SEO strategy breakdown of Hitched

After Reading This Guide, You’ll Understand 🡭

  • Personalized Internal linking strategy for eCommerce
  • Building content moat with directories
  • Topical authority
  • Content repurposing strategy
  • Content UX optimized for conversions, and more.

Note: This website is a mixture of a content-heavy website and a large eCommerce site.

About Hitched 🡭

Location: UK

Niche: Wedding marketplace

Monetization models: Display Ads, products, and affiliate commission

Hitched is a UK-based wedding marketplace. Hitched assists users with everything that they need to plan their marriage. It includes educational support (tools, articles, ideas, etc.) and a marketplace to find marriage venues, suppliers, and more.

Here’s how Hitched position itself in the market:

“For over 25 years, Hitched has provided couples with help, advice, and inspiration covering every aspect of wedding planning from the engagement right through to the honeymoon and beyond – in fact, Hitched has the answer to every question when it comes to planning a day that’s unique to you.”

Results Achieved 🡭

Hitched is one of the organic search leaders in the UK wedding industry. Some interesting stats about their website:

  • 2.8 million organic traffic per month
  • 2.2 million backlinks from 37k+ referring domains
  • Organic monthly traffic increased by almost 90% in the last 3 years.

Aug 2019: 1.48 million organic visits per month

Nov 2022: 2.8 million organic visits per month

Also, 74.2% of their total traffic comes from organic search proving that Hitched is a giant force in SEO and content marketing.

SEO Strategy Breakdown 🡭

1. Site structure and internal linking

One of the principles of having an effective site structure is placing important pages 2-3 clicks away from the home page.

This helps in passing the value of backlinks and PageRank from one page to another.

Note: Not sure what PageRank is? Read this guide.

Let’s first understand the crawl depth of important pages of Hitched.

The above crawl depth chart shows that the majority of the category and subcategory pages are only 2 clicks away from the home page.

For a large site like Hitched, it takes a strategic approach to effectively implement internal linking.

Here are various strategies Hitched uses to minimize the crawl depth:

1/ Mega Navigation

Depending on the website size, structure, and goal, the navigation style is chosen.

In this case, Hitched uses a mega navigation:

This solves a lot of site structure issues such as:

  • Grouping all important and related pages together
  • Improving the user experience by showcasing relevant pages at once (no need to click multiple times – which is the case of a regular dropdown menu)
  • Internal linking and structure of the site improves as everything is connected to the home page

2/ Internal link distribution from the homepage

Currently, Hitched has dozens of category pages (including marketplace directory category, blog category, product category, etc.).

So, one way of improving the internal linking structure is by using the home page to link to most of the category and subcategory pages instead of linking to any single product or blog page.

Here’s the homepage example of Hitched and how they have strategically linked to high-importance pages.

At the same time, the home page also features the latest pages (blog articles, new listings, and product pages).

This helps in indexing new content on Google faster and improving the ranking as PageRank is passing from the most authoritative page (home page) to fresh pages.

3/ Breadcrumb

To make the site structure even better, Hitched uses breadcrumb at the top of the page. Visit any page of the website and you will see a breadcrumb that showcases the current position of the page and internal links to related category pages.

Here’s an example from a blog article page:

Another example from a category page:

4/ Blog content categorization

Hitched has published almost 2000 blog articles. Therefore only linking to the parent category from the home page is not enough for crawlers to find the old articles.

This seems like a small issue but for a large content site like Hitched (with 100s of articles) old articles get buried under dozens of clicks if no internal linking is provided.

To make older content accessible, Hitched has added blog categories in the sidebar.

Here’s the screenshot:

Scope of improvement for Hitched:

One thing that Hitched can improve is the pagination links.

For Hitched, we know that there are a total of 2000 (approximately) blog posts and each page has 18 articles listed.

That means there will be a total of 111 sequence blog pages each listing 18 articles.

Currently, the pagination structure for blog articles looks like this:

When you click on page no. 10, the pagination structure will look like this:

This means the oldest articles on the hitched website will be accessed by the crawler after visiting 20+ pagination links.

This causes a huge problem as when we hide content under dozens of links, crawlers can consider these content pages as low-importance pages.

When content is buried hundreds of links deep, it sends a strong message to the search engines that you don’t think the content is important. The pages will probably be crawled less often, if at all, and they probably will not rank very well.” – Matthew Henry (SEO at Portent).

A better solution?

Study shows that adding midpoint links will dramatically improve the crawl depth of older pages.

Here’s an example:

I recommend reading the study to understand more about pagination links.

2. Landing/Category pages for each wedding essential

Along with a content-heavy website, Hitched is also one of the largest wedding directories in the UK. From catering services to hotels, Hitched has listings for all wedding essentials in almost all places in the UK.

This is a competitive advantage of Hitched that is hard to copy by its content competitors.

Here’s how:

There are 30+ wedding essential categories for which Hitched has listings.

As a result, Hitched is ranking in the top 3 positions for key terms in the UK:

  • wedding venues (search volume 74k per month)
  • wedding venues near me
  • Wedding photographer (search volume 18k per month)
  • wedding barns (search volume 5.4k per month)

To make this better, Hitched optimized their listing category pages with proper metadata, page description, and FAQs.

1/ Metadata

As you can see, the title of the listing category page is optimized for the target keyword (in this case, ‘wedding venues’) and near-me queries (such as wedding venues near me).

Since Hitched is a wedding marketplace for the UK, many of these pages are ranking for near-me queries such as:

  • Bridal shops near me
  • Wedding dress shops near me
  • Caterers near me, etc.

2/ Listing collection page content

One of the key reasons behind the SEO success of Hitched’s marketplace is the SEO-optimized listings and content.

For example, the wedding venue suppliers page has added a mini guide at the bottom of the page to help users find the right wedding place.

This approach is mostly seen in eCommerce category pages to improve the ranking.

Adding content to your collection page improves the user experience and search engines can find more context about the page.

3/ FAQs

Another on-page content strategy of Hitched is to add related FAQs on the majority of collection pages.

The best part is that these FAQs are marked with proper FAQ schema which helps to win rich snippets in the SERP.

3. Content matrix

The biggest growth driver for Hitched is the personalized landing pages for each wedding essential service and location in the UK.

If you look at the search bar, you will see there are dozens of wedding essentials services offered by Hitched.

That means every wedding essentials have a separate landing page optimized for the target keyword.

But the main thing here is the personalization of each service page for different locations in the UK.

Likewise, from the search bar, you will see 150+ locations (mostly cities of the UK) available to choose from.

This way, a user can search for any specific wedding-related service in any specific location in the UK.

Here’s how the content matrix works for Hitched:

The content matrix gives hundreds of landing page opportunities optimized for different wedding services and different locations.

In short: One wedding essential service type will have 150+ landing pages for 150+ different locations in the UK – this increases the chance of ranking for near me and geo-specific queries.

For example, Hitched has 800+ pages indexed for Bristol (a city in England).

As a result, Hitched is ranking in the top 10 positions for almost 1k ‘near-me’ keywords:

Hitched’s SEO growth is mostly dependent on the directory listing growth. The more local businesses join Hitched as a partner, the more powerful will be the content moat of Hitched.

Huge content library:

One key principle of creating a competitive advantage with content is by creating content that is hard to replicate by competitors.

Take ‘wedding speeches’ for an example.

Hitched has over 2,000 wedding speeches by real persons.

If you type for search terms related to ‘wedding speeches’, Hitched is dominating the SERP.

4. Reducing the scope of technical issues

One of the challenges with the marketplace website type with thousands of local business listings is the technical SEO issue.

One common issue is faceted navigation.

Websites with listings and directories use faceted navigation. For example, Hitched’s faceted navigation works like this:

But the key challenge is to avoid technical issues (duplicate content, crawl budget efficiency) while using faceted navigation.

Once you select any filter from the left side bar, the page URL will change accordingly.

This may also create indexing issues as Google will treat each URL combination as a separate page even if the page content remains the same.

To prevent technical issues due to faceted navigation, Hitched chose to add a no-index and no-follow tag to each of these URLs created by the search filters.

In addition, Hitched has created a clean URL structure for Google to crawl and index.

An example:

This way, Hitched can:

  • Provide customized search filters to the users (without thinking about the technical issues)
  • Allow Google to crawl and index landing pages with unique content (no duplicate page or crawl budget issues)

In addition:

It is important to build a solid internal linking strategy for Hitched as Google will only find these category listing pages from the sitemap and internal links.

To ensure that every important page has a crawl depth of less than 3, each category and product page is linked to related pages.

Best part?

The internal linking strategy is based on the service and the location you’re searching for.

Let’s look the visual representation of category page linking strategy of Hitched:

5. Optimizing blog category pages

One of the mistakes many websites make is not optimizing their blog category pages.

This is a missed opportunity, especially if you have topical authority in the niche and dozens of articles under each category.

Easy ways to optimize your category pages

  • The category page displays 10+ articles
  • Unique blog content description
  • Unique meta description and meta title with target keywords
  • Internal linking from articles

Here’s how optimize its category pages to rank on the first page:

As a result, they are ranked for key terms such as:

  • Stationery and Wording Ideas (rank position – 1)
  • Wedding Speeches (rank position – 4), etc.

6. Blog content strategy

For eCommerce sites or a marketplace with directory listings, blog content strategy is super important to improve the category page authority.

Investing in blog content strategy helps in:

  • Driving high buying intent traffic to the site
  • Improving the internal linking strategy
  • Building topical authority in the niche
  • Passing PageRank from blog articles to the category, and product pages

Here, Hitched has focused on creating content hubs related to the wedding essentials they offer.

Here are some blog categories

  • Planning Essentials
  • Budget
  • Ceremony and Reception
  • Wedding Fashion
  • Flowers
  • Cakes
  • Photography
  • Wedding DIY
  • Honeymoons
  • Wedding Speeches
  • Wedding Songs

Another takeaway from the content strategy of Hitched is optimizing articles for clicks.

In the article, titled ‘50+ of the Best Engagement Gifts for Couples’, they have used in-line CTAs and internal lining to listing and collection pages.

Hitched’s linking strategy for blog content looks like this:

Key Takeaways 🡭

  1. Site structure and crawl depth

Site structure becomes more important when the website has hundreds of pages. To ensure that search engines can easily crawl and index your important pages, try to place the important pages within 2 or 3 clicks away from the home page.

This could be done via:

  • Mega navigation
  • Breadcrumb
  • Related page suggestions
  • Hyperlink from the main content of the page

Note: To get more PageRank, consider linking from the main content (links from navigation or sidebar holds less value).

This is why optimizing the homepage with descriptive link text is important.

  1. Landing pages to target different profiles

Create enough landing pages to target different audience profiles. Whether you’re running a SaaS business or a marketplace, look for opportunities to create multiple landing pages.

For example:

  • SaaS business? Create pages for different product use cases, user profiles, industries, etc.
  • Business marketplace? Create pages for different locations and different product categories.
  1. Technical issues

Especially, in the case of eCommerce of listing websites, faceted navigation may create technical site issues. Always check the type of pages indexed, canonical tag of the page (to avoid duplicate content), meta robots, etc.

  1. Optimize blog category pages

Optimizing blog category pages is helpful if you have a lot of dozens of articles under the category.

Optimize the page with:

  • unique category page text
  • Unique metadata
  • Internal linking
  1. Optimize articles for clicks

Ultimately, if your business model depends on the clicks (affiliate or products), you need to focus on blog UX.

One key element is optimizing bottom-of-the-funnel articles (best XX, Top XX products, etc.) with relevant CTAs.

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