“Christmas gifts” is one of those funny sort of queries that everyone would love to see their site top out for on Google, but are often not willing to invest prolonged amounts of SEO effort and time into trying to reach the goal. Well, ’tis the season and all that, and we got curious, so the 4Ps Eye team hopped over to StartPage.com (a quick and easy solution for “Google results without the personalisation” – the closest one can get these days to an absolute search ranking position, insofar as such a thing even means anything in 2015) to see who was barking up the top of the SERPs.

Third place goes to Very, with some of the muckiest HTML I’ve seen in the industry (inline styles and scripts along with a ton of commented out elements), no landing page H1, a meta title that is serviceable at best and no specified meta description. They have made an attempt at advanced semantic markup although only for the Organisation and Breadcrumbs (the latter with an error) so bit of a missed opportunity there. I wonder if cleaning up their technical SEO would get them further up the podium?

Very Christmas Landing Page

The page works pretty well from a user perspective, however, forming a great Christmas “hub” for shoppers arriving on the site. UI experts will debate the benefits of the rotating offers carousel at the top but the rest of the page, which curates a series of “gifts for…” hubs along with areas for home, decorations, trees, lights and everything else a Very shopper could want for a “one stop Christmas shop.” It is easy to hop into a section and filter down by various options from brand to category and, of course, price range.

Very Christmas Landing Page Blocks

Offsite the page does well and has clearly had repeated effort put into it over multiple holiday seasons, as the pattern of link acquisition shows clear December peaks but a general growth year on year. Outreach and content exercises like the Very Secret Santa programme are clearly helping here – this is great to see, as too many brands will try to “start again” by taking down their Christmas pages after peak each year, or 302 redirect them elsewhere. A warning from experience – 302s rarely keep things on the search radar for 10+ months, so don’t rely on them!

Very Christmas Landing Page Offsite

Silver medal goes to general gifts and gadgetry website I Want One Of Those, which doesn’t risk diluting its gifts-focused content with décor and anything else but gets straight to the meat of the matter with an option to just view all gifts and refine by filter. Technical SEO is nothing to write home about – another lot of mucky code, but at least there’s a targeted H1 on there and some effort at tailored meta data.

IWOOT Christmas Landing Page

Again we have a carousel, but the blocks further down the page are more directly targeted to the geekier end of the audience spectrum with no-nonsense links straight to Star Wars gifts, cheap Secret Santa ideas, gadgets and stocking fillers as well as the usual his and hers. This kind of tailored theming as well as the generic gift query targeting is a great way to pick up extra qualified search footprint without having to go mega long tail to bring in the purchasing punters.

IWOOT Christmas Landing Page Blocks

Offsite is a similar story to Very in terms of long-term retention and authority development for the Christmas landing page (remember folks, just because something comes off the main navigation doesn’t mean the URL has to be retired). Interesting the inbound link volume is noticeably less than for Very, suggesting that other factors like onsite content focus (purely gifts, vs Very’s gifts and décor/home) and basic technical SEO provision (see “having an H1 on the page”) can become game changers in highly competitive spaces at the top end of the SERP.

IWOOT Christmas Landing Page Offsite

Top of the pile is Prezzybox, and straight away the onsite evidence starts to show why. Technically this landing page is head and shoulders above Very and IWOOT – a nice H1, tailored message-related H2 (also nicely getting the phrase “Christmas gift ideas” in there as well) and a short paragraph of optimised intro text that is placed visibly for users rather than crammed in at the bottom of the page behind a Read More “for the SEO guys.” Meta data is sound and the code is clean as a whistle.

Prezzybox Christmas Landing Page

What I particularly like about the Prezzybox page is the lack of a carousel and other excessive graphical nonsense. How much this weighs on Google’s nascent UX ranking factors and use of user engagement figures as an organic visibility signal is up for (lengthy) debate of course, but the fact remains that of the top three results, Prezzybox is the only one that lets you dive right into the process of actually shopping for gifts without obliging you to click through carousels or scroll about looking for subcategories.

Prezzybox Christmas Landing Page Blocks

Everything is right there, and the filtering is really well-tailored too so if you’re shopping for some relative you don’t see very often you can dig in by age group and relation rather than having to just trawl through “for him” and “for her.” Those filter clicks even lead through to well-optimised landing pages of their own rather than just filtering the main Christmas page, which is fantastic for organic search footprint.

Offsite Prezzybox has an interesting profile to their Christmas page – while it has clearly been in place for a while, the ratio of linking pages to linking domains is very close to 1:1 which suggests some laser-targeted offsite and PR work. Again the overall volumes are much lower than Very, which to me really shows that getting your core technical SEO foundation to A+ levels will still mean you can pip bigger brands with higher authority to the top spot when they’re reliant on offsite work and brand weighting.

Prezzybox Christmas Landing Page Offsite

Key Takeaways

So, what can this look at the winners podium for “Christmas gifts” in the UK teach us about organic weightings on the high end of the SERPs?

  • Offsite still helps for hitting the upper spots, but it won’t make up for a sound onsite technical foundation when it comes to battling for the very top
  • Never neglect your H1s
  • While you’re at it, always tailor your landing page meta data
  • If copy isn’t there to be seen by users, it isn’t working as hard as it should – ditch the “SEO copy” and make all your content part of the user experience
  • Keep your site code clean enough to eat off
  • Good filtering is good; good filtering that creates additional value-add landing pages is better
  • Don’t load landing pages down with content when you could be getting people into doing what they came there to do sooner (or: if it seems like it should be a list of products, it probably should actually be a list of products)
  • As always, back to rule zero: know your user base, know how they behave and know how you can make their life easier – “teenage boy gift ideas” is always a winner over just “gift ideas for boys” – and it will benefit your search visibility too

This is only one of the many reasons 4Ps isn’t just another London SEO agency. To discuss how content, search and technology are evolving together to meet new demands from brands and customers alike, give us a call on +44 (0)207 607 5650 for a no-obligation coffee and chat about data, marketing and user behaviour across all inbound channels.