Snack boxes are a pretty big deal in the 4Ps office. Not just because we love to snack (which we do) but because we’ve got quite a lot of health nuts in the office, so something that is snackable but not likely to result in oneself ballooning out like an inflatable raft is in pretty high demand.

Naturally when discussion turns to sunflower seeds and raisins my mind wandered in an organic search direction, so I decided to take a look at four of the current biggest names on the market for healthy snack boxes that can plop onto your doormat (or long-suffering reception desk) on a regular basis. First stop was a nice bit of keyword research, then into the ranking sampler with them to get some ideas of organic footprint.

Healthy Snack Boxes Sample Visibility

Not particularly surprising that Graze is drastically dominating most of this market – even when conducting the keyword research, it was pretty obvious “graze box” has become pretty synonymous with the “healthy snacks by post” type market – but what got more interesting was looking at the websites supporting these brands. It is always an interesting challenge to market a subscription service rather than a range of products with a conventional retail model, so the usual onsite technical SEO mechanisms have very limited value. So rather than poke around the usual onsite measures I decided to take a different swing and fire up Ahrefs to look into the backlink profile of these sites instead.

Let’s start with the least visible of the brands, Primal Snack Box.

Primal Snackbox Offsite

I wasn’t expecting tons of history on this one as the whole “eat like a caveman” idea has only just started to take off in the last few months and the brand is only a year old. There’s a steadily rising set of referring domains and some great editorial inbound content here though. They’ve also got plenty of earned equity from the well-placed blog, which does everything from supplier spotlights to cool paleo-themed recipes, so this one is stuffed full of potential. If I could offer them any advice it would be to look at that content strategy and distribution plan to make sure they keep up the momentum. Monitor trends to keep an eye on the health food du jour and offer a Primal take on the newest hot stuff as it happens. Might be worth looking at integrating the snack boxes onto the same domain as the sister shop Perfectly Paleo, too, in order to really leverage all that yummy inbound authority.

Next up is The Nutribox (that’s right – not just any Nutribox but The Nutribox). Interestingly these guys are the ones that have taken the most direct onsite route in SEO terms (shame they wrapped an H1 around their logo on every page, if I had a nickel…) but again a strong set of inbound links (interesting drop last summer, wonder what happened there?) with good editorial quality.

NutriBox Offsite

The Nutribox seem to have gone all-out with their brand offsite, avoiding any of the more old-fashioned (and dangerous) anchor text focus so many brands still fall prey to with links. Their offsite PR has to be good mind, since the onsite blog is a tad embarrassing – not updated since December 2013, a shame because it looked like they were off to a pretty sensible start. Come on guys, get that content rolling!

NatureBox is interesting, a whole scale of magnitude above the previous two in terms of offsite equity.

NatureBox Offsite

Again very safe and brand-focused with tons of good editorial stuff, but they’ve severely short-changed themselves by hiding their excellent blog down in the site footer and housing it on a separate subdomain. Embracing the general “natural eating lifestyle” as well as offering some great recipes, how-tos and a positively adorable Instagram feed that has something for everyone. If they combined this content with the main site’s breadth of offering (they’re the only one of these four who mimic Graze’s approach of having all their individual snacks detailed on the main subscription site) they’d be onto a real winner, I think.

Well, time to look at the big grand-daddy of subscription snack services that is Graze.

Graze Offsite

Higher numbers than NatureBox but not by an order of magnitude, which I must admit I was surprised by – however Graze has stormed the market in an offline brand awareness sense (I can’t be the only one who keeps getting discounted or free first box leaflets in various purchases off big name retailers) which seems to have given them the edge. They’re also the only brand of these four who seem to be targeting internationally, within both the US and the UK – and full marks on that front by putting /us and /uk into subfolders with hreflang tagging. Amazing!

There is no blog on Graze but there is linkworthy evergreen content in spades if you have a poke around the footer, and it is on the same durn subdomain. Amusingly enough I also found Graze’s “tech blog” which has nothing to do with snacks, healthy or otherwise, but does carry interesting brand equity in terms of insights into company philosophy. They did, however, have the good sense to keep this on – isolating this totally different content on a subdomain keeps the brand association without diluting the content proportionality of the main subscription site.

So someone over there definitely knows what they’re doing – I just can’t help feeling that taking that evergreen knowledge content format and adding a NatureBox-type lifestyle blog for timely and fun content would be beneficial too, creating a little hub for Grazers on the web to congregate on (and link to). I’m sure there would be no shortage of healthy food bloggers out there who’d be willing to suggest some recipes to take your Graze box beyond just something that sits on your desk to be nibbled on! A bit more thought in the technical SEO department wouldn’t hurt either – but that’s a rant for another time.

In Review

Are backlinks – varied, editorial, high quality, earned – still needed in today’s anti-links-buzz world?

Yes. Yes they are.

Well, that was easy.

However modern links – “built” or otherwise – are about more than inbound numbers, follows vs nofollows or high authority signals. They’re a sign of brand. A sign of community. A sign that your business is genuinely endorsed by the web – that people are talking about you, are listening to what you have to say, and are considering it worthwhile enough to quote and cite. Never mind the penguin – “linking for SEO” really is only the tip of the iceberg.

4Ps Views

It wouldn’t be a piece on anything edible without comments from the Food & Drink team here at 4Ps. When not doing awesome stuff for clients like Jamie Oliver, Lindt Chocolate, Jing Tea or Beer Merchants, this gang spend their time snacking and supping on what makes the sector tick.

Kia McSween, Account Director for Food & Drink, agrees that it is all about the supporting content.

“Essentially these subscription services are  all about lifestyle. In order to sell a lifestyle; a data driven content strategy is key alongside technical SEO fundamentals to supply useful content that’s visible to their potential consumers.”

Account Manager Charlie Kay notes the rise of NatureBox in the search market, compared with the stagnation and slowdown of interest in Graze:

Snackboxes on Google Trends

“Graze the brand is massive (especially when compared to competitors) and they are clearly doing a lot in terms of off-site marketing. They’re almost totally synonymous with ‘healthy snack box’ due to brilliant PR and off-site marketing – but is that enough? It is good to see a reasonably sound international strategy but are they covering all the basics? Can Graze solely rely on the strength of their brand or is there more that they can be doing to make sure new challengers in the market don’t catch them up?”

I’ll let food and drink content and outreach extraordinaire Sally Gurteen wrap this one up:

“Consumers want to know the ‘why’ behind a brand. Out of all of these lovely little snack boxes, why the devil ought they buy yours? This is where amazing, inspiring contextual content comes into play. Forget only promoting your products, and start thinking really deeply about attracting people to you, the brand. Think about who you are – your employees, your inspirations, what your brand might do to be better ethically than others, who your ambassadors are (and could be) and you’ll start to find what really makes consumers choose you.”

If you’d like to speak to me or any of these ladies on the Food & Drink team at 4Ps don’t forget to drop us a line via the office details below. We’re always up for going out for a coffee to chat digital (and no excuse of not knowing where to take us either – chase Sally down via @thecafecat for plenty of ideas)!

4Ps isn’t just another London SEO agency. To discuss how SEO and content are evolving together in order to keep pace with new developments in user interaction and search algorithms, 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.