Purely In Jest… the (w) thing.

How Would I Fix The New Whole Foods Website?

We’ll get to that. As well as (spoiler alert!) a demo of a new tool I haven’t seen anyone talk about. Keep reading…

It was 11:30pm and I was looking up organic food retailers in the New Hampshire and Maine area (I hope I can tell you why in about 6-12 months). I remembered there being a Whole Foods in Portland, ME. So I headed over to www.wholefoodsmarket.com. Only to find a new design. And it’s a responsive design! Way to go Whole Foods!

screencap of new wholefoods website

Let me just say, Whole Foods does ‘Wholed’ a special place in my heart. Might sound corny, but first time I ever went to one (heck, heard of one) was when my (then soon to be) wife took me to the one in Hadley, MA. One of our first dates! And together we’ve been to just about every Whole Foods in New England, and several across NY, Florida and California (I kid you not).


Right. Back to the site.

Not being able to withhold SEO-geekery, I quickly noticed something quite wrong with their new site. And the realization settled in. I would not be going to sleep very soon. Those of you who’ve read some of my other posts know – when Shurelock finds SEO mysteries, Shurelock doesn’t sleep until he solves them.

The ugly truth is, from a technical view, this site has a number of issues.

First of all, it’s built on Drupal. ‘Nuff said. I just wrote about a site built on Drupal, with common Drupal-like issues. (Someone from Clearme.com even contacted me to clarify what should be fixed. And… I just checked. Not fixed yet. Ahh well…)

So the goal of post is to point out four of the specific issues I found.

Sit back, grab a gluten-free snack, some coconut juice, put on some soothing music and let’s check things out.

Disclaimer: I have NO idea if anyone is doing on-site “SEO” for Whole Foods. Many times new sites go up and SEO changes are not implemented right away. But this is just how I see the site in its current state, although changes could very well be in the pipeline. This post is not implying suckiness of any SEO already in an engagement with Whole Foods. Just some outside recommendations so people can learn something.

Issue #1/4 – Whole Foods Has Many Homepages

This site has a similar (although not as severe) issue as the other Drupal site I wrote about. Many possible homepage URLs all loading.


We can get even more geeky-freaky with it and run the homepage through our friend, the redirect checker tool;

screenshot of too many 200 codes for whole foods homepage

That’s geeked out, right? But seriously, this heads straight towards the bottom line of the company. Here’s the problem though. The NEW site’s default homepage is;


What’s with the ‘whole-foods-market’ on there a second time? Check out what’s happening to your link profile. You’re basically starting over;

screenshot of whole foods links in opensite explorer

You’re ‘starting over’ why? Seventeen THOUSAND links point to www.wholefoodsmarket.com and now that redirects to a new homepage URL that nver existed before.

I would make the homepage go back to loading at www.wholefoodsmarket.com and all other variations should 301 to that.

Issue #2/4 – Store Locator Popup Invisible To Google

You’ve got a neat little popup box to help find a local store.

screencap of popup

Only issue is – Google can’t see any of it’s content. This text is inside the popup

But it doesn’t not appear in the source code anywhere, which means it’s buried behind client side scripting. (That’s just geek for “The big G can’t see yo stuff).

source code screenshot whole foods popup locator

You would need to work with the developer to get that code visible in the HTML so Google can crawl it.


Issue # 3/4 – Full List Of Stores Pagination Complication

At this URL here there sits a list of all of your stores in US. Awesome! Except because of poor pagination – only the first page is getting indexed.

What you should really do, is employ rel=prev and rel=next to hint to Google the relationship between the pages.


Issue #4/4 – Links To Individual Stores In Bad ‘Form’

Each store in the main list has a few links, although they don’t work how you’d expect.

The top two basically just select’s that store as ‘my store’. And the bottom one takes you to the info page about that store. But here’s the issue. The top two look like links but they’re really form buttons;

Not *that* huge of a deal because they don’t link anywhere, so we’re not *that* concerned about Google crawling through them. But the link at the bottom links to a /node/ URL, for example;


is the same as


Or in screenshot view;

What I wonder, is why not link to the /store/ page URL? The /node/ canonicals to it anyway;

In one particular case, the store page for Portland, ME (the one I was originally looking for – which got me into this whole thing) is not even indexed;

And it might not get indexed with the way things are set up now. SO…

For issue #4 I would likely recommend some fashion of;

  1. Use only /store/ URLs for the store pages
  2. Link to the /store/ URL from the list.
  3. Rework the “make this my store” buttons so they are more user friendly. And the load time for making it ‘my store’ was verrry slow.

Has This Affected Rankings? – Enter RankPanel

ANNOUNCEMENT: I am only using rankings here, because it is a metric available to the public. It is not a KPI metric by any means, should be taken with a grain of salt, and traffic would be the more appropriate metric. But since I don’t have access to that;

Enter Rank Panel – What’s Rank Panel? A historic rank checker.

That’s right, RankPanel tracks weekly rankings for paid and organic keywords, retroactively. Five hundred THOUSAND keywords. And it’s free. So let’s see if Whole Foods has experienced any turbulence in the SERPs lately. Buckle Up.

1. Drop In Rankings For Three Top Keywords

  • organic food
  • natural food
  • organic

Kinda random, but let’s look.

  • organic food – jumping around and bumped down a few notches on page #1
  • natural food – totally gone from the SERPs
  • organic – was bottom of page one, now page two and beyond

Again, not totally scientific, but just getting a broad idea that something is going on.

2. There’s 35% Less Total Keywords Ranking In SERPs At All

This might be my favorite report in RankPanel – the Page Distribution Report. Here’s how to set it up;

And here’s what it shows us;

That’s right. Since January 2012, less queries are ranking on page one – less on page two – in fact, less in just about everything but pages nine and ten. Let’s look at it numerically;

  • 2,638 keywords were ranking last January. How many now? Only 1,707.
  • 310 were on page one last January. Now? Only 237.

Yikes to both of those. If the data is accurate, that’s quite a drop in visibility. Am I saying the new website caused this? Not necessarily. But it’s not helping it either.

Let’s Review The Four Issues

There were other little issues, and I’m sure more that I didn’t spot that may need addressing.  But mainly, you’re looking at;

  1. Fixing the multiple homepage URLs
  2. Making the store popup visible to Google
  3. Using rel=next for pagination of full store list
  4. Unifying the URLs for individual store locations and fixing how they are linked to.

So. Whole Foods. You’re gonna fix them, right? I’ll be checking! 😉

About Dan Shure

Hi! I'm Dan Shure. I write all of the posts and host all of the podcast episodes you'll find on the Evolving SEO blog. Say hello on Twitter @dan_shure!


  • November 16, 2012 Reply

    Sergio Redondo

    Wow, Dan.
    I love to read this sort of ‘SEO investigation’ posts. I must thank you because I learn so much from you.
    Now, I’m involved in an on-page optimization proccess for a sports supplements store and, well, the duplicate content problems are enormous.
    This kind of things happens when people use CMS that don’t let you totally control your page. And then, SEOs must face big implementation problems.
    Thanks again, Dan. I promise stay tuned.

    • November 16, 2012 Reply

      Dan Shure

      Sergio – That’s fantastic! I’m glad it’s helpful for you, and good luck with that optimization you’re working on. I know it can be beneficial to see examples of other site reviews.

  • November 16, 2012 Reply


    Think these guys need to pay you some SEO consulting fees now.

    I know companies that get billed thousands for much less than what you’ve put forth here.

    • November 16, 2012 Reply

      Dan Shure

      Ha, thanks! I will definitely cite this comment to play any billing in my favor, lol. 😉

  • November 16, 2012 Reply

    Craig Kilgore

    Dan – Love your “what I would do” posts. This one is awesome. One question about the Redirect Check SEO Tool — I have a site where the non www. redirects to the www. and the www. is set as the preferred domain in WT. The tool is kicking back 4 200 responses for the homepage (non http://www., http://www., non http://www./index.php and http://www./index.php). I can setup a canonical redirect to correct the index.php’s (correct me if I’m wrong) but based on your post, the 4 200 responses should only be 1 200. Any idea why this would be happening or if it’s a major issue?

    • November 16, 2012 Reply

      Dan Shure

      Hey Craig. Thanks for the comment! There should be one 200 and the rest all 301s ideally (302s OK but not ideal as they don’t pass link value). Depending on specifics (it’s hard to say without looking) it could be an issue. I wouldn’t canonical anything if possible, I’d use all 301s. And stick with just the http://www.exmaple.com version for everything. Or pick what has the most links pointing to it (as shown in Open Site Explorer). Then make sure all your internal links point to that one version getting the 200 as well. Hope that helps!

      • November 16, 2012 Reply

        Craig Kilgore

        Makes sense. Kinda figured out a little more after commenting but definitely appreciate your feedback. Enjoy the weekend!

        • November 16, 2012 Reply

          Dan Shure

          You bet! Now the whole interwebz can see the answer… win-win 😉

  • November 16, 2012 Reply

    Paige C. Willey

    Yay for SEO investigation and new tools! I love to see the processes people go through when they don’t have a lot of time to spend with a site.

    I agree that Drupal is a pain. Currently working with a client who can’t change any of their title tags without also changing the URLs. Any ideas?

    • November 16, 2012 Reply

      Dan Shure

      Paige – as far as how to do things in Drupal, it’s honestly a platform I have not worked inside of. I really on a few good developers to get the job done.

      • November 17, 2012 Reply

        Paige C. Willey

        Normally I do as well, but the developers are just as stumped as I am in this case! We’re trying to find a module that may help with our issue. Maybe Whole Foods could consider the same.

  • November 16, 2012 Reply

    Ryan McLaughlin

    It’s amazing that this type of thing can happen at companies this prominent.

    • November 16, 2012 Reply

      Dan Shure

      +1,000,000!! No kidding. I was honestly shocked when I stumbled on it.

  • November 23, 2012 Reply



    I see various versions of this all the time but I’ve never taken the time to break it down like you do, unless of course I’m getting paid.

    I suspect you could devise a certain type of search to find more sites that fit this overall profile.

    Happy Hunting!!

    • November 24, 2012 Reply

      Dan Shure

      Thanks Paxton. Yep, I hear you – I typically wouldn’t do this “un-paid” but just thought it was such a valuable lesson because I’ve seen it multiple times.

      A search would be interesting!

  • January 28, 2013 Reply

    pat grady

    Thanks for this very detailed write-up on our website SEO issues. I’ll be looking into each one of these issues to see what we can do to get this corrected ASAP!

    If you’re ever in Austin please contact me. I’d love to buy your lunch (lol, and breakfast and dinner) for your efforts!

    • January 29, 2013 Reply

      Dan Shure

      Hi Pat! Thanks for stopping by 🙂 Sure thing, I hope this helps out! Will let you know if I’m ever in Austin – I typically will never refuse free food.

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