7 Easy SEO Tips, and Faster Pageloads: Santa Rosa Courthouse Square, Reviewed

Ian Lurie

Santa Rosa Courthouse Square is a nice little site, with some basic SEO problems.
Next in my oh-so-inconsistent series of site reviews, this site is elegant and reasonably easy to navigate:
the site
But under the pretty exterior lurks a few SEO gotchas that are definitely hurting it. Those turn into 7 pretty basic SEO tips that anyone should keep handy when they’re launching a new site:

  1. Use a unique title tag on each page. Duplicating the same title tag again and again is a no-no (Ian waggles finger). It’s OK for them to be similar (they should all include ‘Santa Rosa’, for example). They just can’t be identical. You can check the title tag by looking in the title bar of your web browser (for all you Internet Explorer users, that’s the blue bar across the top of the browser window):
  2. Same thing for the description meta tag. Note that the description tag doesn’t actually help rankings, but it does help clickthru. Search engines display the description tag in the search results. A well-written description will invite folks to click.
  3. Dump the frilly graphics on the home page. Use a heading instead. I know you like the purty stuff:
    But I don’t think it’s necessary here, and a level one heading (H1) on the home page with ‘Santa Rosa’ in it will greatly enhance your relevance. Search engines are hierarchical thinkers, so give ’em what they want.
  4. More ‘Santa Rosa’, please. Add ‘Santa Rosa’ to page headings (when it makes sense). ‘Business Directory’ doesn’t mean as much to me as ‘Santa Rosa Business Directory’. The same is true for search engines.
  5. Remove the developer’s link. The web developer has a link to their site from each page of your site. Ask them to link only from the home page. Right now they’re giving their site a bit of the link authority on every page, and you need it all for yourself. Hoard that link authority! Don’t be shy!
  6. Have a content strategy. If you do want to compete for ‘santa rosa’ in the SERPs (Search Engine Ranking Pages, for you non-SEOs), you’ll need a strategy for steadily adding content. A weekly business review would work. Or links to additional business information from each listing in the directory. Do whatever you find most useful. But steady content growth is a must.
  7. Build some links, man. Google currently shows only 2 links to your site. At a minimum, contact the city of Santa Rosa and see if they’ll link to you from their site, and hit any free directories you can find. Or, ask an internet marketer to review your site so they link to you. Cough.

Two Speed Bumps, and A Couple of Bugs

A few minor bugs/issues I found:

  • If you search the business directory using the form, and then click ‘business directory’ in the navigation, you’re stuck with the search result. It won’t return you to the first page of the business directory. Even if you return to the home page and then click ‘business directory’, you’re still stuck with the search result. I figured this out after I wore a hole in my mouse.
  • The font used in the navigation makes my eyes water. It might be my age. But assuming it’s not, I suggest using a san serif font, instead.
  • One geeky complaint: You’re loading the entire prototype.js library on every page of the site. That makes browsers weep. I love Prototype for nifty effects, but I don’t think you’re using any of them, so I’d remove that from your code. If you are using part of the Prototype library, just keep what you’re using. If you do that, you should cut your pageload times by about 30%.
  • OK, two geeky complaints: You can do better image compression, too. I was able to reduce the file size of your home header image by about 16kb with no discernible loss of image quality. In the age of broadband that doesn’t sound like much, but why use the bits if you don’t need ’em? And why pay for the bandwidth?

The original image is on the left. Mine, which is 35% smaller, is on the right. OK, there’s a little difference, but not much:
left-hand is yours, right-hand is mine

Nice! And A Disclaimer

Ramin, the owner of this site, is a long-time colleague, business partner and friend. That did not make me go easy on him! Just ask anyone in my family: With me, familiarity breeds mockery.
This is a sharp site. It deserves more visibility. Speed things up a bit, work on the SEO, and you can probably get it.

Ian Lurie

Ian Lurie is the founder of Portent. He's been a digital marketer since the days of AOL and Compuserve (25 years, if you're counting). Ian's recorded training for Lynda.com, writes regularly for the Portent Blog and has been published on AllThingsD, Smashing Magazine, and TechCrunch. Ian speaks at conferences around the world, including SearchLove, MozCon, Seattle Interactive Conference and ad:Tech. He has published several books about business and marketing: One Trick Ponies Get Shot, available on Kindle, The Web Marketing All-In-One Desk Reference for Dummies, and Conversation Marketing. Ian is now an independent consultant and continues to work with the Portent team- training the agency group on all things digital. You can find him at www.ianlurie.com

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  1. Personally I think that the image compression you did caused a huge loss of quality. I think it was easily noticeable, a bad thing.
    Good review, however!

  2. @Daniel If you look at the entire image at that compression level, it looks far better. But, even with a little compression they could save 10-15% of the file size.

  3. Ian – First off, thank you for taking the time to review this site. I’ve been working off and on (mostly off due to the lack of budget) with the City of Santa Rosa for over a year now to build and enhance this site. Your tips are great and now I’m going to sit on the steps of city hall and put out my donation cup with the hopes that a city official will fund some of these changes 🙂

  4. Ouch… you’ve taken the top ranking from me for the search phrase ‘SEO Santa Rosa’ at Google. Your site is a good read tho! Just subscribed to your feed.

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