In this installment of “SEO Report Card,” I’ll be looking at Springbok-Puzzles.com. Springbok is a well-known brand among jigsaw puzzle aficionados. Allied Products is behind the Springbok Puzzles brand, having acquired the rights in 2002 from Hallmark, who used to sell the brand exclusively in its Hallmark Stores. Monica Wilkens, vice president of marketing at Allied Products, submitted the site review request.
The Springbok-Puzzles.com site isn’t a very large one. A “site:springbok-puzzles.com” Google search turns up 161 pages in the index. Adding &start=990&filter=0 to the end of the Google search results URL (i.e., http://www.google.com/search?q=site:springbok-puzzles.com&start=990&filter=0) reveals an even smaller (but more accurate) number: 144 pages in Google, which doesn’t give Springbok very many opportunities to chase after many keyword themes.
Think of every product page, every category page, as a landing page with ranking potential given its unique set of on-page signals that it’s sending to the search engines. The small indexation footprint puts Springbok-Puzzles.com at a disadvantage compared to competitors with a larger selection of products and categories.
That said, you may think there aren’t that many keywords to target, given the narrow focus for their business. It’s all puzzles, all the time. It’s not like Springbok is an online department store like JCPenney.com, with dozens of departments, hundreds of categories, and many thousands of products. Yet competitor brands like Ravensburger.com manage to have over 5,000 pages indexed in Google. The e-tailer Puzzlewarehouse.com also looks like a solid competitor, ranking #4 for “jigsaw puzzles” and indexation at 1,710 pages (apparently). On closer inspection, however (using the aforementioned &start=990&filter=0 trick) Puzzlewarehouse.com has only 374 pages indexed.
How many puzzle-related keywords could, and should, Springbok (Allied) be targeting? Thousands. Granted there are a limited number of head terms, like “puzzle” and “jigsaw puzzle” — in both singular and plural forms. But there are a decent number of torso terms like “puzzle gifts” and “dog puzzles” and “jigsaw puzzles for sale.” And there is plenty of gold to be mined in the “Long Tail,” such as “coca-cola jigsaw puzzle.” Allied has licensing agreements with brands like Coca-Cola and artists like Mary Engelbreit, thus they can legitimately target branded/trademark-containing search terms like “coca-cola jigsaw puzzle.”
The problem with the obvious head terms like “puzzle” and “puzzles” is that they are too generic and will cast too wide of a net that includes searchers looking for free online puzzles, such as crossword puzzles, math puzzles, Sudoku puzzles, word puzzles, printable puzzles, and so forth. We don’t want those visitors; they won’t convert.
Home Page Content
Therefore it’s essential that Springbok go after the more targeted “jigsaw puzzles” search terms. Yet Springbok isn’t present in the first 10 pages in Google for “jigsaw puzzles” (or “puzzles” for that matter). This is due to both on-page and off-page factors. In terms of off-page, there just aren’t very many backlinks with “jigsaw” in the anchor text. And the word “jigsaw” doesn’t appear in the title tag of the home page, which is the most important element on the most important page of the site.
The phrase “jigsaw puzzles” is in an H1 tag on the home page, but that doesn’t matter much, as H1s don’t get nearly the weight they used to. It’s good that the home page contains a reasonable amount of text (200 words to be exact) and it includes the crucially important keywords “puzzles” and “puzzle.” Unfortunately it isn’t enough to make up for the other off-page and on-page shortcomings.
I found that title tags were repeated across multiple pages. This is a real no-no. It squanders an opportunity to target a unique keyword theme and it can inadvertently trip Google’s duplicate content filter. The title tag for the home page — “Springbok Puzzles®, a 45 Year Tradition – Originality, Innovation, and Superior Quality” — was re-used on other pages such as the history page, policies page, and retailers page. (By the way, don’t worry about the ® registered trademark symbol in the title tag and body copy, that isn’t confusing Google into thinking that Springbok® is a different word from Springbok.)
I even found titles re-used across multiple pages, complete with repetition inside the titles too! That’s doubly bad! For example, some pages were titled “Springbok Puzzles | Springbok Puzzles” while others were “Springbok Puzzles – Springbok Puzzles.” Another curious situation I found on some pages: The site name “Springbok Puzzles” and category name were interchanged on some titles, such as “Springbok Puzzles – Best Sellers” was used on some pages and “Best Sellers | Springbok Puzzles” on others. This isn’t quite as bad as the “Springbok Puzzles – Springbok Puzzles” situation, but there is definitely room for improvement nonetheless.
Secondary Page Content
The category pages didn’t contain much in the way of textual content. For example, the Coca-Cola category page had no intro copy, no mention of the word “puzzle,” no use of the phrases “coca-cola puzzles” or “coca cola puzzles” anywhere, including where it matters most: in the title tag or high up on the page (where the keyword prominence would achieve more weight). Jumping then to a product page I found no mention of the word “puzzle” in the product description or title tag or H1 heading (indeed there was no H1).
Internal Hierarchical Linking Structure
The URLs aren’t bad at all. However, it was somewhat curious that the URL structure for the category and product pages included “/store/store.php/”. I’d prefer to see that removed. So instead of http://www.springbok-puzzles.com/store/store.php/categories/best-sellers, for instance, I’d rather see a URL like http://www.springbok-puzzles.com/categories/best-sellers. Short URLs get clicked on twice as often as long URLs in the Google search results, according to a recent MarketingSherpa study.
Inbound Links and PageRank
I could go on and on — I haven’t even gotten to the site’s biggest Achilles Heel: its inbound links. I’ll end here, on a positive note. Specifically, the site has a properly-configured redirect (301-style, not 302) from www.springbokpuzzles.com to www.springbok-puzzles.com, which helps the engines aggregate together the links to both URLs, thus avoiding any PageRank dilution.
SEO Report Card
Home Page Content B+
Inbound Links and PageRank D
Internal Hierarchical Linking Structure D+
HTML Templates and CSS C+
Secondary Page Content C-
Keyword Choices C+
Title Tags C
OVERALL GPA C+