As a small business owner in the fashion and interior design industry, it’s important to make sure that visitors become familiar with your work and style. But when it comes to making your site SEO proof, some other aspects need attention as well. This case study focuses on the site bedivine.com.au, a great example of a visually nice site, in need of some small SEO finishing touches!

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Homepage optimization

My first impression of the homepage is ‘Cool and visually attractive image, but where’s the rest?’ Fortunately, there is a small arrow that indicates that there’s more when you scroll down. But I have to say that having the first parts of your content below the fold could lose you some visitors who are too lazy to scroll down. Once I see the content below the image, I’m a little bit overwhelmed. The layout is somewhat messy because all text is centered and there’s a combined use of bold, italics and various fonts. This doesn’t feel very inviting.

Bedivine homepage content

Call-to-action

One important thing that’s missing on the homepage (but also on the other pages) is a call-to-action. There’s no button that visitors can click on to get something on this site. In this case, you may want to hire BeDivine as a fashion or interior design stylist. While there are various menu items for all of the services BeDivine offers, none of them have a clear goal, for example, a ‘contact me’ button. The same goes for the homepage: it doesn’t invite visitors to take action. I understand the importance of describing what you can offer potential clients and what kind of look and feel you bring into the mix. But that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t guide your visitors through your site by enabling them to easily contact you.

Menu

A menu is a valuable part of your site to help visitors navigate to the most important pages of your site. In this case, the menu is clear and focuses on all important aspects of BeDivine. That’s great! However, I do find it a bit odd that, besides the top menu bar, there’s also a menu bar on the bottom left on the homepage.

Bedivine extra menu

It serves no purpose, especially since the top menu bar is sticky. This second menu only causes clutter and should, therefore, be removed.

Broken parts

Make sure that every part of your site is working and regularly check if this is still the case. On BeDivine I came across some broken links to the portfolio and the Instagram feed wasn’t working (as you can see in the screenshot above). These are things that decrease the user experience and make people lose interest in your site.

Mobile friendliness

I can’t stress this enough: in 2018 search will drastically change because of Google’s plans to index the mobile version of sites first. This means that the mobile version of your site becomes leading in determining the rankings. So, if your site isn’t mobile ready yet, make sure to fix this ASAP!
In case of BeDivine, some mobile optimization would absolutely be beneficial. When opening the homepage on my mobile phone, all I see are large letters that fill the screen. They eventually make up the word ‘Be Divine’ if I’m patient enough to scroll all the way down. This immediately illustrates the problem; the content is way below the fold and it’s unlikely that a visitor will ever get to it.

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Read more: ‘Mobile SEO: the ultimate guide’ »

Local SEO

One question that’s left unanswered at the end of this review is whether this site should be optimized for local SEO? And I would definitely recommend that. The services that BeDivine offers are probably bound to a certain area, which is now not mentioned clearly on the site at all. Optimizing for a specific region could give a lot of benefits in the search results. Therefore you should create a Google My Business account and register your business. Local Search expert David Mihm wrote a great series of blog posts for us on Local optimization. We also have a local SEO plugin which helps you with your local optimizing. Since the services of BeDivine are a source of income, it’s in their best interest to get as much traffic on their site as possible, to increase their conversion rate.

In conclusion

Overall, I think that BeDivine is a site with a lot of potential! They’re already doing many things right, like evoking the ‘feel’ of their business and a nice menu. By changing some relatively small things on their site, they can achieve even better results. This would lead to a great mix of displaying the services you offer your customers, and a usable site. The best of both worlds!

BeDivine’s response to our case study

“Thank you Yoast for taking the time and use my website as a case study. Looking after my own website is very time consuming and having someone else looking into it is a great help. I will definitely fix all the little (and big) things mentioned by you. I don’t like messy so am keen to bring my page back to a functional website with an easy overview and a ‘call-to-action’ function. Thank you very much!” – Beate Pluta, creative director

Keep reading: ‘Avoid these common SEO mistakes’ »

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A few weeks ago, I gave a lightning talk at WordCamp Nijmegen (my hometown in the Netherlands) on how to avoid common SEO mistakes. And this seemed a great topic to write a post about as well, so here it is! I’ll describe the most pressing SEO problems I find on sites I work on as an SEO consultant. Of course, I’ll also explain how to avoid them!

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It’s important to start with Yoast’s vision on SEO, namely holistic SEO. This means that we don’t just focus on the technical aspects of your site, but also see content and User eXperience (UX) as an important part of SEO. Therefore, the tips outlined in the article below will not only cover the strict definition of SEO, but also include a wide range of other aspects that site owners should pay attention to as well.

#1: Forgetting that faster is better

The first thing I’d like to touch on is site speed. The faster your site, the more Google will favor it. There’s a very useful tool from Google itself to check your site speed: Google PageSpeed Insights. This tool gives you an overview of what aspects need improvement to boost the speed of a particular page.

One of the recommendations I frequently give as an SEO consultant is to optimize your images. A lot of websites have images that are relatively large, which take a lot of time to load. Resizing your images can speed up the loading time. If you have a WordPress site, this can easily be done by installing a plugin that does that for you.

Read more: ‘Image SEO’ »

Another tip that I frequently give people is to enable browser caching and gzip compression. Both of them will speed up your entire site. The first makes your site faster to load for returning visitors and the latter compresses static files, which makes them faster to load into your browser.

In case of a WordPress install, I also recommend taking a good look at the plugins that are activated. Are you actually using all of them? Perhaps some of them can be replaced by another plugin that combines those functions? The best advice I can give you on this topic is that less is more. The fewer plugins that are activated, the faster your WordPress installment can be loaded.

#2: Trying to rank for the wrong keywords

If you want to rank in Google you have to make sure that you’re using the right keywords for every page. One of the biggest mistakes I frequently encounter is that site owners are optimizing for too generic keywords. If you are a relatively small business that wants to rank for ‘rental car’, you’re aiming too high. You should try to come up with something more specific than that. Otherwise, you’re competing with all the car rental companies all over the world, which is impossible to do! So at least make sure you add the area in which your company is located to the keyword. This will make the keyword more long tail, as we call it.

The longer and more specific the keywords are, the higher your chances of ranking for this keyword. Of course, this also means that the search volume for this keyword decreases, but you can compensate for this by optimizing a lot of pages on your site for different long tail keywords. Your site will eventually gain more traffic for all of these keywords combined, than it ever would if you optimized for one main keyword, for which you could never rank page 1 in Google.

#3:  Failing to invite people to visit your site

Metadata is what appears on search engine result pages (SERPs) when a website comes up for certain queries. It includes the title of the page and its meta description. The page title is still one of the most important ranking factors for Google, so you have to make sure it’s optimized correctly for every page. This means adding the relevant keyword to each particular page and making sure that your page title isn’t too long. If your page title is too long (currently 400 to 600 pixels), it will get cut off in Google. You don’t want potential visitors to be unable to read the full title in the SERPs.

The meta description is not a ranking factor, but it does play an important part in optimizing your Click Through Rate (CTR). CTR gives some insight into how likely potential visitors are to actually click on your site in the SERPs. If you optimize your meta descriptions with clear and attractive extracts on what potential visitors can find on your site, it becomes easier for them to see if the information they’re looking for is on that page. The more likely potential visitors are to think your site will provide an answer to their search query, the more traffic a page will gain.

#4: Neglecting to write awesome content

A lot is already written on this blog about writing awesome content, but I still frequently come across sites that do a poor job in writing content. It’s important to make sure every page of your site has decent content, at least 300 words. You can’t expect Google to see you as an expert on a certain topic when you have only written two sentences about it. This indicates to Google that your page probably isn’t the best result to match the search query.

Keep in mind that you don’t need to think of Google as your audience. You write for your visitors and not for Google. Google’s mission is to organize the world’s information and provide the best answers possible. Therefore, writing quality content for your audience is also something that will immediately lead to Google’s approval.

Writing quality content means writing original content. This is also important to avoid duplicate content with other sites. And it means that sites have to stop stuffing keywords into their texts. Your text has to be easy to read for your visitor. Obviously, your visitor doesn’t benefit from a keyword stuffed text, because this decreases the readability.

#5: No call to action for your visitors

Once visitors are on your site, an important goal is to keep them on your site. You don’t want your visitors immediately bouncing back to Google once they have read something on your site. This is why you need to encourage visitors to click through your site. The best way to do this is to create a call-to-action (CTA), which usually is a button that offers an action to your visitor. This can be, for instance, a ‘buy’ button on a product page, or a ‘sign up’ button for the newsletters.

Make sure that every page has one call-to-action, so the goal of the page is clear. If you add multiple buttons, you lose the focus of the page and your visitors won’t get where you want them to go. So think about what the right goal is for every page. Also, make sure that the CTA stands out from your design, so it’s clearly visible and cannot be missed. If the button blends into the design of your page too much, it will attract fewer clicks than when it stands out. So don’t be afraid to use a distinct color!

Keep reading: ‘Calling to the next action’ »

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#6: Not thinking ahead: The future is mobile

Since Google has announced that next year they will switch to mobile indexing first, you should be busy preparing your site for this change. ‘Mobile indexing first’ means that Google will look at the mobile version of your site to decide how high you should rank. So if the desktop version of your site is set up brilliantly, but your mobile site isn’t responsive at all, you have a lot of work to do if you don’t want to suffer a rank drop over next year.

A great way to test if your site is at least mobile friendly is to use Google’s mobile-friendly test. This gives you an indication if Google thinks your site is fit for displaying on mobile devices. But don’t stop after checking this. The best advice I can give you is to visit your site on your mobile phone. Browse your own site for a while and try to click on every button, image and link to see what happens. Is everything working as expected? Can you actually purchase something on your site while using your mobile phone? Are all pages displayed correctly? You will see that most sites have some work to do this fall.

Read on: ‘Mobile SEO: the Ultimate Guide’ »

In short

As SEO consultant I’ve seen many sites making the same mistakes. Learn from the ones I listed in this post: focus on site speed, write great content and optimize for the right keywords. If you make sure people want to visit your site, have great calls-to-action and prepare for mobile, you’re already on your way to a well-optimized website, the holistic way!

Read more: ‘Holistic SEO’ »

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Today, it’s time for another Ask Yoast case study. In this edition, we’ll give SEO advice to a local business owner. We received a cry for help from Hussein Ibrahim who owns the car services site seattletowncarbestride.com. Hussein wanted to know what he could do – apart from using our Yoast SEO Premium plugin – to get excellent rankings for his business in the major search engines. Well, Hussein, here we go!

Local SEO

If you want to improve this site’s SEO you have to focus on local SEO. Since Hussein’s business is a car and taxi rental service, he’s bound to a certain area: in this case Seattle. So it’s crucial that his site ranks for people who are searching for these kinds of car services in Seattle.

Structured data

There are 3 main things to keep in mind if you want to rank locally. The first one is adding structured data to your site. It’s important to have schema.org markup on at least your contact page, and you might consider adding it to the footer as well. Yoast’s Local SEO plugin can help you out with the first. It inserts Google Maps into your contact page, as well as your business address and opening hours. In addition to that, you might see this data pop up in the search results pages as well, if Google chooses to use rich results for your site. Seattle town car best ride currently doesn’t have any structured data, so we highly recommend to add it to their site!

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In this article we’ll sum up what to pay attention to, when adding structured data to your local business site. Or learn how to implement structured data to your site with one of our online courses.

Google My Business

Additionally, you should let Google know you’re a local business owner by having a Google My Business account. This will help your site show up in the search results when people search for a car service in Seattle. Having this can also lead to rich results in the SERPs, such as a knowledge graph. Make sure that the address listed in your Google My Business account is the exact same address as displayed on your site, otherwise you won’t benefit from having this account.

Read more: ‘Ranking your local business: making the most of Google My Business’ »

Ratings and reviews

Having ratings and reviews on your site is important to make your business look trustworthy to your visitors. Moreover, it also helps Google determine whether your business is valuable for their users. Seattle Best Town Car Service should, therefore, implement a possibility for customers to give a rating for their services or write a testimonial on their site. This is something they can actively ask their customers to do after using their services.

Keep reading: ‘How to get local ratings and reviews’ »

Speeding up your site

Page speed is one of the most important ranking factors for Google, so it’s key to make sure your site loads fast. We did a page speed check for Seattle Town Cars Best Ride and this is what we found.

First of all, we’d advise Hussein to take a look at their hosting company. When using the PageSpeed Insights tool by Google, ‘reducing server response time’ was one of the recommendations. This is not something you can do yourself, but it depends on what kind of server your hosting company is offering. If they can’t speed up the response time, consider looking for a better hosting company.

Secondly, browser caching should be enabled for all types of files. This is not the case for some JPG and CSS files on seattletowncarbestride.com. Since this site runs on an Apache server, you can fix this easily within the Yoast SEO plugin. You can do this by specifying the expiration times in the htaccess file, which can be edited from within the Yoast SEO plugin. Watch this video to see how easy that is. In case your site is running on an Nginx server, you can ask your host to do this for you.

Last but not least, Seattle Town Cars Best Ride should optimize some of the images on their site. A list of the images that need compression can be found in the Pagespeed Insights tool. Compressing images will reduce the file size, which will make these images load quicker.

Read on: ‘Site speed: tools and suggestions’ »

Taking care of your user’s needs

If people work on optimizing their site for search engines, they often tend to overlook user experience. But if your visitors seem to enjoy your site – which Google determines by analyzing so called user signals – this can positively affect your rankings. Google wants to offer the best search results and experience to their users. So don’t forget to always keep an eye on the usability of your site.

Seattle Town Cars Best Ride has quite some moving elements on their site, causing distraction and possibly negatively affecting the user experience. Especially on the homepage, the moving images get a little annoying when scrolling all the way down. Toning that down will give the site a much more focused and calmer appearance.

Also, a slider is used on the homepage. This is something we advice against at Yoast. The most important reason for that, in this case, is that the call-to-action disappears and reappears if the sliders changes. This makes it harder for the visitor to get to the page you want them to get to.

Images are an essential part of your site because they can make your site more attractive. Make sure they aren’t broken or missing, especially on the homepage this looks a bit unprofessional:

image missing homepage

Moreover, the white text in the slider isn’t always readable, because of the color of the background images. Try to avoid these kinds of contrast mistakes:

Writing content for both your visitors and Google

What we like about Seattle Town Car Best Ride is that they have separate landing pages for all the services they offer. That makes it possible to optimize every service for its own keywords. Therefore, their chances of ranking for every service will increase. The service pages also have some decent content which describes what the service is about. Keep in mind that you should at least write about 300 words on a page, to show Google that you really know what you are talking about. Because Google wants to show their users the best search results as possible, you should be able to convince Google you are an expert on that topic.

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Some pages of Seattle Town Car Best Ride could benefit from some extra attention though. The ‘Reservations’ page and ‘Rates’ page are lacking introductory content. Both can be seen as “thin content” pages by Google, decreasing their chance of ranking. Moreover, the ‘Reservations’ page has little content and a broken contact form. Always make sure that your visitors can reach you, otherwise there’s no point in optimizing your site at all.

Apart from visitors that – hopefully – read your content, Google tries to ‘read’ your content as well. Headings play an important role in understanding your content. Seattle Town Car Best Ride uses H1 and H2 headings to structure their text, but it uses the H1 twice on almost every page. Google could find this confusing because it assumes that the H1 describes the subject of the page. If there are multiple H1 headings, Google doesn’t know which one you deem most important.

The meta description is another important content element for SEO. A good meta description is crucial if you want to convince possible visitors to click through to your site. With a clear description, you can inform potential visitors what a page is about.

Seattle Town Car Best Ride is lacking a meta description on a lot of pages. This doesn’t mean the pages won’t show a description in the snippet in the search results, but Google itself will just pick a sentence from your page – which doesn’t always turns out bad. Sometimes Google will do that, even if you have created a meta description. Nevertheless, we think it is worth your while to write a strong meta description. If Google chooses to show it, it can make your snippet much more appealing.

Keeping up with the times

As Google and the internet changes and evolves, so does SEO. A few years ago, most sites were running on HTTP. Nowadays, you see more and more sites that use HTTPS for secure browsing. We encourage site owners to take this step, and so does Google. Google has said that having HTTPS is seen as a ranking signal. Seattle Town Car Best Ride isn’t running on HTTPS yet, so we definitely recommend to make this change. In general, your hosting company can help you switch to HTTPS.

Read more: ‘Moving your website to HTTPS/SSL: Tips and tricks’ »

Another important development in SEO is Google switching to mobile indexing first. This probably takes place in 2018, as they announced. As a result, Google will rank your site based on the mobile version of your site, instead of the desktop version. Google is doing this because more and more users are browsing on a mobile device instead of a desktop. So having a top notch mobile site should be everyone’s top priority.

Fortunately, Seattle Town Car Best Ride looks and works fine on mobile. What they should fix though, is their site’s speed for better performance on mobile, like mentioned above.

Mobile view of their homepage

Closing remarks

All in all, Seattle Town Car Best Ride, isn’t doing bad at all content-wise. They are clear about what services they offer and make sure that their visitors know how to contact them, by using call-to-actions near every content part. But they could definitely benefit from some local optimization. Adding structured data, creating a Google My Business account, and adding ratings and reviews to their site, makes clear to Google that they are a Seattle business that needs to be taken seriously!

Keep reading: ‘Ultimate Guide to small business SEO’ »