06 November 2018

Part 1 of 3: SEO of the 50 biggest E-commerce websites in the UK

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The reason why we have looked into their SEO performance is because some believe that SEO has seen its glory days and is slowly losing its impact. 

However, this is not what the data shows us. 

Whether you believe SEO is critical to your site’s success or not, there is no denying that SEO holds the key to ranking in search engines. Studies show 43% of website traffic is driven by search rankings and 70%-80% of people actually ignore paid search results.

This article will describe the analysis of the study and start the analysis by investigating the development in the company’s SEO visibility score.

Let’s get started! :)

SEO factors in the analysis

We analysed the 50 biggest e-commerce sites in the UK using the following SEO criteria:

  • SEO Visibility
  • Incoming Links
  • Technical SEO
  • Performance
  • On-Page SEO

The above factors are often the starting points when you start working with SEO. As the analysis will show, some of the biggest e-commerce sites still struggle with these factors. 

Here is a link to the full dataset. 

The above parameters are evaluated using a yes/no concept where all the websites are evaluated based on our best beliefs. However, there might be places where a site makes use of the correct H-tag structure but on other areas they do not. Therefore, the score is evaluated based on an overall impression. 

Overall conclusions

  • The SEO visibility score for the 50 websites on average decreased by 9.17%.
  • The highest increase in SEO visibility is for Travel Republic (78.96%).
  • The biggest SEO visibility decrease was seen for Itsu (92.75%).
  • British Airway, EasyJet and ASOS are the websites with most incoming links due to high quality, shareable content.
  • Companies are still lacking on technical SEO, long redirect chains and Hreflang were twoof the points that were especially surprising in the analysis.
  • Looking at PageSpeed, the average scores were 75.14% for mobile and 58.16% for desktop. The best performers were Ticketmaster, Expedia and John Lewis.
  • On the other hand, Tesco, Screwfix and Qvcuk have problems with PageSpeed. The worst we recorded was Itsu with a PageSpeed score of 43% on both mobile and desktop.
  • The On-Page SEO analysis showed that websites still have major problems with URLs, H-tags and word counts below 300 words.

The Analysis

SEO Visibility

An SEO visibility score is a score of how visible a website is in search engines. The score is calculated using the number of keywords and how a keyword ranks on a website and the amount of traffic these keywords generate. 

If you have keyword A in #1 position with 1,000 searches a month compared with a keyword B #1 with 10 searches a month, keyword A will bring in more value to the score. 

The score is not perfect, because you can experience a drop in traffic while having an increasing SEO visibility score and vice versa. However, the score has its benefits:

  • It shows overall trends in the market and for your website
  • You can measure yourself up against competitors

In the analysis we have investigated the website’s SEO visibility for 1 March 2018 and 1 October 2018 and calculated the percentage difference to analyse how the website’s visibility evolves over time.

Overall, the 50 biggest e-commerce website’s SEO visibility scoreshave decreased by 9.17%. This means that the 50 biggest websites are less visible on search engines compared to six months earlier.

In total, 62% of e-commerce websites had a decreasing trend in their SEO visibility during the measurement period.

Top 5 biggest increases

The 5 biggest increases in SEO visibility are attributed to:

  • Travelrepublic.co.uk +78.96%
  • Riverisland.com +49.05%
  • Littlewoods.com +40.81%
  • Next.co.uk +32.74%
  • Americangolf.co.uk +23.37%

Travel Republic is the e-commerce site with the biggest SEO visibility increase: 78.96%. 

SEO visibility

But, why did their visibility increase so much?

The data suggests it’s because they started ranking for more keywords. Using data from SEMrush, Travel Republic is ranking for 23.75% more keywords. However, what really counts is that they rank #1-3 for 97.74% more keywords. The higher you rank in search engines, the more traffic you get.

Looking closer at the keywords that they are especially ranking for:

  • Branded terms
  • Subcategory pages
  • Blogs

But what does this mean for their traffic?

We do not have access to their Google Analytics, so we do not know the exact numbers. However, using data from SEMrush, we can estimate that travelrepulic.co.uk’s organic traffic has increased by 32.45%.

What is it that Travel Republic does well? And what can we learn?

By searching on “site:travelrepublic.co.uk/” on Google, we get a fast overview of the most important pages evaluated by Google. Have you tried this on your own website?

Meta titles

 

The image shows us that Travel Republic is doing a good job on both Meta Titles and Meta Descriptions. This is important since this is the first thing that the visitor sees when doing a search in Google. What’s more, if these are not optimised the user might click on one of your competitors.

One of Travel Republic’s biggest competitors in the SERPs is TripAdvisor, and these two are often fighting for the number one spot. A keyword such as “Cheap Hotels in Lanzarote” works well for both Travel Republic and TripAdvisor rankings.

Meta decribitions

 

When Google is evaluating which page is most relevant for the user, it considers many different factors. Even though TripAdvisor is stronger on many factors such as domain authority (92 authority vs. 71 authority) and has more properties to offer (512 properties vs. 495 properties, they lack on several other SEO factors, especially on-page SEO.

TripAdvisor does not have any unique content on this page. The only content they have is duplicate content that they have on a lot of other pages as well. This content type does not benefit their rankings in terms of SEO.

Unique content

 

On the other hand, Travel Republic has done a good job writing unique content with many H2’s and links (the links are not shown in the picture) to their landing page about “hotels in Lanzarote”. This is also why they win the battle for this keyword.

SEO

 

Looking at TripAdvisor’s traffic, SEMrush has estimated a minor decrease (6.53%), which might be due to their reduced focus on SEO compared to their competitor, Travel Republic, that has stolen some of their traffic.

The five sites showing the largest decreases in SEO visibility are:

  • Itsu.com -92.75%
  • Houseoffraser.co.uk -77.93%
  • Boots.com -57.46%
  • Tesco.com -51.80%
  • Rakuten.co.uk -42.01%

Itsu had the largest drop in traffic during the period from 1 of March 2018 to 1 October 2018. This drop might be due to several factors. The below graph shows the development of Itsu’s SEO visibility during the period.

SEO visibility1

 

Big drops such as these tend to be due to Google Updates.

 

During the period Google went public with the update “Speed update”, which penalises websites with a low PageSpeed.

Itsu has a PageSpeed score of 43% – it takes 16.4 seconds before the site is fully loaded. We normally recommend a PageSpeed score above 80%, which equates to a site load speed of two seconds or under.

analysis

 

Studies show that a website’s PageSpeed is one of the biggest reasons people bounce away. This tends to hurt your revenue, as we will describe in depth as we will describe in one of our next articles.

Taking a closer look into Itsu’s keyword development, they have in different weeks had drastic drops for important keywords. The below image shows these drops between 14 and 21 June.

SEO keywords

 

Taking a closer look at why the first keyword “sushi” might have dropped, we find that Itsu has a poor on-page SEO since they have not optimised:

Meta TitleMeta

Description

ContentH-tags

Internal link structure

Alt-texts on images

Conclusion & recommendations

Part one of our study reveals clearly that even the biggest websites in the UK struggle with their SEO.

Especially Itsu, whose SEO visibility score has decreased by 92.75% in six months has experienced a significantly drop in their traffic.

To avoid these huge drops in your SEO visibility score we recommend you investigate your website’s PageSpeed and performance to find errors that might affect your SEO visibility.

If your website has technical errors such as a critically low PageSpeed (where it takes more than 15 seconds to load your website) it can cause a significant drop in your website traffic.

Assume that you have made the world’s most awesome content that everybody wants to read and share, but it takes 15 seconds to load it? Your bounce rate will sky rocket which will hurt your conversions and sales.

Furthermore, a good starting point for many companies to increase their SEO visibility is looking into On-Page SEO, where you optimise your content for the keyword(s) you want to target for your landing page. The analysis also showed that this was one of the areas where Itsu was lacking.

Next part (2 of 3)

The second instalment of this article will drop next week. In it, we will take another look at the 50 biggest e-commerce websites in the UK, and how they fare in the context of incoming links and technical SEO. Look forward to these revealing results!

See you next week 😊

About the author

kwc
Kenneth Wernst ChristensenSEO ConsultantSend e-mail

Contact Person

Joseph Goodson
Joseph GoodsonHead of MarketingSend e-mail

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