How Can Wheelbase Drive SEO Growth in 2024? [Untapped Potential Issue #4]

By James Brockbank

May 14, 2024 16 min read

Home / Untapped Potential / How Can Wheelbase Drive SEO Growth in 2024? [Untapped Potential Issue #4]

This deep dive is part of our Untapped Potential newsletter, where we reveal the SEO tactics we’d deploy to unleash the untapped potential of a different brand every week. Sign up to get more content just like this straight into your inbox every Wednesday.

Wheelbase is one of the UK’s leading bike shops, and the retailer’s flagship store is actually only a few miles from Digitaloft HQ. In fact, my first ever mountain bike was bought from Wheelbase, probably sometime around the year 2000.

But over the last few years, Wheelbase’s organic visibility has been on somewhat of a decline. There have been some ups and downs during this period, but whilst the retailer’s site currently enjoys somewhere in the region of 60,000 organic sessions every month, this should be significantly higher.

This is a retailer that ticks every box when it comes to E-E-A-T.

✅ Founded and based in the Lake District
✅ Run by passionate mountain bikers who have all the product knowledge anyone could have
✅ Offline turned online retailer
✅ 3 stores in the North of the UK

Having known about the brand for getting on for 25 years, I can’t help but feel they should be doing far better on the SERPs than they are. So I’ve taken the time to do a deep-dive into what’s going on, and to find the opportunities that the eCommerce store should be leveraging to increase organic visibility.

Keep reading to learn about what’s holding Wheelbase back and the steps I’d take to accelerate growth.

Wheelbase: A Quick Background

Don’t know who Wheelbase are? Here’s a quick background to give you the context you need to know about the brand.

  • The UK’s largest cycle store, based in the Lake District
  • The team behind Wheelbase have successfully built up the business across the North of England with long-serving stores in Staveley, Ilkley and Darlington.
  • Established for more than 25 years.
  • A team that’s united by a passion for bikes, with a wide range of cycling experience and expertise amongst the sales staff, mechanics and mail order teams.
  • Sponsors and supporters of a road race team, Wheelbase Cabtech Castelli, which, after 15 years, is now the longest-running British Elite team in the UK.

Benchmarking Wheelbase’s SEO Performance

Here’s how Wheelbase is currently performing on the SERPs.

Don’t get me wrong. The store has a great starting point for growth, with just under a thousand keywords ranking in top 3 positions.

But it’s those striking distance keywords in positions 4 to 20 that really interest me.

Just think about how much more traffic, and sales, could be driven if they were performing better?

Here’s a sample of key rankings that drive organic traffic for Wheelbase right now:

KeywordMonthly Search VolumeRanking Position
Bike Shop60,5002
Bikes27,1006
Road Bikes for Sale2,9002
MTB12,1002
Mountain Bikes9,90013
Electric Mountain Bike9,90010
Trek Bikes12,1005
Gravel Bikes for Sale1,6001
Electric Bikes for Sale6,6003
Full Suspension Mountain Bike9,90010
Gravel Bikes6,6005
Electric Road Bikes1,0005
Hardtail MTB1,3003
Bikes for Teenagers4803
Kona Mountain Bikes8804

The first thing that stands out to me here is the size of the opportunity.

These are some pretty lucrative terms that Wheelbase is ranking in the top 10 results on Google for. But only a handful of these are in positions expected to drive significant amounts of traffic.

How much more traffic and revenue could a step-up in performance here deliver? 🤔

Accelerating SEO Success: Wheelbase’s SEO Opportunities

I’ve spent time diving deep into Wheelbase’s current SEO performance, the competitive landscae and the opportunities that exist for the eCommerce retailer to be able to present a roundup of tactics that they should be leveraging to drive further growth in 2024.

These recommendations aren’t the only SEO opportunities that exist. These are a series of opportunities that I identified whilst analysing the site, all discovered without access to first-party data from Google Analytics or Google Search Console.

Grab a coffee, sit back and learn the tactics we’d deploy to take the SEO success of Wheelbase to the next level…

1. Fix faceted navigation issues to create indexable subcategories

Run a search for ‘Trek Mountain Bikes’, and you’d expect Wheelbase to rank somewhere in the top 10 results. Especially given that they’re a long-standing retailer of the brand and that the site ranks #5 for ‘Trek Bikes.’

The site ranks in position #36. It’s the main ‘Trek’ brand page that ranks.

Why? Because there are issues with the site’s faceted navigation.

Here’s the URL of the main Trek brand page: https://www.wheelbase.co.uk/products/trek/

On here, we see the standard faceted navigation we’d expect for an eCommerce store, including a ‘discipline’ filter:

Selecting MTB, you’d expect to be taken to a subcategory for Trek Mountain Bikes, right?

I was, for sure.

Instead, we get this URL: https://www.wheelbase.co.uk/shop/?product_cat=trek&source_id=1832&source_tax=product_cat&filter_discipline=mtb&query_type_discipline=or

The products filter, which is a start. Road bikes and other disciplines are excluded.

But, from an SEO perspective, this subcategory isn’t:

  • Indexable (the canonical tag on this page references /shop/)
  • Optimised (no unique title tag, H1 tag or content that aligns with the query)

And this is preventing the keyword from ranking higher than page 4 of Google.

Essentially, subcategories aren’t set up in an SEO-friendly way.

And Wheelbase is missing out on top rankings for hundreds, if not thousands, of subcategory-level keywords.

Something that we can validate when we check the rankings for a range of terms:

KeywordRank (May ’24)Ranking URL
Cannondale Road Bike22/products/cannondale/
Scott Gravel Bike7/products/scott/addict-gravel/
Scott Mountain Bike10/products/scott/
Whyte Hardtail30/products/whyte/
Pinarello Gravel Bike12/product/electric-bikes/pinarello-nytro-gravel-e5-disc-sram-rival-axs-2023/
Three of these URLs that rank for these subcategory-level queries are brand pages. One is a product, and one is a static subcategory (see, these are possible).

But that subcategory – /products/scott/addict-gravel/. Just look what ranks:

No products found.

Given that this ranks in position 7 on Google right now, this isn’t good.

Any traffic that lands on this page is likely to click straight off, because it looks like there are no products available.

But that’s for the Addict Gravel bike.

When I filter the main Scott category by ‘Gravel’?

Two products are available…

Because the site isn’t handling faceted navigation in a search engine-friendly way right now, Google is either ranking the main brand page (which isn’t relevant enough to a specific query, so it’s ranking lower), one of the few attempts are creating search engine-friendly subcategories or an individual product.

None of these are the best option.

Wheelbase needs to significantly improve the way faceted navigation is set up.

Why?

Because this could create a significant step-up in organic visibility, rankings and resultant traffic and sales.

For the examples above, there should be URLs such as:

KeywordNew URL
Cannondale Road Bike/products/cannondale/road-bikes/
Scott Gravel Bike/products/scott/gravel-bikes/
Scott Mountain Bike/products/scott/mountain-bikes/
Whyte Hardtail/products/whyte/hardtail-bikes/
Pinarello Gravel Bike/products/pinarello/gravel-bikes/

It does look like the functionality exists, given URLS like this: /products/scott/addict-gravel/

That said, rather than these being built out manually, it would make more sense if this was generated straight from the faceted navigation.

For these expanded subcategory pages, it is important that Wheelbase is able to:

  • Set unique title tags
  • Use a URL structure such as the recommended ones above
  • Put unique content in place
  • Set unique H1 tags

The impact of rolling this out could be huge. Just be sure to carefully consider what facets are, and aren’t, indexable if this is rolled out using an approach that generates these based on each filter / variable.

2. Resolve bike collection pages showing on duplicate URLs with self-referencing canonical tags

There are some subcategories on search engine-friendly URLs. These look to just be for bike collection pages.

In fact, looking at the Addict Gravel example above, we see that this is the URL that ranks: https://www.wheelbase.co.uk/products/scott/addict-gravel/

We see a block on the main Scott brand page which is linking to the ‘Addict Gravel’ page:

The URL is https://www.wheelbase.co.uk/products/brands/scott/addict-gravel/

Which then links through to:

The same page as above.

Well, the same content. Just on a different URL.

We’ve got:

/products/scott/addict-gravel//products/brands/scott/addict-gravel/
The plot thickens.

These pages both have ‘noindex’ tags in place.

This could be because the products have gone out of stock. I’ve seen this occasionally, where a noindex tag is added once a product goes out of stock. I can’t be sure of this, here. In this case, it’s likely been added recently hence why it’s still ranking for the query ‘Scott Gravel Bike.’

So let’s keep digging.

Here’s another Scott subcategory: https://www.wheelbase.co.uk/products/brands/scott/spark/

This one does not have a noindex tag in place, so my assumption above stacks up.

But do we see this one on two URLs?

We can find this on:

/products/scott/spark//products/brands/scott/spark/
This time, though, we do see canonical tags in place.

But, these are self-referencing. Thankfully, we do one see one of these indexed:

But, just because both of these aren’t indexed, it doesn’t mean to say the issue shouldn’t be resolved.

In fact, it’s the /products/brands/scott/spark/ URL that’s linked to from the main Scott brand page:

I’m not going to lie. This is a mess. And it needs cleaning up.

The site should choose one URL path. It’s recommended to exclude /brands/ from the URLs based on what is currently indexed.

And then it should stick with it sitewide. As part of a cleanup exercise, duplicates (on /brands/) should be 301 redirected to their counterparts, and links updated across the site.

3. Expand faceted navigation following the shift to indexable URLs

Even though turning the current query-string faceted navigation into search engine-friendly, indexable URLs, that’s still going to leave a lot of opportunities on the table.

You see, there are many facets that have significant search volumes, yet just don’t exist right now.

Let’s look at the Fox brand, as an example.

At the moment, we only see facets for:

  • Discipline
  • Gender
  • Colour

But no others. And that’s missing out on aligning with how people search.

Just look at these five keyword examples:

KeywordMonthly Search Volume
Fox Helmet2,400
Fox Jacket720
Fox MTB Pants720
Fox MTB Shorts590
Fox MTB Shoes390

Right now, Wheelbase is missing out on rankings for a significant number of long-tail keywords because there’s just no indexable page that meets the intent.

It’s suggested here that an extensive keyword research project is undertaken to identify how people are searching for the products and ranges that Wheelbase stocks.

From there, subcategories can be mapped out and created in line with how people search.

I’d be very surprised if some of these didn’t begin to rank very quickly once created, given how some of the site’s other terms currently rank.

But even forgetting SEO for a moment, this is great for UX and conversions, too. After all, if someone’s looking to buy a Fox Helmet, they don’t want to manually click through all of the paginated results, which also contain other clothing items.

OK, so that’s assuming they land on the Fox brand page. They could land on the shorts category, yeah?

You’d assume there would be an option to filter this by just Fox products.

But no.

Despite Wheelbase stocking Fox shorts, these aren’t in the ‘brand’ filter on the shorts page.

There are so many ways that Wheelbase could drive an uptick in conversions and revenue just by making it easier to find the products they stock.

4. Update PLP collection blocks to point to non-redirected URL

The issues with these collection blocks on brand pages is that they’re not all pointing straight to the correct URL. Some are going via redirects.

Take the Cannondale brand page:

If we look at the six blocks shown here, we see the following links, and the final page that these end up on:

CollectionLink URLFinal URL
Supersix/products/brands/cannondale/supersix//products/brands/cannondale/supersix/
Synapse/products/bikes-frames/bikes-by-brand/cannondale-bikes-by-brand/synapse//products/brands/cannondale/synapse/
Systemsix/products/bikes-frames/bikes-by-brand/cannondale-bikes-by-brand/systemsix//products/brands/cannondale/systemsix/
Caad13/products/brands/cannondale/caad13//products/brands/cannondale/caad13/
Topstone/products/brands/cannondale/topstone//products/brands/cannondale/topstone/
Jekyll/products/bikes-frames/bikes-by-brand/cannondale-bikes-by-brand/jekyll//products/brands/cannondale/jekyll/

Here, we see that of these six, just three of them link to the final URL. The other three go via redirects.

It’s recommended that these are cleaned up across the site, with the collection blocks linking straight to the final URL, rather than going via a redirect.

5. Improve how product variations are handled

Back in February, Google announced expanded support for structured data for product variants.

And in light of this, Wheelbase should consider how product variations are handled.

Right now, not all product variations are set up optimally, and as a result of this, are facing keyword cannibalization issues.

But, as with other issues I’ve found, this isn’t consistent across the site.

Let’s take the “Rapha Women’s Core Long Sleeve Jersey” product.

We find this on the following URL: https://www.wheelbase.co.uk/product/clothing/jerseys-clothing/rapha-womens-core-long-sleeve-jersey/

One colour, available in two sizes.

But wait, there’s also this URL: https://www.wheelbase.co.uk/product/clothing/jerseys-clothing/rapha-women-s-core-long-sleeve-jersey/

Here, we see the same product in two different colours and three sizes.

Why these aren’t all variations of the same product, I’m not sure.

Realistically, these should all be on the same product, set up as variables. And by that, either having all of the variations on one single URL, or having them as individual URLs with unique title tags, H1 tags etc that reference the colour. I’d always suggest sizes are kept on the main product URL, not as their own URLs.

Additionally, if we look at the Schema here, we see:

Whilst Product Schema is in place, this isn’t using the Product Variant structured data.

As defined by Google, “To help Google better understand which products are variations of the same parent product, use the ProductGroup class with associated properties variesBy, hasVariant, and productGroupID to group such variants together, in addition to Product structured data.”

6. Resolve basic issues with the site’s XML sitemap

Think of an XML sitemap like a roadmap that points Google in the direction of your site’s pages.

It’s important to have on in place, and for the URLs that are included within it to be the URLs you want crawled and indexed.

But there are a few basic, glaring issues with Wheelbase’s XML sitemap.

Just look at this snapshot from the file:

Notice the /uncategorized/ in the URL path on many of these products?

Let’s visit one. I’ll go for https://www.wheelbase.co.uk/product/uncategorized/2024-trek-procaliber-9-5-rd-bk-s/

I’m 301 redirected to https://www.wheelbase.co.uk/product/trek/trek-procaliber-9-5-2024/

In fact, a staggering 786 URLs in the XML sitemap include this path, when none of the live products on the site actually use this.

The URLs in the sitemap should reflect the actual URLs on the page, not go through redirects. These need to be updated.

But there’s more.

That Trek category I talked about before? (https://www.wheelbase.co.uk/products/trek/)

It’s not in the sitemap. Nor is https://www.wheelbase.co.uk/products/cannondale/.

It’s safe to say that the categories aren’t included in the sitemap, something that’s a big commission.

There’s also the fact of the sitemap reference in the site’s robots.txt file:

Rather than referencing the correct sitemap URL, the robots.txt file instead references [address]. This should have been: https://www.wheelbase.co.uk/sitemap.xml

7. Plan & roll out a full-funnel informational content strategy

Wheelbase is publishing plenty of ‘news’ content. This type of content:

And whilst this is great from a perspective of keeping the audience updated with what’s going on; new products, events and the like, the blog isn’t generating much in terms of traffic:

This, though, makes sense, given the type of content being produced.

It’s news content and announcements rather than evergreen informational content.

And that’s a gap in Wheelbase’s current SEO strategy.

There’s a need to produce content that ranks and drives traffic right across the funnel, as well as acting as supporting content to increase the ranking of key commercial product and category terms.

Here’s a quick look at some of the content gaps that exist right now and guides that should be created:

Title
What size mountain bike do I need?
Why a 29er mountain bike?
What pressure for road bike tyres?
Revealed: the best electric mountain bikes for every budget
Revealed: the best mountain bikes for under £1,000

Getting into the momentum of regularly producing informational content can help Wheelbase to own the SERPs right across the funnel; right from that moment someone begins their search for a new bike.

Here’s what we see when comparing Wheelbase’s link profile with three competitors: Evans Cycles, Leisure Lakes Bikes and Tredz:

Wheelbase’s link profile, in terms of referring domains, is weaker than these three competitors. It’s perhaps also no surprise, then, that the brand’s keyword visibility is lower than these others, too.

The truth is that links still matter. So does earning these consistently.

And the recommended tactic for any eCommerce brand to consistently earn high quality links? Digital PR.

Earning links from the press isn’t just about link authority and SEO success, however. It’s also a great way to:

  • Increase brand awareness
  • Drive referral traffic
  • Build and demonstrate E-E-A-T
  • Build associations with key publications

Whilst Wheelbase has seen previous features in publications such as nationals like the Daily Mail, Telegraph and Independent, as well as niche specific publications like Cycling Weekly, this is by no means consistent.

Here, I’d recommend looking at leveraging a mix of digital PR tactics, including:

  • Product PR for inclusion in product roundups
  • Distribution of sales information for inclusion in things like Black Friday deals guides
  • Proactive and reactive expert insights PR; getting Wheelbase’s experts quoted in relevant press features
  • Data-driven hero campaigns for top-of-the-funnel awareness and relevant links

Want to see how we earned over 100 pieces of linked press coverage for JD Outdoors over Black Friday 2023? Take a look at our case study.

The reality is that digital PR should be an always-on activity for any eCommerce brand in 2024; and the impact of getting it right can be massive.

An Opportunity to Accelerate SEO Success

Wheelbase has a massive opportunity to accelerate SEO success in 2024.

In addition to the eight opportunities outlined here, there’s many more, too. When analysing the site, I found things like:

  • Almost 2,000 broken internal links
  • 275 redirect chains and loops
  • Almost 1,500 HTTP links on HTTS pages

I could keep going, but this just shows the scale of opportunities that Wheelbase is sitting on right now.

With the right strategy in place and a focus on organic growth, 2024 and beyond could be a very exciting time for the brand…

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