Who is winning the Christmas online race in the UK?

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I can only speak on behalf of myself but I’m not the best Christmas gift purchaser of all time – in fact, I’m not the best gift purchaser full stop! Practicality (or indeed a hug coupon) doesn’t really go down too well with my wife, who always goes one step beyond in regards to a thoughtful gift. I don’t know if I’m alone in this Neanderthal world, but there are plenty of websites out there to help you gentlemen out.

I’ve investigated the early leaders targeting men for Christmas gifts and their positioning within Google UK (The Web).

Firstly, lets take a look at the trends from last year regarding ‘gifts for..’:

Google insights for gifts for keyword terms

Unsurprisingly, last year, us men were all at sea – panicking right up until the last minute and furiously typing into Google as many were leaving work on Christmas Eve. This clearly demonstrates the difference in how we go about out shopping preferences. Men are much more comfortable, based upon this search term, to order gifts for a female online, whereas women could be looking at more traditional methods.

Lets take a look at the early pacesetters:

Gifts for her in Google UK (The web) from April 2012 to November 2012
Chart showing Firebox's rise in Google UK (Web)
Key showing URL's used in Gifts For Her chart

The likes of www.johnlewis.com, www.prezzybox.com and www.forherfromyou.co.uk have performed consistently well over the past six to seven months, however www.firebox.com, in all its blazing glory, has shot up the rankings onto page one for the keyword term:

Firebox search result snippet for the term 'Gifts for Her'

SEO Tips: Currently they use the term Fathers day gifts within their META description data – this should surely say Mothers day gifts. Whilst the use of ?view=all is clearer once you see how they’ve setup their canonical tags:

Canonical tag setup for Gifts for Her on Firebox

The key point here is that rather than using pagination rules, Firebox has opted to create a product page with all listings and then place a canonical tag from all archived pages to this URL. The following diagram should illustrate this point:

Chart showing canonical tag setup for Firebox

This is quite a neat little trick, but it could work for a category or sector with 1000s of products? I’m not too sure. However, for this purpose – its worked wonders. The following chart highlights the impact this change (of course, I’m sure there are a number of other factors involved) has made since it was implemented in June 2012:

Gifts for her in Google UK (The web) from January 2011 to November 2012

Chart showing www.firebox.com/gifts-for-her?view=all rise to page 1

Key of Firebox URL's used in chart

As you can see, the ‘?view=all’ page was a key driver in the website improving within Google since June – soon after the technique was implemented. Other noticeable movement is the rise of www.gizoo.co.uk and the fall of the well known www.houseoffraser.co.uk.

Looking at some of the brands

Our extensive range of keywords allows us to pitch a number of brands against one another to see who is taking the lead in the run up to Christmas. I’m sure between now and December 24th there will be a Google change of some sort (whether it be Panda, Penguin or an iteration of the EMD update), however this is a good starting point to see who is in the lead.

I’m going to move away from a 30 year old’s slant on Christmas shopping and look at more generic terms. The study includes a wide range of search terms (that might not necessarily apply to a store – for example ‘Toys’ and ‘www.next.co.uk’, however it gives an overview of an organisation’s strong points and focus.

Toy R Us

Performance of Toys R Us for key terms over period between June 2012 to November 2012

Chart showing Toys R Us's poor performance for the term 'Playstation 3'

Key showing keywords used in the Toys R Us performance chart

Unsurprisingly, www.toyrsus.co.uk rank for ‘Toy’ related keyword terms. I’ve read an article that Spiderman toys will be one of the biggest sellers this Christmas, so the domain is very well placed for that. I was surprised that the domain didn’t rank for ‘Playstation 3’, however examining the URL structure and duplicated content – it is easy to see why.

SEO Tips: If you don’t have control over what your URLs your CMS produce to integrate within the TLN and you decide to create a vanity URL with the same content – make sure you place a canonical tag on the CMS produced page pointing to the vanity URL.

John Lewis

Performance of John Lewis for key terms over period between June 2012 to November 2012 in Google UK

Chart showing John Lewis's performance for key terms

Key showing keywords used in the John Lewis performance chart

You know, out all of the gift vouchers you get at Christmas, a John Lewis one is a bit classy (unless my taste is completely wrong!). The company position extremely well for the generic ‘gift vouchers’, a term that rises considerably around Christmas time (see below):

Insights into how the term 'Gift vouchers' rises around Christmas time every year

The keyword term ‘Toys’ is quite erratic on page one, although www.johnlewis.com has a canonicalization issue.

SEO Tips: Ensure that you do not have https enabled when you do not need it to be. Google have said that using ‘https’ is perfectly fine, however – in this instance – it results in a canonicalization problem. www.johnlewis.com should setup a canonical tag across all of these pages, providing the https protocol is needed.

John Lewis search results snippet showing canonicalization issue


Performance of Argos for key terms over period between June 2012 to November 2012

Chart showing Argos's performance for key terms

Key showing keywords used in the Argos performance chart

Out of all the domains used within this study, www.argos.co.uk probably perform better across the range of search terms used. Having said that, since August the domain has dropped for the keyword terms ‘Toys’ and ‘Boys clothing’ from page one to page two. One of the rising terms is ‘gift vouchers’, although the listing could be improved greatly from an on page perspective. Take a look at their page four entry in Google for the keyword term ‘gift vouchers’:

Argos search result snippet for the term 'Gift vouchers'

There isn’t one mention of the keyword term ‘Gift voucher’, except within the URL. So why target ‘gift cards’ over ‘gift vouchers’, when Google trends show that the ‘vouchers’ is more popular than ‘cards’:

Insights into popularity of the terms 'gift voucher' and 'gift card'

SEO Tips: www.argos.co.uk could change a few on page elements to include the key terms relevant to the page:

Title Tag – Argos Gift Vouchers & Cards
Anchor text – Argos Gift Voucher Cards
<h1> Tag – Argos Gifts Cards & Vouchers

They may also want to highlight the page more so than placing it under the Customer Services section within the footer!

If you have any questions on the charts used within this blog or would like information on how your business is doing in the Christmas rush, then why not leave a comment below.