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 prey 375
www.shoesofprey.com 74
shoesofprey.com 44
http://www.shoesofprey.com/ 38
http://www.shoesofprey.com 18
(img) [No Anchor Text] 18
shoesofprey 11
[No Anchor Text] 10
shoes of pray 8
(img) shoes of prey 6
shoes 4
shoes of prey 3
michael fox 3
shoes of prey ontwerp je eigen s… 3
http://shoesofprey.com 3
shoes of prey’s 3
website 2
(img) shoes of prey logo 2
mike 2
visit website 2
shoes of prey com 2
here 2

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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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Link Authority

URL Page Authority Domain Authority
entrepreneur.com 73 92
fashiontribes.typepad.com 69 95
adwordsagencyapac.blogspot.com 66 93
highsnobette.com 64 57
feeds.feedburner.com 62 97
techcrunch.com 59 96
thenextweb.com 59 91
weddingchicks.com 59 76
crunchbase.com 58 92
color-stripes.blogspot.com 57 93

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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.
ORCID iD: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-6886-3211

0 Points

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

  1. Rainer Maurer says:


  2. Pano Kondoyiannis says:

    This is the right way to do SEO. Thanks for sharing Dan and show us the way

  3. Chris Green says:

    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.

  4. Woj Kwasi says:

    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!

  5. 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.

  6. Matthew Carlson says:

    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.

  7. 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.

  8. Mark Hodson says:

    Great post, Dan. As you might expect they are pretty huge on Pinterest too: http://pinterest.com/source/shoesofprey.com/
    I was surprised to see that the internal links weren’t clearly visible, though (text isn’t underscored or a different colour)

  9. Dejan SEO says:

    I noticed the hidden hyperlinks (or should I say underlines) but decided not to list it in my findings. It’s just CSS and the word is actually visible.

  10. Dejan SEO says:

    Haha, interesting analogy.

  11. Dejan SEO says:

    Yeah, not all, but some of them have done really well.

  12. Dejan SEO says:

    Yes you’d have to focus on those who have had close contact with search quality or search engineering team or have been a part of it.

  13. Dejan SEO says:

    Interesting that their blog has so few social shares. I guess the product is visual so it makes sense to focus more on chit chat and pinterest than reading long posts.

  14. Joanne says:

    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?

  15. 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.

  16. Dejan SEO says:

    They should pay you money for that advice. Gold.

  17. Dejan SEO says:

    I noticed that too, but their link was organic I think.

  18. Andy says:

    Nothing so special so far, i guess this post is entirely created to gain quick links? isn’t it?

  19. Mike Knapp says:

    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! 🙂

  20. David Trenbath says:

    Hi Dejan,
    Great post. I was wondering what other sites you have analysed that are run by ex-Googlers?

  21. Dejan SEO says:

    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.

  22. Damien Town says:

    Hi Dan
    Great post, any bets on when they will have added a Pinterest page?! Seems crazy given their product is such a perfect match.