Online-only 'department stores' have a big job in terms of SEO, thanks to large product ranges, the size of the sites and the number of brands contained therein.

So how well are they doing? Are they getting the basics right? 

With help from 4Ps Marketing SEO Manager Ruth Attwood, I have some insight into the on-site SEO strategies of four major 'department store' websites: ASOS,, MyWardrobe, and Net A Porter. 

As we can see from the example of ASOS, doing the basics well can produce excellent results, and give brands a real advantage over competitors. 

Getting the basics right

There's a lot of talk about advanced SEO techniques such as the use of rich snippets, which can give sites the edge, but getting the basics right provides a solid platform on which to build. 

Therefore, it's vital not to ignore the basics of onsite SEO, and to heed Google's advice to create 'high-quality sites that users will want to use and share'.  

The challenges for large ecommerce sites

For sites with large numbers of SKUs, and different teams working in different areas, there is a challenge in implementing good SEO.

This may be ensuring that meta data is written to the required standard, or that best practice is followed when creating landing pages or creating product page copy.

According to Ruth:

The key is to think long term and think strategically. Concentrate on getting the bread and butter of onsite SEO correct and sustainable by training staff, implementing quality procedures and putting business-wide processes in place, and the rest will follow. Don’t just go charging in to, say, optimise all your meta titles, and treat this task as an isolated project which you can mark off as “done” on a big clipboard.

Come up with a process for optimisation, train your staff to do it properly, put quality procedures in place, measure the result of those changes, then rinse and repeat. Websites need to grow and change over time – copy will need to be refreshed, product lines will change and grow, keyword requirements will change. So you don’t need an SEO project, you need a strategy.

Who is spot on with their SEO strategy? 

4Ps had a look at the onsite SEO of the four retailers, using these criteria: 

  • Good H1s.
  • Search engine readable copy within a paragraph.
  • Good meta titles.
  • Good meta descriptions.
  • Image Alt tags.
  • Link Title tags.
  • Friendly URLs.


Landing pages

On landing pages, ASOS, Boohoo and MyWardrobe are joint leaders, with Net A Porter missing some of the basics. 

Here, ASOS uses the H1 for 'women's socks and tights', with readable copy underneath for the search engines to crawl. 

By contrast, Net A Porter uses the generic H1 'clothes' for all pages in the section. It also has no crawlable copy on landing pages, while links are anchored on the designer name, not the product name. 

Product pages

According to Ruth: comes out on top in terms of product page optimisation, this time jointly with Asos alone. Although Asos has neglected internal link titles again it does provide very good internal linking on relevant anchor text within their copy which is very beneficial and often overlooked by many online retailers.

Here's what ASOS gets right:

On product pages both Net A Porter and My Wardrobe are sadly lacking many key factors. Take Net a Porter for example. As on landing pages, it has prioritised designers over product names, with the latter relegated to a H2. 

What are the benefits of getting the basics right?

4Ps took a selection of popular fashion-related keywords to see how this attention to detail could benefit SEO. ASOS was the best performer in this study, and the results are apparent: 

We can see that ASOS is ranking for more keywords, and is ranking higher. 

Ruth Attwood:

By getting the foundations of their onsite optimisation right ASOS has been able to progress more swiftly onto advanced techniques. Asos is the only of these four that makes use of rich snippet markup on products pages, for example, to allow them to further dominate organic search results.

The other sites, even close onsite basics runner-up Boohoo, are lagging behind in terms of keyword performance which may well be due to that old chestnut of a lack of strategy which is now hampering  performance – they could definitely use a bit of help with ironing out the last onsite basics to allow them to move on to more advanced techniques (at which point Boohoo has the potential to overtake the competition in terms of organic search due to their decision to use a fully responsive website rather than a separate mobile site as Asos has done).

Net a Porter and My Wardrobe, on the other hand, are lagging behind considerably as they are still lacking many of the “bread and butter” elements of good search engine optimisation on their websites.

Graham Charlton

Published 17 July, 2013 by Graham Charlton

Graham Charlton is the former Editor-in-Chief at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter or connect via Linkedin or Google+

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Comments (14)

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Nick Stamoulis of Brick Marketing

Never underestimate the power of getting the basics right! So often companies are looking for the "next big thing" that they forget to focus on the foundation of their SEO program. You have to start from the bottom and work your way up!

about 5 years ago


Nathan Bush, Group Digital Manager at Super Retail Group

Good article on the simple foundations. It's so important to get this stuff right as, putting lipstick on a pig doesn't make for significant improvements in SEO-land.

about 5 years ago


Steven Wilson-Beales

Thanks for the insight. I wonder, in your opinion, who is the UK's top performer when it comes to SEO. Are we saying it's ASOS?

I always find analysis like the above to be a little unfair - a scan of My Wardrobe reveals they are doing SEO work, but unfortunate they missed out on the detail.

about 5 years ago

Antoine Becaglia

Antoine Becaglia, Digital Strategist at WebPropaganda Ltd

Basic THUMB works well for large e-tailer. But relevant product description, SKUs, image description and the ever so important "product suggestion linking" is also to focus on. I had my hands working on SEO for the UK premier ironmongery retailer and with more than 10000 products online we manage great results by sticking with the essential basics... @Steven Wilson-Beales: not sure if ASOS is the UK top performer in terms of SEO, we monitored some excellent results by TKMaxx although their online stock is small.

about 5 years ago


Alice Toby-Brant

Doesn't it depend on your companies point of view? Net-a-porter shoppers may well search for the designer name before the garment type so really they've only got this wrong if it's not how their clients shop.

about 5 years ago

Graham Charlton

Graham Charlton, Editor in Chief at ClickZ Global

@Steven Hi- no idea who the best would be - any suggestions?

about 5 years ago


Martin Harrison

ASOS are a shining example of how SEO should be done within an organisation.

They are off to a flying start by the fact that they are a pure play, not a catalogue or high street retail chain with offline-minded staff who either don't understand or care about SEO. Everyone buys into the process, look at the amount of ASOS branded Twitter accounts for example:

I can't imagine their PR team turning round and saying: "Sorry, we can't get you a link off Cosmopolitan".

They don't hide away their crawlable content, it is there in full view above the fold on every category page, and they don't suffer from any of the dreaded duplicate content issues that plague their rivals.

These factors, coupled with the fact that they have such a strong proposition, means that they attain natural links and social shares and will remain pretty much untouchable.

about 5 years ago

Thomas O'Rourke

Thomas O'Rourke, Senior SEO Account Manager at Search Laboratory

@Steven Wilson-Beales: There are a number of independent sector reports which list ASOS as the #1 most visible fashion website in the organic listings. eg. the Green Light Fashion Retail Sector Report. Hitwise data appears to reaffirm this too.

Page-level optimisation has played a big part in their success but it's also important to consider that structurally their site is on the button. ASOS have broken their products down into relevant categories and sub-categories based on search volumes, conversion rates and by listening to what their customers actually want. Google loves their site because users love their site.

about 5 years ago


Claire Hamshire

Really interesting article - thank you, it's so helpful for us smaller online retailers.

Would be great to see a follow up article on advanced techniques?

about 5 years ago


Rod Powell

I'm surprised that a site as big as Net A Porter hasn't understood that search is about keywords, not images. Could it be that the site design has been led by designers focused on achieving the right look rather than a content team who understand SEO and the rest? As ASOS show, you can have both.

about 5 years ago


Depesh Mandalia, CEO & Founder at SM Commerce

Hi Graham, I may have missed something (and apologies if I have), but the below doesn't correlate for me with getting the basic on-page stuff right:

"What are the benefits of getting the basics right?
4Ps took a selection of popular fashion-related keywords to see how this attention to detail could benefit SEO. ASOS was the best performer in this study, and the results are apparent: "

If you're looking at KW ranking, sure on-page plays a part but there's so much more to it. You've probably seen many sites with good ranking with poor on-page too simply due to sheer volume and quality of links (and vice versa).

A quick look shows 'dresses' as one of ASOS's more popular generic organic KWs.

Potentially then, you'd compare a cross-section of results for 'dresses' (and other search terms) and determine the on-page ranking factors for example, for ASOS, New Look, Boohoo and Very with a sideways eye on the off-site metrics .

Not saying the research above isn't valid but doesn't entirely feel consistent with the conclusion based on what's presented.

about 5 years ago


UK seo company

Hi there and thanks for this interesting and important post.I really enjoy your post Really its amazing.

almost 5 years ago



ASOS really do have it down. Lesser ranked websites with low authority probably would get away with a small amount of content.

almost 5 years ago


Matt | Website Design Sussex

Thank you for the info on this post. It is great to see the sites compared side by side - you have given me some valid pointers for sites I'm promoting at the moment. This, of course, is all on-page SEO - there must be a ton of back-linking and social engagement going on behind the scenes too.
On site SEO is a big part of it but many other factors count too..

almost 5 years ago

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