SEO Review for PriceMe

PriceMe have asked me to do a review of their site, or more specifically a SEO review. These make great case studies, so this post is probably worth reading if you are looking for real examples of how to improve SEO on a product database website.

PriceMe

PriceMe are a New Zealand online shopping / review site, where prices from a number of different sites are compared with the lowest price being featured. At first glance, it looks along the lines of Pricespy, but with a better design and not just focused on computer parts.
After a quick look around the site for some items I have bought recently, I see they have a Microsoft bluetooth mouse for about $15 cheaper than what I paid for mine. Not bad.

SEO

Enough about the site, you are wanting a SEO review right? I'm going to focus mainly on on-page techniques that have been used well, opportunities for improvement, and interlinking within the site. I'm not going to review the external linking for the site - not because it's not important, but because there is enough to talk about with the on-page SEO, and also I'm not wanting to publicly raise the alarm on any paid / dodgy link tricks they may or may not have.

Overall

It's hard to pick exactly how the site makes money, but I'm going to assume it's a combination of Adsense + affiliate type arrangements with shops that have such schemes. If there are other revenue streams, then strategies/goals will obviously be different.

The homepage doesn't seem especially optimised for anything really - perhaps "online shopping" or "price comparison" but these phrases need to be targeted better if the site wants to rank for them. But this probably doesn't matter much in the grand scheme of things - the site has lots of content, and can do well by ranking for phrases such as "digital camera reviews" or "logitech speaker prices" or "buy ipod online". And other longer phrases, known as "long tail" search.

The site has 24,000 pages indexed by Google, which means there is a good amount of potential to rank for a wide range of phrases. However the site says there are 120,000 products on the site - if we assume 1 page per product, plus category pages then clearly the site needs to be indexed better. We will need to look at interlinking of pages, but perhaps the site just needs more links.

URLs across the site seem pretty good, and most of the Javascript used seems fairly unobtrusive (ie Google ignores the javascript but the links still work).

Homepage SEO

I won't dwell here, as I think in this case the homepage is less important SEO-wise than the product / category templates.

Done well

  • Great design, it's purpose is obvious.
  • Has a short, snappy meta description written for people.
  • Quick-links to new products, most popular, top rated products which helps interlinking.

Suggestions for improvement

  • H1 heading is too long - "Compare prices and buy online from thousands of products available within New Zealand! If you have any comments or suggestions please send them to us via the Contact Us page." is not semantically appropriate as a <h1>, and should be a <p>. The h1 heading should be something more like "PriceMe - Online Shopping + Price Comparison".
  • Dupe content between http://www.priceme.co.nz, http://priceme.co.nz, http://www.priceme.co.nz/default.aspx, http://priceme.co.nz/default.aspx - all the duplicates should be 301 redirected to http://www.priceme.co.nz (Note this is becoming less important as Google gets better at detecting this, but I say it's still important).
  • Poor targeting of any particular phrase on the page - The site currently ranks on page 3 of a NZ only search for "online shopping" - this could certainly be improved by using "online shopping" in the meta description, h1 heading, and first paragraph of body text (below the h1) and additionally in other parts of the page. Same applies to any other phrases the homepage wishes to target.
  • Would definitely recommend adding sitemap links to the footer to help get the whole site indexed.
  • There is no sitewide link to the homepage, meaning the homepage doesn't get the internal link juice it deserves. Sure, the logo is clickable and takes you to the homepage, but this is implemented using Javascript so it's invisible to spiders. I would suggest either adding a footer link to the homepage, or using a regular link for the logo instead of a javascript link. Personally, I would go with the footer link, and choose rich anchor text such as "online shopping" instead of just "home".

Category pages

Category pages are critical to a site like this one - they are only one click from the homepage, so should have good internal link strength. They are portals to a whole category of products, and there aren't so many categories that you can't spend a bit of time hand-crafting the content on each category page.

If we are talking about the "digital cameras" page, then it needs to focus on phrases such as (obviously) "digital cameras" but also "digital camera reviews", "digital camera prices" and "buy digital cameras". The site has a page targeting "canon digital cameras" and "sony digital cameras" so this main category page doesn't need to focus on those.

I would guess that digital cameras is a fairly competitive market, and I can't see PriceMe in the first 5 pages for "digital cameras" on a NZ only search. I can see PriceMe on page 3 for "digital camera reviews" with the following listing.
Google result for digital camera reviews


A few things should be obvious from this listing:
  • It's on page 3 of a NZ only search, so probably gets no traffic from this phrase
  • The phrase "digital camera reviews" doesn't show in the title or snippet
  • Neither of the 2 results is the main category page - both are product pages.

Ideally, a search for "digital camera reviews" should bring up the main category page, so the category page needs to be optimised better than the product page. I would do the following...
  • Change the title from "Digital Cameras - Compare prices and reviews on Price Me" to "Digital Camera Prices & Digital Camera Reviews on Price Me". Specifically including the phrases you want to target in the title makes all the difference.
  • H1 heading is good - currently "Digital Cameras". I would look at changing this to "Digital Cameras - Prices & Reviews" just to include those extra words we want to target.
  • Opening paragraph is also quite good, but room to improve. It seems to be a formula-generated paragraph which boldens "digital cameras prices". I would modify this paragraph to ensure that the phrases we are targeting are in there as exact phrases (which they currently aren't).

The URL (http://www.priceme.co.nz/Digital-Cameras/c-2.aspx) is fine. Obviously some URL rewriting is going on here, which is great to see.

Internal link strategy & Nofollowing links

The digital cameras page links to 96 other pages. A page passes link juice to each page that it links to. Ideally, you want the link juice to flow strongly throughout the site so that every page gets indexed properly and ranks well. But in this case, there are 120k+ pages on the site and only 24k pages indexed, so clearly there isn't enough link juice to go around. It's always a great idea to get more links, but it's also worth conserving the link juice you have and sending it to your preferred pages. This is where nofollow steps in - nofollow is not just for blocking blog comments or disclosing paid links.

Any link to a page of dubious uniqueness should be nofollowed. Or any link to a page that doesn't serve as a good entry point to the site. So to start with, links to the following pages should be nofollowed...
  • Register
  • Login
  • Each product has a "Please add a review" link. It takes you to a login page, which is clearly useless to a search engine. These links should be nofollowed.
  • Any other pages that don't serve as good entry points

Links to pages that are near duplicate should also be nofollowed...
  • "Price range" links - these are effectively a filter of search results but contain no unique text or titles.

Nofollow any link that appears twice on the page. Nofollow the link that has the worst anchor text.
  • For each product there is a text link, and an image link saying "Compare $". The text links are great eg " Canon EOS 400D 10.1Mp" but the image link is worthless, so it should be nofollowed.
  • Each product also has a clickable picture - this isn't as strong as the text link so should be nofollowed as well.
  • There are pagination links to pages 2, 3, 4 etc - but also "next" and "last" links as well, which point to the same place as the numbered links. These can be nofollowed also to reduce the number of live links on the page.
  • There are images at the top of the page linking to camera categories, which are repeated as text links just below. The image links should be nofollowed.

Nofollow any link that goes through a redirect.
  • Every product has a "Best price" link which takes you to the retailer's product page. However the link is done using a redirect script, which Google ignores anyway for the purpose of their ranking algorithm. If the link passes no link juice anyway, then it should be nofollowed.

Making these changes reduces the number of links on the page by about 70, which means the available link juice can flow through the important pages of the site better.

The ever-popular Page 1 pagination bug

This is a common mistake made by almost every shopping site / product database / forum in existence. Consider the following actions / URLs...

Note the 2 URLs for page 1 are different - this is of course another case of duplicate content within a site. Ideally, page 1 should have a single URL. I would look at implementing a 301 redirect from p_pg-1,c-189.aspx to c-189.aspx

Fixing this bug means less rubbish duplicate pages in Google's index, and more link juice available for the real content pages. It's another little trick that you can use to improve the signal-to-noise of your site.

This image may do a better job of explaining all this...


Product pages

Aah, the heart and soul of the website. Much of what was discussed earlier here applies to the product pages. Here's a few suggestions.
  • Look at the links on the page, and nofollow the ones that aren't important.
  • Nofollow links to "user reviews", "product details" etc if the pages are empty. No point indexing a reviews page which doesn't have any reviews on it.
  • Add a unique paragraph of body content to the page - auto-generated of course. When your product site lists the same products as everyone else, all using the same manufacturer description, it's easy for Google to lump all the sites into the duplicate content bin. Make your page stand out by adding some uniqueness to it (in terms of paragraph text).

Search results

Search results pages have a query string based URL, eg http://www.priceme.co.nz/search.aspx?q=digital%20cameras. These pages are indexable by search engines, if someone was to link to them. Perhaps this is a good idea, perhaps not.

Matt Cutts specifically says not to have indexable search results pages unless they offer a good level of uniqueness. In this case, the search results pages don't offer substantial uniqueness in the paragraph content, and I would recommend noindexing these pages for the time being (using a noindex,follow meta tag). Once more of the product pages have been indexed by Google, I would look at optimising / adding uniqueness / removing the noindex tag from these pages.

Overall

Some good work done already with the SEO of the site, and the site seems to be ranking on Google NZ for a number of product related searches. Further improvements can be made by implementing the suggestions above, with particular emphasis on cleaning out duplicate content and making sure that the internal linking on the site is improved to preserve link juice for key pages.

This post is a paid review for PriceMe. If you would like a review for your site like this one (either posted publicly or a private report), please get in touch for a quote.
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