1 Hour SEO Audit Challenge: Dollar Shave Club
November is important for many reasons: Thanksgiving, the beginning of the holiday season, Black Friday, and to a somewhat lesser degree, the whole month is “No Shave November”. In honor of the “Movember” movement that seeks to solve men’s health issues like Prostate Cancer, Testicular Cancer, poor mental health, and physical inactivity, many men grow mustaches in a show of solidarity and in an effort to raise money. If you haven’t given already this year, you can do so here.
The month of November is quickly coming to an end, and for those us (myself included, for as long as my facial hair would allow) who have spent November growing out a mustache it’s time to consider trimming things back a bit – but that can be easier said than done. Between finding a razor that can handle your new, bushy moustache and making sure that it isn’t a low quality model that will leave you with permanent scars all over you your face, shaving correctly can be surprisingly tricky.
Enter Dollar Shave Club. For just a few dollars a month they will send you everything you need for a great shave right to your door. The business has been around since 2012 and is still flourishing – recently raising an additional 15 million in funding. Known predominantly for their attention-grabbing video advertising creative, their website is their main hub of business and seeks to get new users to sign up for their service.
For many who are getting ready to trim down their facial hair as December quickly approaches and are looking for solutions online, there’s no doubt that the website is beautifully designed, but how does it stack up in terms of search engine optimization? Just like every other “1 Hour SEO Audit Challenge” we’ve completed, we took a look to find out by grading their SEO efforts with our usual tools and the following key categories:
- Schema and SERP Friendliness
- Site Speed
- Meta Tag Issues
- Title Tag Issues
- Screaming Frog
- Open Site Explorer
- Microsoft IIS
Although a lot of the focus in the SEO world is on backlinks right now with Google recently releasing a copy of their search quality rating guidelines and talk of the new Penguin update being released before the end of the year, it is important to not forget about how essential content is to a good SEO strategy.
Creating high quality content across your website is a great way to keep visitors engaged with your website and coming back time and time again to look at anything new you’ve added since their last visit. It also provides your website with a vehicle with which it can rank for relevant keywords that are added to the header tags, body text, and other important sections of your content. For more tips on things you can do to optimize the content of your blog specifically, check out my recent blog post.
So how does Dollar Shave Club stack up in the world of content marketing? As it turns out, phenomenally well. You’ve probably seen their video advertising below, which is quite memorable and is employed throughout their site, but more importantly they have a top-notch blog called “The Bathroom Minutes” that is updated just about every two days with new content that includes unique images and helpful how-to guides on shaving. It is one of the best examples of content marketing on a blog we’ve seen in this series so far, and is really quite impressive.
As if that wasn’t enough, the icing on the cake is that the blog content is repurposed as an offline magazine that ships with the razors. This is the first use of an offline/online content marketing campaign we’ve seen in this series, and it is a brilliant idea, considering users are spending a lot of time in their bathrooms and are likely to actually take the time to read the included magazine.
The only minor issue is a missed opportunity with all the image content that Dollar Shave Club creates. Of the 96 images we were able to crawl on the site, more than half (57 to be exact) were missing image alt text. This should be added so that people looking for the phenomenal images they create for their blog posts can be easily found from a Google search.
Schema and SERP Friendliness
I’ve said it countless times on this series, but if there’s one section that continually is underwhelming it has been our ongoing search for a site that does schema correctly. Doing schema well can be a huge benefit for any business, and websites really need to start taking it more seriously in order to gain additional real estate in the search results for their pages, whether that is images of logos, location information, or review data on an individual product.
Last month we expanded this section to include other things that make a website more accessible on search engines, including sitelinks and Google My Business data, because realistically the goal here is to increase CTR on organic search results and these elements help achieve that goal.
So is Dollar Shave Club finally going to be the business that does everything perfectly? Almost. They’ve done a fantastic job with their branded SERP – it has Wikipedia information and other brand info pulling in the top right hand corner, and they also have sitelinks defined in order to help funnel traffic directly to their most important pages. They also have basic schema mark-up on their blog, which is fantastic.
However, I couldn’t find schema on their product pages or (in a lot of ways more importantly) on their review page. Both of these pages are designed impeccably and the review page in particular offers lots of great content that could benefit from schema markup, even though the reviews are more analytical than an actual value or # of stars.
As I mentioned in the “content” section, links and a website’s backlink profile in general is currently the focus for a good % of SEO professionals. With news that Google is about to roll out Penguin 4.0, their update for deciding where a website deserves to rank based on the links it has amassed, there has even been speculation that this update will be the last of it’s kind – with rolling updates to replace it in the near future.
This is bad news for sites that are sticking their toes into the dark world of bad (or “Black Hat”) SEO, and a wake up call for business to get their link profiles in order before the end of the year. While these updates historically have only affected rankings in 1-3% of Google search queries, depending on what kind of links a site has amassed and where they are coming from, websites could find themselves losing significant levels of organic traffic in the not-so-distant future.
Does Dollar Shave Club have anything to worry about with this upcoming update? The short answer is no, not at all. With a domain authority of 63 and 7,004 total links coming from 1,701 root domains, Dollar Shave Club clearly has a natural and authoritative backlink profile. With less than 7 links coming to their sites from each domain that links to them, there are clearly no spammy link building practices going on, and the links they do have in their backlink profile are impressive – ranging from CNN and the Wall Street Journal to Wired.
The only drawback I’m seeing is that there is almost no product-specific anchor text. Natural anchor text should certainly be the bread and butter with a major of a domain’s inbound links, but getting a bit of keyword-rich anchor text like “razor” and “blades” would definitely be a good addition.
While it doesn’t get much fanfare and is often considered one of the less sexy SEO elements of a website, site speed is quietly a cornerstone of good website keyword rankings. Good site speed not only provides a great user experience that decreases bounce rate and increases time on site on a website on both desktop and mobile devices, it is also a technical element that Google weighs when considering how to a rank an individual page. Thankfully, site speed is also one of the easiest elements to fix through things like image optimization and quicker hosting solutions – so there are very few excuses if your website is loading slowly.
Dollar Shave Club’s site speed is by no means poor, but there are some easy fixes they could do to increase it further. The first, and most obvious (according to both GTMetrix and Dareboost) revolves around images on the homepage. Dareboost calls for image compression on four image files, while GTMetrix suggests specifying height/width image dimensions within code for faster load times. Both of these fixes should be relatively simple and could improve load times dramatically for users and search engine crawl bots alike.
Meta Tag Issues
Meta tag issues are widespread in this series, particularly when it comes to meta descriptions. Partly because they don’t play a direct role in how Google ranks its results, many businesses that we’ve looked at on this series fall short when it comes to defining them. Many businesses opt to willfully ignore meta descriptions and just let Google pull the first text they find on a page in order to populate the field.
While this ensures that you don’t have a search result with no description text, it is still a huge mistake. Businesses should be defining meta descriptions themselves in order to dictate how their search results appear, as it is important to make description text that entices users to click on a result through descriptive and engaging calls to action right on the search engine results page.
When it comes to meta descriptions and meta keywords, Dollar Shave Club falls a bit short. While they do have a variation of different meta descriptions on their pages, we were only able to find 10 unique variations for the 88 different pages that had descriptions defined. This isn’t ideal, as each page should have a unique meta description assigned to it that tells searchers exactly what they can expect from the page as opposed to a broadly used meta description across multiple different pages. Furthermore, 15 pages were missing meta descriptions altogether, including the very important “gift” and “join our team” pages. This should be fixed as it could conceivably be lowering the click through on those pages from organic searches.
While the issues Dollar Shave Club has with meta descriptions are a bit troubling, issues with meta keywords are much more problematic. Google has expressly stated that they don’t want websites to define meta keywords, and as a result websites should remove them from their meta tags immediately. Despite this, Dollar Shave Club features them on 60.23% of their site (53 pages out of the 88 we crawled). While it’s good to see that they want to rank for “buy razor blades”, “buy razors”, “mens razors”, and other keywords, this is not a good tactic, and could actually be hurting them more than it helps.
Title Tag Issues
It goes without saying that title tags are the reigning king of on-site SEO elements. It has been that way for a long time and there are no signs that any other on-site element will usurp the title tag for this honor. This isn’t particularly surprising as a title tag is the first thing a user sees and clicks on when browsing through the search engine results page. As a result, making sure that your title tag is optimized for targeted keywords and range in character length from 55-60 characters is an important step for any online business that is trying to attract new sources of website traffic from Google searches.
Dollar Shave Club has a decent amount of work to do with their title tags, but the good news is that the fixes are relatively minor and could help them substantially increase their online traffic. While the site is not missing title tags on any of their pages, it suffers from a number of different duplicate title tags that appear site wide, and this should be addressed so that each page has a unique title tag that has a bit more keyword targeting for the individual page.
This is particularly true on the homepage, which should have something beyond just “Dollar Shave Club” as it’s title tag. As it stands, that’s only 17 characters – leaving plenty of space to include some of the meta keywords we identified in the “Meta Tag Issues” section after the branded term. This will drastically help the website rank better for some high-volume organic keywords that drive qualified traffic to the website.
Dollar Shave Club does a lot of things really well. In general, their content and branding was some of the best we’ve ever seen on this series, and for that they deserve a ton of credit. Their naturally amassed, authoritative backlink profile reflects just how strong their branding and content is, and is a great example of link building done right.
However, they fall short in some of the more technical elements, such as meta tags, title tags, and a few basic elements that can help improve site speed. These should be fixed as soon as possible, with a priority given to including more keywords in title tags and removing meta keyword tags.
Some other elements that we didn’t touch on that should be addressed as well are: missing canonical tags (57.95%) – which should be added to negate the odds that someone steals their content with a scraping tool to post elsewhere without giving them getting some sort of credit, a number of duplicative H1 tags across multiple pages – which should be fixed to be more in line with the keyword targeting that should happen with title tags moving forwards, and 3 pages that are currently 404ing.
Overall, Dollar Shave club is a phenomenally strong brand with fantastic content, good SERP visibility, and a robust backlink profile. If they can manage to do some of the very slight tweaks with their technical SEO, they will become an even greater force in their industry and are sure to capture massive amounts of online traffic moving forward.