This is the first part of a new ongoing series on our blog: SEO missed opportunities. We’ve noticed that despite lots of information being out there, few web sites adhere to SEO best practices, and many are under-performing for valuable search terms. Oddly we find that this is especially common amidst large companies with strong real world business—the exact companies that you think would build strong web presences, given their high authority. Fortunately these companies provide fantastic real world examples of common mistakes.
This week we’re looking at a company favourite: Futureshop.ca.
I live in Vancouver, Canada. One day I searched for a laptop mouse in google.ca – typed “buy laptop mouse” and selected option to show “pages from Canada”. It surprised me that I did not see Futureshop.ca (BestBuy’s brother here in Canada) in the first page of the results. Finally, after a quick look I found it on a sixth page. It is very unusual to see such poor search engine ranking performance for a big brand with powerful authority. I’ve done a couple of other searches and didn’t find Futurseshop.ca anywhere close to the first page in Google.
Let’s take a look at this website www.futureshop.ca in terms of SEO to find out any reasons for such bad performance in natural search results.
After a quick review I put together a list of top 6 obvious problems.
- HTTP header check shows a chain of temporary (type 302) redirects the root URL (http://www.futureshop.ca)
- to http://www.futureshop.ca/Default.asp?test%5Fcookie=1
- and then to http://www.futureshop.ca/marketing/_midnight_publish/splashpage.asp?test%5Fcookie=1
As a result, link juice coming to http://www.futureshop.ca is going just nowhere.
- Page titles. We all know that text in title is one of very significant on-page ranking factors. Unfortunately, futureshop.ca doesn’t use them. Homepage, product category pages, and product subcategory on all levels show just the same “Future Shop” title. Only product description pages have some useful information in titles. As a result the website ranks well for long tail search terms with brand/product names—for example “logitech nano notebook mouse”—but not for bigger the search terms (like “buy notebook mouse”) that it could easily be achieving.
- Text in H1 tags is less important compared to page titles but still carry some weight. I didn’t find any H1 tags on the website.
- Internal URL structure of the website. It is a one of best practices to keep URL structure of the website simple and spiderable for the search engine bots. Futureshop.ca has internal links with different dynamic variables and in many cases different links with different dynamic variables are pointed to the same page. As result, the search engines index the same page under different URLs.For example:
This creates duplicated content problem. At the same time link juice distribution going to several identical pages instead of focusing on one page.
Using the canonical meta tag would help solve this problem
- It makes sense to give the search engines instruction in robots.txt. It is especially important for big websites like Futureshop.ca, in order to avoid many problems (including duplicated content problem described in item. Unfortunately, no robots .txt was found on the website
Unfortunately, the custom 404 error page returns incorrect HTTP header status. It shows temporary (type 302) redirect instead of required 404 error. As result, the search engines have problem with removing old not existing pages from the index. For example, page under this URL http://www.futureshop.ca/online/en/marketing/_midnight_publish is gone, but URL still stays in Google index and a cached version of page shows content of custom 404 page. This leads organic traffic to dead pages, creating bounces, and pissing off customers.
Having correct HTTP header status (error 404) for custom 404 page would solve this problem.
It’s funny that, despite huge marketing budgets and tons of authority, many big retail websites still have trouble ranking for high traffic terms. With its low cost and high returns SEO seems a natural process for any web business. Still, it leaves the rest of us with many opportunities to out rank the big guys!