SEO Report Card: Needs Quick Tweaks for the Holidays

As we enter into the holiday shopping season, it’s all hands on deck for merchants selling gift baskets. The Wisconsin specialist e-tailer Wisconsin Made is no exception. The challenge is to make an impact in what little time is left in the year. Search engine optimization (SEO) isn’t instantaneous; it takes time for changes on a site to get picked up by the search engine bots and get reflected in the search results.

Given how little time Wisconsin Made has, I’ll start with quick-hit opportunities that will make rapid improvements. That means optimizing the higher-level pages first; i.e., first the home page, then secondary pages, then tertiary pages. That also means focusing heavily on the highest weighted factors on a site: title tags and link text first. Body copy and URLs come after that. And meta tags don’t even enter into the picture.

Home Page Content

Starting at the home page, I see the title tag is targeting “gift baskets” and “gift ideas” as primary keywords. I’m all for lofty goals, but a page 1 ranking for either of these terms is just not realistic. Unless you’re somebody of the size and scale of Harry and David, you just need to move on.

Keyword Choices

Digging into the keyword research tools, like Google AdWords Keyword Tool, reveals some more specific types of gift baskets that are fairly popular, such as wine, fruit, chocolate, food, gourmet. These are nowhere near as popular as “gift baskets” by itself, mind you, but still worth targeting. Being not as competitive, it’s more feasible to break into the top 10 for these terms.

Even less popular but still worthwhile is “cheese gift baskets.” I was pleased to discover Wisconsin Made at number 3 for that term in Google. But the click-through rate on being number 3 is a fourth of what it is for number 1. Moving up a couple slots for this term would make a noticeable difference. There isn’t a link on the home page with the anchor text of “cheese gift baskets,” so I’d suggest adding one, perhaps under the Gift Specialties menu item in the top navigation (which I was happy to find is a CSS-based mouse-over nav, rather than JavaScript, and everything is text links — no graphical buttons for navigation).

Also, noting that “Wisconsin cheese” is even more popular of a search term than “cheese gift baskets,” I might revise my above recommendation to be a home page link with anchor text of “Wisconsin cheese gift baskets” instead. That’s too long for the navigation link, so weave it into the copy on the right side of the home page. Don’t put it in the footer; it won’t get as much weight.

Actually, speaking of the copy on the right side, it’s all anchor text. Some of that should be regular body copy. The home page is pretty much all anchor text, which doesn’t help set the keyword focus for the home page but instead the pages being linked to.

If there is no upward movement in “Wisconsin cheese” rankings after the addition of the “Wisconsin cheese gift baskets” link, then make “Wisconsin cheese” one of the keyword themes for the home page. Because the home page carries more weight, it has a better shot of ranking for the search terms that are most competitive, and most critical to the business.

Wisconsin Made should really examine what is and is not driving the traffic. If “thank you”-related search terms are not driving any traffic to the site, that phrase shouldn’t be taking up valuable real estate in the home page’s title tag.

Wisconsin Made SEO Report Card

Secondary Page Content

Overall there is a lot of opportunities to tweak the keyword focus on secondary level pages. Keywords that are not popular should be replaced (or augmented) with their more popular (but still relevant) counterparts. For example, “apparel” may be the industry term, but it’s not really part of the customer (searcher) vocabulary. “Clothing” or “clothes” would work much better.

Inbound Links and PageRank

Link building is slow going compared to on-page SEO, but that doesn’t mean give up on it completely until next year. True, it relies on webmasters across the web to react to your request or your “link bait” and add a link, and then Google has to discover the new link and recalculate PageRank, but it can be high impact. This is especially the case if the link points to a secondary page with that page’s keyword focus in the anchor text.

I noticed one “quick hit” link opportunity through the use of Linkscape. It’s an existing link that could be easily tweaked, and Wisconsin Made has influence over the folks who are doing the linking. It is a high-value link (according to Linkscape) on the News page of the vendor who built the Wisconsin Made website. The anchor text of this link is “Wisconsin Made.” It should be easy to persuade the vendor to change the anchor text to “Wisconsin Made Gifts” instead. This should improve the home page’s search rankings for a range of gift-related keywords.

Link baiting is always my favorite form of link building. Remember, the edgier you are, the more likely you are to attract attention and links. “The 10 Most Beautiful Wisconsin Parks” is good, but “Wisconsin’s 10 Worst Criminals” or “Wisconsin Jokes That Will Make You Blush” is better. It doesn’t have to be related to Wisconsin. It could be related to the holidays, such as “What Not to Get Your Teenager for Christmas” or “What Not to Get Your Crazy Mother-in-Law for Christmas.”

SEO Report Card

Home Page Content B
Inbound Links and PageRank B
Indexation A
Internal Hierarchical Linking Structure B-
HTML Templates and CSS B+
Secondary Page Content A-
Keyword Choices B-
Title Tags B


Stephan Spencer
Stephan Spencer
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