Case Study: Surfing San Diego

This is a case study of Surfing San Diego, a successful site being run by a chap called Josh. I flamed a chap one night for having bad code and Josh sacrificed his own site and challenged me to tell him how to put it right.

What Josh is doing right

  • It looks great, the first impression is very good.
  • There aren’t many backlinks but the ones he has must be good quality as Google ranks the site as PR5
  • By having the keywords in his url and some careful signature links on forums Josh ranks highly for San Diego Surf, and combinations
  • There is a basic site map at the bottom of the page to help guide the search engines (and humans) through the site.
  • Things get trickier when you enter the forum because the coding is more difficult – but by selecting decent forum software this is all done for you.

What Josh has wrong

  • It might be a good idea to focus on some other phrases like surfing california where he doesn’t rate.
  • There is javascript left on the page, rather than moved to a separate file (5k in this example) which can be cached, this way the user has to down load it time and again, slowing the site down. Search engines hate it too.
  • The mouseover effects in the menu are managed by javascript, so retro, rather than the stylesheet: this means heavy code with unnecessary bytes to download.
  • There are no <h> tags on the page to guide a search engine to understand what is important and what isn’t. Equally there are no <b> tags and only two <strong>s, and one of those says "new and improved", not really useful words to emphasise.
  • Images don’t have alt tags and urls don’t have titles. It’s easy to forget these when you’re trying to get content up and it’s not the end of the world but it does need to be raised.
  • Styles and classes aren’t used as thoroughly as they could be.
    <td width="542" background="images/mainbar_top_bg.jpg" class="contentcell" valign="top" style="background-repeat:no-repeat;" bgcolor="#EBEBEB">
    This example is a curious little hybrid of every way of affecting how the content could look – and it’s repeated over and over on the page.
  • The title and meta tags don’t change as I move through the site.
    The <title> tag is the most important tag on your page, so a search engine is led to believe that every page is the same. It’s not, there are subtle differences. Start every page with "Surfing San Diego" and then the unique content.
  • The forum isn’t skinned to match the site.
  • The shot of the day was taken "Date: Long time ago", that long since there was a decent wave? Turns people off, they think the site is stale.

But remember, this site is a good site, and it appears to be successful. All sites can do with improvements and tweaking from time to time.

Before anyone races out and gets their sites revamped remember what the site is about, and the potential revenue it can bring in and don’t spend more than the site justifies. Also consider your target market. Will your site look like it’s trying too hard. Does it still look like people will get service or is it just a big corporate. Manipulate the image to your advantage.

Taco Surf vouchers, San Diego

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3 Comments

  1. March 23, 2007

    OK, how is this for an experiment, your “case study” is now a PR4 for “surfing” so I figured what hell, I’ll make a post so I can link to my site at http://www.surfing-gear.net so see if I can create a good google backlink. I would appreciate it if you leave it up in comments and I will post anther comment to let u know how it performs.

  2. March 23, 2007

    I’ll bite and let it stand. Your site is basically a search tool for eBay auctions. Much like the Auction Ads I have on this site. You are cached in Google but not at Archive.org so that needs to be addressed.

    While this page may be a PR4, the page rank doesn’t boost the SERPs and the page doesn’t feature for the word “surfing” at all. I downloaded a blog spam tool recently (just to see how it works) and sure enough, it finds 46 WordPress blog posts with PR3 or higher and this is one of them.

    With savvy wordpress users loading up tools like Akismet I wouldn’t go counting on too many of your posts getting far though.

  3. March 26, 2007

    Thanks for the feedback. I have seen that auction ads and like it. I was thinking about using it with another site I have. This is the first I have heard of archive.org…why is it important that I be archived by that site?

    I did notice google picked up the backlink. My term “surfing gear” went from nowhere to 267. I did add an intro paragraph and have been customizing landing pages with intro keyword paragraphs for each page. I had another ebay site where my keyword hit google #11 and I did absolutely nothing for it, go figure. Both sites are about 3 months old.

    Thanks again

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