Why does a Manchester Wine Merchant need SEO and SMM?

By Mar.17, 2011

As the co-owner of Smithfield Wine, a local wine merchant based in Manchester, I have had to deal with web developers and so called “SEO experts” to ensure that smithfieldwine.com is returned in the Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs) and that the online business grows. As we specialise in niche wine markets such as:

this should be possible.

www.smithfieldwine.com – SEO case study

Our web developer offered us 6 months of free SEO if we would go with them. Sounded like a good idea so we did.

Before we launched the reworked web site smithfieldwine.com had a page rank of 5 and we were on the first page of Google for the majority of our products and all of our niche categories. We now have a page rank of 3 and the restaurants and bars that we supply are ranking higher than us for our products merely by including their wine lists on their websites!

As our 6 months of free SEO was up our developer asked us to consider taking up an annual contract and offered this proposal:

Basic SEO Package Standard SEO Package Advanced SEO Package
– Basic Website Optimisation – Full Website Optimisation – Full Website Optimisation
– Monthly Reporting – Monthly Reporting – Monthly Reporting
– Free directory submission – Free directory submission
– Free social bookmarking – Free social bookmarking
– Continual SEO consultancy – Continual SEO consultancy
– Paid links
– Article Submissions
£200.00 per month £400.00 per month £1,000.00 per month

This really got our interest! I started to look at what we had got in terms of SEO over the last 6 months:

  • The online wine gift shop category did not have a page title
  • None of our 16 categories had any content
  • A number of pages had the same page title and description
  • There were over 700 Google crawl errors generated by the “bespoke” software

I decide that we needed help. I googled “manchester seo courses” and after sifting through much dross found the Salford University Business School course on Search and Social Media Marketing (SSMM).

After attending the taster evening in January we decided that this course was an essential part of our future development as online marketeers.

Having completed the four day introduction course I know that, after completing the Professional course, if we are not capable of handling our own SEO and SMM we will be more than adequately equipped to find expert SEO companies, which we know are out there and specify what we need and be able to monitor the results of our investment.

My “SEO foundation” results:

Having completed the first four evenings of the SEO Foundation course, which looked at keyword research, basic on site optimisation and off page optimisation, here are some of the observations in relation to the smithfieldwine.com website:

Writing of clearly focused title pages

For example, “Vegan Wines” being the primary keyword on the Vegan Wines page, the title for this page should clearly show the reader and the search engine the content of the page. The reader will be better placed to make a decision when seeing the page title in the SERPS and the search engine will be better able to index the page in its index.

At the moment the Vegan Wines page has the title “Vegan Wine | Smithfield Wine Merchants UK | Buy Vegan Wine Online”. However, the content on the page lists Vegan Wines from around the world etc.

Using the SEOBook toolbar we can see here the Title and the Description tag of the page:

Title and description tag

Importance of keyword research

Having done some keyword research we can see what it is that the buyers are searching for; using a tool such as Google Keyword Suggestion Tool, we can see that the term “Vegan Wines” – plural of  “Vegan Wine” seems to be more popular with search engine users. By simply adding an “s” to the “Wine”, the potential number of visitor is increased by nearly 800 per month globally and 120 locally.

The keyword “Buy vegan wines online” – which is prominently featured in the current title and the description tag – has little or no traffic logged according to Google. This is a problem which many businesses can face where SEO professionals suggest that they will optimise a page for certain keywords to make sure that we are on page number one of SERP, but if this term is not used by the customers none of them will find us!

The same applies to the “Smithfield Wine Merchants UK” keyword – which is also prominently featured on the page title. The brand name of the website should really be easy to optimise for and hence there is no reason to include it on every single title page. If anything, this dilutes the focus of the web page to any other visitor who is only interested in vegan wine in the first instance. This is not to say that there should be no pages that have the brand name in the title tag.

Keyword research

A word of warning to any customer of SEO services: – check that the keyword terms selected for optimisation are working for you – if you are number one but nobody is searching for that keyword – it is not going to be of much benefit to the business although some “so-called SEOs” will be happy to point out that they did their job well!

We can also see related keywords to the primary keyword “Vegan Wines”, which are in relation to the web page that lists a number of different wines, these are:

“Vegan wine list”, and “Vegan friendly wine”. Bearing in mind that these are complementary terms, the optimised title which would target the primary keyword – “Vegan wines” – and two secondary terms – “Vegan wine list”, and “Vegan friendly wine” – could be combined into the following title text:

“Vegan wines – vegan wine list for vegan friendly wine lovers”

With this title we are still within the 62 characters that are the recommend length for a title tag.

Now, using the same keyword the META description tag for the page could be optimised from the existing text of:

“META description: Smithfield vegan wine. A stunning selction of great value fine vegan wines from around the world. Buy vegan wine online for home wine delivery.”

To something that provides a better summary of the individual page:

META description: Choose from a selection of specially selected vegan wines a vegan wine list for vegan friendly wine lovers. From Argentinian to Uruguayan we have tasted and hand picked vegan red, white and sparkling wines for you!”

The new title includes the use of keywords that we researched and summarises the content of the page with more focus on vegan wines and also removes the typing mistake of “selction” in the original description text. Although the keyword tag is no longer used by search engines, there is still some merit if only for the benefit of future SEO page maintenance to remind the editors of what the keywords were that were used to focus this work.

Use of heading on the vegan wines page

The current web page has a heading “Vegan Wines” – which is the new keyword that we found to be more popular with the search results and was selected as the primary keyword for this page. The good news is that it is clearly labelled for the visitor using heading 1 formatting.

The headings hierarchy should show to the search engine and the reader what is important on the page. Therefore, heading 1 should be used for the primary keyword only. But, in our case we can see that the website design template also uses heading 1 for “Search Our Wines” and “Wine Departments” sections of the web page. This sends a conflicting message to Google or any other robot that tries to index this page. It has to understand which text is more important and therefore the two additional heading one selections as highlighted in the following screenshot on the left hand side of the web page do not help in providing focus:

Heading 1 structure position

Moreover, heading 2 – which is the second most significant heading of the page is showing the text of “Your Shopping Cart Contains” – this confuses Google indexing bots even further, since this text sends a signal to the bot that the second most important bit of information on the page is something related to a shopping cart! Only at heading 3 level do we see the important keyword for the results of the Vegan Wines – these are the selections of wines classified by their regions. So, to improve this page from an SEO perspective and to focus on Vegan Wines it is important to re-design the website infrastructure which would de-grade the less relevant heading to a lower level and upgrade the headings that provide content to a higher level: For example in this case:

  • Vegan Wines – keep at heading 1
  • Argentinian vegan wines – could be heading 2
  • Australian vegan wines – could be also heading 2 ….
  • Search Our Wines – could be heading 3
  • Wine Departments  – could be heading 3
  • Your Shopping Card Contains – could be heading 4

The incorrect use of headings shows a fundamental flaw in the current bespoke e-commerce web page.

Another lesson learned – if you get a bespoke website it must deliver what is needed for your SEO and not only for the site graphic design!

Thematic breakdown of the website sections

The page file names are also important for SEO and the structure that is developed to help Google and other search engines to show the structure of a site give a meaning of what is important.

For example, now if you click on Argentinian wines the following web page name is used:


However, a better like naming convention, which helps to show that this one is one of many other “vegan wines”, is:


This structure would follow the category of the individual bottle of wine further down the hierarchy of the different wines, for example instead of having this page for Santa Luisa Malbec 2007:


A better file name convention would be:


This file shows the search engine very clearly that this wine is part of vegan wines from Argentina and is called Santa Luisa Malbec 2007. This naming convention could also be replicated in the page title, page description and page heading 1.

Social media optimisation

Currently at Smithfield wines we use Twitter and Facebook for communication with our customers. However, in order to talk to us on Twitter or Facebook the visitors have to leave smithfieldwines.com. This means that PageRank is being lost to the external websites from every page. To prevent the PageRank leakage the attribute in the link Meta tag rel=”nofollow” should be used.

Moreover, the use of social media is only maximised on the blog and not on the main sales focused website. For example, here we can see that a page can be liked by Facebook users and once they like something it automatically shows their friends that they found something interesting providing an opportunity for “viral” marketing. In the same way, the more people like a particular wine dedicated web page, the more they are passing on a recommendation to others which then helps to increase their trust and so they are more likely to purchase it. The image below shows the Tweet and Like plugin installed on the http://www.smithfieldwine.co.uk blog:

Social media optimisation

The link to the Facebook page is currently linking to my personal page and the web designers didn’t recommend changing the personal page to the company page – which is very simple to do and creates another opportunity to offer more interaction with customers.

Hmmm, what could be the strategy for the Facebook page?

Please share your recommendations below!

7 thoughts on “Why does a Manchester Wine Merchant need SEO and SMM?

  1. Mike Towers says:

    Hi George regarding your Facebook page how about having a competition to win a bottle of wine?

    Everyone loves a competition and is easily on of the best ways to get potential and existing customers interaction.

    One idea which springs to mind is do comp based on a close up of a part of a label – guess the brand etc. Don’t make it too difficult or people may not interact another good way of doing this is too offer a multiple choice.

    Or locate the bottle on our site – this could push more traffic to your site and allow visitors to browse deeper into your site.

    Just a few ideas….



  2. Briony says:

    Hi George,

    Great post! Nice to go over what we’ve learnt methodically (and now looking through your site a bit more, I’ve found the mead you sell… will have to get some!)

    With regards to the Facebook page, I personally think it may be better to have a Smithfield Wine page as opposed to profile which you can “like”. At present, you have to request to be your friend, which slows down the process of engagement. By having a page, people can quickly “like” it and start trawling through your information, pictures, etc.

    You can use it to promote yourselves as well as your products, emphasising on how you are different to other MCR suppliers (vegan wines, mead, organic wines, etc). Facebook could be a great way to organise wine tasting events as well, promote online sales or special deals, perhaps plumping out your fan numbers with the occassional Facebook ad campaign for particular events.
    You can mention when the Smithfield Wine blog has been updated and encourage comments. You can include pictures of your current stock, and perhaps pictures of the vineyards and regions where the wines are from. Overtime, you could invite Facebook users to share photos of their holidays snaps to vineyards, etc. If other suppliers are on Facebook, you can “like” their page and engage B2B as well.
    Lots of potential, I would say!
    I think the best way is to get playing and see…

  3. It’s disappointing that the experience you had with your Design/SEO company was so poor but to some extent not too surprising.

    Many design, pr, graphics companies simply add-on SEO as an adjunct to their other services without any real-world knowledge or more importantly, experience of what is actually important .

    Optimising for very low volume long-tail keyword phrases is bound to get you onto page 1 of Google and other SE’s and often used to justify their claim of page 1 listings within rediculously short timescales. You appear to have been even more unfortunate in that they actually lost you pagerank and positions.

    What you outline you learnt in the foundation level course is the very basic and should be the starting point for every new or low performing website before any work is even started.

    You are probably luckier than most in that you are in a fairly specific and niche segment of the wine retailing sector so it should be easier to rank if not even dominate your marketplace.

    You are also following best practice in terms of url and breadcrumb structure in increasing the number of relevant keywords and phrases on a page by page basis which all helps both from a customer perspective and search engine indexing.

    From an inbound marketing perspective having a blog, twitter and facebook are all becoming more important as search engines continue to integrate social media activity into their ranking algoriths and with Google introducing their +1 button performing a similar function to Facebook’s Like button.

    As far as your blog is concerned I’m not sure about running it on .co.uk version of your domain name as neither will gain any benefit from the other except for any internal and cross-links as each is regarded as a separate site by search engines. My preference would have been either a sub-domain or simply a separate directory of main site.

    Lastly, and this post seems to have grown legs and kept on going, I would both agree and disagree with your design company regarding Facebook. I agree that you should keep your existing personal profile but disagree about leaving it at that!

    Given the demographics of Facebook users, it would seem to be a fertile hunting ground for potential customers, I would suggest you create a Facebook business page.

    With the recent change to the format of business pages, to include almost any content and the ability to interact as the business page, rather than as your personal profile, it now provides a more attractive business proposition.

    Once a Facebook business page has been setup adding links to each product page and blog post enabling visitors to interact, like and share content would also be a positive step in growing both brand awareness and customer growth.

    What is important, however, is not to simply setup a page on a set it and forget it basis but to integrate it fully into your marketing strategy and make it a must go location for interesting conversation and social interaction.

  4. Sincere thanks to all of you for your suggestions. Have opened a businees page on facebook but need to learn how to “build it”.
    Will certainly add competitions – brilliant idea and have started the process of moving the blog into smithfieldwine.com.

  5. Carlito says:


    Good post although would reccommend against researching your keywords with google keywod tool as its a joke. They have made adjustments recently which make it better but the stats are just totally inaccurate. Its better to analyse your competitors for keywords and use common sense to generate long tail keywords etc

  6. Thanks Carlito, i used Google just as an example. Actually use Wordtracker and then brainstorming the long tail stuff.

  7. Matt Davies says:

    Good blog, one recommendation tho – understandable that you’d use google’s keyword tool as it’s the best information available for free. However, you’ll find the figures are much more accurate if you change the match type to ‘exact match’. Looking at the image you’ve posted, you’ve left it as ‘broad match’, which greatly exaggerates the figures by adding up the searches for ALL terms that include those words.

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