A national brand with an established high street presence, Holland and Barrett sell natural alternatives for beauty products, nutrition and healthcare. Their online shop is based at www.hollandandbarrett.com – they also have active Twitter and Facebook accounts linked from the site but are giving less awareness to their presence on YouTube and Google Plus. We had a look at their current visibility for a selection of likely terms and based a sample SEO review on their onsite status and what we could see of their offsite efforts.

How Do They Rank?

Although by no means a definitive means of measurement, search engine ranking on a clean browser which is not using personalised search can give a good indication of how well Holland and Barrett are generally doing in terms of their search optimisation performance. The below results are for a sample of 20 relevant keywords.Holland and Barrett SEO Review - Sample Rankings

Holland and Barrett seem to be doing pretty well in terms of optimisation – traffic levels should be high for generic searches as well as brand and (in theory) online revenue should be doing well. However, sample data from Alexa (again not definitive, but a useful indicator) shows a quarterly drop in traffic rank and the percentage of searchbased visits to the site. So what is going wrong?

How Could They Improve Onsite SEO?

Holland and Barrett’s onsite SEO review showed that things aren’tideal – although some thought has been put into things like ensuring the presence of properly paragraphed content, and meta data is generally very good on category pages (though sadly absent or very poor on many individual products), there are plenty of missing core essentials like search engine friendly URLs and properly thought out headings. Many landing pages have their only H1 wrapped around the store logo (meaning many pages have content just headed by “Holland & Barrett we’re good for you.” Alt tags have been done quite well but links have no title tags, and while product page canonicals have been done sensibly (to absolute product URLs as well as the alternative on the mobile site) it is a shame that rich product markup hasn’t been added at the same time their open graph data was put in.

How Could They Improve Offsite Digital Marketing?

It looks like Holland and Barrett took a bit of a hit too at the last Google Penguin update at the end of May 2013 – a quick check in a link analysis tool reveals a lot of backlinks being removed midway through June which suggests some hasty cleanup work of poor quality links. There are some health articles on the site but they don’t seem to have been updated since November 2012 which limits link baiting opportunities. It’s a shame to see this, as the health foods and alternative medicines market is ripe for some high quality digital PR to build up a more natural and impressive backlink profile which Penguin will love rather than hate!

Holland and Barrett SEO Review - Backlink Analysis

Social media presence and engagement on Facebook and Twitter is generally good – some excellent dialogue between the brand and their customers, both positive endorsements and customer service type damage control from their recent website problems. The brand isn’t taking as much advantage of other platforms as they could though – their YouTube channel is active and has some fun material but this isn’t being properly promoted on other platforms to drive additional engagement.

Worse is their Google Plus profile which is properly verified but completely inactive and not even fully branded – a real missed opportunity for both enhanced presence in SERPS and some creative marketing outreach through use of Communities and Hangouts.

Holland and Barrett SEO Review - Google Plus

Site Conversion Potential

The first impression of the site homepage is one of “busyness” – there’s a lot going on here. While this means everything is laid out at a visitor’s fingertips the sheer amount of information could be a bit overwhelming for some consumers. One significant problem is the length of the left hand menu – a classic mistake on eCommerce websites which have a large number of categorised ranges. Generally the maximum length for a menu should be no more than 7-8 items, as the eye has trouble difficulty processing more than that and most people will have forgotten what was at the top of the list by the time they get to the bottom!

Holland and Barrett SEO Review - Conversion Potential

Fortunately the onsite search is quite good but has a tendency to act more like a category shortcut than an actual search – a query for “cranberry tablets,” for example, pushes the user to the cranberry products category page rather than actually displaying the requested results. Similarly and more problematically, a search for “almonds” pushes you onto the nuts category page. This isn’t necessarily a major issue but it would be interesting to see the visitor dropoff points when using this facility rather than being shown exactly what they want. It is possible to get to a general search results page with some exacting terms like “peanut and raisin” but this again seems to want to push people onto the category pages rather than let them purchase products, forcing a large page listing up to the top above the product results themselves.

Holland and Barrett SEO Review - UX Review

If the aim is to increase average order values by encouraging customers to buy multiple items (a common and entirely rational reason for this type of approach with site search) it would also be useful to stop forcing a basket redirect whenever something is added – this encourages customers to browse longer and potentially add additional items to their order. Similarly, adding a clear Checkout button to the top right rather than just the basket link could help with conversion for those who have gone back.

Holland and Barrett SEO Review - Shopping Basket

It would also be highly recommended to make the “checkout unregistered” option more prominent, and perhaps offer an alternative to registering (signing in with social media accounts is growing in popularity for this reason) as this is a significant barrier to customer retention and dropoff at this stage for new customers may be high. Including a guest checkout option is a good start but it is a bit too well hidden on the page and ideally will be immediately obvious!

Holland and Barrett SEO Review - Customer Journey

What does the brand do well?

  • Generally good content and copy available
  • Good category page meta data
  • Good engagement on Facebook & Twitter
  • Properly done canonical tags
  • Good use of open graph markup

Where are some opportunities?

  • Better use of H1s and product meta data
  • Start making use of rich product snippets
  • Proper use of link title tags
  • SEO friendly URLs
  • Enhance presence on Google Plus platform

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