The truth of the matter is that their site is plagued by incredibly poor SEO in every regard. We did not find it a difficult chore to audit the site and uncover a few of its SEO failings.
Rather than scolding them for filing a lawsuit, we think it’s more productive to point out that they should be repairing their SEO and seeing the changes this brings, rather than suing Google for something that isn’t their fault.
No, we aren’t fond of Google algorithm updates either. Nonetheless, staying abreast of those updates is the name of the game. If you’re going to sue Google for SEO, we think it’s important to first make sure that all of your SEO is perfect at the outset.
Without further ado, let’s dive in and see exactly how the Daily Mail’s SEO stacks up.
The Daily Mail’s E-A-T and YMYL: F
While E-A-T (expertise, authoritativeness and trustworthiness) and YMYL (Your Money or Your Life) are concepts introduced in the Google Quality Raters Guidelines and are not currently part of Google’s search algorithms, they are important to observe if you have a YMYL site or deal with YMYL topics.
YMYL topics include things such as the COVID-19 pandemic. Considering the topics covered on the Daily Mail site and how they are handled, it is likely that Google does not take them seriously as other publications, which is a shame because they are topics worthy of consideration in the Google SERPs.
If the Daily Mail wants to be taken more seriously as a publication, we suggest doing away with the topics that are considered today’s tabloid junk news and have no bearing or relevance on higher-quality topics.
In addition, it looks like the site contains a mishmash of content types. While the Daily Mail wants to consider itself a publication that reports on the latest topics happening in the news today, their presentation and overall look reeks of being a tabloid. This could eventually lead to a much lower quality evaluation than normal.
If they want to be held in higher esteem, we recommend doing away with the tabloid-esque layout and misleading headlines and focus on higher-quality content and accurate headlines.
Topics of concern include the following as a start:
While celebrity gossip and talk of this nature are fine for tabloids, they are unlikely to garner any serious attention in terms of E-A-T and YMYL because of their dubious nature.
We think that the Daily Mail can concentrate on more worthwhile topics that are higher-quality and take a bit more consideration than Kate Hudson’s “bikini body.”
In the world of YMYL, E-A-T and higher-quality content overall, this is what’s considered junk news. If we’re going to go specifically based off of Alan Bleiweiss’ formula (QUART, or, quality, uniqueness, authoritativeness, relevance and trust), the Daily Mail fails miserably at hitting all the factors here. They also fail to hit the guidelines for E-A-T.
Internal Post Page Layout: F
There is a strange issue occurring on the internal post page of the above article (this is likely happening in the sidebar of all pages).
The sidebar is a conglomeration of numerous articles that extends down the page in one long list.
We think this should be an adaptive scrollbar that only adapts to the length of the article, rather than taking up several pages. This will no doubt improve the quality of the display of the page.
You don’t want to feature every single story that’s ever published in this sidebar. Instead, you only want to feature some of the site’s best stories. This would:
- make the layout tighter and more congruent with the entire overall look;
- make the page look better as a result;
- result in higher quality of the overall layout; and
- result in much less of the page being one huge long blank space.
It’s also possible that this is a glitch with some of that lazy loading not occurring properly, and it’s not loading all of the articles it’s supposed to. Regardless, it’s an issue that should be addressed.
Foundational Page Elements: D-
This is especially true about the Daily Mail because they are a site that is viewed by many thousands of readers across the world, not just those in the UK.
Page Titles: F
The Daily Mail’s website contains many page title issues that should be corrected. Aside from the obvious, page titles using the article headlines (especially those from the celebrity news section) are rather dubious and reflect poorly on the publication as a whole. Headlines like those in the Kate Hudson article referenced above may be considered junk headlines and could add very little (if any) value for the reader.
Plus, having these sections will conflict with the other sections supposedly reporting on politics and other news based on YMYL topics and bring down the quality of the site overall, and this is before we even get into the lower-quality content itself.
Aside from overall content quality, there are some things that can be done for page titles that will help improve their overall quality.
For instance, we recommend observing character count and word count guidelines because they lead to better-conveyed page titles that show up properly in the SERP and are easier to read.
Clickbait-style page titles on articles concerning politics and other “serious” news should be avoided, because they could potentially cause Google to not take the publication seriously.
This doesn’t mean the headlines should be poor and dry. By keeping them interesting and engaging while still toning down the sensationalism, the Daily Mail can improve the quality of their news coverage overall, and avoid being labeled as inaccurate or too clickbait-y.
While word count guidelines are from other sources and are not explicitly recommended by Google, it could be likely that readers click on page titles that are fully displayed within the SERP character limits more so than page titles containing information that extends beyond the ellipses.
One example can be seen in their article on the coronavirus:
<title>Coronavirus: Mutations found in South African variant are appearing in cases caused by Kent strain | Daily Mail Online</title>
This page title is 98 characters long, and will likely be truncated on mobile devices. This can lead to fewer clicks from potential readers.
Meta Descriptions: F
Revisiting the coronavirus article, their meta description consists of the following:
<meta name=”description” content=”A Public Health England report confirmed that scientists have found at least 11 cases where the Kent variant also had a mutation found in the South African strain, which it doesn’t usually carry.” >
This meta description is better than some. But, it’s still not quite there.
At 198 characters, this exceeds the 156-character SERP character limit. So, there is no guarantee the reader will see what’s beyond the 156 characters. If a reader cannot see what’s beyond this, they may abandon the page altogether.
Again, Google does not have explicit instructions or recommendations for character counts but they do want your meta description to be clear, concise and reflect a summary of the page’s overall topic.
If you write the meta description in such a way that it reflects the page accurately, it wouldn’t be hard to include a call to action as well. This would be some sort of phrase that calls a user to potentially move forward and click on your site’s link in the SERPs.
Beyond this, the Daily Mail should observe the following Google best practices for better page titles and meta descriptions:
Opinions can differ when it comes to quality and length, but we don’t think meta descriptions should be 200+ characters. We believe they should be approximately 156 characters or less, and be fully visible on the actual SERPs.
We also believe that cutting down meta descriptions in this manner will help the Daily Mail’s overall SEO too.
Page Speed and Page Experience: F
Their page speed on mobile is one of the most abysmal and lowest numbers we have ever seen. It’s rated as six out of 100. That’s number SIX out of ONE HUNDRED!
Their FCP is 3.3 seconds. Their LCP is 5.4 seconds. Their CLS is 0.22 seconds. All of their page experience scores greatly exceed the recommended maximum page speed requirements.
Back in 2010, Google stated that they aim for a response time of .5 seconds or less . While they have mentioned two to three seconds for a viable page speed today, we have to assume that things are even more fierce and competitive in today’s digital marketing environment than they were in 2010.
And, just so we’re clear, Daily Mail definitely fails in the page speed department. The below data shows page speed according to GTmetrix. Simply put, Google will not reward sites with page speed scores this abysmal. This is only on the home page. We also believe that many deeper issues also exist based on these test results:
All of these numbers need to be in the green for the Daily Mail to be rewarded for page speed optimizations.
Accessibility Issues: F
Yes, there are many accessibility issues just on the home page. Not only do these affect people with disabilities, they can even result in an Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)-based lawsuit, or the equivalent in the UK.
This is where the Daily Mail can improve significantly by repairing all of the accessibility issues present on the site.
These issues also likely stem from bad habits, which should be corrected as soon as humanly possible.
The issues we found when analyzing their accessibility include:
- 57 contrast errors
- 547 alerts including the following:
- Redundant Alternative Text
- Skipped Heading Levels
- Redundant Links (at least 108)
- Noscript elements (at least 327)
- Very small text (at least 29)
- Redundant title text (at least 15)
- 326 features
- Null or empty alternative text
- 277 structural elements out of place
- Heading level 2 (at least 105 H2s)
- Contrast ratio issues (at least 56)
Remember, this is all just on the home page. Given that SEO practitioners in general are creatures of habit, these sorts of ongoing issues are things you must pay attention to as well.
Unique Alternative Text: F
Alternative text is used for screen readers for people who are blind. Screen readers use this text to describe what images are to those who use them. This is usually a usability problem and sticking point for some websites, and the Daily Mail is no exception to this rule.
Not only is there redundant alternative text, most images do not contain alt text at all. For in-content images, we recommend including image alt text for both accessibility reasons and improved crawlability.
Proper Heading Use: F
Optimal Contrast Ratio: F
This is important because now we get into the area of contrast ratio issues that make content harder to read for people who are color blind. Sadly, the Daily Mail’s site is full of them. Remember, this is just on the home page! We believe that many of these issues appear on other pages as well.
Lack of Noscript Elements: F
The presence of noscript HTML elements is a major accessibility issue. Ideally, when you have the perfect website design, you want to code it in such a way that does not necessitate noscript elements at all.
With perfectly-executed web design, this will always be the case.
W3C Valid Coding: F
While Google has continued to maintain that they do not take into consideration how a site is coded when ranking it, this is a factor that does have an impact on overall cross-browser and cross-platform compatibility, which also plays a role in the all-important user experience.
Think of it as an indirect ranking factor.
While going to industry conferences, for example, is not a direct ranking factor, doing so can result in connections and other friendships which will eventually result in high-quality links that can boost rankings.
In the same way, creating a site with W3C valid coding not only helps your usability and user appeal. As such, it will help your SEO indirectly.
At 1,312 errors, and 179 warnings, the Daily Mail’s W3C validator report contains some of the highest numbers of issues we’ve ever seen.
Usually, if a document is this problematic, we don’t recommend continuing to use a coding language that is unfamiliar to the developer.
Correct coding still has its place in the world of SEO, and can help you there (indirectly, of course).
The other issue is that if coding has this many errors, this also points to the fact that the site could have been copied and pasted over from a previous version of the code to a new implementation (say during an HTML 4.01 to XML 1.0 transition).
Either way, we don’t think that continuing in this way will be of any help to the site whatsoever.
Before Suing, Make Sure You’re Doing All You Can
Yes, Google’s algorithm updates can suck sometimes. But this is not the issue here. The major issue is that there are many things wrong with the Daily Mail’s SEO.
We don’t think it’s fair for the Daily Mail to sue Google in this manner. Clearly, there are many things wrong with their site and they need serious help in the SEO department.
Therefore, we think it is in their best interest to hire an SEO pro who can help them with their specific needs before taking the next steps.
We also think that the Daily Mail should think long and hard about their content creation strategies, and work on bettering their overall quality before resorting to the lawsuit approach.
The bottom line is that Google doesn’t reward sites who don’t put in the hard work, and the sooner the Daily Mail recognizes this, the sooner they can start improving their site in a meaningful way.
Featured Image: Screenshot by author / Apr. 2021
Image 1: Screenshot by author / Apr. 2021
Image 2: Screenshot by author / Apr. 2021
Image 3: Screenshot by author / Apr. 2021
Image 4: Screenshot by author / Apr. 2021
Image 5: Screenshot by author / Apr. 2021