500 Website Reviews, what we’ve learned!

Over the last 3 years, we’ve sold & delivered 500 website reviews, selling our 500th today. I’m incredibly proud of this and wanted to share some of our learnings in this post, as well as announce some changes.

Some stats on our website reviews

I started doing these website reviews in 2010, finishing 42 of them in that year. In 2011, we finished 99 website reviews, in 2012 it grew to 329. You can see this line is going up, and quite fast. These site reviews weren’t all for the same type of site, 370 of the 500 were WordPress sites, 60 were Magento, and 50 were other eCommerce sites, some of which were WordPress as well. The remainder were other types of sites, including Drupal and Joomla installs.

The Yoast Website Review team, from left to right: Michiel, Joost and ThijsThese numbers, to me, are mind blowing. I’d never have thought I’d sell so many of these reviews and that I’d need a team around me, as I do today, to do them. The “funny” thing: I’m absolutely certain that the quality of our site reviews has gone up just as much over time. We’ve become better and faster at analyzing problems and proposing simple and to the point solutions. Also, every site gets seen by at least two people now, almost always three, which makes sure that we don’t miss important things.

SEO: Penguin & Panda

Google is good for our business in many ways. We often get called upon to help people understand why they’d suffer from Penguin or Panda type drops of traffic. I can honestly say that sites almost invariably deserved the “slap” they got from either of these updates, and I say that knowing that we’ve seen more than 200 now. Sometimes it’s tough, as the sites that “win” because of a site losing might be even worse, but I’ll stand by what I said: the sites I have reviewed that got hit, deserved it.

There were two exceptions I can remember were instead of reviewing the site, I forwarded people on to Google and asked Google to fix the false positive. Of course there have been some minor errors, but overall, forcing these people to improve their sites is “a good thing”.

Some of the other things most sites get wrong

I thought it’d be fun to dive in a bit and see what kind of issues we talk about the most, as every word in a review is decided upon by the reviewer, this isn’t as easy as it may seem as it meant I had to do some textual analysis here and there. But, I’ve compiled a small list of topics that we often address in these reviews. These were not, in most cases the most important things to fix in those sites, it’s just that a lot of people seem to be doing them wrong.

  1. 404 pages
    It baffles me in how many reviews this came up, so few people spend time making a proper 404 page… I’ve written about this quite extensively, this post about 404s for WordPress is probably the best / most interesting, even when you’re not on WordPress.
  2. Subscription options
    This is probably due to us reviewing a lot of WordPress sites / blogs, but we very often find that people are missing out on lots of subscribers by not having good subscribe widgets or even altogether lacking an email newsletter.
  3. Responsive websites
    If you’re serious about being on the web, whether to make money or to inform, you need to think about the different devices people will use to access your site, your content, your products. Rarely over the last few years did we find a site that had done this really well. Which is funny, especially for WordPress sites, because with good themes like a lot of the Genesis based themes around, having a responsive site doesn’t need to be expensive.
  4. Internal Search
    Internal search often left a lot to be desired on the websites we reviewed. In a way, this isn’t that surprising: WordPress internal search just plain sucks (this old article from me on making it suck less is still relevant) and most other CMSes, including Magento, don’t exactly shine in that area. On the other hand: setting up a Google Custom Search Engine is not that hard…
  5. Keyword usage and internal linking
    The last thing that I find we often make remarks about is the usage of keywords. Now these remarks go in all directions, but one thing is clear: simple principles like the Cornerstone Content principle are often misunderstood. Quite a number of the sites we made remarks about in this area had the keyword they wanted to rank for in the title of over a dozen pages. Think to yourself: how would Google decide which of these pages to show as the top result? Are you making that clear?
  6. Call to Action
    Very often we find sites that do, in fact, rank rather well for certain terms, but make hardly any money from that fact. This is often true because they lack a clear call to action. Michiel’s article about the call to action on your homepage is a good example of the kind of advice we tend to give.

As you can see, the range of topics we discuss is quite broad, covering UX, design, SEO, conversion rate optimization and more. Over time, we’ve been spending more time on these reviews – even though our analysis of individual issues became faster – just because the breadth and depth of our reviews increased. Which is why I’m announcing the following:

Website Review price going up Feb 1st

We’ve decided to raise the price of our website review service to €749, up €154 from our current €595 price point, effective February 1st. The reason for this is simple: we’re spending more and more time on these reviews and the follow-up questions, and feel the price isn’t justifying that anymore. Because we know that a lot of people plan on these, we wanted to give you a bit of notice.

I realize this might mean that we sell quite a few reviews in the coming week and a half. As these reviews are a very manual process, this means we’ll need a bit more time than usual to get through them. Currently we take 3 to 4 weeks, this might become a bit longer even if we sell a lot, as I’m sure you’ll understand.

500 Website Reviews, what we’ve learned! is a post by on Yoast - Website Optimization. A good WordPress blog needs good hosting, you don't want your blog to be slow, or, even worse, down, do you? Check out my thoughts on WordPress hosting!