Reviewed - Business Spectator

Site Review – Business Spectator

On the 18th of April 2014, Business and financial commentator Alan Kholer posted a tweet about the re-launch of his commercial website – Business Spectator:

Here’s their internal post: http://www.businessspectator.com.au/article/2014/4/17/commercial/welcome-new-business-spectator

So following his suggestion, and waiting several weeks to allow the paint to dry, I decided to take a look.

 

Build

The first thing I noticed (with the following Chrome Extension) was that the site was powered by Drupal. I have no issue with this in any way, however it’s use is relatively small for large complex websites in Australia, and normally points to a dev-shop that specializes in Drupal as a preferred CMS, rather than having Drupal chosen as the CMS for it’s particular suitability for this website, compared to other CMS platforms.

CMS Usage Graph and Table

CMSs by usage from Wappalyzer data

So the fundamental platform is one thing, however using the BuiltWith tool, this website has thrown almost every piece of online tracking, marketing and web-dev technology at it – the list is one of the longest I have seen: http://builtwith.com/businessspectator.com.au and is reflected in Business Spectator’s resource waterfall:

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Performance

Resource Waterfall

Resource Waterfall for the Business Spectator homepage

That’s a whopping 256 HTTP request pushing down just over 5.2Mb of data down your pipe for the homepage. Only 43 of those 256 requests originate from the Business Spectator domain itself, the rest are tracking and marketing requests. The good thing is that most of these requests are prioritized well enough so that the Time To Interact (TTI) is between 3-6 seconds, while the whole kit and caboodle takes 18 seconds on a high-speed connection.

The crazier thing is that, on a mobile device, over 16.2Mb(!!!) of data via 249 HTTP requests is made on an uncached request for the home-page. Clearly, other than design/layout, no one was thinking about visits that weren’t over Wi-Fi. Like I said – crazy.

Business Spectator mobile screenshot

Business Spectator site on a mobile device

While the first-load, or un-cached requests for the pages are bad, at least some effort has been made in ensuring that second and subsequent page requests aren’t pushing all of that colossal data down to the user. In fact, the majority of requests on 2nd/subs loads are from the third-party analytics/tracking/marketing providers – of which little cache control can be exercised.

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Visibility

So how has the build been viewed by search engines? Well, according to Searchmetrics, there’s been little movement since the relaunch – which is a good thing, as relaunches can go horribly wrong just as much as they can have a positive impact.

Searchmetrics Visibility

Searchmetric’s Visibility Graph of the Business Spectator domain

Redesigns can be a good opportunity to ensure that a lot of the older code implementations and configurations are cleaned up, but it appears that little changed from the old site in terms of trying to improve search visibility (SEO) – for example:

  1. The rel=canonical link reference for the home-page is “/node/11904” – the short internal URL for Drupal content before it’s rewritten to the “friendly” version. However, if you visit http://www.businessspectator.com.au/node/11904, you get redirected (via a 301 HTTP redirect) to the root domain URL. This circular referencing is something that should and could be easily fixed.
  2. The SSL certificate belongs to the sister site of Business Spectator, the Eureka Report – so accessing https://www.businessspectator.com.au does resolve, but the certificate doesn’t belong to the domain – a common problem when websites share the same hosting.
  3. Little attention to properly optimizing the home page’s title – “Business Spectator” and meta description (non-existent) indicates that the brand itself is either deemed strong enough that deeper content will attract search traffic, or that it was simply overlooked.

Beyond those relatively minor aspects, the site is a strong enough authority in it’s own right with it’s unique expert commentary, that together with the News Ltd network backing, it’s not going to struggle for visibility.

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Summary

This wasn’t meant to be an in-depth audit of the entire site, but it was interesting to look under the hood of a respected niche news site. Most of the important pieces of a successful site are in place, however there are significant opportunities to optimize for the mobile audience.

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