About Vosges Haut-Chocolat

Vosges Haut-Chocolat is a niche gourmet chocolate company, selling exotic and unique chocolate products via their online store, retail stores (like Whole Foods) and several boutique chocolate shops in the United States. Their most popular and notable product is by far Mo’s Milk Chocolate Bacon Bar. Bacon and chocolate? One huge YES!  You simply must try it.

vosges chocolate website screenshot

The Vosges Haut-Chocolate Homepage – October 2011

As you can tell, I am a huge fan of their products and company values. My wife and I always stop into one of their NYC shops when we’re in town. They’re very much a hidden gem, though. This is not a chocolate company that seems like they want to be the next Hershey’s or Lindt – but that’s part of the charm and what I love about them so much.

Dear Vosges Haut Chocolat,

Although you are a boutique and niche chocolate company and not necessarily in direct competition with the big chocolate giants, there’s still so much opportunity for you to leverage SEO. It can be done in a way where it does not detract from your special niche appeal. In fact on the contrary, SEO could be used to enhance you brand’s niche appeal. It could work together with your branding, not against it.

SEO for Vosges should be in harmony with its core products and values, it should leverage solid and ethical SEO technique’s to reach your target niche audience, and should strengthen engagement with that audience.

SEO when done tastefully should “blend in” with the image of the company.

You’re in a GREAT position to utilize SEO.  You have a strong brand and relationship with the consumer. You’re getting your product to customers across multiple channels; retail, online and your boutiques. In many cases, the raw content is in place, you just need some technical adjustments to your website, better keyword targeting or a conscious backlinking strategy.

Your ideal customer demographically speaking needs a clear path to discovering you online, whether shopping for an exotic chocolate gift or searching for for a chocolate boutique in New York City. Think of SEO as the vehicle to clearing that path of discovery.

Being completely honest, I’ve put together this case study because I’d be honored to have the opportunity to formally present my ideas for improving your search engine optimization.

Here are  7 Specific Benefits SEO could have for Vosges Haut-Chocolate.

7 Specific Benefits of SEO for Vosges

1. Better Visibility in Organic Search (for Your Niche Audience)

So you might not want or need to focus on ranking for just “chocolate” but you need to get focused and rank for something. Part of the art of SEO is finding keywords that makes sense and align with your product and audience demographic. Also, these keywords should have a decent search volume and potential transactional intent behind them.  You would probably agree that “gourmet chocolate” is a step in the right direction? Lets look at that one for a moment.

Here’s where you are now:

Generally, you’re coming up at the bottom of the first page. “Gourmet Chocolate” receives about 3,600 searches a month. For even just this one relevant search, an improvement to the top of the first page would increase your traffic with a keyword targeted to your audience.  And there’s more keywords beyond this. Have a look at this chart:


There are LOTS of related searches to “gourmet chocolate”, where you are ranking just beyond the first page. These searches are totally relevant. This is some of the “low hanging fruit” of SEO!

What about keywords related to “chocolate gifts”? Very relevant and obvious intent to purchase. Here’s where you are:

Same thing, LOTS of opportunity. You’re ranking just beyond the first page for the highest volume searches in this keyword category.

2. Local SEO Can Help Your Seven Boutiques

Vosges, you create a customer experience in the way Apple creates a certain experience. Walking into one of your seven boutique chocolate shops is a treat in its self, not to mention sampling some truffles, browsing your unique selection of chocolate gifts or grabbing an espresso. The decor, ambiance and chocolatiers help create this special experience.

Local SEO is a HUGE area of opportunity. I would imagine attracting people into your boutiques is a high priority indeed. The power of Local SEO can do just that!

For example, although your New York locations have been open for a while, neither location has been claimed in Google Places:

Let’s look at at where you stand for local search:

You’re generally right around the middle of the page for basic NYC searches. Let’s look at where Vosges stands for some more local chocolate searches in NYC:

Again, there is LOTS of opportunity to appear in very targeted and relevant search results. People in New York City, looking for exactly what you offer could more easily find one of your boutiques, and experience the atmosphere you create!

(BTW ’200′ means beyond the 20th page of results).

3. SEO Can Build Your Brand Authority in Organic Search

SEO is not just a vehicle for being found via generic search terms. It can help any company like yours build and maintain a brand image and authority. What do people see right now on a search for “vosges chocolate”?

As you can see, SEO can help Vosges optimize the results on a brand search with unique and compelling titles, URLs and descriptions. This could direct a visiter to the correct pages faster and help them find what they need more easily.

You would also want to use SEO to get other brand related sites to show up on the first page, such as your FaceBook and Twitter profiles, YouTube account etc.

Also, Katrina Markoff, the owner and CEO is very much part of what defines the company’s brand. However a search for her name could perhaps have a more targeted and relevant result from the Vosges website than what appears here (2nd result):

Also of note, Katrina’s personal blog, Peace Love and Chocolate is nowhere to be found on a search for her name. Her blog is an intricate part of the extended web presence of Vosges, and could be another pathway for potential customers to find their way onto your website or into one of your boutique stores.

4. SEO Can Increase Your Followers and Engagement in Social Media

The next few benefits are not as involved with graphics, but still powerful nonetheless. Vosges has a very strong community with social media, especially Facebook. This is common with a company that has such an appealing brand and product. I think its pretty common knowledge these days that a vibrant Facebook community and plenty of social sharing is a strong asset.

Simply put though, SEO can strengthen and enhance this social network by driving more relevant visitors to your website. This “discovery” traffic – people discovering the company through organic search – can help to increase followers in the social sphere and increase engagement.

5. SEO Can Grow Your Email List and Direct Mail List

This one goes without explanation! I think every company realizes the benefit to growing their lists, and certainly Vosges is no different. Drive more organic traffic with targeted relevant keywords, and you’re likely to see a growth in the quality and quantity of your list.

6. SEO Can Reduce Pay Per Click Costs

Just as SEO compliments and enhances social media, it does the same for PPC. I have noticed Vosges running Pay Per Click advertising (Google AdWords). If you improve organic rankings, over time you can decrease Pay Per Click spending (and traffic can still go up overall).

And not only that, through the deep keyword research SEO requires, this often brings insights on the keywords you’re using for your paid ads. You may discover you’re paying for keywords that don’t make sense. And even better, you may discover keywords you SHOULD be using for ads that convert more and bring higher quality traffic.

SEO makes sense as a long-term strategy. The costs to maintain a high ranking keyword (once achieved) are far less than the costs of PPC.

7. SEO Improves Content and User Experience: Thus Your Conversions

It is well known that Google rewards great content and user engagement with higher rankings.

SEO insights can reveal actions that should be taken to restructure the menus, make anchor text more user friendly, clean up URLs, fix 404s (missing pages) or make a page easier to navigate. This helps with your rankings, but it also improves the user experience, in turn improving conversions.

SEO, when done correctly should work in a harmonious way to improve rankings, traffic, engagement and conversions. It should unify these elements into one thing, not segment them.

7 SEO Strategies for Vosges Haut-Chocolate

Loosely parallel to the seven benefits of SEO, here are seven strategies I would use if doing SEO for Vosges. Many of these are just current general practices known throughout the SEO community, where I don’t think many reputable SEOs would differ in approach. But others are certainly more strategy specific, and long-term thinking.

Seven of my SEO strategies would be;

1. Grab That Low Hanging Fruit

Technical Adjustments

In looking at your website, I see many technical improvements that could be made. The beauty of making these technical improvements, is that your current content, the way it already exists can rank higher and earn more traffic.

For example, 404s (missing pages) are an easy fix;

Or fixing missing images;

Keywords!

Part of low hanging fruit, is identifying the most promising keywords, and making on-page optimizations to match. If you had even a core keyword list, some of your existing pages could be optimized, rank higher and perform better.

Using a tool to assess on-page optimization for “corporate chocolate gifts”, you can see the optimization for this page received a ‘B’. So in many cases you’re not far off! It just needs some finishing touches.

Proper keyword research and optimization could mean a HUGE win up front.

2. Leverage Local Search

As illustrated by the search volume spreadsheets, this is a huge area of opportunity for Vosges. You really want to claim and optimize your NYC google place locations. Your website should have a unique page for each location. You would want to optimize and have a presence on other local services as well like Yelp and Foursquare by responding to reviews, updating them with photos and events. There are many techniques to local search optimization that could be utilized to bring more foot traffic into your boutiques.

3. Claim Ownership Of Your Brand in Search

Anytime someone searches for something with your brand, you should appear. A brand search is not just a search for “vosges chocolate”. “Katrina Markoff”, “vosges coupon” and even misspellings all qualify as a brand search, and you want as many of the results as possible to be from your extended web presence.

One example;

Your PPC ad is appearing for “vosges promo code” but no organic results appear. I would recommend a strategy for having more Vosges results appear in brand search. This could be anything from your own website, to your Facebook page, Katrina’s blog, social profiles etc.

4. Claim Ownership In Search For Products You Innovate

Look at what Vosges did for historic search volume for “bacon chocolate bar”.

This search for “bacon chocolate bar” virtually didn’t even exist before 2007! And fortunately Vosges naturally remains the leader in search for this type of product. SEO works in two ways here;

1. When a new product is developed and released, SEO can be used to protect “ownership” of that keyword in the search engines, because others companies are sure to soon follow suit with similar products of their own. You don’t want someone to outrank you for a product you developed first, but they came along with better SEO.

2. SEO can also be used to inform the naming or creation of new products. You can follow trends and see where public interest is going. SEO can be used as a tool to determine what keywords are rising in popularity.

When a new product is created, that page should be optimized to ensure you own that space in search moving forward.

5. Create a Conscious Link Building Campaign

Vosges receives a lot of natural backlinks, because the brand and products are strong. I would recommend a plan to weave a deliberate strategy within the natural backlinking you receive. The key to this strategy would be to enhance and diversity your backlink portfolio, but to not take over all of the natural linking that’s going on.

For example, you have relatively few links with exact match or partial match anchor text. It would be beneficial to acquire some of these in useful and ethical ways.

Also, you have a lot of links coming from places like blogs, which is of course understandable given the product and audience demographic. I would recommend a plan to diversity this, and acquire links from sources like news, businesses, .orgs etc. This may mean, for example, leveraging Vosges’ commitment to green production and packaging methods.

And finally, I’d work to even out your ratio of external links to linking c-blocks. Note this report;

Having about 4,200 external links only coming from 651 linking C-blocks means that many of your links are coming from the same places. I would recommend a plan to acquire links from a more diverse set of websites.

6. Leverage Social Media

I think the importance of being active on Facebook and Twitter is obvious, but integrating social aspects with your website can improve rankings and increase natural sharing throughout the internet.

For example, you have sharing button on your individual product pages, but how about a Facebook like button on your category pages? When someone shares or likes a webpage via the like button it not only sends this to their Facebook feed, but improves rankings. I see you have the FB open graph installed site-wide, and I believe some of these tags could be optimized a bit more, for example;

On this particular page the title is missing, and more parameters could be utilized such as a description and image.

7. Provide SEO Education and Resources to the Vosges Team

Lastly, SEO can be most powerful, when it happens automatically across different aspects of a company. What I mean by that, is you probably already have a “linkbuilding” campaign happening right now, except its not called that. Its probably called “public relations”.  PR departments build links all the time without realizing it. Through keyword research, SEO can help determine how to create and craft the PR content that is going to be shared. These resources should be provided to copywriters and PR departments. SEO can also guide the PR department as to the best places to try and get a story or write-up.

Or for your local boutiques, when you hold a special event, this is an enormous opportunity for building links, driving traffic to your website and enhancing it with SEO. Your local stores can be given resources to maximize this linkbuilding potential.

Here’s an example. This is a screenshot from one of the several new videos on your new YouTube Channel;

This is a fantastic social media outlet, and the videos look amazing, and the food so delicious!

But did you know if you add ‘http://’ in from of those links they would be clickable and count as a “no-followed” backlink?  Also, you can link to deep pages within your site, relevant to the video. A link to something on the Vosges website might make sense, and keyword research would help inform the choice of your tags and description.

Part of my strategy would be to take the time to help educate people within the company, and provide tools and resources so that they can more easily integrate SEO within their day to day efforts.

Conclusion

The obvious bottom line considerations as a company when thinking about utilizing SEO are; implementation and ROI.

1. Will SEO be worth the resources required to implement it, and will that scale into the future?

It appears to me this is a resounding “yes”. Vosges is already doing a lot of the heavy lifting required for good SEO; product development, content creation, building a relationship with its customers. This is why I believe Vosges is in a fantastic position to utilize SEO. SEO can come in and make all of those activities more successful, in the sense that it can clear that path of discovery for your potential customers.

Part of my job as an SEO is to provide clear analysis and necessary actions to take, and help make implementations as smooth as possible.

2. And will the investment in SEO bring a substantial and justifiable ROI, not only in the near future but for the long-term?

With opportunity, brings enormous potential for ROI. SEO can get more eyes on your website. It can get more feet in the door of your boutiques. And not just the eyes and feet of anyone. SEO can help reach your perfect audience demographic. It can help strengthen the reputation of your brand on the internet, and it can do so in a lasting way, insuring success for years to come.

So, Vosges, if you happen to have come across this, I would be delighted to talk to you about how I could help.  You can email me or call – 508-963-4413.  I’m very friendly and have great references too.

 

About Dan Shure

I'm Dan (Google Plus Profile). I've been helping businesses improve their websites since 2007. Improving your bottom line is my number one goal. My obsessive nature and love for SEO as a true craft doesn't hurt either.

11 Comments

  • October 14, 2011 Reply

    John

    Dan –
    Good work here man. I think you’ve hit on a lot of the major things that the website needs to pay attention to. I love the graphs and how you show them where they currently stand.

    If there were something I would improve about this, it would be to provide actionable steps for them to take to move forward. Something like “Leverage Social Media” is true, but something like “Use Twitter to reach your audience through (X, Y, Z)” would be much more useful. And then if you provide links to how-to’s and other resources, they can go and learn themselves.

    This is very well done though! Your skills are impressive.

    • October 14, 2011 Reply

      Dan Shure

      John

      Thanks, feedback is much appreciated!

      I definitely see what you mean about providing more actionable steps and resources to follow up with for them. I think quite honestly, to be transparent, as it says I am hoping to grab their attention (so long as no one else is working with them) and get a chance to possibly work with them. I was ‘afraid’ giving away too much would be detrimental, but I should let go of that ’cause it really is the spirit of helping that makes SEO so enjoyable.

      Thanks again!

  • October 17, 2011 Reply

    Anthony D. Nelson

    Dan-

    This is a great pitch and explanation of what SEO can do for a company that wouldn’t initially think SEO is right for them. I’m impressed with the depth of your pitch and hope someone high up at Vosges Haut-Chocolate manages to read this.

    • October 17, 2011 Reply

      Dan Shure

      Anthony

      Thanks, glad to hear you think it came across well! That is certainly one of the biggest challenges for a company of this type, making the SEO ‘blend in’ and fit with their image. Appreciate the feedback!

      -Dan

  • October 17, 2011 Reply

    Gianluca

    Hi Dan… I hope the subject of this great SEO analysis is reading this: follow the suggestions this guy is giving to you… he is your fan, so you could pay him in chocolate for the remainder of his long life.

    You did a good job. I liked how you are saying to them to leverage their jobs, as it seems they try to do it but didn’t were able to follow up with it (i.e.: the FB Open Graph integration).

    What John wrote in his comment is surely correct, but I think that would made the post even longer. You gave the right amount of tips… if Vosges desires to know more, now they know who to call :)

    • October 17, 2011 Reply

      Dan Shure

      Gianluca

      Yes, it is so true that people in other departments do ‘SEO’ activities every single day (PR and Social Media) without even realizing it! With just a bit of guidance and a concerted effort, they could maximize the potential of that! Thanks so much for the comment!! And yes, it is a fine line between making the post helpful but not too long. Always the challenge :-)

      -Dan

  • October 17, 2011 Reply

    Chris

    Great post, Dan!

    It doesn’t just sell the idea of SEO to Vosges Haut-Chocolate, it sells SEO, period. Number 7 is my favorite because so few SEO firms do it and it’s a huge win, especially for websites with their own content writing teams.

    Chris

    • October 18, 2011 Reply

      Dan Shure

      Hi Chris, thanks so much for the feedback!

  • October 18, 2011 Reply

    Ted Ives

    I love the “claim ownership” stuff, that’s a great way to think about brand and product searches. Great end-to-end analysis here Dan.

    • October 18, 2011 Reply

      Dan Shure

      Thanks Ted! Appreciate the comment, and yes, often time when people think of SEO they forget the most important part, and that is how your brand does in search results.

      -Dan

Leave a Comment

Error: Please check your entries!