We have our very first brave shop owner’s report! Nancy from Palmetto Engraving took the plunge and sent us her site to audit. Before we get started, I must ask you NOT to create a bunch of test accounts on Nancy’s site as you look around. I would also suggest that poorly written suggestions and nonconstructive comments are not only counterproductive, but I will not publish anything but constructive suggestions, questions and criticism.
First, kudos to Nancy and her team as the site has completely valid code and is error free. As with any php driven website software, this is a challenging task at times.
Next we looked at the load speed of her main page. The speed was 37.5 seconds at 28.8kbs. The standard is 30 seconds, but current advances in Internet speed and browser ability really make this speed acceptable. Not to say it couldn’t be or shouldn’t be improved on, but it’s fine in the overall scope of things.
Next we move in the the <head> elements:
The page title is the most important element in this data. We know this is huge on page ranking factor. In order to help you, this element should be short, 60 characters or so and 100% relevant. The title for Palmetto is 57 characters long and 100% relevant. The biggest issue here, is that the title is missing the mark.
Palmetto Engraving, Where Your Thoughts Become Treasures!
While we have no desire to see some of the spammy tactics out there used in any title, we would like to see some better use of keywords here. Something like below is probably more effective.
Personalized Gifts – Palmetto Engraving
We will not be discussing the Meta keyword tag as it’s no longer used and completely irrelevant to report on.
The Meta description on the other hand, is not used for rank, but has the very important job of selling searchers on your page — eliciting a click through.
The current description is just the generated Zen Cart description and should be changed to use the custom tag features. Keyword lists such as this will likely be completely ignored by Google in search results anyhow, but providing a relevant and helpful description can greatly increase Google’s use of it and thus your click through.
Palmetto Engraving – Jewelry Clocks Gift Certificates Pet Markers Door Knockers Military Plaques Bookmarks Ornaments Ceramic Tile Murals Entertaining Achievement/Awards Wall Art Car Accessories Gift Ideas Identity Kids Gifts Office Misc. Home Office Signs Photo Panels/ Frames Memory Boxes Custom Mugs Name Tags/Badges custom gifts, custom gift, awards, promotional items
While Palmetto Engraving hasn’t any issues with their canonical urls in Google’s cache, we can clearly see that the proper canonical www url and the non both work on the main page. You see, Zen Cart properly directs canonical urls for other pages… Just not the main page.
Normally, we would expect to see Google have one non-canonical url (IE, the main page), but in this case, Palmetto’s main page is not indexed. This is because the necessary bug fix to repair this is lacking on this Zen Cart, so hiding in the <head> of the main page is a nasty noindex, nofollow tag.
<meta name=”robots” content=”noindex, nofollow” />
On a canonical note we also noticed that the default indexes are not setup and redirected properly as the index.php is allowed to load, undirected.
The cart’s 404 pages are working properly and the domain url has a (toolbar) PageRank 2, which doesn’t have any issue with canonical PR splitting.
Palmetto is well indexed in Google, aside from the domain url and we see that Bing and Yahoo appear to be coming along as well.
We were not able to locate a search engine sitemap, nor robots.txt for Palmetto. While the sitemap is really unnecessary and just a helpful thing to do, the robots.txt is really another matter all together. There are pages in your Zen Cart that just should not be crawled, pages like contact and shopping cart have no value to a search engine’s index.
We would like to see shop owners using the built in robots skip function to properly add a noindex, nofollow tag to these types of pages… But they at least should be blocked from crawl with robots.txt. Additionally, if you are using a sitemap.xml… This is where it should be referenced for the autodiscovery.
User-agent: * Disallow:
This essentially allows search crawler access to everything…. even /cgi_bin/. The robots.txt is also a great spot to stop search engines from crawling pages that have sort and action parameters for example. While Bing, does not support the use of wildcards, Yahoo and Google do. So adding something like below to specific user agents for Yahoo and Google will keep them from crawling your sorted pages.
User-agent: Googlebot Disallow: /*&sort=*
We counted 23 backlinks to Palmetto, from domains other than their own. This is pretty low and link building needs to become a higher priority for their optimization efforts.
Palmetto is hosted on a dedicated IP and is the only domain on the IP. We like this, as the chance of getting a bad rap from poor neighbors on the same server is greatly reduced.
The largest part of our site report is a hand audit of the pages and usability. Jack and I both audited the site independently and then discussed and compiled our results. Below is the list of some of issues we found on Palmetto.
- We found your site to be nicely laid out and and easy to navigate. Very nice job on the template and over all navigational design.
- Your Zen Cart appears to be lacking at least some bug fixes and or security patches, as you currently have your main page blocked from indexing by the search engines. This has been a known bug for a very long time, and there has been a published patch to correct this for almost as long. We recommend you fully patch your cart as soon as possible.
- We would advise you to place a phone number in a prominent location throughout your site. eg: in the header, to give troubled customers a sense of security, and a means of contacting someone should an issue arise. Without it shoppers tend to abandon the cart sales when they encounter any issues what so ever. They will not go looking for a contact number!
- We where not able to locate an FAQ page. This coupled with the lack of an easy to find phone number will leave a troubled customer feeling they have no other choice but to abandon the cart should issues arise.
- Your main page is lacking textual content. This will make it very challenging for you to rank well in the search engines.
- While some of your category and product pages do have adequate text in order to rank, others have little to no textual content. We would advise you to add at least one paragraph of well formatted and descriptive text to each of these pages in order to help you rank better within the search results.
- We would advise you to improve on your Privacy Notice.
- You have not nofollowed ancillary page links within your site to stop the flow of PageRank and prevent the crawlers from crawling these pages unnecessarily wasting precious crawl time.
- Note that your login/registration page contains quite a few elements which notably result in checkout abandonment. The referral section is just an unnecessary step slowing checkout down. Your button are red (a stop color) and decidedly difficult to read and realize. Customer service links here are simply an opportunity for a shopper to click away.
- On your shopping cart page we recommend that you remove the check boxes and instead use just the inline delete button for each line item and keep your “update” button under the whole cart. This is a very common area for shopper confusion. Same button issue here.
- Removal of the side bars during the checkout process will reduce customer distraction as well as checkout abandonment. Once the customer has committed to the checkout process you should avoid giving them opportunities to click away and rather funnel then through checkout without distraction.
- It is poor usability to open your own pages (IE footer links) in a new window, the should open in the same window.
- While we generally, for most stores recommend sending the shopper directly to the shopping cart upon adding a product, not sending them can work as well. However, your system generates this message “Successfully added Product to the cart …” which is not very notable and does not contain a link to the shopping cart page.
- The RSS feed link in your footer (http://www.palmettoengraving.net/index.php?main_page=rss_feed&feed=new_products) has no products, this should likely be changed to categories, featured or all products so it always contains information.
- Product index pages like this (http://www.palmettoengraving.net/index.php?main_page=index&cPath=56) would greatly benefit from displaying the product description snippets.
I want to thank Nancy for allowing us to audit and blog their results. I invite you all to comment any additional factors you see that can help Palmetto improve thier Zen Cart.