Google Trends makes it abundantly clear that search volume-based interest in kids’ swimwear tends to peak around July and August in the UK – hardly surprising given the school holidays and the (mostly) sunnier weather in these months. Of course this means that retailers wanting to make the most of this need to keep their search skates on all year round, and make sure they’re doing intensive work in the previous three months to boost their visibility when the critical time rolls around.
In the name of science (or something like it anyway) I teamed up with the 4Ps Fashion team to take a look at a trio of specialist children’s clothing brands to see how they measured up in the visibility stakes for the kids’ swimwear market.
First up was to nab a selection of keywords with a bit of research in Adwords, and then plug them into a incognito browser to take some ballpark search rankings as a visibility indicator.
It’s pretty obvious here that Mothercare is vastly ahead of Vertbaudet and Panache Kids, as the only brand of the three that is gaining decent visibility for their swimwear ranges in the uppermost parts of the SERPs. This is interesting because a lot of the usual “must-have” technical onsite ticks are missing from Mothercare’s site – URLs are poor, no image alts, terrible code to content ratio with non-minified HTML and a mess of inline scripting which forces crawlers to bash their way through all sorts of JS before they can get to the page content. Admittedly they aren’t suffering from a terrible inline viewstate like Panache and Vertbaudet (please, please, please learn to handle this server-side, developers!) which will help, but their code is hardly less messy.
Mothercare are making use of semantic product markup (nicely done) but so are Vertbaudet – and in fact the latter have embraced the principles of semantic markup more thoroughly by including schema WebPage and breadcrumbs to help search crawlers understand all the various pieces of their pages. In fact there’s very little to discriminate technically between Mothercare and the other sites from a search viewpoint.
We decided to go old-school and check out their backlink profiles instead – contrary to what some people will tell you, quality and relevant inbound links are still an essential part of any search strategy in order to grow your domain authority, boosting your visibility.
Here Mothercare there’s a clear advantage in terms of numbers – Panache is lagging behind with their profile accumulating only the low hundreds while Vertbaudet are in the tens of thousands and Mothercare the hundreds of thousands. How then have these two gone about it and how has Mothercare pulled ahead so comprehensively?
Without knowing the precise details of their link building campaign it is difficult to guess at the strategies just from the sites themselves, but a quick glance at Mothercare’s onsite Buyer’s Guides gives a good clue and that clue is, unsurprisingly, rooted in amazing quality content which is well-integrated into the overall user journey.
Mothercare’s extensive buyer’s guide are gold for the parenting audience – comprehensive, detailed and often including supporting videos. Each is integrated onto the main site domain (also where the content sits) with links back to product categories and buyer’s guides are also promoted in the top menus, making them an integrated part of the purchase process which really builds customer trust – and also provides an excellent way to earn all those juicy backlinks from top quality, relevant sites which are giving Mothercare such a good presence in the SERPs despite its less than stellar technical search measures onsite. They’ll also be gaining great brand exposure by showing up highly visibly as an authority for those conversational-type queries that have become so critical post-Hummingbird – the how, why and what like “What pushchair should I buy” and “How do I prepare a room for a new baby.” That means more links, more returning visitors and, ultimately, more revenue.
Samantha Osbourne, Senior Digital Executive in the Fashion team at 4Ps, comments:
I think Mothercare are part of a collection of brands starting to understand the power of to drive brand awareness, and ultimately brand loyalty. Others include Asda, Sainsbury’s and Net-A-Porter. The key to this kind of content is understanding what your audience naturally consumes, and catering to their tastes. The use of trend led videos using popular personalities is going to continue to be important as more and more people (of an older and more affluent demographic) turn to online or net-native producers for their video content.
Vertbaudet, on the other hand, have a blog with some okay content on it but that’s all it is – okay. It isn’t as well-aligned to their parenting audience and tends to try too hard to sell while not presenting information in a digestible form and seeming more interested in internal anchor text links than content as a tool for other reasons.
The blog also sits off by itself stashed in the main site’s footer next to the social links, so while it is on /blog rather than lost on a subdomain or similar it doesn’t really form an integral part of the customer’s journey or experience on the website in the way the Mothercare Buyer’s Guides do, and the quality and content of the posts means that they’re unlikely to gain much traffic capture of their own. It would be interesting to see the analytics figures behind the Vertbaudet blog as I suspect it isn’t working as hard as it could for the brand.
The Panache site, incidentally, has no onsite content area apart from a small page on the brand’s history – admittedly Panache is a smaller operation than Mothercare and Vertbaudet, but quality content onsite is one of the ways that smaller brands can compete with the big boys so there’s a missed opportunity there and it really shows in the visibility results.
So what can we learn from these children’s brands and their visibility indicators for their various swimwear ranges for smaller folk?
- Amazing onsite content can trump technical search measures (but combine the two and you’re onto a sure-fire winner)
- Quality evergreen content is worth far more than incidental blog-style content for link acquisition
- Integrating content into your overall customer journey is a great trust builder and boosts visibility all round
- Answering your customers’ questions with well-crafted content is essential post-Hummingbird and also allows traffic capture at the early consideration stage, boosting trust and making a great first impression for someone who may well become a buyer in the long term
4Ps isn’t just another SEO agency. To discuss how search and technology are evolving together in order to keep pace with new developments in user interaction on different devices, give us a call on +44 (0)207 607 5650 for a no-obligation coffee and chat about data, marketing and behaviour across all inbound channels.