Boots’ use of advanced SEO tactics pays off in search rankings: report

Boots stands head and shoulders above its competitors in the beauty industry in terms of SEO, according to a new report from 4Ps Marketing.

The report, written by SEO director Hannah Miller, focuses on eight keywords that potential customers might search for in this industry, with the aim of investigating how more technically advanced SEO strategies can impact search rankings.

It compares five of the UK’s top beauty brands, including Boots, Lloyds Pharmacy, Avon, The Body Shop and Superdrug.

Here is a look at some of the predefined SEO techniques and how they affected the rankings…

Indexed Pages

Reviewing the number of indexed pages helps to gauge the size of the website and uptake of search engine crawlers.

It shows that Boots has a considerably larger number of URLs indexed in both Google and Bing, which could be due to the product range it currently supplies.

It’s also interesting to note the huge difference in the number of pages indexed by each search engine.

Google Shopping Feed

Google Shopping is an important source of traffic for a number of retailers and on average achieves twice the CTR of comparable text ads in AdWords.

But the system is undergoing a fundamental change at the moment in moving from a free to a paid-for service, so it will only be available to merchants that are Product Listing Ads (PLA) customers.

We’ve previously blogged about how to optimise products for Google Shopping and PLA, but in a nutshell merchants need to submit product information including the price, an image and a product ID.

The report found that four out of the five beauty sites have active Google Shopping feeds, with Boots again standing out as the most products listed.

Additionally, two-thirds of the defined keywords generated a search page that contained a shopping result.

Rich Snippets

Rich snippets is a useful mark up tool that allows sites to include additional information within their search results.

This makes your links more prominent in SERPs and more attractive to users as they can see extra details such as a product image or the price. At Econsultancy we use a similar technique to identify the different authors on the blog.

4P’s report found that Boots uses rich snippets for three different scheme types within its mark up, while The Body Shop uses it for its products.

Mobile website

Smartphone penetration in the UK is now at 58% according to Ofcom, so businesses can no longer avoid building a mobile site.

Google advocates responsive design for mobile sites, but also suggests two other options; a site that dynamically serves all devices on the same set of URLs, but using different HTML; or a separate ‘m.’ mobile site.

The report found that none of the five beauty brands had used responsive design, and only Boots and The Body Shop had built separate mobile optimised sites.

Canonical/pagination tags

For retail websites, canonical and pagination tags can be used to inform search engines when duplication of content occurs and how URLs are related to one another.

They were created in order to combat sites that deliberately duplicated content to manipulate search engines, and allowing site owners to overcome the risk of being penalised for innocent duplication.

Both Superdrug and Lloyds show extensive use of canonical tags, so appear to understand the need for them. Avon is the only site not to have implemented any tags at all. 

The report points out that tags aren’t necessarily the right process for all websites, but they are “an indication that an SEO strategy is active and up-to-date.”

Keyword evaluation

Finally, the report used DuckDuckGo and SEOMoz to analyse keyword performance among the five brands. It used a mix of broad and specific keywords to get a snapshot of the average rankings positions.

It also used a points system, where two points were allocated for the highest search ranking (green) and one point for the second highest search ranking (orange).

Please click on the chart to see an enlarged version

Overall Boots was easily the top performer with 27 points, while Lloyds achieved zero points.

In conclusion…

The question the report asked at the beginning was whether it’s important to integrate new SEO techniques as they are released, and the predictable answer was ‘yes’.

Boots has a far more advanced SEO strategy than its competitors and as a result is more visible in search rankings.

Overall four out of the five brands analysed appear to be adapting their sites to incorporate some of the more advanced techniques and comply with search engine suggestions, however at to very differing degrees.

It’s interesting to see that three of the brands have yet to build mobile sites, which means they will be losing out on traffic and sales to their more advanced competitors.

The author also notes that rankings fluctuated considerably during the drafting of the report, and other online and offline retailers (such as ASOS, Benefit and Harrods) consistently featured prominently for the keywords.

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Boots’ use of advanced SEO tactics pays off in search rankings: report

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