Part 2 of 3: SEO of the 50 Biggest E-Commerce Websites in the UK

Welcome to the second installation of Novicell’s analysis of the SEO performance of the 50 biggest e-commerce websites in UK.

In Part 1, we showed revealing results in relation to the companies’ visibility in search engines.

In Part 2, we will investigate the websites’ incoming links and their technical performance.

Incoming links and technical performance of the websites are two of the most important factors to investigate when understanding a company’s lack of SEO visibility and lack of success in search engines.

Incoming links

As a part of the analysis we investigated the incoming links of the UK’s 50 biggest websites. To investigate the number of incoming links we used a tool provided by SearchMetrics, although a similar tool can be found on SEMrush or Ahrefs.

Incoming links are still one of the most important factors in SEO. Therefore, every company who is working seriously with their organic traffic should work with a link-building strategy that can grow the number of referring domains that link to them.

It is to no surprise that big international websites such as Apple, Amazon, Ikea, eBay & Ryanair have the highest number of domain links to their website. Therefore, we skipped these to focus on UK e-commerce websites.

Top 5 websites with most incoming links

Here are the five websites with the highest number of incoming links:

  1. British Airways: 29,194
  2. EasyJet: 28,731
  3. Asos: 23,512
  4. Topshop: 14,704
  5. Rakuten: 14,044

Since all the above companies have websites targeting multiple countries, they are more attractive to link to than just a website that is present in UK.

Take British Airways as an example. It is writing a lot of content that people like to share and read. British Airways has a lot of incoming links to its “Get ready to fly” and “Inspire” pages.

This is content that is useful for people when flying. It is also information that people are searching for to be sure that they are ready for their flight.

ASOS is also writing quality, shareable content that encourages domains to link to them. The fashion brand posts daily content about new trends, new styles, new collections, which their users love to read and share.

Top 5 websites with the fewest incoming links

These are the five websites with the lowest number of domains that links to them.

  1. Itsu: 200
  2. 345
  3. 415
  4. American Golf: 435
  5. HMV: 1213

The websites with the lowest number of referring domains can be considered as more niche websites (sushi, transportation, golf) compared to those websites at the top of the list. Therefore, they were also expected to have a lower number of incoming links.

Itsu is the website with the lowest number of referring domains to their website. Compared to ASOS they only post something on their blog twice a month, whereas ASOS does this every day.

Therefore, Itsu has a big potential here to start writing more shareable relevant content that people want to link to.

Technical SEO

As a part of the analysis we have investigated 10 SEO technical parameters that can influence your website’s performance such as HTTPS, mobile friendliness and 404 errors.


Surprisingly is not all websites are mobile friendly, in spite of the fact that over 50% of all traffic and conversions today come from a mobile device. Therefore, if your website is not mobile friendly yet, you should consider making your website mobile friendly since you might miss out on a lot of potential traffic.


96% of websites use HTTPS. Surprised?

We strongly recommend that all e-commerce websites use HTTPS. Mind you, we often see some websites that are still not using the new secure version of the protocol – even in 2018. Use of HTTPS has a direct effect on rankings and it also signals trustworthiness. Studies have shown that customers tend to buy more on a site where the chances of getting hacked are lower.

Most surprisingly was that 80% of the websites had a long redirect chain when redirecting their frontpage from non-www. to www. and from HTTP to HTTPS.

The longer the redirect chain, the bigger is the link equity loss, which affects your rankings in Google Search Result Pages.


Furthermore, when considering that almost all the 50 biggest e-commerce websites are international sites that have sites in more countries, it was quite a surprise to discover that only 62% of them have implemented Hreflang.

Hreflang show search engines that there is a relationship between web pages in alternate languages. Implementing this tag can really boost your rankings.

More SEO technical results

What follows is a summary of the technical SEO findings on the sites we surveyed.

  • HTTPS implemented – 96%
  • Redirect correctly – 20%
  • Mobile Friendly – 100%
  • Robots.txt implemented – 100%
  • Sitemap.xml implemented – 60%
  • Schema implemented – 44%
  • No 404 errors – 54%
  • Custom 404 error page – 76%
  • Canonical implemented correctly – 84%
  • Breadcrumbs – 76%
  • Hreflang – 62%

We were not particularly surprised that 56% of had not implemented Schema. Even though Schema were launched in 2011 many websites do not take advantage of it. Schema is a way to make search engines understand your content and provide the best possible search results at all times.

Adding Schema improves the way your page appears in search engine results pages. It does this by enhancing the rich snippets that are displayed below the page title such as: reviews, location, time, etc.

Conclusion & quick wins

To create incoming links, you need to write content that people are looking to read and that can actually fulfil a need or answer potential questions they might have. Just like British Airways and their “Get ready...” lists and “Inspire” blogs where people get an understanding of what to expect when travelling to a certain area of the world. Incoming links are two of the most important ranking factors and it can make or break your rankings.

In relation to technical SEO we strongly recommend that websites investigate their redirect chain since only 20% of the 50 biggest e-commerce websites in UK redirected correctly.

A quick way to win the all-important click in SERPs would be to implement Schema. Not many companies today have implemented Schema. It can increase click-through-rate and it makes it easier for search engines to understand your content.

Lastly, if you are an international website with more sites in more languages, we strongly recommend you implement Hreflang since it shows Google that your websites are connected. This tends to boost your website authority and can help avoid duplicate content.

Next part (3 of 3).

The third and last 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 performance and On-Page SEO.


If you are looking for SEO services for your company and would like to speak to one of our expert SEO consultants about how we can help you, please be in contact.