The 2020 United States presidential election is scheduled for Tuesday, November 3, 2020 and the good people of the U.S have the enviable choice between Donald Trump and Joe Biden.
Seeing as the president has ruled out taking part in the upcoming debate having seemingly taken offence to the idea that the two candidates should take part “from separate remote locations… to protect the health and safety of all involved”, we may not see Trump and Biden face off for real again before the election.
I naturally decided to fill that void by pitting the two candidates against each other in this SEO Showdown.
Points will be scored for:
- Technical SEO Basics (robots.txt, sitemaps, Page speed, HTTP status codes)
- Content / On Page SEO Basics (titles, meta descriptions)
- Authority / Link Profile Basics (as reported by MOZ)
Round 1: Technical SEO
Technical SEO optimisation concerns the technical building blocks of a website: HTML code, URL structure, HTTP status codes, XML sitemaps, etc. A website’s technology is all about making sure search engines can crawl and index all your content and in the right way.
Why its’s important: Your robots.txt file instructs robots (typically search engine robots) how to crawl and index pages on their website. It also restricts access to certain pages.
Best practice: You should ensure your robots.txt file includes sitemap directive and does not contain any unnecessary disallow directives.
Bidens robots.txt file looks to be simply autogenerated by their CMS (WordPress). It basically speaks to all crawlers together (User-agent: *) without specific instructions for particular bots (e.g. Googlebot) which is pretty standard.
It tells crawlers not to crawl anything within the logged in CMS area ,/wp-admin/ (which is good because you don’t want your inner CMS pages being indexed) with the exception of /wp-admin/admin-ajax.php – this is a default setting in WordPress because some themes rely on this page so it were excluded, Google may have issues crawling those sites.
One glaring omission from the robots.txt file is a Sitemap directive which tells Google and other crawlers where to find the sites xml sitemap for easier crawling.
Trump’s robots.txt file … well Trump’s site doesn’t have a robots.txt file. When I got to the path where it should be, I get a (pretty distasteful) 404 page, which essential means the page I’m looking for doesn’t exist.
Basically this means that no part of the site is off limits to web crawlers. Whilst this is not necessarily bad in and of itself, it is still strongly recommended to include a robots.txt file which blocks crawlers from any sensitive information and points them to the xml sitemap.
Clear win for Biden.
Biden 1 : 0 Trump
1.2 XML Sitemaps
Why it’s important: XML sitemaps feed search engines data on the pages of the site as well as the crawl priority or hierarchy of site content.
Best practice: You should create and optimise an XML sitemap and submit to search engines through tools like Google Search Console and Bing Webmaster Tools.
JoeBiden.com has sitemap index file referencing searate individual post, page and author sitemaps- a sitemap index file can be utilized for websites with a large number of URLs to give search engines a clear idea of the site’s content, URLs and the entire information architecture.
I couldn’t find an xml sitemap on DonaldJTrump.com at either /sitemap.xml or /sitemap_index.xml so I can only assume none exists.
A clear win for Biden.
Biden 2 : 0 Trump
1.3 Page Speed
Why it’s important: Google has indicated site speed (and as a result, page speed) is one of the signals used by its algorithm to rank pages. And research has shown that Google might be specifically measuring time to first byte as when it considers page speed. In addition, a slow page speed means that search engines can crawl fewer pages using their allocated crawl budget, and this could negatively affect your indexation.
I don’t have time to test every page on each site so I’ll be basing this test on a sample of two sets of two comparable pages from each site, namely – the homepage and the most recent news item from each at the time of writing. I’ll be using the Google PageSpeed Insights tool and focusing on mobile scores rather than desktop ones.
Not a great showing here from Team Biden – the homepage got a mobile PageSpeed Insights score of 16 with the sample news page not faring much better with a score of 38.
Trumps web team obviously focused more on page performance and speed with a homepage mobile PageSpeed Insights score of 57 and a respectable score of 68 for the sample news page.
Trump pulls one back.
Biden 2 : 1 Trump
1.4 HTTPS Status Codes
Why it’s important: The “s” at the end of the “http” part of a URL means the website is secure. HTTPS (Hypertext Transport Protocol Security), or secure, sites include the SSL 2048-bit key and can protect a site connection through authentication and encryption. When installed on a web server, an SSL certificate activates the padlock and the https protocol and allows secure connections from a web server to a browser. While at this current moment the SSL SEO impact isn’t overwhelmingly negative (having a secure site won’t make or break your rankings), things seem to be moving in that direction. Google’s Webmaster Blog hints at a fully secure web in the future: “As migrating to HTTPS becomes even easier, we’ll continue working towards a web that’s secure by default.”
Best Practice: For security, SEO and UX purposes, you’re site should be secured with an SSL certificate.
Both Biden and Trump have secured their websites with HTTPS.
A pretty straightforward one here – a draw, a point each.
Biden 3 : 2 Trump
Round 2: Content / On Page SEO
Content Optimisation deals with optimising title tags & meta descriptions, headings, content structure, readability, topical focus, etc. When search engines can crawl all your site’s content, that doesn’t mean they know what your content is about. The relevance aspect of SEO looks at the different elements of your content to make sure that search engines can interpret and contextualise it.
Optimising title tags, headers properly structured content and focusing on one core topic per page including the right semantic signals, etc. will ensure that Google and other search engines can understand the focus of your context and index it accordingly.
2.1 Page Titles
Why it’s important: Page titles are a very important SEO factor in that they create value in three specific areas: relevancy, browsing, and in the search engine results pages. When more than one page on a website has the same title tag, it makes it difficult for search engines to correctly categorize and rank each page.
Best Practice: You should optimise title tags to be relevant and tell users and search engines what the main content on the page is. Ensure there are no missing, duplicate, long or short title tags. Google typically displays the first 50–60 characters of a title tag.
Note: Again, due to time constraints, I can’t review the relevance of each page title individually. I’m also ignoring long and short page titles because, in my view, the 50-60 characters more of a guide than a rule. Instead, I’ve focused on missing and duplicate title tags.
Whilst JoeBiden.com has zero missing Page Titles, we see from the Screaming Frog crawl screenshot below that 820 (that’s almost 66%) of pages on the site have duplicated page titles. This does not look promising at first glance.
On further inspection, the 42 of affected pages are tagged with a meta “noindex” tag and canonicalised which is perfectly acceptable. That still leaves 778 indexable pages with duplicated page titles – 62% of the entire number of page titles on the site. Not great!
As for missing Page Titles, none were identified in my crawl of the site.
As for Trump, no missing Meta Titles were found whilst 259 were duplicated, all of which were indexable.
Note: Whilst as I’ve already said I’m not taking Meta Title length into account for this comparison, it’s interesting to note that in true Donald Trump style, 93% of Meta Titles are considered “too long” – the man really does love talking about himself.
The comeback continues – Trump wins this round to bring it back level.
Biden 3 : 3 Trump
2.2 Meta Descriptions
Why it’s important: Whilst not a ranking factor, meta descriptions are really important in giving search engines extra information about the associated page’s content. Also a well optimised meta description increases likelihood of click through from SERP.
Best practice: You should optimise meta descriptions to encourage click throughs and accurately describe page content. Make sure each page has a unique meta description that is not too long or short. Meta descriptions should be between 400 and 930 pixels (approx 70 and 156 characters).
Again, I’ve focused on missing and duplicate meta descriptions.
97.75% of pages appear to be missing meta descriptions!
Note: Not setting a meta description is by no means the worst thing in the SEO world – if you do fail to set a meta description, Google will dynamically pull whatever it considers the most relevant snippet of content from your page automatically and use that. However, since meta descriptions influence user click-through rates, it’s best to take the time to optimize them to encourage users to click through to your page from the SERP.
As for the duplicated meta descriptions – one of them is canonicalised, pointing to the other so there’s no issue there.
Trump’s site has 2 missing Meta Descriptions whilst all 1,584 of the rest are duplicates!
All pages share the same simple message as their Meta Description – “Help continue our promise to Keep America Great!”.
If I had to choose between all of my meta descriptions being duplicated or all of my meta descriptions being missing – I would, without a doubt, choose missing. Duplicated meta descriptions make it more difficult for search engines to distinguish the topical context of each individual page and also offer very little contextual clues to a searcher around what the SERP result is about. On the other hand, as previously mentioned, if a meta description is missing, the user will be presented with a relevant snippet of on page content chosen by Google’s algorithm.
With that in mind, this round goes to Biden.
Biden 4 : 3 Trump
Round 3: Authority / Link Profile
Authority is achieved through links and citations which indicate to search engines that your website is a trusted source. Great content alone is not enough to rank well in search results. You need to be seen as a trusted source, which is where the authority aspect comes in. With sufficient links from other trusted websites, your site will be seen as trustworthy as well and search engines will rank your content higher in search results for relevant queries.
There’s no way to know exactly how trustworthy Google considers your website. Many different tools attempt to approximate it in different ways. To decide the winner of this round, I’ll be using aHrefs Domain Comparison metric.
Domain Rating is a proprietary Ahrefs’ metric that shows the strength of a target website’s total backlink profile (in terms of its size and quality). Domain Rating is measured on a logarithmic scale from 0 to 100, with the latter being the strongest.
As you can see from the chart, Trump just steals this round with a Domain Rating of 81 to Biden’s 78. Overall the Trump website 2,031,866 backlinks which is actually less that Biden’s 3,341,360 backlinks – however Trump’s links come from a wider range of actual domains (websites) – 22,165 vs 17,762.
1,392,842 of Trump’s backlinks are “”DoFollow” meaning that they have not been forced not to pass SEO value to the domain via a “no-follow” attribute.
So the final score… Biden 4 : 4 Trump
But What Does All This Mean??
Luckily I don’t need to worry too much about a tie-breaker round due to the fact that, at the time of writing, there is no proven link between a candidate’s SEO and their suitability as leader of the free world. But I do hope this post has given you an overview of some of the most important aspects of a website when it comes to SEO. If you want to read more about the principles of SEO, try this blog post.
If you liked this post, check out a similar comparison of Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil.
If you’d like help with your own SEO efforts, get in touch!