With Christmas just a few days away, I wanted to take a break from my hectic holiday shopping schedule (ah, who am I kidding...my wife does all the Christmas shopping, even for herself) to see which toy companies have killer SEO'd websites as part of our ongoing series, Top SEO Websites.
So I made this "top toy keywords" list and I've checked it twice. I'm gonna' find out whose SEO is naughty and whose is nice. Okay, okay, cheesy Xmas parody aside, there are definitely some surprises on this list of Top SEO Toy Websites, which includes one very popular toy company that really Scrooged on the optimization this year and deserve a big, honking lump of coal in their stockings. Wondering who it is? Read on and find out.
Top SEO Toy Websites: SERP Analysis Process
My process for determining which toy company or toy vendor websites are doing the best job at SEO involves three steps:
1) Compile a list of the top 20 searched keywords - I use the Google Keyword Tool and our Free Keyword Tool to get keyword search volume estimates. In previous studies, I've flagged and removed keywords from the list because I felt they biased the results, by favoring certain brands, companies or product lines. But that wasn't necessary this time. There is, in fact, one instance of a branded keyword in this list--"Star Wars toys"--but I left it in because in my cyber sleuthing I found that most toy vendors carry Star Wars toys, which eliminates bias. And besides, if they aren't carrying Star Wars toys, then they should be, given their query popularity.
Here's the list of the 20 most searched toy-related keywords:
2) Query each of the top 20 keywords - Once I've determined the 20 most searched keywords, I run queries for each in Google, capture the first 100 results and save them in a CSV file. To do this yourself, you'll need to install the SEO for Firefox plugin. Then, run your query, hit the "100" button and click "CSV," like so:
3) Determine domain frequency - Finally, it would be nearly impossible to analyze and evaluate every toy company's website on the Internet to see who's implementing SEO better than the rest. So a much more efficient method of measuring SEO supremacy is to calculate ranking frequency, ie how often a site displays in the SERPs for top keywords. The logic being that if a site displays more often than their competitors, then they're likely doing a better job at SEO. To determine domain frequency in the SERPs, I use a great tool developed by our friends over at Ontolo, the Hosthame Occurance Counter.
Top SEO Toy Websites: The Definitive Rankings
The goal of this post is to first identify the top 20 searched and most competitive keywords that a toy vendor should be targeting in the search engines. And through query analysis, identify the toy company websites that are excelling at SEO by ranking well and outranking competitors. With that, here are the Top SEO Toy Websites.
Top SEO Toy Companies: The Big Winners
So who are the winners when it comes to the top toy-related keywords? Well, any website that ranks in the Top 10 results is clearly kicking some SEO ass. But the really big winners would have to be six toy websites that showed up consistently on each of the Top 10, Top 20 and Top 100 lists, which were:
Now, compared to the previous studies I've done in the Top SEO Websites Series, these toy verticals are by far the most competitive. Online retail giants, like Amazon.com, Target.com and Walmart.com, completely dominate the SERPs (and were unceremoniously yanked from the winners circle because they're not toy-centric retailers). Also, "shopping resource" site Bizrate.com is a major SERP hog, while content factories like About.com totally clog up the search verticals with garbage. Toss in the aggressive integration of Google products and you've got some of the most crowded and hypercompetitive verticals I've ever seen. So any toy company site that can fight it's way to the top and contend with these SERP Goliaths is killing it at site optimization and to be commended.
Among the winners, Toysrus.com is clearly the king of the toy verticals. And having an ancient, keyword rich domain, which dates way back to 1996, along with 170K juicy links certainly helps their trust, authority and SERP prevalence. So kudos go out to Geoffrey and the gang at Toysrus.com.
What I also felt was worth noting is how well lesser-known toy retailers like growingtreetoys.com and educationaltoysplanet.com are doing in such an aggressive space. In many verticals, these two websites are ranking neck-in-neck with toy industry stalworts having only a modicum of the link equity (hasbro.com has 285K links, for instance, while growingtreetoys.com and educationaltoysplanet.com have only 5K links combined) and almost none of the brand power. But despite the inequity, they're able to excel at SEO and compete with the big boys of toys, so my hat goes off to them. Nice work, guys.
Interesting Side Notes from the Top SEO Toy Sites Study
I enjoy conducting these studies because I always learn something new about the search industry and get to expand my SEO knowledge base. Plus, the results always reveal some surprising, interesting and fun facts. This time around I learned that:
- Esty.com (online handmade marketplace) popped up quite a few times in the top verticals with 10 in the top 100, 7 in the top 20. Given the amount of links the site has: 2.7 million, I'm not surprised. With that many links, you can probably rank for anything. Hopefully, they don't decide to start selling keyword tools...
- The US Consumer Product Safety Commission (cpsc.gov) was another website that showed up frequently because of toy safety and recall issues
- Um, the "girls toys" query yielded some pretty "adult" results...not what I expected. And I'm sure not what many parents or kids expect. Maybe you should try cleaning up your SERPs, Google...at least around the holidays.
Favorite Toy Company Website that Didn't Make the List: They only had six occurrences in the Top 100 results and didn't make the cut, but Silly Ass Toys was the funniest toy domain in the study. Love the name and the donkey mascot. Gave me a good laugh, so I wanted to give them a mention and a link.
So Which Toy Websites are on the Naughty SEO List?
So what was really unexpected was that toy giant FAO Schwarz (fao.com) didn't make any of the lists. Given that they had 200 different opportunities to crack the Top 10 (20 different keyword queries x 10) and still couldn't do it, shows how bad (or nonexistent) their SEO efforts are. Geez, they couldn't even rank in the Top 100 search results list, which is almost impossible given their brand strength, authority and link volume (19K). Even kazootoys.com (every heard of them? neither have I...) with only a handful of links (3K) is doing a better job at SEO than FAO Schwarz. If FAO Schwarz is shelling out cash to anyone for SEO services (in-house or outsourced), they should fire them today because the company is getting swindled.
That said, let's take a closer look and dig deeper into the fao.com website to see where the fatal flaws lie. Here's a snapshot of their SERP listing for the "learning" category page:
This one page/ SERP listing for fao.com is symptomatic of the entire website's SEO woes. I've identified three problem areas in the above listing, so let's break them down.
- Okay, so major SEO mistake here. THE most important piece of SEO content on your website is your title tag. Period. And this is an example of a really bad title tag. The "learning" category page houses many of their "learning toys." So given the popularity of the "learning toys" query, it would be extremely beneficial (and highly recommended) for FAO Schwarz to add the keyword "toys" to their title tag, as in "learning toys."I mean, this is such basic SEO 101 stuff that I've gotta' assume they're not practicing SEO over there. No search marketer is this incompetent, right?
- Really...four links to your learning toys page? All you could muster to one of the most competitive verticals in the toy space is four lousy links? And, mind you, not a single one of these links contains the keywords "learning toys" as the anchor text. Even the site map link text says just "learning." Question: What exactly do the folks at fao.com hope to accomplish by ranking for the super-broad term "learning?" Now, an example of a company that's actually paying attention to SEO is Fisher Price. Their "learning toys" page has a title tag of "Learning Toys - Educational Toys for Babies." Couple that with 400 inbound links and the result is a page that ranks #8 for the query. Fao.com, on the other hand, ranks #98 for the same query.
- Now, not a deal killer (as engines have no problem reading and interpreting query parameters), but I hate, hate, HATE ugly URLs. There's just no excuse for not having "learning-toys" in that URL structure. I mean, how difficult would it be to rename the "/index.jsp" to "learning-toys.jsp?" This does two things: makes for a more easily understood, appealing and more clickable SERP listing from a user perspective. Plus, I argue that it makes it more linkable too. The old adage in SEO is "make content for people." I say the same applies to URLs. Make your URL structures for "people."
If fao.com took the above to heart and cleaned up this low hanging fruit with better title tags, keyword anchored links and prettier, more descriptive URL structures, I guarantee their rankings would improve dramatically. Consider this my holiday present to you, FAO Schwarz.
Anyway, that's all I've got this time around, folks. Merry Christmas!
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POST UPDATE: One of our avid readers and commenters, Richard Kraneis, replicated the SERP analysis process we use to determine the Top SEO Toy Websites. The results detailing of his research are attached in three spreadsheets: