Ferrit SEO their site properly - sort of?

I have been in the process of writing a SEO article all about www.ferrit.co.nz - a multi million dollar website with more SEO and web development mistakes than a drunk illiterate kid with Microsoft Frontpage could make.

My article covered what you don't want your website to look like after spending a reported NZ$15 million on it.

It's changed!

But I now notice Ferrit have done some SEO work on their site. And some of it even looks quite good. So rather than publishing something mean and nasty and out of date, let's see what improvements have been made and see if I can say something nice. Let's have a closer look...

Ferret - the cute cuddly kind


The URLs

Previously Ferrit had big, bold, ugly query string based URLs. Now, they have nice, friendly, static-looking ones - mostly.

Their digital cameras page has a URL of http://www.ferrit.co.nz/42492.html - personally I would have gone with http://www.ferrit.co.nz/42492/digital-cameras/ - which includes those lovely keywords. I prefer this as Google seems to like the words in the URL, but more importantly, the link explains the content to the user - great when someone sends you an email link. I like people to know where they are going with my links, it builds trust. The link I have for this article should give the uninformed user a pretty good idea of the content on this page, without them having to click on it. Users like this.

But what they have is fine. A big improvement.

There are still plenty of old-format URLs, such the "home" button on the menu which takes you to http://www.ferrit.co.nz/?ObjectPath=/Shops/Mall&ChangeAction=ResetRetailer

Duplicate Content

http://ferrit.co.nz now does a 301 redirect to http://www.ferrit.co.nz - this is how it should be. http://ferrit.co.nz previously returned a 200 response aka duplicate content.

www.ferrit.co.nz now returns a 200 response - previously the homepage did a 302 redirect to home.asp (see the response on http://web.archive.org/web/20060427030427/www.ferrit.co.nz/).

Having your homepage redirecting is very dangerous, and can result in your site not being indexed at all. Good to see this has been fixed.

I have mentioned the above duplicate content issue still remaining with www.ferrit.co.nz and http://www.ferrit.co.nz/?ObjectPath=/Shops/Mall&ChangeAction=ResetRetailer
Having 2 URLs for one piece of content will split your pagerank, and you lose all the benefit from those internal links.

Meta tags, Titles, Headings and other Rodents

Let's go back to the digital cameras page again, and have a look at the key page elements...

Title: Ferrit: Digital Cameras
H1 heading: Narrow Your Search
URL:www.ferrit.co.nz/42492.html
Meta Desc: digital,cameras,camera,optical,electronics
Meta Keywords: digital,cameras,camera,optical,electronics
Opening Paragraph: None
Google likes to see consistency in the above elements. The targeted phrase (ie "digital cameras") should appear in most or all of the above fields.

Previously, there were no meta tags, and the title on most pages was "Ferrit. Find it. Buy it", which is their tagline (catchy, but not search engine friendly).

For the digital cameras page, I would have to say it could have been optimised much better.

The H1 heading should simply be "Digital Cameras". Having "Narrow your search" for the H1 is a SEO lost opportunity, and it's also semantically wrong. The logical heading for this page is "Digital Cameras", for both search engines and users.

There should be a machine generated opening paragraph - something like this...
Shop online for digital cameras at Ferrit - your leading online source for electronics and digital cameras.

The bolded text above could be implemented as variables from a database, based on (product name) and (category name) fields.

A similar type of human readable phrase should have been used for the meta description. Remember, the meta description will usually become your Google Snippet, so make sure it looks appealing to a person. No, a comma separated list of keywords is not appealing to a person.

Overall, adding the nice URL, meta tags and short title is an improvement, but still a lot more to do to achieve the best possible on-page SEO.

Pagination

Getting nice URLs for page 2, page 3, page 4 etc of product results is something that most sites get wrong. Ferrit is no exception. Click on page 2 of digital cameras, and we go to http://www.ferrit.co.nz/?ObjectID=42492&OrderBy=&OrderDesc=&PageSize=10&Page=2 - certainly not consistent with their new file naming convention.
A better page URL would of course be www.ferrit.co.nz/42492-2.html

Even worse, if you click on page 2, then go back to page one, we now have an old-fashioned URL for page 1. http://www.ferrit.co.nz/?ObjectID=42492&OrderBy=&OrderDesc=&PageSize=10&Page=1
This means there are now 2 different URLs for page one - a nice version and an ugly version. This could become a duplicate content issue, especially if the old URL has more links than the new URL.

There are 55 pages of content in the digital cameras section of the site. I would want all those pages to be indexed.

Another ferret, of the cuddly variety


Home page

It's great to see those redirect issues solved on the homepage. But the title is still simply "Ferrit. Find it. Buy it.", which says nothing about what Ferrit actually does. I can understand why the branding people might want to keep this important page element clutter-free, however Ferrit is missing out on lots of international traffic because of this.

Sure, everyone in New Zealand knows what Ferrit does, but all those Americans wanting to buy gifts for their family in NZ will be going elsewhere - shopping new zealand perhaps?
I see Ferrit has a number one Adwords result for this phrase, but can't be seen in the organic results.

There are still no meta tags on the homepage. There are 2 x H1 headings, which are "Login to Ferrit" and "Browse Ferrit". Once again, a pretty simple task to add a proper H1 saying "Ferrit - online shopping in NZ" or whatever takes your fancy. Use those same words again in your title and meta description, and they would have top 10 rankings within a week with less than 15 minutes work.

Indexing

It's probably too early to see much difference in the indexing of the site. Ferrit claims to have just over 1.8 million products on their site. If there is one page per product (and there should be), then there would be just short of 2 million pages on the site, including category pages, supplier info, pagination and all the legal fluff.

Google has indexed approx 70,000 pages. Yahoo has 7,000 and MSN 700 (anyone see a pattern here?). Last week when I checked, Google had supplemental results on the first page (wow) and most of the 70k indexed-but-supplemental pages resulted in a 404 page not found. This means most of those pages are old and discarded, from a previous version of the site. This is still the case, although you have to go to page 2 to see the supplementals now.

On the first page of results, there are currently 3 pages with .html extension - the new file naming scheme that has been installed. It looks like the changes are having the desired effect, and I would expect many many more .html pages to be indexed over the next 1 - 3 weeks.

Getting indexed too quick

The site has lots of content, and if their prices are reasonable it should attract deep links naturally. Is this enough to get them out of the SEO hole they are currently in? I hope so.

Now that the site is becoming indexable again, Google is going to see potentially hundreds of thousands of pages appearing all at once. I recall a Google video where Google engineer Matt Cutts points out that launching millions of pages in one go could be a bit dangerous. In other words, you could well find yourself with a hefty spam penalty.

I would hope the Ferrit SEO people know about this one, and have a plan in place for not launching too quick.

Overall

My gut feeling is that this is a work in progress. The site had previously made every SEO mistake possible, and was ranking very poorly as a result.
After looking at the changes, there are still a plethora on mistakes in the on-page SEO. And there are still plenty of on-page elements I haven't yet looked at. However, at least there is some chance of getting some of those product and category pages indexed and ranked.

Overall, I think good progress has been made, but it could be done a lot better. I'll keep watch for further changes over the coming weeks, as this may be a step-by-step upgrade.

Update 23 December

Only a few days on, it appears the nice URLs have made a huge difference to indexing. There are still about the same number of pages indexed in Google, but the first 100 pages or more are now out of the supplemental results. This isn't a surprise at all.
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