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by Tara West on 21st July 2011
The opportunity for fashion retailers to appeal to consumers through ecommerce is something most can not afford to pass up, with 32% of online fashion consumers making a purchase at least once a month (Drapers). With this in mind, it is extremely important to stand out in this saturated market place and optimising your ecommerce platform for search engines is one way to do this.
The three sites have very different approaches to their keyword strategy. The following assumptions are made as a result of observations of the Home page and Accessories Category page of each of the sites.
La Redoute and Littlewoods both appear to go after generic terms such as ‘Online Shopping Cataglogue’ for their Home page, whilst Look Again try to target lots of individual specific terms on the page. Although both of these strategies have their merits, it is important to refrain from trying to target too many keywords on one page, as this can be ineffective, causing the targeted terms to be diluted and can appear unnatural to both users and search engines if it is done excessively and verges into keyword stuffing.
Within their category pages, it is evident that Look Again have chosen partly to target the brand names of the products they retail, as well as general product names. For example, some content on the bottom of their Accessories Category page, which reads “Playboy bags, headscarves, Diesel belts, hats and sunglasses: it’s all about accessories!”.
This can work well if there is sufficient search demand for the brand terms and when the brands are combined with more generic keywords; for example targeting ‘Diesel Leather Belts’ rather than just ‘Diesel Belts’ would combine the brand with another more generic keyword, allowing them to target both shoppers that are searching specifically for a brand, as well as those who are searching at a more generic level for just ‘Leather Belts’.
Littlewoods on the other hand, use more generic keywords for the page, as illustrated by the content on their Accessories Category page, which reads “Whatever the outfit or occasion, we’ve got accessories to match. From designer bags and purses to scarves, wraps and stoles, complete your look today”. This suggests that they target terms like ‘Designer Bags’, ‘Designer Purses’ and ‘Scarves’. This kind of targeting can work well and doesn’t limit the kind of traffic they receive by using brand names with the search terms. La Redoute target even more generic keywords than this, with the term ‘Ladies Fashion Accessories’ (illustrated by their page title).
Arguably, the tactic of targeting a mix of brands and medium generic keywords (eg Diesel Leather Belts) is the strongest keyword strategy as it allows the site to gain traffic from specific brand and generic searches. The use of brands in the targeting also allows the site to piggy-back off of the credibility of the brand. In comparison, targeting such a generic term like ‘Ladies Fashion Accessories’ can often bring in consumers who are at a very early stage of browsing and may take much longer to convert.
Including content on category pages is an excellent way to help the page rank. Look Again’s site does this occasionally, for example of the Accessories Category page. Littlewoods also have content on only a few of their category pages. In comparison to this, La Redoute do not have content on their category pages. All three sites would benefit from having content on all of their category pages to naturally include the keywords which are targeted for each category.
Page Titles and Meta
Meta descriptions should aim to be around 155 characters, so that they can be displayed in full on the SERPs and read well for potential visitors. A brief look at the Meta descriptions for the Home pages of each site has revealed that Look Again have got a meta description of 569 characters. On a positive note, they have done well to make it read well as comprehensive sentences, however as it would be shortened to around 155 characters for the SERPs this won’t actually benefit them.
They would benefit from a shorter description with a strong call to action at the end, like ‘Shop Online Now!’. In terms of length, la Redoute and Littlewoods are within 155 characters which is positive, and La Redoute stand out particularly well, with a strong call to action of ‘Sale now On!. There is lots more these sites could be doing to improve their Meta descriptions, and increase the likelihood users choosing to click their results in the SERPs.
The Page Titles of the Home pages of each site reveals that there are issues with the length on Look Again and Littlewoods. Page titles should aim to be around 55 characters to be presented well within the SERPs. Look Again have used many keywords in their page titles which is probably as a result of them trying to target so many terms on their one page. This is not advisable as it means the page title has a very long list format which doesn’t read well to users and could look ‘spammy’ to search engines. They could save space in their page title by keeping their slogan separate and just including it in the Meta description instead.
Littlewoods achieve a more sentence-like structure whilst naturally including their keywords which is positive:
La Redoute find a compromise with their keywords fitting naturally into the title and using a much shorter format:
All three use their brand Name within the title which is positive to see, as it can add credibility to their listing in the SERPs.
Two of the three sites don’t use internal linking within their content. Littlewoods is the exception to this, and they use it well to link to deeper category pages, e.g ‘purses’ in links to purses category from accessories category:
The sites use a varying degree of heading tags. There are no H1 tags on the Home pages of any of the sites, which is a shame as this is one key way to tell the search engines what the page is about. Often H2s are randomly used on phrases that do not add any SEO benefit to the page. For example, Look Again have a H2 which reads ‘Kids New In’ on their Home page. As it is unlikely consumers are searching for ‘Kids New In’ in relation to online fashion catalogues, this could be diluting their other SEO efforts. All three sites share this issue.
All the sites use a large amount of Java, which is common among fashion ecommerce sites as it allows them to achieve aesthetically pleasing image sequences, or navigation elements. This heavy use of Java means that there is large amount of code on the pages of these sites. To increase the loading time of the pages, they should consider compressing any excess code and images using Gzip Compression (LINK) and CSS Sprites (LINK)
There are some canonical issues which are evident from just taking a brief look at the sites, for example Littlewoods Home page can be found at http://www.littlewoods.com/ as well as http://www.littlewoods.com/?cm_re=Homepage-_-Header-_-Logo. A more thorough investigation may highlight other issues.
The URL stricture of Littlewoods and Look Again could benefit from being simplified and cleaned up so they include some keywords and appears logical to the user. La Redoute’s URL structure is a good example of this, as it uses short, precise URLs which include relevant keywords.
The use of XML sitemaps amongst the three sites is varied. Most do not have them located at the traditional /sitemap.xml format and either include an excessive number of pages with no priority settings, or include only two or three pages. All three sites would benefit from a structured XML sitemap which includes relevant pages.
All the sites use a robots.txt page and point to their sitemap from it, which is positive.
All of these sites have different elements which work well for them in terms of SEO. If they applied some continuity and worked to improve their weaker areas they could see good improvements in their SEO results.