To coincide with the end of London’s AW12 Fashion Week, Epiphany has released a study that looks at the most visible fashion brands in the UK according to search results.

Using data from five sub-sectors of keywords (fashion, clothing, dresses, jeans and outerwear), the company examined link profiles and tracked which brand appeared in relation to ‘key terms’ for the industry. 

When considering PPC, it found clear evidence that fifteen of the thirty-five advertisers featured in the report were running significant campaigns that were regularly running out of budget well before the end of the day.

Epiphany operations director Andy Heaps said that as you would expect, search engine marketing is a big focus for the UK's biggest fashion brands.

Surprisingly though, very few are utilising both paid and natural search to full effect. We found multiple instances of poor PPC budget management, limited visibility in Google Shopping results and significant natural ranking opportunities amongst the leading brands. This shows that while paid and natural search command a substantial amount of marketing budget there is still a huge opportunity for additional customer acquisition through these channels.” 

The table of visibility below, according to product and online, was based on the percentage of available clicks that an advertiser can expect to get, given their position. So 100% visibility (either on organic or paid search) would represent the top position in the appropriate set of the search results for every keyword, across the entire period considered in the analysis.

ASOS dominates the market from an online perspective (largely due to how active it is in link building activity – plus high levels of social visibility), while New Look tops the league for product due to its large catalogue.

However, objectives aren't always so broad. The study also reveals how specific strategies result in better performance, using Diesel's success in targeting ‘jeans’ specific keywords as an example - which isn't neccessarily reflected overall in the table.

The clothing retail industry is incredibly competitive, with high street stores competing side-by-side with catalogue retailers and online specialists for customers.

Nowhere is this more evident than in the search engine results – there are over 1m searches in the uk each month for clothing-related terms - and the value of a high ranking in the search results (either organic or paid) is potentially huge.

As such, the overlying conclusion from the study is opportunity, as you can see from the executive summary below:

  • The lack of brands using both paid and organic strategies to their full extent means more opportunity for brand exposure, especially since many studies show that there is little cannibalisation of traffic if a website has high ranking listings for both (aside from searches for the brand’s name).
  • This also demonstrates that brands have an opportunity to integrate their thinking on both PPC and SEO. 
  • A lot can be achieved by looking at which keywords drive successful PPC campaigns and whether those keywords are integrated into a SEO strategy. 
  • Equally, there might be keywords driving a long tail SEO strategy that fashion retailers might not have thought of for PPC. 
  • Clearly, both paid and organic search have advantages and disadvantages for fashion retailers, so it’s not all that surprising that different brands have opted to put most of their effort (or in some cases, all of it) into one or the other.
  • In most cases there is a real opportunity for fashion brands to increase their organic rankings for keywords appearing on page two or three of Google.
  • All of the most visible brands are actively engaged in link building activity, with even the least active still building hundreds of new links in the 3 month period that we reviewed.
  • Social signals are slowly being brought into search results; however social visibility can also have a positive impact on link acquisition. The viral nature of social sharing often means that as a brand, or one of its initiatives becomes more and more visible through social media, the chances of websites noticing (and therefore linking) also increases 
  • There are also huge opportunities for many brands to improve their Google Shopping visibility.

A full explanation for the methodology behind these rankings, and more detailed analysis of each brand's position is available here.

You can also review Econsultancy's SEO best practice guide, which contains everything you need to know about search engine optimisation, whether you work for an in-house client team, independently or for an agency.

Vikki Chowney

Published 27 February, 2012 by Vikki Chowney

Vikki is head of community at TMW. You can follow her on Twitter or Google+

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Comments (3)

Grant Whiteside

Grant Whiteside, Technical Director at Ambergreen Internet Marketing

Many of these fashion brands avoided the whole SEO issue, by not investing in organic visibility and letting their affiliate partners do a whole lot of the hard work for them. Possibly this created a short term gain but it has generated some bigger headaches further down the line?

For those fashion brands that do have a high street presence, there is always Local search. However we often find that the high street shops have a separate local advertising budget and in true British style, they are left out in the cold when it comes to having a collaborative approach to the marketing objectives for the brand.

There aren’t many fashion brands that look at SEO, paid search, local search, shopping feeds, mobile, PR, recommendation software, social media, ABL advertising and affiliate control as a means to an end. Sadly a collaborative approach to generating digital visibility is still a pipe dream for the vast majority of fashion brands. Most of these disciplines are still kept in silos rather than looking at the bigger picture.

These stats don’t surprise me; they should simply remind us this fledgling industry still has to grow up a bit. However it’s nice to know that if one of these brands does decide to rise to the challenge, they've got it all to play for.

over 6 years ago

Chris Bishop

Chris Bishop, Founder & CEO at 7thingsmedia

For a change I wholeheartedly agree with Grant ;) (...I hope you are well buddy!)

Having a heavy fashion client sway within the agency we are definitely aware of the fledgling nature/lack of wider understanding in the sector - especially with regards the more detailed SEO and ensuring best practice within the wider digital space. As naturally this hasn't been their world for the last decade.

Furthermore (and more directly) to the headline of this article, the issue of reaching budget caps before the end of the day is a problem we have seen when we pick up new PPC clients.

It's a mixture of ineffective or restrictive budget setting and then poor/basic current PPC management. Simple campaign optimisation and effective keyword match types still drive considerable efficiencies for the overall campaign which in turn can allow for a more widespread impression share throughout the day.

For brands struggling to sell in increasing their budgets I would suggest the following two tips to make the current budget as efficient as possible.

Such as isolating top converting keywords into their own focused Ad Group. Also removing irrelevant terms from Broad or Phrase matches and reducing the size of Ad Groups to make them more concise and targeted. Both of these suggestion will effectively improve the quality score and can result in the better ad positions at a lower cost.

Smarter use of Google Networks is also fundamental in gaining the best quality traffic within tight budgets, with Search Partners for example usually being present as standard on campaigns we acquire. From our experience, Search Partner traffic will convert at a lower rate, if at all, than Google Search.

However when budgets are reaching maximum caps on a regular basis, it is clear to see that Search Partner traffic could be using up budget which could be more efficiently used to gain Google Search customers. In the past we have seen clients see an uplift in conversion rate, and therefore revenue, without any difference in traffic levels or spend, through managing which Networks work best on each area of a client’s Paid Search account.

Specific targeting of devices can also provide better CTR at lower CPC's to aid budget efficiencies. With 47% of all UK phones now being Smart Phones, this is an area of Ecommerce which retailers cannot afford to ignore or simply blanket target within a desktop campaign. Creating campaigns for individual operating systems or handsets allows for device specific Ad Copy to stimulate consumer confidence in the buying process. Management of specific device bids can also lead to reduced CPC's and improved quality scoring.

With regards the outlook I feel this Winston Churchill quote sums it up perfectly - "Difficulties mastered are opportunities won" and again agree with Grant - that's those who rise to the challenge have it all to play for!

over 6 years ago




this is a very interesting article, especially regarding mobile.

with U.S. statistics showing 1 in every 3 instore purchases being made on mobile, its only a matter of time before we see similar stats here in the UK, and some of the big fashion brands have yet to catch on.

It is interesting too that your referenced "devices" in adwords, as I would have thought the place to get best value would be admob, which is now owned by Google, and as such would be more targeted than normal adwords?

over 6 years ago

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