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Woodland Studios yarn shopI joined a knitting circle tonight at my local yarn shop / framing gallery Woodland Studios in historic downtown Stoughton, WI. Like the world of SEO, knitting has a language all its own … one that I don’t fully understand yet. I showed up with my tangled wad of yarn from big box Hobby Lobby, and all those nice ladies (and one man) with boutique yarn and fancy patterns welcomed me with open arms. While feeling warm and fuzzy and needlessly self conscious about my Hobby Lobby yarn, I suddenly realized: 1) I want to give Woodland Studios a link; and 2) I haven’t properly welcomed Hobby Lobby to the commerce world.

Hobby Lobby LogoWELCOME TO ECOMMERCE,
HOBBY LOBBY!

Launching a new site is one of the most nerve wracking projects for an SEO professional. Let’s have a walk through of their virgin site’s initial SEO, shall we?

Hobby Lobby Shopping Homepage: http://shop.hobbylobby.com
Starts off well enough with a title tag fronted by keywords and ending with the brand. Without doing the keyword research I can’t say whether I would have chosen those keywords, but they look strong at a glance and the brand order is ideal. The H1 heading is optimized with CSS image replacement. I’m not fond of this tactic because it’s too tempting to slide into over-optimization, but Hobby Lobby has done it just right: Only include the exact same words in the text as are displayed in the image.

I’d much prefer to have a separate textual H1 heading to optimize for non-brand terms. Perhaps something like “Hobby Lobby: Arts & Crafts Superstore.” Keyword research would be critical in choosing the right phrase, but something more than brand please! All the other text on the page is navigational or irrelevant to the keyword theme begun in the title tag. A small bit of body copy crafted around carefully chosen keywords coded as anchor text to the appropriate pages would go a long way here.

Hobby Lobby Corporate Homepage: http://www.hobbylobby.com
But hold the phones, there’s another homepage here: the corporate homepage. This site has been around for years and has some strong link popularity to pass along to its daughter shopping site. Unfortunately, the mothership doesn’t link directly to its ecom daughter. Corporate links to http://www.hobbylobby.com/shop/home.cfm and http://www.hobbylobby.com/shop, both of which 302 redirect to http://shop.hobbylobby.com. This 302 redirect prevents the passage of link popularity from the trusted corporate site to the new ecom site, which will likely make its SEO ramp up time longer, especially on a subdomain.

Best case scenario: All links from Hobby Lobby-owned properties link to http://shop.hobbylobby.com with no redirect in place. Next best scenario: Convert the 302 redirect to a 301 redirect to pass link popularity to the fledgling site.

Hobby Lobby’s OTHER Site: http://www.craftsetc.com
Hobby Lobby used to feature product and craft content at craftsetc.com. This old content remains live, but it’s 301 redirected to its new home on http://shop.hobbylobby.com. Interestingly, the new shopping site URIs also load at http://www.craftsetc.com, to be immediately 301 redirected to their corresponding URIs at http://shop.hobbylobby.com. This at least has given the new subdomain an infusion of link popularity at launch. The canonicalizing 301 redirects appear to be handled well at the nonsecure http layer, but have been forgotten at the secure https layer on both sites. I’d recommend a couple of rules to 301 redirect URIs requested at the https protocol on craftsetc.com and shop.hobbylobby.com to the corresponding URI at http://shop.hobbylobby.com.

There are many more areas to discuss, of course. I’ve only touched on a couple of the basics of technical SEO for a launch, but it’s getting late and I’d like to knit a few more rows before turning in. SEO aside, Hobby Lobby’s new site is very nice. I even contributed a review for the aforementioned homespun yarn: Fantasy Epais Colorfusion bulky yarn, 4 stars. Your reviews are crawlable, Hobby Lobby, well done!

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Thanks for sharing.

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