We love goats uses goats to trim your grass. Pic by Mike_tn

Free search engine optimization for one brilliant SME

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Really unique and clever business ideas don't come along all that often, and when they do I feel obliged to help them out with some free SEO advice.

I came across We Rent Goats today, and loved their eco-friendly idea of clearing weeds and brush with goats, instead of harmful herbicides.

The site opens with a cute sign of a goat carrying a sign around his neck - "will work for food". Nice touch.

Now, whether or not the goats eat exactly what they're supposed to (I mean, I wouldn't use them during the chelsea flower show) all the time is something I would be concerned about. But they do have some glowing customer testimonials.

However, I noted that even with such a specialized niche - We rent goats is not at the top of Google search results for the keyphrase rent a goat.

So this article is basically an unsolicited, free SEO audit for this brilliant business idea, and I hope it helps them find new clients and continue to save the environment from dreadful herbicides.

Free audit of We Rent Goats

As with any audit, it is important to break the analysis down into it's constituent components so that the webmaster can focus on fixing one thing at a time in a logical, structured way.

Here are the categories I use:

  • Content
  • Performance
  • Structural
  • Off-site

In addition, it's also important to explain why certain recommendations are made so that the business owners have a clear understanding of what it is they can achieve by making the suggested changes.

Since this is an unsolicited review, I don't have access to the site's Google analytics or webmaster tools, or any other information that would normally be required to do a complete audit. So I'm just going to do the best I can.

Finally, it is also important to note that SEO is not a "sure thing". It can take a while before changes have any effect, and fundamentally Google is in charge of the website's page rankings and organic Web traffic.

Let's see what "We Rent Goats" can do to capture the top spot in Google...

Content

High quality, relevant and engaging content is the keystone of any good SEO and marketing campaign.

Blogging & keyword research

In order for We Rent Goats to attract potential customers to their site, they need to think about who they want to reach, and what message they need to get across, in order to entice those people to take the next step (i.e. phone or email them).

The types of keywords that I would expect to be valuable for this particular business are things like:

  • How to clear firebreaks
  • How to clear weeds
  • Alternatives to herbicides

and so on.

Obviously, the particular keywords and phrases that are targeted for their content would need to be researched using Google's keyword tool. There's a great guide on how to do this at How to research SEO keywords.

Currently, We Rent Goats has no blog. So this is one of their biggest priorities.

While blogging is not the core focus of their business, and takes a lot of time and effort, they could integrate blogging with their business in the form of case studies. Think along the lines of "How we cleared a firebreak using goats".

Creating great case studies also builds authority and trust because it is evidence of prior success as well as relevant and useful content that will improve page rankings and drive more organic search traffic.

Poor quality pages

The site has a number of poor quality pages. In particular there is a page of links, which are all followed and against Google's guidelines. If those links are absolutely vital to the site, relevant to the readers, and cannot be removed, then they should be nofollowed.

There's more information on nofollowing links for SEO in the article Create a website Google loves.

Performance

Unfortunately, We Love Goats is really slow. Page load time is an important factor in how Google ranks web pages because speed is something that visitors value - so it's important that they get this right.

Running YSlow against a few of the pages gave an average grade of C. Not great, but not horrific.

My main issue is the lack of CSS & JS aggregation. Much of the delay in page load time is due to the fact that there are many, many JS files that need to be downloaded.

It's likely then that We Rent Goats could benefit from both improving their Web design and migrating to a faster Web server.

Structural

Here's where We Rent Goats really falls down. It wasn't a few seconds before the first structural issues became apparent.

For a start they have broken links in the footer - which means that there are broken links on every page. This is a strong signal to Google that the site is of poor quality.

In addition, they have site-wide, followed links to the Web designer's URL - again, something that is unequivocally against Google's guidelines.

In addition (again), their pages (at least the ones I checked) lack a META description tag, which, while not directly useful for SEO, is often used in Google search results to be viewed by humans who need to decide whether or not to click on the result.

The site's domain is not canonicalized - in other words, both the www and non-www versions exist, and these URLs are treated as duplicate sites by Google.

There are also validation errors in the site's HTML - another signal to Google that the site may be of poor quality. In general, it is better to fix whatever errors there are in order to prevent any unforeseen problems that may arise from broken HTML.

Some of the pages are thin, meaning that there is not enough content on them to warrant any attention by Google. Worse, if enough thin pages are present, the entire site may experience a drop in page rankings.

Some the site's references actually list customers' email addresses in plain text - setting them up to be found and utilized by spammers. Not good practice in general.

Images are not optimized for search. They don't all have ALT or TITLE tags, and they are not given meaningful names. Google image search can often be a great source of valuable organic traffic.

While the design of the site is not bad, many of the internal content on the pages seems to be hand made. The business could definitely benefit from a more standard theme or template, and layout.

A theme update would also allow them to go with a responsive Web design to support mobile browsers like smartphones and tablets.

Off-site SEO

In fact, We Rent Goats has received coverage in various places, and this gives them a higher inbound link profile than perhaps similar sites would warrant. This is probably down to the fact that they are a genuine business, with genuine clients, so their coverage stems from traditional business activities.

However, despite this their traffic volumes remain fairly low. As mentioned previously, a content publishing strategy (i.e. a blog) would provide a great platform to further engage with new readers, and lead to more organic backlinks from existing clients.

That completes my quick audit of We Rent Goats. I'm going to drop the owners a line and point them to this article, and hopefully they will:

  1. take my suggestions to heart
  2. implement the improvements
  3. capture the top spots in Google
  4. drive more organic Web traffic
  5. get more clients
  6. prevent the use of more poisonous chemicals

I did all this very quickly, so astute webmasters should notice a number of issues that I haven't mentioned. What other improvements would you suggest?

Share your tips and advice in the comments.

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