Everything you need to know about SEO, delivered every Thursday.
The SEO Breakdown: Bank Information Center Site Audit
As part of a site audit special series, we’re going to review an interesting website, Bank Information Center (BIC).
BIC is a non-profit organization that does some very cool things but, like most non-profits, hasn’t updated their website for many years.
Needless to say, they have almost no Internet marketing or SEO strategy which led them to ask for help by submitting their site for this series.
In this post, I’m going to break down:
- Who the business is and what they do
- First Impressions: Overall analysis of website look, feel, targeting and usability
- Second Impressions: Overall analysis of social media and Web 2.0 presence
- Top Level SEO: Keywords, navigation, rankings, competition, backlink profile, content, etc.
- Page Level SEO: Structure, tags, usability, etc.
- 3-step action plan for biggest/fastest improvement
So let’s get started.
[Editors Note: Remember, opinions and recommendations made are that of the contributor – Search Engine Land does not actively provide site audits as a service; nor is this intended to be a complete and thorough review by the author. Advice given is merely intended to be constructive criticism and a jumping off point for sites looking to improve their website marketing efforts.]
1. What Does The Organization Do?
As explained to me in layman’s terms, the Bank Information Center is a watchdog group for the World Bank.
The World Bank isn’t a bank in the traditional sense in that a single person cannot open an account or ask for a loan.
Rather, the World Bank provides loans, grants and technical assistance to countries and the private sector to reduce poverty in developing and transition countries.
Sometimes though, the Bank’s huge projects —like roads, power plants, and dams— displace people from their homes or hurt the environment.
BIC’s mission is to raise awareness of when this happens and try to work with the World Bank to fix the problem or create new rules that will keep the World Bank from doing more harm than good. You can read more about BIC here.
2. First Impressions Count: Website Usability
When I loaded up the BIC website, I was taken back to a nostalgic time – 1997 – when hand coded websites ruled the world and just having a website was a big deal for most institutions.
Needless to say, BIC has some work to do to bring their overall website and online presence up to speed.
Now, while there are several factors to consider – the purpose of the website, budget, organizational focus and probably most importantly for BIC, resources – I believe that BIC should start with a refresh of their entire Internet presence.
The primary reason for doing so should focus on relaying the organization’s purpose, mission and bringing attention to those efforts.
It took me about 20 minutes to figure out what they did and I was purposefully looking for that information for this site audit.
Since I still didn’t fully understand it, I had to ask them to explain to me in plain English what they did, which I passed along in the previous description.
What Is The Purpose Of The BIC Website?
It seems to be trying to do many different things, which is a part of the problem – there is no clear unique selling proposition (USP), call to action or general purpose.
And what does their tagline mean?
In addition, there’s a donation button/link buried at the bottom of the homepage, but shouldn’t that be highlighted more significantly?
If individual donations are not a large part of BIC’s revenue, they may consider removing this area entirely, or put it in another part of the website to clean up the clutter on the homepage.
The same applies to the often cold, obtuse and corporate-speak language used in the latest news updates, ad copy and navigation.
If the site is designed for corporations, trusts, or larger institutions that understand and respond to that language, then keep using it; otherwise, it needs to be made much more conversational and easier to understand.
I certainly shouldn’t have to email the company to get a better understanding as to what they do and how they do it.
These and other issues, beyond the scope of an SEO/Internet marketing audit, need to be addressed before an SEO action plan is put into place.
- Website looks tired and old – lacks trust, social proof and “gut” feeling of a reputable organization.
- BIC needs to decide who and what the website is designed for: individuals, or organizations/trusts that already know the nomenclature, and design it accordingly.
- Website has to quickly and easily allow the user to find what they are looking for, whether it’s information on how to contribute, or the latest work the foundation is doing.
Overall Score: 3 out of 10
3. Second Impressions: Social Media Presence
This section is supposed to be devoted to a quick look at a company’s social media presence.
Well, BIC made that super easy!
They don’t have one – not even a blog – just an “updates” section on the site.
Other non-profits like Kiva.org use social media in a very compelling and advantageous way and I think BIC needs to address this shortfall immediately.
- No social media presence – must be addressed immediately especially with such a targeted and passionate audience.
- The “updates” section is a good place to start. BIC needs to flesh this out and offer user participation and make it a part of a larger content marketing strategy.
- Add comments and social sharing icons for all blog posts.
- Make their email sign up form more prominent.
Overall Score: 2 out of 10
4. Top Level SEO Review
This analysis will vary from website to website based on a company’s goals, target audience and other factors.
In addition, because of space and time constraints, I simply cannot cover every single aspect of a company’s SEO profile, but will choose those I feel have the potential for the largest impact.
For BIC, because I know it would be really easy to pick on them for poor keyword choices (or none at all) or site navigation and other related issues – instead I wanted to focus on low hanging fruit – things they could easily/quickly/cheaply fix that would give them the biggest bang for their buck.
Important note: It should go without saying, however, that BIC needs to perform and implement a complete top-down keyword research strategy in order to understand their market and what keywords they need to rank for in order to reconstruct their site navigation around those goals and keywords.
Total Domain/Website Authority
First, let’s look at BIC’s overall authority using some broad level metrics.
- Toolbar PageRank: 6 (out of 10)
- Domain Authority: 62 (out of 100)
- Domain MozRank: 5.17 (out of 10)
- Domain MozTrust: 5.91 (out of 10)
From these preliminary metrics (because they are logarithmic in scale), it looks like BIC’s website and domain are highly authoritative, trusted and influential – which is a great start.
Next, let’s do a quick check of BIC’s backlink profile to take a peek at the possibilities for ranking higher for different keywords over time and get a sense of their SEO efforts – even if they are entirely accidental.
Here’s a look at BIC’s backlink profile courtesy of Majestic SEO.
Needless to say, I was very impressed:
You can see that BIC has been gaining backlinks very steadily over the last 5 years.
In addition, their backlink discovery profile has been very steady with a couple of blips.
First, there was a large spike in backlinks and referring domains in late 2010, early 2011.
After speaking to BIC, it appears that this was likely due to the fact that there were protests going on for several major projects in Spanish-speaking countries. Because BIC had information on these events in Spanish, they received a ton of backlinks as one of the only sources for information.
Then, over the last year or so, backlink discovery has dried up or disappeared entirely, depending on what month it was.
According to BIC, this was likely due to the fact that they had budget/staff cuts, so their information wasn’t being updated as frequently if at all, leading to a loss of backlinks to new content.
Overall though, BIC has a fantastic track record of being able to acquire links from all over the Web from high ranking and trusted authoritative websites – which in turn has elevated their website into an authoritative and trusted website.
Even if these links were purely accidental in nature – BIC was not doing anything specific, aside from day to day operations to get these links – the fact that they were able to grow their backlinks and authority without “trying” makes the potential of the website incredible.
As an addendum to the above two points, BIC has an incredible dossier of referring root domains.
Here are the top 25 referring domains taken from Open Site Explorer:
In addition, you can see from the screenshot below, also taken from Open Site Explorer, that most of the referring domains are from .org domains, and 6% are from .edu’s (out of the top 300 referrers).
It’s no wonder BIC’s own website has gained huge amounts of authority and trust.
Anchor Text Analysis
I probably already knew the answer to this question, but I wanted to confirm what anchor text was being used to reference the BIC website from other websites.
Was BIC getting link juice for other corollary keywords or to other pages on their website? Or were they merely getting generic links to their homepage?
Here’s a list of the top 10 anchor text phrases being used to link to BIC’s website, courtesy of Majestic SEO:
Sadly, I was right in my assumption. BIC is getting anchor text pointing mainly to their homepage while using generic anchor text or the “Bank Information Center” company name.
This obviously won’t help BIC rank for other keywords without some effort.
First Page Rankings for Company Name
After taking all of the previous information into account, I now wanted to make sure BIC at least dominated the first page of Google for their company name: Bank Information Center.
Here are the results:
As you can see, while the company does occupy the top spot (with some nice sitelinks to boot) and one other spot below (with an old Vimeo profile that is no longer in use), you can now see how their lack of social media presence is really hurting them.
They should be dominating the first page of Google and could easily occupy more spots by simply claiming their social media profiles on Facebook (screenshot below), LinkedIn, Google+, YouTube and Twitter, and linking to those pages from their website.
Because their largest source of traffic is for branded terms, at the very least, BIC needs to make sure they are dominating that entire first page.
Other Housekeeping Items
The above are broad-spectrum site-level SEO recommendations designed to identify low hanging fruit and areas where BIC can make some powerful and highly impactful changes for their overall SEO profile.
I now wanted to briefly touch on some other “housekeeping” items that should be taken care of as well:
- Title Tag (Homepage + Other Pages): The title tag on the homepage and other pages is too long – this is a big no-no. As well, it contains the word “Welcome” – an unnecessary use of 7 characters.
- Title Tag Part 2: There are literally hundreds of pages on the site with identical or nearly identical title tags. Each page should have a distinctive page title. Remember that the title is the most important on page SEO factor. Here’s a video I created to teach you how to effectively write great title tags.
- Ugly URL’s: BIC is losing some SEO juice because their URL’s are generic, not keyword rich, and end with the wasted extension of .aspx. This might be a by-product of their Content Management System (CMS) but they should look to clean all of this up.
The Africa Region link looks like this:
It should instead be something cleaner like this:
BIC should then do the same for all of their updates/blog posts:
It should instead say something like:
In addition, the BIC website is not returning a 301 redirect from www to non-www or vice versa. This means that Google may cache both versions of your site, causing site wide duplicate content penalties. Courtesy of Virante.com.
Description Tags Missing
Where are the META Description tags? The description tag is vital to getting folks to click through to your website. The entire BIC site is devoid of them…oops! This was courtesy of Screaming Frog.
Some other things to consider and check, especially as BIC institutes some of these changes, include duplicate content and canonicalization issues.
I could go on forever, but these were some glaring mistakes that should and can be corrected immediately.
- BIC needs to institute a complete top-down keyword strategy before anything else gets done.
- They then need to execute that analysis by upgrading their navigation, titles, descriptions and URL’s across their entire domain and online presence.
- Finally, knowing what they want to rank for, they can begin a link outreach campaign for specific keywords.
Overall Score: 3.5 out of 10 – because of domain authority only!
5. Page Level SEO Review
This audit has already gotten longer than I intended…I guess that’s what happens when there are a lot of things to fix, right?
(I suppose in that respect, BIC was an excellent choice to kick off this site audit series! Huzzah!)
At any rate, I’ll try and cut to the chase and analyze one page of BIC’s website for its on-page SEO and then apply that same advice to ALL of BIC’s pages.
We’ll use this page for our example:
Some quick hits that should be taken care of to make sure the page is SEO friendly:
- The page layout is cramped and makes it hard to find information. This should be a part of the overall website redesign strategy.
- I would like to see more information on all of BIC’s pages – make them more in depth with better and more comprehensive information.
- The page header should say something more than just Africa. Page headers are a part of search engine algorithms, so your page header should be descriptive – something like: “Bank Information Center in Africa” or whatever keyword phrase you are trying to rank for.
- Page META title needs to be shortened and more descriptive (see Top level SEO advice).
- The page URL should be fixed as previously mentioned.
- Code is not using Image Alt text or Title text. For instance, the image in the middle of the page, has the alt text as: img alt=”Mararaba 1″:
This word isn’t used anywhere else on the page. Instead the alt text should be more descriptive about something on the page so search engines can better understand what your page is actually about.
Instead, how about using:
img alt=”BIC Helping The World Bank In Africa”
Then, the title attribute (which is entirely missing from all your pages) when you hover over the image should say something like:
title=”BIC helps villages in Africa have a voice”
- BIC should make their pages more “juicy” with deeper content and easier navigation.
- They then need to fix the titles, descriptions, section headers and image alt and title text, at the very least for their main pages and from now on for their “updates”/blog pages.
Overall Score: 2 out of 10
6. Three Step Internet Marketing & SEO Action Plan
When I selected BIC as my first “victim” I never realized until I rolled up my sleeves and started digging deeper, how much work and guidance they really needed.
The sad part is that I just don’t have the space to go over every last detail, but hopefully with what I covered here, BIC – and just as importantly your organization – can take immediate action on the highest level priorities.
To that end, here is a specific action plan for how BIC can systematically fix what is wrong with their website, SEO and Internet marketing strategy for the biggest return on their investment.
Step 1: Overall Site Redesign and SEO Upgrade
I highly recommend that BIC undertake a complete makeover of their website, SEO and online marketing presence taking into consideration the GOAL of their online presence and their target audience.
I understand due to cost considerations, resources and time constraints that this might be difficult, if not impossible.
Therefore, the next best thing would be to immediately implement the Top Level SEO changes that I specified above.
These should include:
- Figuring out the goals of BIC’s website, their target market and then their overall objectives before implementing anything
- Creating a master keyword list and overall SEO strategy
- Fixing/upgrading the link architecture and navigation throughout the website using this information
- Fixing/upgrading the content on as many pages as possible
- Fixing the title tags for at least the top 50 – 100 pages
- Adding Description tags for at least the top 50 – 100 pages
- Adding Alt and Title tags for all images on the top 50 – 100 pages
- Fixing the URL extensions for the top 50 – 100 pages and making sure to REDIRECT the old pages using a 301 redirect to the new pages
- Checking for duplicate content on the entire website and either removing it, or at least canonicalizing it
Step 2: Social Media Implementation
BIC should immediately claim and develop all available social media accounts.
My top recommendations are: Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn and Google+.
BIC should then make sure to add social sharing icons on their blog and perhaps throughout the site, as well as adding the ability for folks to comment on their “blog”.
Once that is done, BIC should curate and build up these channels immediately by creating a social media marketing strategy that involves their main website, blog and social media properties to provide unique content and value to each of them, while also leveraging their powerful brand and Internet presence.
Step 3: Link Outreach, Traffic Generation and Inbound Marketing
With everything cleaned up and in place, BIC should now look to expand their traffic and diversify the company’s inbound traffic strategy through other sources.
This means asking other websites to link to BIC using various anchor text — to appropriate internal pages – that will in turn help BIC rank for keywords people are using to find their website that they aren’t ranking for now, but can easily rank for with a little outreach.
It also means mining their social media, blog and other channels to create a veritable self-fulfilling loop of goodwill, brand affinity and traffic through their continued updates, content and user interaction.
This will then culminate into BIC’s most desired outcome for their website: whether that’s to get donations, inform, generate awareness or some other goal that BIC ultimately decides upon.
The Bank Information Center is an incredible non-profit with a seriously powerful and underutilized website property that is losing vast amounts of traffic (and potentially donations) because they haven’t taken the time to map out a sound Internet marketing – SEO and social media strategy – and implement that strategy on an ongoing basis.
If they systematically utilize the information I’ve broken down for them in this audit, they’ll see a huge increase in their rankings, traffic and ultimately, what all businesses care most about – even non-profits – an increase to their bottom line that will grow and sustain their entire organization.
[Submission Instructions: If you would like to submit your company for consideration for this series, please visit the LinkedIn discussion group that we created for this series by clicking here. You’ll find instructions on that page on how to add yourself and what information I’ll need from you to consider your website. Note there is no guarantee your site will be selected, nor is there a set schedule for audit times.]
Some opinions expressed in this article may be those of a guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.