Camping World is a BIG business, in 2018 Camping World Holdings Inc’s revenue hit $4.8 billion, in this article I’ll be reviewing the SEO of the RV sales section (hosted on a sub-domain) of the Camping World website.
This is a shameless attempt to gain an SEO job working on the Camping World website or a similar size competitor, this is in effect a “look at what I can do” SEO review whilst also offering some basic SEO training for those interested in learning how to SEO analyse a domain. Also see my Guerilla Marketing attempt to be noticed.
Camping World is the sort of website where my technical SEO skills and knowledge could make a huge impact on organic search engine traffic, it has lots of damaging SEO mistakes.
Camping World RV Sales Sub-Domain Google Site: Search
I don’t have a set system for analysing a websites SEO, I find the important SEO problems tend to leap out of the website as I randomly browse a few pages. When I spot a problem I dig deeper and in the process find more issues. Given enough time the HTML code gives up it’s secrets.
OK, let’s jump right in with a Google site: search, pop this line of text in Google and you’ll see roughly what I saw.
It’s always a good idea to see what Google has indexed early in any website SEO analysis, sometimes SEO problems are obvious from the first page of a Google site: search result.
Via the Google site: search we can see the Camping World RV sales sub-domain has 74,200 results. This isn’t an accurate count of indexed pages in Google, but it’s a good guide.
It’s a big brand ecommerce/brochure website, the sort of site which can benefit from SEO.
From an SEO ROI perspective this type of large website which drives the sale of expensive products or services are ideal for better search engine optimization. It’s a well known brand with a lot of backlinks (links drive SEO) and there’s so much content, even relatively low hanging SEO fruit can have a big impact on overall traffic.
Consider the impact if their top 5-10 results moved a few places to top 1-3.
Camping World RV 404 Error Page SEO Failing
First thing I noticed from the site: search were indexed pages with number based titles, few examples:
1510022 RVs for Sale – Camping World RV Sales
1670374 RVs for Sale – Camping World RV Sales
1676576 RVs for Sale – Camping World RV Sales
1676072 RVs for Sale – Camping World RV Sales
1664177 RVs for Sale – Camping World RV Sales
1691842 RVs for Sale – Camping World RV Sales
1690988 RVs for Sale – Camping World RV Sales
Looks like there are THOUSANDS of results like these!
I’m going to ignore the fact these are terrible title tags since they are all 404 error pages, but if these weren’t error pages these title tags would be a major SEO problem.
The CEO of Camping World (Marcus Lemonis) should be seriously concerned no one working on the Camping World website noticed this error: I noticed it within seconds of checking the site: search results!
Opening these webpages gave a sort of error page (it’s actually the Camping World RV sub-domain custom 404 Error webpage), these pages ideally wouldn’t be indexed, at least not in these numbers. Even without understanding precisely why these pages exist there are at least two possible SEO solutions to solve SOME of these error pages.
301 redirects or canonical URLs, which to use depends on why they exist.
We’re Here To Help
Your local dealership may not have what you are looking for, but your Personal RV Shopper is standing by ready to access more than 25,000 RVs to find your perfect camper.
The first question is, are these 404 error pages indexed because there used to be an RV with a specific stock number (that’s what the numbers are, stock numbers), but the stock item no longer exists (the RV was sold) or are they indexed by mistake due to a failing in the websites design resulting in links to non-existent webpages which should never have been linked to.
I’m reasonably confident it’s the latter. If the issue was the former (the stock no longer exists) the solution would be to either do nothing (load a proper 404 error page with no redirects) or for every deleted (sold) stock code setup a 301 redirect to a similar RV which is still in stock.
The problem here appears to be a code error: I could find all 7 RV stock numbers when searching for them directly, looks like something has gone wrong in the link structure of the site (I did a quick search for how these pages are indexed, but didn’t find the cause). Example below.
Google has indexed:
Loading the URL 301 redirects to:
Which is a custom (broken) 404 error page, an RV doesn’t exist on that webpage.
Camping World Grey Hat SEO Custom 404 Error Page
Looks like there’s an automated assumption any URL like https://rv.campingworld.com/IDontExist is 301 redirected to https://rv.campingworld.com/product/IDontExist.
This is NOT a good solution, (borders on grey hat SEO) there were probably thousands of 404 error issues reported under their Google Search Console, so they 301 redirected them all!
Search for the RV stock number “1664177” (search for any of the 7 stock numbers above) finds a page with that RV’s content like this:
Note: I’m writing this SEO review in September 2019, a few months from now all these RVs might have been sold and so the stock numbers won’t find a relevant RV. Right now all those stock numbers have relevant sales content: an RV description, a price and multiple images.
Took a few days to research and write this SEO review, by the time I published one of the example RVs had presumably been sold, the relevant webpages said “No vehicles match your Stock or Model Number: 1624345” and the page had been replaced with a broken search form! I tested the RV stock number search form in FireFox and Google Chrome, nothing happened!
I don’t know where the error is, but I’d guess there’s a mistake in the code resulting in links to URLs like https://rv.campingworld.com/1664177 instead of https://rv.campingworld.com/rv/1664177 (or equivalent). All it takes is one minor error (miss “/rv/” from a URL) to cause something like this resulting in thousands of links to 404 error pages.
The SEO solution is find and fix what caused all these non-existent pages to be indexed, they must be linked from somewhere.
In principle this could be a negative SEO attack from a competitor of Camping World. If a genius SEO (like me) noticed the Camping World website had a broken 404 error page and the 301 redirect of non-existent URLs, they could add thousands of indexable URLs to non-existent RV pages in the hope it would mess with Camping World SERPs.
This URL https://rv.campingworld.com/1664177 doesn’t exist, but the sites 404 error page has been replaced by one trying to get visitors to stay on the site: this is grey hat SEO, these pages should be a proper 404 error page. Try this URL https://rv.campingworld.com/RandomlyTypingWords automatically 301 redirects to https://rv.campingworld.com/product/RandomlyTypingWords and loads the same 404 error page template, but with a different title tag: Google considers this an indexable webpage, NOT a 404 error page!
404 error pages shouldn’t be setup this way, this is Google’s advice:
No matter how beautiful and useful your custom 404 page, you probably don’t want it to appear in Google search results. In order to prevent 404 pages from being indexed by Google and other search engines, make sure that your webserver returns an actual 404 HTTP status code when a missing page is requested.
I highlighted 404 HTTP status code because currently the Camping World RV 404 error page does NOT return a 404 HTTP status code!
I guess they are trying to catch some actual errors, but it 301 redirects non-existent pages as well.
I’ve spent hours trying to figure out the structure of this site and it’s a bit of a mess.
We have a possible simple HTML code mistake, with a weird 301 redirect in association with a custom 404 error page which doesn’t give the correct 404 HTTP status code, resulting in thousands of links to the wrong URLs being indexed by Google.
Note: A 404 error page per se isn’t an SEO failing, webpages are deleted all the time, other websites link to non-existent URLs. The real fail is in the sheer number of these indexed error pages! Looks like almost 10% of the Camping World RV sales pages indexed by Google are 404 error pages!!!
7,000 Broken 404 Error Pages Indexed in Google from the Camping World RV Sales Sub-domain!
If we take a long sentence of text from a webpage like “Your local dealership may not have what you are looking for” (that’s text from the Camping World RV sales site custom 404 error page) and add it to the end of the earlier site: search (including “speech marks”) we find most indexed pages with that exact phrase of text.
site:https://rv.campingworld.com "Your local dealership may not have what you are looking for"
There are over 7,000 404 error pages indexed in Google from the Camping World RV sales sub-domain! Even if Camping World had sold 7,000 RVs which had a sales page indexed in Google, there shouldn’t be this many still indexed.
Let’s ignore the SEO implications of all those broken links and 404 error pages for a moment, visitors from Google will likely leave the site after NOT finding a relevant RV on the entry page to the Camping World website!
What would you do if you had searched on Google for a Winnebago Sunstar 31BE for your long earned retirement and the first result you checked out on Camping World was an error page and there wasn’t even a similar alternative suggested!
That’s a serious concern, it’s Camping World brand damaging, something has gone badly wrong with the basic setup of this website!
Camping World RV Site Navigation
Let’s look at how the navigation of the Camping World RV site works, there’s an SEO issue which the developer/SEO consultant has tried to fix.
You can browse through the site multiple ways, one is by clicking/tapping your way through the site as follows:
Product Category : https://rv.campingworld.com/rvclass/class-c-rvs big list of links to individual RVs.
Individual Product : https://rv.campingworld.com/rvdetails/new-class-c-rvs/2020-thor-freedom-elite-22hef-rear-bath-50k-RVA1624345 shows one RV.
A pretty standard navigation system.
You can also search the site, for example searching for “THOR FREEDOM ELITE 22HEF”:
Product Category : https://rv.campingworld.com/searchresults?condition=new_used&custompricerange=true&sort=featured_asc&search_mode=advanced&make=THOR&brand=FREEDOM%20ELITE&model=22HEF
You can them click/tap to:
Individual Product : https://rv.campingworld.com/rvdetails/new-class-c-rvs/2020-thor-freedom-elite-22hef-rear-bath-50k-RVA1624345 shows one RV.
You can also search for specific product numbers like “1624345”:
Individual Product : https://rv.campingworld.com/rv/1624345 shows one RV.
This means there are multiple URLs for the same/similar content, this is an SEO duplicate content issue with solutions.
Camping World robots.txt File SEO Mistake
The developer or SEO of the Camping World RV sub-domain has used the wrong SEO solution to deal with the duplicate content issues.
They have blocked (via the sub-domain robots.txt file https://rv.campingworld.com/robots.txt) Google from indexing one type of the Individual Product URLs which is a HUGE waste of SEO link benefit!
Content of https://rv.campingworld.com/robots.txt
The robots.txt file code above tells various search engines how to spider/index this sub-domain.
The final 4 lines of code:
Are requesting the search engine spiders called SemrushBot and SemrushBot-SA to NOT spider/index ANY of this sub-domain. I guess they’ve had a problem with the SEMRush spiders. This is the correct way to block a specific search engine spider. These are not a problem.
The first three lines however are a problem:
Line one says ALL (the wildcard * means all) search engine spiders should follow the rules below it.
Line 2 says don’t spider/index ANY URLs from this sub-domain starting with https://rv.campingworld.com/searchresults
Line 3 says don’t spider/index ANY URLs from this sub-domain starting with https://rv.campingworld.com/rvdetails/
This solves the multiple ways for Google to find the individual RV pages, but it’s the wrong solution.
The first blocking line Disallow: /searchpagination is sort of OK, there is an SEO argument NOT to block search results just so long as the output is relatively unique (I didn’t check if that was the case or not here). If we are blocking search results the robots.txt file rule above isn’t necessarily the best SEO solution, better would be to setup canonical URLs, BUT since these are search results it might not be possible, so blocking might be the only realistic SEO solution.
The second blocking line Disallow: /rvdetails/ is a major SEO problem.
The robots.txt file is blocking https://rv.campingworld.com/rvdetails/new-class-c-rvs/2020-thor-freedom-elite-22hef-rear-bath-50k-RVA1624345 which is the way most visitors AND Google will find the RV via browsing the site and searching for an RV etc… whilst allowing this page https://rv.campingworld.com/rv/1624345 (identical content to the other URL) which can only be found via a specific search (can only be found by searching for the stock number 1624345) to be indexed by Google.
The problem is Google is very likely to find the longer URL, but is less likely to find the short URL, there wasn’t an obvious click/tap route to those short URLs: how does Google find and spider them? I assume it’s via an XML sitemap.
Visitors who might like to share a link to an RV (a backlink from a blog say) are far more likely to link to the long URL (it’s much easier to find) vs the short URL (difficult to find).
This is a MAJOR SEO error.
First the browsable links versions should NOT be blocked at all.
These two types of URL should be spiderable and indexed by Google.
Product Category : https://rv.campingworld.com/rvclass/class-c-rvs big list of links to individual RVs. Google CAN index this type of URL.
Individual Product : https://rv.campingworld.com/rvdetails/new-class-c-rvs/2020-thor-freedom-elite-22hef-rear-bath-50k-RVA1624345 shows one RV. Google CANNOT index this type of URL.
To fix this change the robots.txt file to:
This leaves a minor SEO issue, we still have another duplicate version of the individual RVs (URLs like https://rv.campingworld.com/rv/1624345) which can be found via a stock number search. We have two solutions: change the search feature so there’s no duplicates or inform Google they are duplicates.
Note: it’s not the end of the world if we don’t inform Google, Google isn’t completely stupid it can usually figure out what webpages are duplicates and combine the results. That being said there is an easy SEO solution, so let’s use it.
Ideally these types of URLs https://rv.campingworld.com/rv/1624345 wouldn’t exist, when searching for an RV’s stock number it should link to this type of URL https://rv.campingworld.com/rvdetails/new-class-c-rvs/2020-thor-freedom-elite-22hef-rear-bath-50k-RVA1624345 instead. That’s the BEST SEO solution, remove the duplicate webpages while making no major changes to the websites functionality.
If that’s not an option, it’s canonical URLs to the rescue.
Add a canonical URL to https://rv.campingworld.com/rv/1624345 which is identical to the canonical URL at https://rv.campingworld.com/rvdetails/new-class-c-rvs/2020-thor-freedom-elite-22hef-rear-bath-50k-RVA1624345
For these two identical content webpages it means adding this code to the head section of both webpages code:
<link rel="canonical" href="https://rv.campingworld.com/rvdetails/new-class-c-rvs/2020-thor-freedom-elite-22hef-rear-bath-50k-RVA1624345">
Canonical URLs are used when the same content can be found via multiple URLs. The webmaster decides which is the preferred (canonical URL) and all duplicates have the same canonical URL code.
Google respects canonical URLs, if the above change where made, both versions of the individual RV pages would be spidered by Google, but only one version would be indexed and ranked in Google.
Roughly 85% of the SEO link benefit to the duplicate pages would be passed to the preferred canonical URLs. Yes, we lose roughly 15% of the link benefit using canonical URLs, this is better than losing 100% (as the current robots.txt file solution achieves), but not as good as removing the duplicate altogether.
Get rid of the duplicates and all link benefit flows to the canonical URL since there’s only one version of the content.
Considering how much link benefit is being wasted by the current blocking solution this could have a significant impact on Google rankings. Camping World are probably wasting half their internal link benefit due to this major SEO mistake, that’s HUGE for a big brand site with lots of high quality backlinks!
Above is just a taste of SEO issues on the RV sales section of the Camping World sub-domain. I found more issues, I haven’t even mentioned how poor their Google LightHouse results are!
I see a lot of lost SEO opportunities, I’d be disappointed if after working on the Camping World RV sales sub-domain for a year I didn’t increase organic traffic by at least 10%. Some of the onsite SEO is so poor I wouldn’t be surprised if traffic were increased by 50% in a year, the optimization really is that bad.