Fix My Site

Does your site suck? Do you need professional advice? Do you not want to pay for this advice? Send me an email, and I'll take a look at your site and provide you with some real suggestions. By real, I mean real.

Monday, June 12, 2006

The One Page Wonder

I'm back from out of town and ready to crank out another site review. Who's next?

Doris, whose site is, is writes:
I really need help generating traffic to my company’s website. People tell me they think my site is cool .. but what in your opinion can I do to generate an following?

I don't know what you mean by an "" following. I visited it and it's some government healthcare site. What kind of following can a government healthcare site have? Anyways, I will infer that you simply mean a following of sorts.

Moving on, your home page design is not bad. Albeit confusing, the drag and drop feature at the top is neat (what am I dragging and dropping for?). The information on there is clearly delineated and the page looks clean and professional. However, there are many things wrong with your site that may be keeping the search engines out.

  1. You have hidden text. This is the number one worst thing you can do.
  2. You only have one, maybe two, legitimate pages that someone can visit without having to create an account and/or sign in (your home page and your FAQ page [which pops up in a new window. Bad, bad, bad]). How can you expect someone to find you using a search engine when you have absolutely zero public depth to your site? Search spiders can't create accounts.
  3. Because there's very little content on your homepage for a search engine to deem valuable, no one will ever be able to find you. The first sign of any sort of (non-hidden) content is buried about 300 or so lines into your (extremely messy) code. Any bot will start trying to work its way through your page and eventually get frustrated and leave because it has to sift through so much structural garbage (see: tables) before it can even get a scrap of meat.
  4. As mentioned above, your code is heinous. As a developer, if someone gave me this site and said, could you please change this to this and make this this color, I would probably recommend an orifice to where they could shove their website. While you do make use of CSS (a bit), you do it in such a way that it is more confusing than just using inline styling (of which you also use a bit). You have six style sheets, and about a million classes (and only one page!). If you wanted to fix something, you would have to sift through every class on six style sheets to find it. Not my idea of fun.
  5. With javascript turned off, your site completely ceases to function. This is bad, because search bots can't do things like visit other pages (if you had any). It's also very bad from an accessibility standpoint. The best practice is that if your site should have some sort of javascript functionality, it should still be very navigable even if the javascript is turned off.
  6. One last thing (there are many more, but I don't have time at the moment to go on). The title to your homepage is " - [home]". Some SEO experts will tell you that your page title is the most important part of your page. For the most part you are right. Unless someone is looking specifically for the phrase "321forkeeps," they're not going to find you, and if they are, they clearly know how already.

As for your site in general, I think the concept is really cool. For certain things, I can see how it's better than some pre-made e-card (certain things being life events). Your example card is good, since it displays the power of your application well, although I might suggest scrapping the 80's club techno music. I would say that, depending on your budget and timetables, you're a few months to many months away from turning this into something that will generate traffic. As for now, keep passing out business cards.


At June 12, 2006 12:26 PM, Blogger JLH said...

I have to agree, there is nothing on the page/site for a search engine to index, much less rank. To get ranked for any of the 500 keywords you have in your Meta Keywords, you will need a ton of supporting pages to make the site an authority on those subject matters (greeting cards, love, halloween etc...) I'm no coder so I can't offer much there, but holy crap that's a lot of code for one page with everything above the fold.

I assume you have a finite amount of cards available, perhaps making a 1 page HTML description of each card, theme, options etc would be a good way to establish the site as an authority in the subject.

If your not willing to build more content that the spiders can follow, I think you'll have to rely on other means of getting visitors such as email, PPC, etc campaigns.

At June 12, 2006 6:13 PM, Anonymous Doris. said...

Thank you very much for the comments -

1. I am interested in a following like 'youtube' has created for themselves. So I was asking for suggestions on what I can do to attain that kind of following.

2. With respect to getting rankings .. I do have direct anchors to subdomain sites which advertise access to creating cards for particular purposes (wedding, baby announcments, birthdays etc) ... if I create more text on these pages to make this site an authority -- is this sufficient or do the pages have to exist within 'this' site?

3. The popups will disappear - thank you ..

4. The title on the homepage will change as well .. thank you.

5. You mention that I have hidden text -- that this is the worst thing that can be done. What you don't mention is that I don't have any incoming links to my sites .. isn't that the worst thing that can be done? .. and how does one go about getting as many lincoming links like has for instance ... I am a newbie at this .. and I tried soliciting sites directly for 3 days .. and got no responses?

6. The code -- yes there is alot of it .. this page participates in the rest of the application which is pretty detailed -- hence the attached codebase .. but I could make it simpler .. thank you.

I do appreciate your analysis -- thank you again! :)

At June 12, 2006 7:26 PM, Blogger Edelman said...

re: doris-

1. Ah, You'd like a following like that, eh? Wouldn't we all :) The reason that site is so popular is because it hosts any user-uploaded video for free, which has high potential for viral popularity. Unfortunately, your site doesn't have quite the potential that youtube does simply because it appears that your product (as in, what people receive in exchange for money, ie not free service) has a narrower audience. Most of the audience of youtube is the younger generation, like 8-25, and your product is aimed at people trying to send out invitations for weddings and such. If you're looking for a younger audience, you might want to create another example video using something like skateboarding or video games.
2. Where are these pages? I can't get to them from the homepage, and even if I could, your site relies so heavily on javascript that the links wouldn't work anyways.
5. Hidden text is the worst thing that can be done. When you're coding out your site, you can't code incoming links. You have to either earn them or pay for them. In terms of Google, I'd rather have no incoming links than hidden text, as at least Google will index your site with no hidden text instead of banning it because you do have some.
6. If I were you, I would not have the homepage be part of the rest of the application. Your homepage is your selling point and your jumpoff point, not your application start point (unless your site is built for a very expectant, specific audience, which yours isn't). Use your homepage to sell and talk about your product. Have a link that says something like "Let's Get Started" (but less cheesy) that takes users to an account creation page or whatever it is that is your first step.

The analysis is my pleasure. I hope this helps you out.

At June 13, 2006 2:21 PM, Anonymous Wÿrm said...

Just to add little bit more.

- use UNIQUE, descriptive title for EACH page.

- get RID of abomination like "<span class="H1">Try it free. right now.</span>" and replace it with proper HEADING elements, use H1 for whole page title, and <h2>Try it free. right now.</h2> <h2>Easy as 1-2-3...</h2> etc. as those ARE headings of each box. if h1, h2 etc. styles are not what they should look for headings USE CSS to change that, that's why it's there for.

- learn to use LISTS (for list of links like navigation, or in content) <ul> and <ol> where apropriate Something in lines of etc.
<li>step 1: SELECT YOUR PHOTOS</li>
<li>step 2: ADD WORDS, TRANSITIONS</li>
<li>step 3: SELECT YOUR MUSIC</li>
<li>step 4: GET YOUR CARD!</li>

- Simplify HTML by moving away from that "table mess" and star to use proper SEMANTICAL html. = Lists for lists, headings for headings etc. Search engines weight more text in headings etc. But more you STUFF headings with words, more you water down that weighting...

- get MORE external links pointing to your site with with PROPER targetted keywords as anchor text. Also internally in page, use proper targetted keywords in your anchors to other pages.

- Nuke the invisible stuff, you can get actually even banned from google because of that.

- Google can read some javascript nowadays, but do not rely on it as a way of navigation. Simple way to get google on each page is to create sitemap. Be it sitemap in html, or google sitemap.

At June 14, 2006 1:59 AM, Anonymous hari said...

get rid of the hidden links (display : none). Search engines(at least the good ones (google)) will ban you for this :).

At June 16, 2006 6:30 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for all of these comments!!

Does anyone have a suggestion on the most efficient way to get 'MANY' external links coming into this site -- I have tried contacting sites directly with very little success?

At June 28, 2006 4:05 AM, Anonymous Carol W said...

doris wrote: "You mention that I have hidden text -- that this is the worst thing that can be done. What you don't mention is that I don't have any incoming links to my sites .. isn't that the worst thing that can be done?"

Some sites have found their listings in search engines, like Google or Yahoo, penalized or banned for hidden text. Penalized means dropped a 100 or more slots in placement ... banned means removed. However, on Yahoo, banned and penalty have the same end result: removed from the index.

So that is pretty bad - as if the site is banned, then all the work put into it is pointless in the end - particularly if adding things like hidden text to rank "better". Yahoo! is a bear and a half to get a penalty lifted (and I can't recall hearing about anyone getting one lifted since Yahoo! rolled out their own search engine last spring).

Hidden text is not really a helpful method for bettering keyword density. Look at the competition - and you may notice their keyword density may be only 2 to 4% and yet still hold a Top 5 position.

Doris continued: ".. and how does one go about getting as many lincoming links like has for instance ... I am a newbie at this .. and I tried soliciting sites directly for 3 days .. and got no responses?"

Depends on how you may be soliciting for links? Many site owners these days ignore "I will link to your site if you link to mine" requests. For a while those type of emails were such a fad that it became a turn-off.

Look at it from my perspective - versus your own, while recalling what others have shared in response about your site and the handling of its contents: what incentive is there for me to link to your site outside of helping you rank better? The hidden text being there, alone, would have me very leery of linking to you as I will be thinking of my own site's well-being. Then there is the heavy use of javascript ...

Some sites may have a page of information about how to link exchange with them. However reciprocal linking only works if the other site does link your way ... and many less than honorable ones obfuscate links with javascript, scripts, or usage of rel="no-follow" - so you link their way but their "reciprocated link" to your site doesn't count in the search engine spider's eyes.

You will also want to have some one-way links mixed in with any reciprocal links pointing your way. Seek out niche directories - assuming that you have submitted to DMOZ (and then forgetting about it to better wait out the unpredictable timetable of 2 weeks to 3 years some editors claim it takes to be listed on there these days). Use "submit URL" +your-niche-keyword to find some places to consider submitting your URL to ... while being careful to avoid link farm sites and the over-populated free-for-all sites (1,000s of links on one page or badly organized to help anyone find your link).

Don't think of links only in terms of getting search engine ranking - but also on if you may get anyone following it from the other site. 3 days is a drop in the bucket on acquiring links to one's site. Ranking, in terms of breaking into the Top 10 or Top 5 placements, may take a few months to over a year ... and this is not factoring in the Google Sandbox that reputedly affects some new sites.

Given the comments about the heavy use of javascript on your own site - may want to review what I wrote about search engine spiders not always able to follow links shared in javascript. This may have you rethinking how you use javascript on your own contents - as you may be inadvertantly obfuscating some of your own contents from the same spiders.

Anonymous wrote: "Does anyone have a suggestion on the most efficient way to get 'MANY' external links coming into this site -- I have tried contacting sites directly with very little success?"

Relax and rethink the concept of 'MANY': Links alone does not a Top 5 ranking make.

Shift the thinking to instead contemplate "how can I seek out quality links for my site?" You don't want to waste time getting "any ol' links" - as what good will a link from Joe's Pet Fish blog help your site about invitations? Yes, it's a link - but that's about it when in comparison to a link from Sally's Birthday Party Ideas site or Jamie's Outdoor Wedding Supplies ... particularly if the anchor text used is 321 For Keeps (your URL broke down into stand-alone words).

In other words, there is more to SEO and ranking thoughts than "links" and "keyword density". There's also keyword placement, related/theme links, anchor text wording, titles, proper structuring (usage of headers as Wymn shared in a comment above above), file naming thoughts, and oh so much more.

Review the comments shared by others your way already and give those bits of advice serious consideration ... a good deal of it will help you with search engine placement, in the long run, more than you think (right now) it will.

Link building is a gradual process - so be patient a bit more about getting links, you will get what you need. :) The more thought you put into it - the better links you will acquire (versus ones that may only link your way for a few months or so ... as you want long-term links pointing your way also and not just "link partners".

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