Sometimes practicing what you preach is hard. How often do you give an advice to someone, then realize that you yourself rarely follow it? This is a problem especially if you are recognized as an expert in your field: you can’t pretend to teach people how to cook cakes, then commit basic mistakes like using the wrong type of flour. You’re supposed to be perfect.
That’s why I decided to examine some of the best SEO blogs on the web, to understand whether they’re always following the rules they pretend to teach us or not. Here are my little findings.
One thing before I start: this post is not the result of a deep analysis of the mentioned sites and I don’t want to discredit them in any way. I just wanted to have some fun looking for small random slips-ups by some of the biggest SEO blogs out there.
1) Linked images with no alt tag. If you look at the blog homepage you’ll see three different links pointing to the same article: the image, the title and the “read” button (four, if you consider also the link to the comments). The first one is the image, but guess what? It has no alt tag. I won’t dwell on the supposed first link priority rule, since I believe it’s not really a topic we SEOs should spend much time on. Anyway, missing alt tags are not a good practice at all, especially when they refer to linked images placed in prominent positions of the page.
2) Over-optimized anchor texts. If you read the Moz blog, you’ll know that its posts often generously link to useful resources located on other domains. Those links are dofollow and there is nothing wrong with that. Unfortunately, because of the strict Google’s policy about external linking and guest posting, this has become a dangerous game that already caused Moz some problems. Even if this depends on a ridiculous behavior by Google, I think Moz’s editors should pay a little more attention in reviewing posts and links, especially in the YouMoz section where guest bloggers often fill up their bios with suspicious links like these ones.
Also, don’t you think that “video transcription” anchor text at the end of every whiteboard friday post is quite fishy?
3) Weird news sitemap. The Moz’s news sitemap is indeed quite strange for two reasons:
- it contains hundreds of blog posts, but according to the Google’s guidelines it should contain only the articles published in the last two days;
- it contains both http and https versions of every url, and that is wrong.
Not seeing the point of it, I did a site command in Google News and I didn’t find any Moz posts indexed – except for the homepage – which probably means they’re not submitting the sitemap to Google. In other words, it’s wrong but they’re not using it.
Seo by the Sea
4) Sitewide external links. This is a simple one: every page of Bill Slawski’s blog has a whole lot of internal and external links. The SearchStatus link report says the homepage has almost 490 total links, 400 internal and 90 external. The post pages too are overflowing with links: always more than 300 internal links and about 100 external links, depending on the number of comments (users’ names are usually linked).
The right sitewide sidebar in particular is a wonderful old-style bunch of external links, including a blogroll section with almost 40 entries like it was the early 2000’s. This all might seem a bit too much, but you know what? I support this “mistake”. I wouldn’t follow this practice on a client’s site, but on a blog like this – with totally different goals – it’s right to set aside tricky optimization strategies and keep it natural and editorial without overthinking SEO. Thumbs-up.
Search Engine Watch
5) Outdated sitemap. I don’t know whether it’s currently being used or not, but surely this sitemap is not complete. It’s indexed in Google, but it only contains categories and few articles and it seems to be the only XML sitemap of the site. Maybe I’m missing something, but I simply can’t see the point of it.
Search Engine Journal
6) Strange robots.txt instruction. Checking the SEJ’s robots.txt, I noticed the line
Disallow: /sitemap.xml. Typically there are no particular reasons for preventing crawlers to read XML sitemaps. This one seems to be a totally legitimate and regularly updated sitemap index, and I don’t see why it should be disallowed that way. Not a big mistake of course, but why not just using robots.txt to specify the sitemap location?
7) Fluff above the fold. Despite the Google’s page layout update, I think this one is much more related to user experience than SEO, but still mention-worthy. Here is what I get opening the SEJ homepage on a browser with no Adblock-like plugins.
A bit too spammy, isn’t it?
8) Missing H1s. Headings might not be the most important SEO ranking factor, but there are no good reasons for not having them. Let’s say you run an online marketing agency looking for new clients: would you present a corporate website with no H1s to promote yourself? Well, Distilled does. The homepage and the blog page, for example, have no H1. I know there are more important things in SEO and agency people are always extremely busy, but we must never forget the basics if we don’t want to make a bad impression.
9) Missing meta descriptions. Maybe I’m blind, but I can’t see meta descriptions on Aaron Wall’s site. I know that they are not a ranking factor, but their importance for click-through rate in SERPs is undoubted, and – again – you simply can’t pretend to teach SEO if you forget (intentionally or not) meta descriptions on your site. It’s a bad practice, period.
10) Full posts in the blog homepage. Lastly, another basic mistake: if you look at the blog homepage you’ll see it shows full posts instead of brief excerpts. This is a well-known SEO issue that could cause duplicate content problems. It probably won’t have strong negative effects and won’t get the site penalized, but why to risk? Really not a good idea.
I know that the mentioned cases are all but serious SEO disasters and I respect the big work those sites do every day, providing super-useful resources about several marketing topics. I didn’t even do a structured analysis to find those mistakes, because my only goal was to have some fun looking at the biggest guys out there and finding any small details they could be criticized for from an SEO point of view. A healthy pastime, isn’t it?