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Live Site Audit of TheBBQDepot #SEMrushchat with Arsen Rabinovich

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Live Site Audit of TheBBQDepot #SEMrushchat with Arsen Rabinovich

Becky Shindell
Live Site Audit of TheBBQDepot #SEMrushchat with Arsen Rabinovich

There is no such thing as a perfect website, is there? That becomes even truer when it comes to on-site SEO. Search engine algorithms evolve very frequently, and we need to keep updating various elements and markup on our site to reflect the ever-changing preferences of search bots.

Here on #SEMrushchat we frequently do technical SEO audits of selected sites. This time, we chose thebbqdepot.com, and we brought Arsen Rabinovich, SEO expert, speaker, and founder of Los Angeles-based agency TopHatRank to examine the site and share his perspective on how to improve the SEO elements on the website. Our other chat participants jumped in with their suggestions, here's what they had to say:

Q1. At first glance, what is one thing you would definitely change on the website?

Arsen observed that the site begs numerous changes from the SEO point of view, and so he preferred to start with a non-SEO recommendation: to add ratings from third-party review sites to various pages so that visitors don’t have any uncertainties or doubts about the quality of the products. This option would combine cost savings with business validation. Here are some of his other recommendations:

The user experience (UX) of the site leaves much to be desired. Chat participants were quick to point out the gaps in UX, such as the lack of focus, information overload, confusing navigation, and the excess density of text, links, and graphics when viewed on mobile devices.

The copy and images on the site need a bit of rework. The current copy doesn’t project the ideal lifestyle their target audience is looking for, which in this case, is outdoor activities that friends and family can enjoy together.

Aesthetics, layouts, and other visuals are critical in forming first impressions on visitors’ minds. Thebbqdepot.com lacks high-resolution images. Further, it is built on BigCommerce, which doesn’t offer easily-customizable templates or themes by default.

Some of the other pro-tips from our chat participants included:

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Q2. Out of the top 3 issues that SEMrush’s Site Audit found crawling 10,881 pages, which would you fix first?

The top issues were:

  1. 39 issues with mixed content

  2. 7 pages have slow load speed

  3. 45 pages returned 4xx status code

Arsen gives first priority to the 404s. All broken links need fixing or redirecting if they’re not intentional. They might have backlinks which are leading nowhere at the moment, resulting in lost link juice. Worse, they might be part of a conversion funnel, leaving customers stranded in the middle, and turning them away as a result.

Arsen also found a couple of other critical issues, like pages in the XML sitemap (which doesn’t regenerate automatically) that are redirected, and duplicate titles caused by improperly handled pagination and lack of canonicalization.

404s turned out to be the most popular choice for correcting first, mainly because they are easy to fix and you can see the result fairly quickly.

Page loading speed is also very important. Google has made many announcements and changes to their algorithm to reward sites that load quicker on both desktop and mobile. They have also developed tools to help you analyze your loading speed.

Mixed content takes a lot of time to improve, so you might move it down your to-do list.

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Q3. How can they improve the user’s journey on their desktop website?

To fully explore the user journey of a website, you need a tool like Google Analytics. Arsen pointed out that TheBBQDepot.com didn’t have the look and feel of an established brand, considering they have been in business since 1956. Their shopping cart function is also very basic, with no option to continue browsing for more once you add a product to the cart.
 

As mentioned earlier, The BBQ Depot’s website is lacking in UX and content optimization. As JP Sherman -@jpsherman mentioned, they didn't optimize for humans, instead, they only optimized for the search engines with keyword stuffing in the content, a menu that offers too many options, and product descriptions taken directly from the manufacturers’ specifications database. The site does not speak to the visitor.

Further, the design makes it very difficult to read, with text stretching across the screen.

The site needs to pinpoint the actions they want customers to take, implement CTAs accordingly, and get their navigation and flow right across the site.; this can be done with a better understanding of industry-specific micro-conversions that nudge people to purchase. If you don't do this, shoppers are just prone to bounce around and eventually bounce away. 

TheBBQDepot.com would do well to identify obstacles that hold customers back and use better visuals to capture and direct their attention down the funnel. However, it looks like they need a complete site overhaul if they want to get all of this right.

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Q4. Which creative link building or link earning techniques could they use to improve their online presence?

Arsen suggests a specific, infographic-supported strategy for building links to the site. He says that they should look for in-depth articles on the evolution or history of BBQ, assimilate all the points you can find, and create a content asset (long post + infographic) that you can use to bait links. Be relentless in your outreach, asking for links to the post or pitching sites to embed the infographic.
 

Blogging is the favorite strategy for the site to begin their link acquisition process, some ideas they could utilize include recipes, how-tos, and infographics. They also have content that can be turned into DIY videos. 

They could also contact manufacturers whose products they sell and ask if they would link back to them. Product reviews from local reviewers could also get the site some qualified traffic in addition to links. 
 

Optimizing the structure and information architecture of the blog is crucial before embarking on any link building journey. Currently, their blog is too salesey, which may not be interesting to readers or customers.

These days, influencer marketing is one of the most successful facets of inbound marketing, digital PR, and natural link earning. They should identify bloggers and influencers in their niche and build long-lasting brand partnerships with them, in an attempt to gain new audiences as well as backlinks from authority sites. Bloggers with good followings on Pinterest and Instagram are ideal targets in the BBQ niche.

Competitor analysis is the most effective method of scaling link building. You can find low hanging fruit such as sites that have already linked to another site in your industry, and reach out to them with better content. SEMrush’s competitive intelligence toolkit will help you ace this process with an in-depth backlink analytics, traffic sources, keyword research, and brand monitoring.

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Q5. What purpose should their blog have? Does the existing blog match it?

Arsen thinks they are just doing an okay job on their blog. He mentioned that the aesthetic is not very pleasing, which may turn off some visitors. However, he likes the product comparison posts they are doing. He believes such content build trust and establishes brand authority with visitors who are at the top of the funnel. That said, they need to go deeper than just tables with these comparison posts.
 

Other guests described the blog as “not for 2018," “painful to read,” and “torturing.” They could try out videos of reviews, checklists, and comparisons instead to see if they work better for them.

It is important to remember that a blog is not a placeholder for your content. Instead, the purpose of any blog should be to attract visitors, keep them reading, engage with the site, and share the posts on their own networks. The content you put out should be consistently useful to keep them coming back and in turn, buy your products.

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To sum it all up, remember that on-site SEO isn’t as technical or complex as you might think. You can accomplish a lot by sticking to the basics. However, it is essential to know where you are going wrong and implement fixes if you really want to maximize your visibility in search results.

Make sure to join us Wednesday, September 12 at 11 AM EST/4 PM GMT with Peter Mead as we discuss "Technical SEO Tactics for 2018 and beyond!"

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Becky Shindell is the Communications Manager at SEMrush and host of the weekly #SEMrushchat. Connect with her on LinkedIn and follow her on Twitter. You can find Becky at many of the US Digital Marketing Conferences, feel free to say hi!
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