It's Halloween time again. Time for fright flick gore-arathons, Trick-or-Treaters, and...um...oh yah, bucket loads of Halloween CANDY! I'm sure many of you are stocking up on jumbo bags of fruity, chocolately or gummy candy treats for the roving bands of costumed kids that will soon descend upon your doorstep, that is unless you're one of those people who give out bags of chips or boxes of raisins as "treats," which BTW is a great way to get your house egged.
And with Halloween only days away, what better time to roll out some SERP analysis and crown the Top SEO Candy Websites. Let's find out who's doing a killer job at optimizing their on and off page elements for the Web's top candy queries.
So sit back, relax and enjoy, 'cause this edition of our "Top SEO Websites Series" is gonna' be SWEET!
Top SEO Candy Company Websites: SERP Analysis Process
My process for determining which candy websites are doing the best job at SEO involves three steps:
1) Identify Top 20 Searched Keywords - I use the Google Keyword Tool  and our Free Keyword Tool  to get search volume estimates. I omitted certain results, like "lollipop" (singular) because that vertical was littered with Lil' Wayne lyrics and Lollipop magazine results. I did leave "lollipops" on the list because that vertical was much cleaner and relevant. I also scrubbed the list of branded queries, like Starburst, Lifesavers and Smarties.
Here's the final compilation of the 20 most searched candy-related keywords:
2) Run Individual Queries for Top 20 Keywords - Once I've determined the 20 most searched keywords, I run those queries in Google and save the first 100 results 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."
3) Determine Domain Frequency - Finally, it's impossible to evaluate every candy company website on the Internet by doing a deep analytical dive and trying to compare and contrast important SEO factors. So an effective and streamlined method to measure SEO supremacy is through ranking frequency, ie how often a site displays in the SERPs for top keywords. The premise being that the more frequently your site displays for popular queries, the better job you're doing 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 Candy Websites: The Definitive Rankings
The goal of this post is to first identify the top searched and competitive keywords that a candy maker or distributor should be targeting in the search engines, and through query analysis, identify the candy companies that are excelling at SEO , ranking well and outranking competitors in the SERPs. So without further ado, here are the Top SEO Candy Websites.
Top SEO Candy Websites: The Big Winners
So who are the big winners when it comes to ranking for the top candy keywords? Well, any site that frequents the Top 10 results clearly is doing a great job at optimization. But the really big winners would have to be four sites that showed up consistently on each one of the Top 10, Top 20 and Top 100 lists, which were:
Upon closer look, it's pretty impressive what CandyWarehouse is doing in the SERPs, considering this in a vertical dominated by big brands, like Hershey's, Sees and Godiva. So the fact that a candy distributor can slug it out with the Kings of Candy is worth noting. They don't have nearly as many links (20K compared to Hershey.com's 40K) nor the brand equity, but they outrank their competitors consistently. A true David among Goliaths.
With Chocolate.com, you're seeing a website that reaps the rewards of Google's love affair with exact match domains , and more power to them. They also do a fantastic job structuring their information architecture (IA), and letting target candy keywords dictate their category and page titles. And all their critical pages live high in the IA, directly off the root, so link equity flows like water. It's clear that this is a site built for maximum SEO performance. Nice work, guys.
Interesting Side Notes and Honorable Mentions
As for honorable mentions column, I was surprised that Jellybelly.com made it in the Top 10 three times, which is pretty impressive given this is a pretty chocolate heavy keyword study. Sure, they rank #1 for "jelly beans," which you'd expect, but they also rank #9 for "candy" and #2 for "candy company," so they're excelling at site optimization in highly competitive verticals. Smartly, they offer lots of games, flavor guides, wallpaper and a vitrual tours of their jelly bean factories  on their site, which are pretty linkable. ;)
Also worth mentioning are two companies I'd never heard of, Lake Champlain Chocolates  (four instances in the Top 10) and Vosges Haut-Chocolat  (eight instances in the Top 20) who make bacon and chocolate bars , which could be great or gross. Either way, kudos are in order for the SEO efforts.
Finally, a website that's killing it in the SERPs is Candyaddict.com . This site is not a retailer. It's a blog about candy. Yet they have four occurrences in the Top 10 and six in Top 20 for popular candy keywords, and are blowing away companies that should be able to outrank them, like, oh, Ghirardelli (more on them in the next section).
So Whose Candy Keyword Rankings are More Sour than Sweet?
Sadly Hebertcandies.com, a local New England favorite and a staple of my youth, only has one occurrence in the Top 10 and one in the Top 20. Heck even Starbucks is able to squeeze in one listing in the Top 20. C'mon, Hebert Candies. You can do better than that. Here's a quick tip: stop using the same SEO title tag  on every page. And here's a nice juicy text link because I like you: Chocolate Gifts . Hope it helps.
But the worst SERP performance goes to Ghirardelli.com, with only three Top 20 listings and a paltry two occurrences in the Top 10. I mean, this is a pretty authoritative brand with nearly 29K links. Yet the best they can muster for one of their core product pages, "chocolate bars," is #82. And because of this ineptitude, they're forced to use PPC  to drive traffic.
Maybe if Ghirardelli acquired more than 10 measly inbound links to their chocolate bars page it would grab some traction in the SERPs rather than ranking on page nine of Google's dead zone. Note the candy bar page for Vosges Haut-Chocolat, which has 4,090 external links. No wonder it ranks page one, #6 in Google.
If the marketing folks at Ghirardelli were savvy, they'd bolt on a blog and start creating content around the top chocolate-related SEO keywords  on the above list, as well as for sugary long tail keywords  (see what Candyaddict.com is doing). Then, at the very least, they'd have a chance of ranking for keywords they should be targeting and should be ranking for given the strength of their website.
They should also get to work building some quality deep links to their link poor pages because a paltry 10 inbound links just isn't going to cut it in the dog-eat-bacon chocolate truffles world of the hard candy vertical.
Attention: Top SEO Candy Websites Winners
Were you named as one of the Top SEO Candy Websites on our lists? Why not show off your SEO prowess and display one of our Top SEO Candy Websites Winner Badges  on your website.