This week let’s take a look at AutoZone Inc. AutoZone sells auto replacement parts and accessories through a chain of retail stores. According to company’s financial information sales were $6.2 billion in 2007. Web sales were $59.3 million (as Internet Retailer estimates). As you can see the website generated less than 1% of total sales in 2007. This percentage is very low and I think that the website should be able to generate more sales for the company. Let’s take a look at the website to find out what might be holding them back.
I was surprised to find such an SEO nightmare. Unfortunately, we have limited time to cover all of the problems, so we will go over just the most obvious ones.
The search engines are able to index URLs with dynamic variables. But 13 dynamic variables in one URL is too much (see example below).
It makes sense to keep URLs clean and simple to make sure that:
- The search engines will crawl them without problems
- Duplicate content problem would not exist (it’s possible that the same content could be displayed and indexed under different URLs with different set of dynamic variables!)
The website’s content management system uses session IDs in URLs. Session ID is a random number to identify every visit (session). The search engine bots find and index pages under URLs with session IDs. It means that the same page could be indexed under different URLs. As a result we have duplicated content problem.
Google has indexed about 15,500 pages on the website and 15,000 of these pages have session IDs in URLs.
Indexed 404 pages
The most interesting part is that many of indexed pages return 404 (Page Not Found) error pages.
For example, there are 751 pages. As I understand all of them are copies of one category (Truck Accessories) page. All these indexed pages show 404 errors.
Eventually, Google will realize that these pages don’t exist and exclude them from index. But it’s better to have stable URL structure with constant URLs.
The website has temporary (type 302) redirect from http://www.autozone.com/ to http://www.autozone.com/autozone/. This type of redirect is not SEO friendly. As a result, the website doesn’t use all of the link power coming to http://www.autozone.com/ . There are 67,200 links pointed to http://www.autozone.com/ (according to Yahoo).
All of the power from these links is just going to nowhere as a result of this incorrect redirect.
Page titles are considered to be one of the most important ranking factors. The search engines pay attention to text in title tags. It makes sense to utilize these tags as much as possible and include there targeted keywords. The homepage title is pretty useless in terms of SEO – “AutoZone.com | Get In The Zone!”
Product category pages have better situation. For example, title “AutoZone.com | Oil Drain Pan” shows some keywords. But it’s possible to use titles more efficiently.
The website requests visitor’s ZIP code to show content of product pages. As a result the search engines can’t access the product pages to index them. It’s a lost opportunity to rank for specific auto parts (long tail keywords). Tons of product pages with text content, product info, etc are just not indexed. I’m sure it’s possible to find a compromise between business logic (finding out visitors geographical location) and SEO needs (making sure that all pages, including product pages are indexed).
Fixing this website and making it SEO friendly is a big project (it would probably be easier to rebuild the website with SEO needs in mind). It would take time and quite a budget to change the content management system or build a new SEO friendly website.
But let’s assume that some simple fixes would help this website double web sales. It means extra $60 million per year in sales. And I’m sure that web sales could make much more than 1% of total sales.