How Cabela's Tests Its SEO
Outdoor sporting goods cataloger Cabela’s tracks overall SEO program performance by comparing, week-to-week, the percentage of keywords ranked in Google’s top four, along with the percentage in the top 10.
The keyword sample includes 90 “tail” (product-specific) keywords and nearly 2,000 general keywords. During and after the migration from SearchDex to GravityStream, this metric was watched very closely to gauge performance. “GravityStream caught right up and quickly blew past,” says Derek Fortna marketing programs manager for Cabela’s.
The collection of additional metrics began once GravityStream migration was complete. These include the following:
3 keyword yield per page runs between eight and 20; two to five times stronger than usual
3 pages yielding traffic is at 10 percent of the 325,000 unique pages crawled in the last month; a bit low in comparison to the 14 percent average among retailers in a Netconcepts study.
Optimization testing was applied first on category and subcategory level pages before product pages. That’s because pages higher up in the site tree have more opportunity to rank due to greater PageRank.
A sampling of these pages had various on-page factors optimized on 80 keywords. Optimized pages did much better in Yahoo! and Live Search (MSN Search) than nonoptimized pages.
Google rankings for 22 trophy keywords had improved collectively by more than 20 percent from September to January for Cabela’s. Most of the pages that had risen in rankings had optimizations applied to them. What’s more, most of the pages that dropped in rankings also had optimizations applied. Some of the latter group, even after optimization, didn’t mention the targeted keyword in the page copy, which would be an obvious next iteration to try.
The biggest surprise of all was that search traffic didn’t drop off after the holidays.
Stephan Spencer is president and founder of Netconcepts, a Web design and consulting firm specializing in search engine, optimal Web sites and applications. Reach him at email@example.com.