goggle +1. Evans has more external followed links which is a positive vote in their favour.

Open site explorer site metrics

The car maintenance comparison shows halfords.com/car-maintenance  has a higher page authority than eurocarparts.com/car-parts possibly as result of more links in total. This is despite eurocarparts.com/car-parts having more followed links, more diversity in Linking, links to root domain and C blocks and social shares.  There is a better SEOmoz authority (page MozRank and MozTrust) for eurocarparts.com/car-parts due to the better link profile.

Open site explorer site metrics car parts

Keywords – Bikes & Car Maintenance/Accessories

Adwords Keywords list

BUPA.co.uk SEO review

I carried out a very brief review of bupa.co.uk pages and below are some highlighted potential SEO improvements, reasoning why it needs to be done and some of the benefits.

 

Good practices observed

  • There is good use of H1’s and H2’s and image alt tags
  • There is a good use of breadcrumbs
  • The page titles are SEO friendly
  • There is internal linking to related content but poor contextual linking.

URL Structure

Some url’s are too long (e.g. http://www.bupa.co.uk/individuals/health-information/directory/s/stroke) .

Best practice is to “try and stick to 3 – 5 words as research shows that by sticking to short

URLs you get both better rankings and better click-through.” Read more: searchenginejournal.com-seo best practices for url structure

 

Internal contextual linking

There is little or no internal contextual linking in some articles. An increase in contextual linking might offer site visitors a better user experience and improve search engine ranking of affected pages.

Article Images

Most articles lack images which could be used to emphasis keyword with alt tags and make user better user experience.

Social/community engagement

The social share buttons should appear at the end of an article not on side of page. This could prompt readers to share more content.

The retired “Google buzz” button still showing and should be substituted with a Google plus button.

 

Duplicate content

Some pages are duplicate content so they may not be indexed by the search engines. For example http://www.bupa.co.uk/individuals/ is a duplicate of the homepage http://www.bupa.co.uk. So whereas a similar non-duplicate page http://www.bupa.co.uk/business is indexed, http://www.bupa.co.uk/individuals/ does not appear to be as per screen shots below. I would therefore recommend writing of original content for http://www.bupa.co.uk/individuals/ to ensure it ranks.

 

 

Google Releases Disavow Tool

Google has finally released a disavow tool for cleaning up bad links. It was widely expected after hinting that Google were working on a tool similar to Bing’s disavowing tool. The tool has also been much needed following Google’s Penguin update which aimed at penalising sites with spam backlinks. This lead to issues of some website owners bombing their competitors sites with bad links – an act know as negative SEO. This further lead to link hostage with some site owners extorting money from webmaster in order to remove the link pointing to their site and ensuing legal threats.

The tool however comes with several warnings as expressed in the release video. Firstly, and foremost it is not for every mom and pop set-up but aimed at advanced users like rel=canonical.

Secondly, SEO’s should not jump in and variously disavow links they think could be below par. The main point of starting should be following a natural links letter from Google. In it Google may even point out a few examples of the kind of links they find to be unnatural. You may also have some links as result of previous spam SEO link building activity that you are not proud of and now wish to disassociate with.

Also, if some links are clearly not ones you would like pointing to your site then you should go ahead and disavow them. These can be malicious links such as ones from porn and gambling sites possibly a result of negative SEO.

Google also suggest the tool should be used only after trying to manually getting backlinks taken down. A take down would be better since other search engines and individuals will still see the bad links pointing to your site.

One thing to note is that Google will not automatically and immediately work on the disavow request. Firstly they reserve the right to ignore the request in the same way they may ignore a rel=canonical pointing to a 404 for instance. The request will also take a while to work as Google recrawls the sites though you can point out your disavow request in a reconsideration. Lastly, if you later change your mind then it will take a lot longer to remove the disavow and may not give the 100% link value it did.

Check the disavow tool here

Guest Blogging for Links- Google’s View

Guest blogging for links has become a common practice amongst link builders lately due to doors shutting on other traditional forms of link building. However many have wondered whether Google would view such practice as an illicit form of link acquisition so it was interesting to get an word from Matt Cutts on the subject.

Google’s position appears to be that If you are a high quality blogger and want to write posts on others community space to bring knowledge and insight, then that should be welcome as a positive contribution. This both informs and brings insight to a community from a blogger that is possibly less well known.

What Google don’t want is people offering the same post multiple times or spinning the same content and offering it elsewhere. They also discourage the practice of posting low quality content such as those outsourced to freelance writers who are clearly not experts in the field.

Writing short guest posts is another sign of low quality contribution. This happens when the guest blogger aims to write the bare minimum of 300 words just to get the post published on another site just for links.

It is good that Google has cleared the air on this now common way of link building. However, it should not be viewed as cart blanch the only officially acceptable way of acquiring links. Sure guest posts contribute to the growth of content online as quality blogs invite writer to fill space and inform their readers. It should be used as part of an overall link building strategy.

Why Some SEO Recommendations Are Never Implemented

With all the best intentions and will in the world clients come to SEO’s for assistance in improving their website goals. As an SEO we draw up wonderful documents with website audit and SEO strategy that we are proud to present to the client…. then nothing happens. What are reasons for clients failing to implement the very thing they sought from the consultant? Apparently main reasons include:

Lack of support from top management

Yeah we are dealing with middle management who has the desire and all the will in the world but guys at the top are not sold into the idea or the priorities are elsewhere.

Bureaucracy

Depending on the size of the organisation, the internal red tape can be the main bottle neck

Staff Changes

It can be quite disruptive when a crucial clog in the proposed strategy suddenly moves either internally or out of the company and the SEO consultant has to sell the idea again to their replacement.

Overwhelming proposal

Weighty documents might look good as justification for a substantial spend but can be counterproductive if no one gets the time to read them thoroughly.

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