Learning From Ex-Googlers: Shoes of Prey SEO

I’ll let you in on a little secret. I like to analyse websites made by ex-Googlers to see how they do SEO, and today I looked at a website called “Shoes of Prey” by Mike Knapp. I intend to keep this post in form of a summary and free from editorial or opinion.

Shoes of Prey

Summary of Findings

  1. Inbound link anchor text is almost entirely brand or URL [see table]
  2. Use of descriptive internal anchor text on content and blog pages [example].
  3. Great range of productive phrases [see table] with minimal text content on the home page.
  4. Smart use of synonyms [see screenshot]
  5. High authority links [see table]
  6. Only 25 “content” pages.
  7. Massive media coverage and brand references (150,000 results).
  8. Roughly 2,320 pages indexed.
  9. Quiet blog with low comment & social activity across 256 pages.
  10. Thin, repetitive content doesn’t seem to affect the performance of the site [example].
  11. Massive gallery page (ascending, descending, new & none overview indexed) with well-handled faceted navigation

Anchor Text

shoes of prey375
(img) [No Anchor Text]18
[No Anchor Text]10
shoes of pray8
(img) shoes of prey6
shoes of prey3
michael fox3
shoes of prey ontwerp je eigen s…3
shoes of prey’s3
(img) shoes of prey logo2
visit website2
shoes of prey com2

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Search Snippet

The following search snippet screenshot illustrates triggering of related words as search matches and absence of keyword “buy”.

SERP snippet

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Productive Keywords

Keyword Global Monthly Searches
make and buy your own shoes                                      260.00
design your own shoes                              110,000.00
design your on shoes                              110,000.00
custom make your own shoes                                   2,400.00
wedding shoes shoes                              673,000.00
custom make your own shoe                                   1,900.00
shoes for pray                                   1,300.00
shoes with pray                                   1,300.00
shoes design your own                              110,000.00
design and buy your own shoes                                      260.00
designer your own shoes                                      590.00
custom shoes design your own                                   1,600.00
designs your own shoes                                      390.00
wedding and bridal shoes                              673,000.00
design your own custom shoes                                   1,600.00
design your own shoe                              110,000.00
design ur own shoes                                      320.00
bespoke womens shoes                                      170.00
designing your own shoes                                      320.00
make your own custom shoes                                   2,400.00
customize my own shoe                                      480.00
design ur own shoe                                      320.00
make your own shoe                              110,000.00
custom made bridal shoes                                      720.00
make your own shoes                              110,000.00
make ur own shoes                                      880.00
design your own shoes design your own shoes                              110,000.00
make ur own shoe                                      880.00
making your own shoes                                74,000.00
custom make your shoes                                   2,400.00
making your own shoes online                                   4,400.00
custom design your own shoes                                   1,600.00
make ur own shoes online                                         28.00
custom womens shoes                                   1,000.00
design your shoe                              110,000.00
custom made wedding shoes                                      720.00
making your own shoe                                74,000.00
design ur own shoes online                                         16.00
small ladies shoes                                   1,600.00
make your own shoe online                                   1,000.00
small women shoes                                   5,400.00
women shoes for large feet                                   3,600.00
custom make shoes                                22,200.00
make your own shoes online                                   6,600.00
design your own shoe online                                   1,000.00
make your own shoe design                              110,000.00
wedding shoes wedding shoes                              673,000.00
customize womens shoes                                      140.00
custom women shoes                                   2,900.00
width width shoes                              135,000.00
ladies shoes for small feet                                      110.00
shoes for small women                                   5,400.00
custom your own shoes                                   3,600.00
wedding day shoes                                      590.00
design your shoes                              110,000.00
shoes for small feet                                   4,400.00
design your own womens shoes                                         73.00
made your own shoes                                      390.00
shoes for large feet                                12,100.00
larger womens shoes                                   6,600.00
designing your own shoes online                                         28.00
bridal shoes                              673,000.00
small shoes for small feet                                   4,400.00
customize your on shoes                                14,800.00
design your own shoes online                                   6,600.00
custom your own shoe                                   2,900.00
customise your own shoe                                12,100.00
customize your own shoe                                12,100.00
narrow width shoes                                   8,100.00
customise your own shoes                                12,100.00
wedding shoes for brides                              165,000.00
small feet shoes                                   4,400.00
shoes for large women                                33,100.00
your own shoes                              135,000.00
brides wedding shoes                              165,000.00
custom shoes design                                   5,400.00
shoes for larger feet                                   1,900.00
women shoes for big feet                                   3,600.00
wide wide width shoes                                90,500.00
odd sized feet                                         73.00
large women shoes                                33,100.00
shoe for small feet                                   1,900.00
customize ur own shoes                                         58.00
design your own custom shoes online                                         46.00
larger women shoes                                   9,900.00
wide width shoes                                90,500.00
design you own shoes                                   1,600.00
wide foot shoes                                14,800.00
wedding bridal shoes                              673,000.00
small shoes for women                                   5,400.00
customize own shoes                                14,800.00
large womens shoe                                22,200.00
wedding shoes                              673,000.00
custom ur own shoes                                         73.00
shoes narrow width                                   8,100.00
customize your own shoes                                14,800.00
shoes for bigger feet                                      590.00
custom own shoes                                   3,600.00
make my own shoe                                   6,600.00
handmade womens shoes                                      480.00
TOTAL SEARCH TRAFFIC                          6,432,605.00

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Dan Petrovic, the managing director of DEJAN, is Australia’s best-known name in the field of search engine optimisation. Dan is a web author, innovator and a highly regarded search industry event speaker.

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22 thoughts on “Learning From Ex-Googlers: Shoes of Prey SEO

  1. This is some really interesting insight here, you’re really onto something. Whilst we know Google isn’t great at practicing what it preaches it’s great to see what it’s ex-employees do.

  2. Excellent post Dan – I notice they have 95K Facebook followers & nearly 5K on Twitter. Having this sort of solid audience for their broadcasts must be a big help. Oh and very good design too :) I better open another tab before my wife sees these shoes!

  3. Interesting and creative approach Dan, especially if you identify someone from Google search team that has moved on and is publishing as part of a new venture. It would be darn near impossible to not optimize yours or client’s sites based on what you know will work, at least based on the algorithm and knowledge of it at the time they left. Actions speak louder than words and I would guess that Google makes all employees who work on the Google search algorithm and have direct visibility, sign rock-solid NDA which would preclude them from sharing any of these trade secrets during and after their tenure at Google. Thanks for sharing.

  4. Using Scrapebox, I scraped a list of high PR blogs including “SEO” in the page title, and ran across your blog today. This is top quality content here, for sure. Thanks for your research. I’ve been using the Open Site Explorer at SEOMoz to look at sites listed on page 1 for search phrases like “viagra”, to see how competitive phrases are targeted, and your information above corresponds with what I’m seeing too. Use the brand name, and variants of the website address. I’ll be a repeat visitor to this blog for sure.

  5. Love this post. I can’t imagine a better way to get insight into high level SEO. This reminds me of IRS agents that become accountants and utilize their knowledge to pull magic tricks on tax returns.

  6. Did I miss the bit where something is mentioned about their non brand keyword rankings? Also this is probably off topic but it mentions that this is one of their best links fashiontribes.typepad.com but take a look at the site, Blatant selling of exact match anchor text (sitewide) links. Thoughts?

  7. Following on from the comment about the number of pins they’ve received from pinterest, that really highlights another huge opportunity for them.

    Firstly when you custom design a shoe, every shoes appears to generate a new URL – even when your custom shoe combination matches an existing shoe. As such, Shoes of Prey are generating duplicate image content needlessly. Just like traditional duplicate content problems, they are now splitting link equity between images that are identical & as such pinterest will show much lower sharing figures for each image.

    Secondly they’ve got a huge opportunity to craft automatic alt text for each custom designed shoe as well, instead of “Design your own shoes” as the alt text. Improving that alone could yield solid results from image search but if they cleverly linked those into hub pages of listing similar shoes from other users – they could pull in all sorts of mid-long tail traffic for more precise/descriptive search phrases.

  8. Hi Rick – I’m Mike Knapp, the author of the site, and the ex-Google software engineer who now work at Shoes of Prey. I need to point out that at my time at Google I didn’t work on search, and I have zero knowledge on the proprietary algorithms that Google uses. (I worked instead on internal apps and Google Reader.) The other co-founder who also worked at Google also didn’t work on search (he was on the business side). We actually haven’t done much (if any) work on SEO. We’ve been too busy building the business! However, I can see that it’s probably something we should look at more in the future. This is a great discussion. Thanks everyone! :-)

  9. Thanks Mike, I think there is much to learn from a pristine website such as yours. Too many SEOs obsess over things like anchor text, seo landing pages and keyword stuffing and just make things unnatural. Shoes of Prey is a great example of how a website can be successful just by focusing on the product and users.