Affordable Fashion & SEO
As affordable fashion brands are a bit of a passion for me, I thought it would be a good idea to see how some major brands perform organically in the UK. Using a new tool that we have created at Embryo that allows us to create a very fast overview of a suite of websites, here’s what I have seen.
The nine sites that I have chosen for this study are boohoo.com, boohooman.com, missguided.co.uk, prettylittlething.com, isawitfirst.com, inthestyle.com, manieredevoir.com, blakelyclothing.com, and arneclo.com.
Organic Search Visibility
Here you can see the visibility of each of the sites checked when people search for search terms relating to affordable fashion. The three main players in the industry have a commanding presence compared to the other sites that I have looked at.
Boohoo, Missguided, and PLT enjoy a huge amount of coverage in organic SERPs, yet each have seen a decrease in visibility over the past year, which indicates the December Core Update from Google is something that affected each of them – most notably in the case of PLT.
Because of the commanding nature of these three sites, the following visibility chart omits them to show the other sites studied in more detail.
Visibility Graph without the ‘big 3’
In taking out boohoo, Missguided, and PLT, the differences between the rest of the sites become clearer. I Saw It First has had an excellent surge in recent months, which saw them adopt a wider digital news presence, and this is potentially a large factor for the increase.
You can see how In The Style has taken a very sharp decrease alongside that of boohooMAN, which just doesn’t seem to be catching fire online, no matter which tactics are used. More on boohooMAN later in this document.
And as you can see, Arne Clo is starting to make some waves, which – depending on the organic search tactics they use over the next year – could get bigger and bigger.
The amount of industry-related keywords that each site can be found for is always an interesting set of data that can tell you a lot about the successes and failures of particular brands.
As you would expect, boohoo, PLT, and Missguided (in that order) dominate the rest of the sites studied in terms of the number of keywords – and by some distance. I Saw It First makes a good go of it, as does boohooMAN, which becomes obvious when you see the number of pages that boohooMAN has indexed.
Depending on the impact of other search factors, the number of pages indexed by Google – especially in ecommerce – can hugely influence the number of keywords that can find a site. This is especially true with good taxonomy.
And, as you can see, once again, boohoo reigns supreme with almost two million web pages indexed by Google. This kind of indexing can usually only ever be achieved when an uber-strong link profile is in place (which will be shown later). PLT is in an extremely distant second place, followed by boohooMAN, presumably using similar tactics to its sister company.
Surprisingly, Missguided doesn’t utilise the power of well done automatically-created pages. Done properly, this would probably see it gain a lot more visibility. But with a low number of pages seeing a relatively high keyword reach, Google must find Missguided’s content very palatable. Definitely an area where they could build on to take search market share away from the competition.
This graph shows the number of pages indexed for just the big 3 sites in the group.
And this chart shows pages indexed outside of the big 3. There will surely be ways that Maniere De Voir, Blakely Clothing, and Arne Clo can utilise automatically-created pages despite their smaller ranges, and without those pages being considered arbitrary by Google. They’d get a lot more visitors if they did it right.
So, we’ve looked at the amount of keywords, the amount of pages indexed, so now it’s time to see how many (unique) links each site has pointing towards them, using Serpstat data.
As you would expect, boohoo leads the way again. Their brand presence will of course be a huge factor. Many news stories are written about the company, and boohoo is a voluminous topic among fashion bloggers.
Missguided’s link profile is also very strong, with PLT a short way behind. Going back to the lack of indexed pages of Missguided, their link profile will contain enough ‘juice’ that would power many more thousands of pages to rank for many thousands more keywords, should they wish to use this tactic.
Despite the number of links that boohooMAN has received, it isn’t hitting the right notes according to Google, it seems (referring back to the visibility graph at the top). It will be interesting to delve into the reasons why boohooMAN is a very poor relative indeed.
Sites such as Maniere De Voir need to gain more press attention, and digital PR, targeted at particular categories of their site is a way for them to make advances in search real estate.
So, how does all of the preceding information manifest itself? By using Serpstat’s version of AHrefs’ domain rank (DR), and Moz’s Domain Authority (DA), you can see that this culminates in a chart that you’d probably expect to see.
However, the outliers in this case are probably boohooMAN and Maniere De Voir, both with authority scores that belie their search visibility – which usually indicates that something is wrong with either site structure, or site content.
Using the excellent Page Speed tool from EXPERTE (https://www.experte.com/pagespeed), I am able to see various ways that each site studied may be causing itself unnecessary hardship.
Manieredevoir.com has an extremely large ‘largest contentful paint’ (LCP) time of 26.1 seconds, when this should ideally be less than 2.5 seconds, and at-worst, under 4 seconds. Another example of something stopping a site from performing at its best is PLT’s Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS) score of 1.5, a score in which anything over 0.1 means ‘needs improvement’. PLT’s ‘First Input Delay’ (TBT) time of a whopping 7,860ms is way above an ideal 100ms delay is probably proving very painful – with Maniere De Voir also having a very long wait here, although not as severe as PLT.
Obviously, discussing the technicalities of such things as the intricacies of page load speed statistics does not make for an interesting article, but by pointing out just a few things, you can see how they start to have an affect on the amount of visitors that a site can receive from search engines.
Whilst not strictly SEO, the information on the following charts caught my attention, especially around boohooMAN. According to SpyFu data, boohooMAN not only competes on a huge amount of paid keywords (around 7,000), it also has a huge PPC spend, spending more than the eight other companies. As a sister/brother brand, trying to force its way into the market, presumably with lots of money in reserve, it makes sense to do so, but I can’t help feeling that this is partly to do with the poor organic performance that the brand has – or potentially that the brand isn’t hitting home at all in the marketplace?
Paid Keywords – the estimated amount of keywords bidding on industry-related searches.
Paid Spend – the estimated monthly PPC spend for each website.
I’ve taken a slightly more deeper look into a couple of the sites to see what is going on under the hood.
Maniere De Voir
First thing of note is the message seen when first loading the site. I wonder if this could be tweaked to seem more friendly? I’m sure some A/B testing has been done on this phrase, but maybe worth testing out something like, ‘Choose where you’re fashionable:’. But I could be wrong.
Distribution of Maniere De Voir’s rankings
This is a very interesting chart that gives me a lot more information. When a rank distribution looks like this (where a medium-high level of keywords are NOT on page one of Google SERPs), it usually indicates some technical issues, but with this being a Shopify website, I’m tending to think that it’s related to a content issue. However, in the speed tests that I wrote about earlier, their poor LCP and FID/TBT scores will almost certainly have an impact on rankings, too.
But as I thought, content strategy is off somewhat, which can be seen if you look at the list of pages that Google deems as important. Not one of the pages listed in the screenshot is a product, or a category of products:
To further prove this, another Shopify site I studied (I Saw It First) has various categories and products listed within its first 10 pages, as you can see here:
And if you count the relatively low number of links and indexed pages that Maniere De Voir has, you can see just how and where the site can start to build its visibility score.
Spotlight on Pretty Little Thing
I thought that I would take a look at PLT because of the severe drop that has happened for the site in terms of visibility over the past year.
I have a feeling that PLT is being affected by page load speed issues more than most. It had some really poor scores in the speed table above, but as with all of these things in SEO, it is not as black and white as that.
PLT is also another site in which the top 10 pages (according to Google) only has one page that is anything to do with product. By the way, doing this test on most ecommerce websites will give you a good indication of whether taxonomy/SEO tactics are efficient or not.
Having spent some time looking at the architecture of of PLT, some things concern me around how the structure of URLs.
While the site has good structure (and breadcrumbs) for categories, there are two issues that I see.
The products themselves don’t actually belong to the structure. Within the ‘pleated skirts’ category, I clicked on a product, and the URL for that product is:
Which means that it is now not part of the same structure, with the product page looking like it is located at the root of the domain. When Google lands on this page, it is VERY hard for it to know how to categorise it. Google will not know where this page should or is located, as the breadcrumb trail has now been removed for this product – and all others, too.
Effectively, because of removing products from the breadcrumb and URL trail, all of PLTs products are greatly lacking in contextuality, with Google having only little understanding of what to do with each of them.
Secondly, from testing that our guys have done in the SEO team, we strongly believe that (for e-commerce sites in particular) a folder in a URL structure should have a page that describes what that folder is about. For example, if you go to:
you are greeted with a 404 error page, NOT a page that explains what the /skirts/ folder contains.
I think the issues that I have described for PLT are – at the very least – 80% of their SEO problems, and probably more like 95%. Fix these, and a huge amount of search real estate will be clawed back.
Obviously these are my opinions, given after taking a look at the snapshot data that I have collected. I am sure that if I delved deeper into each piece of information, that I would find many more things that would steer my thoughts.