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.


Yoast.com runs on the Genesis Framework

Genesis theme frameworkThe Genesis Framework empowers you to quickly and easily build incredible websites with WordPress. Whether you're a novice or advanced developer, Genesis provides you with the secure and search-engine-optimized foundation that takes WordPress to places you never thought it could go.

Read our Genesis review or get Genesis now!

66 Responses

  1. chrismccoyBy chrismccoy on 22 January, 2013

    damn thats a lot of reviews done ;) nice chunk of change earned as well ;)

    • SahilBy Sahil on 25 January, 2013

      That’s true Chris, most things have been covered and thanks to yoast. It’s also important to spend time on website navigation as most of the times it leads to crawlability and search engine indexation issues. Most of the sites really don’t understand the call for actions and UI UX.

  2. gamisetaBy gamiseta on 22 January, 2013

    damn, this is so many reviews yoast, great job. €749 is for sure worth it.

    • AmirBy Amir on 14 February, 2013

      You provide a WP plugin. Thanks for that . :)

  3. ScottBy Scott on 23 January, 2013

    Thanks for the list of things to check. I wasn’t expecting to get interesting things for me to do from an article about your history. I’ve already got call to action under control, and most of my clients happen to be in businesses where newsletters are not relevant (some services are not used more than once), but several of the other things need reexamination.

    • William PattonBy William Patton on 25 January, 2013

      Curated newsletter of industry specific news. Whenever I can’t make a weekly newsletter for a site I’m working on that’s what I do. Not building a list at all is a bigger mistake than sending people to sites other than your clients. Having no list is the biggest missed oppertunity on lots of sites I check.

      • bi quyetBy bi quyet on 2 February, 2013

        Thanks very much, this plugin very useful

  4. dienmaygiadinhBy dienmaygiadinh on 23 January, 2013

    Thanks for the list of things to check.

  5. David boozerBy David boozer on 23 January, 2013

    Thanks guys for the hard work here, lots more to learn I suppose…

  6. Olaf PijlBy Olaf Pijl on 23 January, 2013

    Congratulations Joost! Well done!

  7. Chris PrescottBy Chris Prescott on 23 January, 2013

    Joost, you’ve become integral to WordPress for me. I appreciate all you hard work!

  8. WendieBy Wendie on 23 January, 2013

    Thanx for the tips Joost and congratulations on your 500 reviews! It’s great to see a WordPress specialist who started on his own suceed so well, very inspiring!

  9. TuanaBy Tuana on 23 January, 2013

    Congratulations to you and your team! :)

  10. Tony BBy Tony B on 23 January, 2013

    Good news is always welcome – great going to you and your crew. Most deserved the slap and de-indexing … now that’s no surprise .. OK I’m off to fix my 404 ;)

  11. Hein MaasBy Hein Maas on 23 January, 2013

    Might want to change the price change inside your review request page as well ;)

  12. Hein MaasBy Hein Maas on 23 January, 2013

    Never mind, it will be affected from the 1st of February :D

  13. Social BulletsBy Social Bullets on 23 January, 2013

    Well, this is really huge grow with remarkable spike, well done Yoast team. i love to hear this news.

  14. Feliciano VieraBy Feliciano Viera on 23 January, 2013

    Excellent tips Joost, and congratulations ;)

  15. WPStuffsBy WPStuffs on 23 January, 2013

    Iam afraid that you would miss some more review orders since you unveiled your own secret. :)
    kudos Yoast…keep it up.

    and Yes WordPress Internal search really SUCKZZZ

  16. Adam W. WarnerBy Adam W. Warner on 23 January, 2013

    Congratulations to you and the team:)
    Also a big thanks for everything else you do to enhance and help the WP community as a whole. I’ve been depending on WP and the tools around it since 2004, and our business depends on it and also depends on contributors of plugins like yours and also your willingness to give back to the public by way of your helpful articles and tutorials.

    Just wanted to give thanks where it’s due as perhaps it’s not said enough:)

  17. Sherice JacobBy Sherice Jacob on 23 January, 2013

    From one website reviewer to another — well done!

    In my own experience (having done about 100, just started last year), I can echo the very same findings you have – especially with the sites hit by Panda and Penguin. Although many of the sites reap what they sow, it’s possible to get back on the right path and “get in good” with Google, just by focusing more on better content and less on the hard sell.

    Great work!!

  18. Liam @ ZaddleBy Liam @ Zaddle on 23 January, 2013

    Well done – and thanks for dropping into the LinkedIn discussion the other day regarding SEO wordpress plugins!

    PS I now have 4 other blogs posts linked to in the above story to go off and read :)

  19. yskanBy yskan on 23 January, 2013

    Congratulations on making 500 reviews!

    Thanks for these useful tips, keep up te good work!

  20. Jochen DaumBy Jochen Daum on 23 January, 2013


    regarding your comment on Google Custom Search – I thought it was a great idea, but we found for a client that only about 1/4 of results are being found. Using it was plainly counterproductive.

    I’d be interested in your experiences or if you have any good troubleshooting tutorials.

    Looking at the documentation myself, Google clearly promises to not have identical results with the real Google search engine. I could not have imagined it would be that far off though.

    Kind Regards,


    • Joost de ValkBy Joost de Valk on 24 January, 2013

      I think you have misconfigured your CSE then to be honest Jochen, or your site has an SEO issue…

  21. Doug FrancisBy Doug Francis on 24 January, 2013

    Thanks for always giving us plenty of task to work on ~ sending us to relevant posts written long ago.

  22. Danilo PetrozziBy Danilo Petrozzi on 24 January, 2013

    “So few people spend time making a proper 404 page” I totally agree with that! I also think that proper internal linking is one of the most neglected things

  23. William PattonBy William Patton on 24 January, 2013

    Most of the sites I worked originally didn’t have proper 404 pages when I started either. It’s crazy so many people don’t look at how a page not found error is handled or how it performs. It’s usually their absolute last chance to get a reader interested before leaving.

    I treat a 404 page the same as an internal content page: I look at how it pelrforms for bounce and engagement. I split test 404 pages too and have had great results doing so on one of my own website.

    As I expected the 404 pages normally resulted in a broken conversion but after constant testing and improvement I’ve reduced the bounce rate to ~30% of what it was last year and it’s now more common for a user to start on another conversion path than it is for them to bounce when they arrive at a 404 page.

  24. MartinBy Martin on 25 January, 2013

    With the amount of sites being reviewed I guess soon you will need another member to take into your team.

  25. PhilBy Phil on 26 January, 2013

    Luck for us, we must have been in the upper 400′s and just missed the price increase. Looking forward to the review.

  26. RaymondBy Raymond on 26 January, 2013

    Paid for a review early last year and implemented most of the suggestions but unfortunately still no recovery from Panda.

    I think you guys missed one important checkpoint which is actually checking the content. You would assume that your customers have great quality content and not copied from somewhere?

  27. Taswir HaiderBy Taswir Haider on 26 January, 2013

    Thanks for the tips and congratulations on your 500 reviews. It’s great to see a WordPress specialist who started on his own succeed .

  28. PeterBy Peter on 26 January, 2013

    Congratulations with this milestone!
    Sure some work to do for me with your list of improvements. Thanks for sharing these experiences, and a lot more of your knowledge.

  29. Gautam DoddamaniBy Gautam Doddamani on 26 January, 2013

    congrats joost i wish you the best of luck…500 is a pretty big number, and that 749 is a nominal price for quality reviews! :)

  30. ArturBy Artur on 27 January, 2013

    This is a lot of good information. Thanks for pointing out the older posts about 404 pages, cornerstone content and the call to actions. I’ve read them and made an action list of stuff to change.

  31. RichBy Rich on 27 January, 2013

    I will most likely fall as the 511th review you guys do and I’m looking forward to seeing what it entails. Keep rocking them out. Owning websites for over 8 years and watching the trials and tribulations of Google, it’s time I see what other people have to say. Great work.

  32. TheoBy Theo on 27 January, 2013

    Thank you very much for the lesson you are presenting here!

  33. BagusBy Bagus on 28 January, 2013

    Congratulations Yoast. Great Job.. Thanks to inspiring me to make seo friendly website

  34. MattBy Matt on 29 January, 2013

    Yoast, you are always a wealth of information. Thanks for sharing these great tips!

  35. Edille RosarioBy Edille Rosario on 29 January, 2013

    Wow! 500? Awesome Yoast Congratulations :)

    Also thanks for sharing these great tips. I am one the most people not thinking about making my own 404 page. After reading your post, I should take action now :)

    Thanks again.

  36. Mark LewisBy Mark Lewis on 29 January, 2013

    Great job man, I certainly know you’ve made life easier on many business owners because thats certainly the case for me. You’ve got a very valuable skillset.

  37. Lucky steve 44By Lucky steve 44 on 30 January, 2013

    congrats on your 500th website


  38. Scott BuehlerBy Scott Buehler on 30 January, 2013

    Wow Joost, I can’t believe you’ve done that many reviews already. I remember “way back” when you first introduced the service. I bet you probably figured you’d be doing 25 a year at most!

  39. Bill RayBy Bill Ray on 31 January, 2013

    It baffles me I use this software tool and get page one on Google, but just don’t get the traffic I would expect, must be the keywords I am using, they are not very rich for traffic, but my topic mens shed is a low yield for traffic .

    Guess I am going to have to go back to the drawing board and get better keywords.

  40. Ann DruceBy Ann Druce on 31 January, 2013

    We have used the same key words for almost every page (on the advice that repetition was important.) Instead, it seems we should be stipulating different key words for every page. Have I got it right?

  41. Kumar GaurawBy Kumar Gauraw on 1 February, 2013

    Wow! I just learnt a few things today. I am going to replace WordPress search with Google Custom Search on my websites as well. Thank you for sharing!

  42. Sandeep KBy Sandeep K on 2 February, 2013

    Since we target multiple keywords on one page so while doing Internal link building we can use all those keywords 1 by 1 for linking the pages to each other ..Right

  43. PaulBy Paul on 3 February, 2013

    Hope even I will be able to do so many reviews and form a team for this purpose. Its the initial days which are important where the customers should think they are getting the quality they are expecting. Good luck for your future.

  44. Ahmad RazaBy Ahmad Raza on 4 February, 2013

    Well done guys,, Its really a great achievement..
    Also,your WordPress SEO Plugin rocks…Thanks alot..

  45. Anthony LimBy Anthony Lim on 4 February, 2013

    Joost, what plugin do you use for your subscription/email/social media thing that I see, or is that custom?

    What plugins offer email subscription (like aweber) ALONG with social media likes and tweets? Anyone know?

  46. FlavienBy Flavien on 5 February, 2013

    Congratulations !! We always like to hear good advices from you… Are you planning to write more about e-commerce ? :)

  47. free manBy free man on 5 February, 2013

    Thank you very much

  48. Susan O'DeaBy Susan O'Dea on 6 February, 2013

    Excellent suggestions as I would have expected!
    These pointers are worth following for setting up new and revamping old sites that have slumped.

  49. Fred FBy Fred F on 7 February, 2013

    Congratulation guys ! 500 in 3 years, so you reviewed a website every 3 days? really nice :) !

    I think internal linking is not as simple as it looks. I used a plugin for that but that looks spammy..

  50. NarenderBy Narender on 9 February, 2013

    Congratulations Yoast! Just wish that more and more success keeps on coming towards you :)
    After reading this,I’m seriously considering building a 404 Page. I’ve started the work on it :)
    Thanks a lot. Keep up the good work. Thanks for your WordPress SEO plugin too :)

  51. Mike BuddBy Mike Budd on 10 February, 2013

    Hi Joost,
    Congratulations to you and your team.
    I don’t have much experience so every point from 404 pages to Call to Action did ring a bell.
    I have my to-do list for the coming week, thanks a lot for that.
    Cheers, Mike

  52. BahariBy Bahari on 14 February, 2013

    WOW? It is hard to believe about your 500 website reviews. It is really great job man. I’ve read a lot of articles on your blog and it is also inspiring me to make seo friendly website

  53. Davide Di ProssimoBy Davide Di Prossimo on 15 February, 2013

    Hello Joost,
    Very good post, congratulations! I did not know anything at all about “selling reviews”. Can you actually do that on the Internet. I definitely learnt something today. How much can you earn for a site review? Ah ok I found out when I finished reading the article. Wow! That must be a good business. It surprises me that I have never heard of before.
    Hey Joost I want to ask you: how did you learn how to do that. Please do not think I am going to be a competitor or something like that I am not interested just curious.

  54. Kim CohenBy Kim Cohen on 15 February, 2013

    I’ve downloaded Yoost SEO for my WordPress Responsive theme site. However, as a true newby I’m confused as to how to use it. The theme doesn’t appear to let me update the HTML so it’s unclear how any of the search engines know how to find me. I’m trying to generate interest in an illustrated children’s book that’s about to be published and so far, I can’t even get Google to find it when I enter the entire URL in its Search bar. Please HELP!

  55. rosa florenceBy rosa florence on 16 February, 2013

    I tried to comment earlier and it isn’t showing up so I will give this another go. I didn’t pay much attention to my 404 page until a friend of mine seen it and helped me to set it up so that if a person lands on it, it will show other articles that are either relevant to their search or random. This actually helped me a lot.

  56. JanosBy Janos on 20 February, 2013

    How cam be disabled the atachements in sitemap?I have alot of images appearing in search results,including the site header….:(

  57. Yu HuaBy Yu Hua on 20 February, 2013

    I actually found the time spent on 404 page making is worthy. Thanks for the knowledge sharing and the post of “404 page – practical guide”.

  58. MaikelBy Maikel on 21 February, 2013

    Hi Joost,
    Thanks for the post, I see I can still improve some seo assets of my website. Especially the cornerstone content principle.

  59. SandiBy Sandi on 22 February, 2013

    Joast SEO is the best SEO plugin. Some Seos suggested me to intall Joast SEO. It’s great!