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

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

In Part 1 and 2, we showed revealing results in relation to the companies’ visibility in search engines, their technical performance and their quantity of incoming backlinks.

In this third installation we will investigate the performance of the sites and how well they follow Google’s best practice for on-page SEO.

Performance (Google Pagespeed Insights)

To measure website performance, we are looking into website page speed, for which Google’s own Pagespeed Insights is the leading tool to use. (For a deeper analysis, you could also consider GTmetrix.)

Because there are so many different ways of measuring how fast a page loads, Google’s PageSpeed tool focusses on two specific events:

  1. Above-the-fold time to load
  2. Full page load

The average score for the websites according to PageSpeed was distributed like this:

  • Mobile:75.14%
  • Desktop: 58.16%

(Note that whilst page speed experts know what constitutes a high page speed score and what does not, the precise calculation of the score is kept intentionally opaque by Google)

Top 5 fastest websites (sorted by highest score on mobile)

Below are the five pages that ranked highest on mobile page speed:

  1. Ticketmaster: 97/100 (mobile) + 95/100 (desktop)
  2. Expedia: 96/100 (mobile) + 90/100 (desktop)
  3. John Lewis: 95/100 (mobile) + 18/100 (desktop)
  4. Thomson: 93/100 (mobile) + 86/100 (desktop)
  5. First Choice: 93/100 (mobile) + 85/100 (desktop)

What is surprising to see is John Lewis with a score on 95 on mobile but only 18 on desktop, which incidentally is the lowest score for desktop of all 50 websites.

Top 5 slowest websites (sorted by lowest score on mobile)

Now, let’s take a look at the five pages with the lowest page speed scores (again, ranked by mobile scores) according to Google:

  1. Itsu: 43 (mobile) + 43 (desktop)
  2. Tesco: 44 (mobile) + 42 (desktop)
  3. Screwfix: 50 (mobile) + 70 (desktop)
  4. Qvc uk: 60 (mobile) + 26 (desktop)
  5. Asda: 60 (mobile) + 59 (desktop)

We recommend a page speed score of at least 80 for both mobile and desktop. If your score above 80 there is a big chance that your load time is lower than two seconds.

Today customers expect a website to load within two seconds. If a page does not load within two seconds it will several effects on your bounce rate. Studies have shown that the longer time the website takes to load the higher is the probability of the visitor bouncing away. Below is a visual representation of what this can mean to your bounce rate:


Furthermore, studies show that the conversion rate starts decreasing when the load time is higher than 1.65 seconds. One study showed that the conversion rate was almost 3% at a loading time of 1.65 seconds and below 1% when faced with a 10-second load time.

As the much-quoted Amazon study showed, one second of load lag time would cost them $1.6 billion in sales per year. D

o you know how fast (or slow) your website is loading? It might have a bigger effect on your sales than you first might think of.

On-Page SEO

Over the course of our study, we also evaluated 9 parameters related to the on-page SEO of the same group of websites.

None of the 50 websites had perfect on-page SEO and we found a lot of opportunities for optimisation for the websites.

The biggest challenges we found lay in:

  • URLs
  • H-tags (headings and sub-headings)
  • Word count (we recommend at least 300 words)

URL Structure

Having a good URL structure is both good for humans and search engines. Having short and precise URLs increases user experience and has a direct effect on rankings.

One of the websites that does not have a good URL structure is Debenhams

The URL does not tell me where I am, which is important for the user navigation and user experience.

This is also important in SERPs. Apple has a best practice URL structure that is short and precise. So, even if the Meta Title and Meta Description was hidden the customer will know what the results are about.

H-tag Structure

How a website uses H-tags is very important as they help a search engine understand what is key content and what is subordinate content. They must be structured correctly so that when a robot crawls a website for information on it, asking it questions about what it should (and should not) display, they need to be talking the same language.

The structure of a website is not the only important factor to consider: keywords within H-tags are also vitally important to ensure that Google’s algorithm understand what the topic is about and knows what to rank the page for. An example of a website that has a bad H-tag structure is Itsu.

Itsu’s landing page about “sushi” does not contain any H1 which means that the page basically is missing a heading to tell both users and search engines what this page is about.

However, they have several H2’s, although these H2’s do not contain the keywords they want to rank for on this page.

These are the following H2’s that Itsu has on their landing page for sushi.

This makes it harder for a search engine to understand what this page actually is about.

Only 38% of the website makes use of the right H-tag structure.


Another variable that Itsu is lacking on their page for “sushi” is content. In fact, 66% of all the websites in the analysis has less than 300 words on their landing pages.

Even though the analysis showed that 66% of the websites made use of proper multimedia such as good videos and images, it was only a few of these that had implemented videos to increase engagement on their website.

Content can take your website far, however nice pictures and videos can reduce bounce rate and increase time spent on page, which is two additional important factors for SEO.

One of the websites that understands how to combine multimedia and product is

Other results from the analysis show that 78% of the websites is using alternative text and has a good internal link structure.


There is no doubt that the UK websites have a good understanding of SEO. There is still a lot to optimise to, and the journey towards a high-performing page can be difficult and time-consuming. All the variables have an effect for how your website peforms in search engines. There are still some easy wins for which we have made recommendations below.

8 easy wins:

  • Write amazing content that people want to read and share to increase incoming links.
  • If you have a site with more languages, make sure to implement Hreflang.
  • Install an HTTPS certificate.
  • Make sure that you do not have long redirect chains. Redirect only once.
  • Implement Schema to get rich snippets in your SERPs.
  • Focus on page speed. Your website loses conversions and money for every second it loads slower.
  • Make sure that your on-page SEO is perfect – every time.
  • Think UX & Conversion rate optimisation nto the SEO work.

Bonus tip

The bonus tip is: Automation.

Automate as much as possible in the world of e-commerce. We have often heard: “We have more than 100,000 products and we cannot optimise every single of them” . What you can do optimise content, titles and descriptions and a lot more that will help and move your rankings to the top.

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.