Digital, MKF3881, Monash

ASOS: The Search Engine Empire

As a generation who heavily rely on browsing and having access to a treasure chest of knowledge whenever and wherever search engines have proved to be a revolutionary tool in solving this dilemma. Google alone processes over 40,000 search queries every second – that is more than 3.5 billion requests every day. We use search engines for shopping, research or simply navigating us to our desired website amongst the vast expanse of the world wide web. For marketers, this proves how important it is to be visible in the search results and be present when customers need you the most.

It’s vital to be in the eye of the consumer and appear right at the top of that first page of results to ensure you generate traffic to your website. When I Google a term, I tend to either click on one of the first two links and would never see myself getting past the first page (I’d probably search for something else). With the amount of search engine results provided to users somewhere amongst the millions it’s imperative to make sure that your site is right where you want it to be, at the top of consumers mind, right in front of the consumer’s eyes – if it’s not, you may not even exist to them! So what’s all of this got to do with?

Well, this is all thanks to search engine optimisation (SEO) which put simply is the strategic alteration of site codes (including page title, tags, alt tags, names of images on your website) to make your website appears higher up on search engine results. If successfully implemented SEO can prove to be a significant driver of traffic to your website. It can also ensure you are reaching highly targeted visitors who are actively searching for a term and have high intent to purchase. This strategy can be of little to no cost for an organisation (no media or click-through costs, only optimisation costs). And as long as websites are willing to update and provide new content,  harnessing this strategy can prove to be dynamic.

After reading a paper by Ravi Sen (2005) in the International Journal of Electronic Commerce called Optimal Search Engine Marketing Strategy, I took a look at the UK fashion online retailer ASOS, who have reached tremendous success through utilising SEO!

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The digital revolution has transformed and reshaped entire markets, shopping and fashion is one that has undergone a complete transformation. With an increase in online shopping and e-commerce fashion retailers it comes as no surprise that ASOS are significantly leading the way in terms of SEO visibility in comparison to high end retailers. ASOS are appearing in the top position of the organic search listings for a vast majority of clothing, shoes and accessory items.

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How has ASOS been so successful in online fashion retail?

For any retailer, location is paramount. A well-place store in a busy street or in a shopping centre with lots of foot traffic is always going to have far greater success than a store hidden away where no one can find it. The same concept applies online. ASOS have a high SEO ranking which has allowed consumers to access their website on the web. It’s definitely not hidden! ASOS understood that popular terms such as ‘shirts’ or ‘dresses’ are expensive and very competitive online, however, with more specific terms such as ‘beige coloured chino pants’ weren’t and therefore ASOS were able to tag onto consumers niche searching habits and optimise their site to attract more consumers. Choosing specific terms that consumers were looking for and linking these to “white hat” principles such product titles, categories, product descriptions and images allowed ASOS to associate themselves with a range of niche terms. Analysing Google Adwords and trends also allowed ASOS to appear at the top of the results.

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ASOS invested a lot in optimising their site as a digital platform. Again, high end retailers are always spending a significant amount of money and time on the layout and design of their stores. ASOS took on the same approach and reflected its branding and culture through its visually appealing online store, it also provides customers with a positive shopping experience, one which is easy to navigate.

ASOS tailor their site from their initial landing page which directs you to either a “male” or “female” version of the site. From there ASOS allow the customer to personalise their shopping experience and filter their shopping objectives based on brands, products, discounts, marketplace, price or popular items…the list goes on! ASOS are updating and delivering new trend setting clothing, shoes and accessories weekly in order to keep up with the latest fashion trends.

This also has an impact on their SEO results. The fashion industry introduces new designs into the market on a weekly basis, creating a new fast fashion concept. With ASOS constantly updating their site with new products they are reinvigorating their offering, reach and becoming an online megastore.

With ecommerce growing every day, the state of a website is an aspect of SEO success and therefore fundamental to online sales.

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ASOS are constantly keeping up with trends online. Not only with products that are in fashion; but also optimising their site so that it is aligned with these trends. When a product is in style, people will be searching for it online more than ever, an opportunity that ASOS has made the most of.

Ensuring that all “key words” are optimised for this type of trending searches means that consumers will be led directly to your website, resulting in more traffic and ultimately more sales. Keeping up with the fast-fashion culture, means being flexible with your SEO strategy, which may need to change or adapt quickly.

Predicting what key words will be searched for will make all the difference when it comes to SEO. For example, there has been a 3,463 per cent increase in searches for “high-waisted bikini” over the past 24 months. Therefore make sure that your site doesn’t fall behind, otherwise it could end up in last season’s bin.

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ASOS has dramatically improved its SEO visibility through embracing technology. As an e-commerce platform ASOS has ensured that they have great content and provide consumers with an optimal user experience. ASOS understand that this will inevitability increase online visibility and appearance in Google searches. Google’s algorithms are progressively becoming more about “how” people search, putting more emphasis on how people talk and not just standalone characters. ASOS are engaging with customer’s and creating original content, rather than text written solely for search engines.

ASOS are also heavily present on social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pintrest where they are able to engage and provide consumers with content on their product offering.  There are also countless YouTube videos from popular personalities and consumers which ensure that ASOS is always circulating within the fashion circles. In tern, consumers are providing ASOS with a raft of user generated content. ASOS have integrated SEO and social media into their online strategy. The ‘following’ that they have across all social media and the engagement with consumers helps ASOS maintain there position at the top. ASOS have also optimised their website for mobile. With consumers increasingly using mobiles for shopping and searching ‘on-the-go’ having an effective user interface that is visually appealing and easy to navigate on mobile ensures that ASOS rank highly and is dynamic in there online approach.

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ASOS’s willingness to be early adopters of technology such as online fitting rooms and Prime Air has also seen them gain an edge over competition. Digital innovations are shaping the future of retail and disrupting traditional processes to help retailers get the most out of an online store. SEO is the latest online process to benefit from new technology that is helping retailers to automate the delivery of SEO, enabling them to optimise for hundreds of thousands of keywords and quickly grow the taxonomy of their site.

Mega online fashion retailers such as ASOS and The Iconic continue to saturate the online marketplace and push out smaller online fashion stores. With an endless catalogue of products and success under their belt at optimising their sites for SEO.

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ASOS also implement Paid Per Click (PPC) alongside SEO

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It is progressively getting tougher for smaller online fashion retailers trying to match it with these mega online stores with their impressive sites, countless users and search engine dominance. It gets even harder when ASOS use “Paid Per Click (PPC)” as well. PPC is “A relevant text ad with a link to a company page is displayed on the SERPs when the user of a search engine types in a particular phrase. A fee is charged for every click of each link, with the amount bid per click determining its position.”

PPC is a popular strategy for smaller retailers who wouldn’t tend to appear high in the results on a Google search.  Companies or websites will approach Google who will auction off placements to not only the highest bidder; but those who would be able to attract a relevant audience. Being placed on the first page of Google, brands with low awareness, minimal traffic or new onto the market will have some chance of exposure in an indescribably large market.

ASOS have used PPC to guarantee exposure of their website in the hope of attracting more traffic. It is important to understand that a consumer clicking on the website will be at a cost, however, that doesn’t necessarily mean they will purchase anything. ASOS need to ensure that they are offering value to the customer and attracting them to make a purchase on the site and not just visit.

ASOS have used highly targeted placed adds on pretty much any predictable product within the fashion industry; whether you’re searching for singlets or ties, ASOS will no doubt search up as a sponsored advertisement. This investment of money, time and creativity into PPC has ensured that ASOS is present for any customer purchasing opportunity. Countless branded advertisements with the product name, price and an image attract consumers to the ASOS site – it’s not just an ordinary text based advertisement, it’s one that can visually attract consumers to their website. In fashion, ensuring that anything looks good is paramount and these advertisements sure do.

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SEO and PPC matters; currently online-only retailers are becoming increasingly popular and are leaving traditional ‘bricks-and-mortar’ stores behind. The fastest growing retailers are those who have embraced the changing world of e-commerce. Within the fashion industry, Google has begun fishing out the “black hats” and ensuring that “white hats” are appearing at the top of the results for all customers. Although it’s expensive and time consuming, ASOS have the resources in place to execute both. As a e-commerce retailer, ASOS’s business model is based around the internet and online search engines. Ensuring your website has genuine quality content that consumers want to see will just be better for everyone. ASOS has created a lot of trusted value with its consumers and as long as consumers are using search engines to satisfy their every need, then I don’t think SEO or PPC will be dying anytime soon.

Do you have any great examples of websites saturating their market through optimising SEO and PPC ?

Until next time,

Benjamin Deville

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4 thoughts on “ASOS: The Search Engine Empire

  1. Amber says:

    Hey Ben,
    Liking the blog!
    You said: “ASOS are appearing in the top position of the organic search listings for a vast majority of clothing, shoes and accessory items.”.
    I noticed the screenshot of the google search for ‘clothing store online’ accompanying this comment shows ASOS as the second result, however this result is a paid ad. Excluding ads, ASOS turns up about 9th. Paying for google ads isn’t considered SEO is it?
    Doing a few google searches for ‘floral dress’, ‘white tshirt’ etc though did return ASOS links as the top non-ad result. Interesting! And I guess that is more what you meant when you said top organic listing for clothing items…
    Amber

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for your comment Amber!

      Great pick up. SEO is quite different to Google ads in the sense that SEO is the methodology of strategies, techniques and tactics used to increase the amount of visitors to a website by obtaining a high-ranking placement in the search results page of a search engine. Websites must ensure they have relevant and high quality content, descriptions, foot traffic, online presence..the light goes on to receive a high placement in the search results. On the other hand, Google Ads are essentially where a website will pay the publisher (Google) for space (based on relevant search terms) to hopefully generate more traffic to their website. Websites will pay Google a small fee every time the advertisement is clicked and directed to the advertisers website. This is a much more optimal strategy for smaller fashion brands.

      On your point, ASOS particularly flourish when it comes to customers searching for niche items (as I mentioned in my post). Whilst they still appear for more generic fashion items they are more so present when it comes to consumers searching for specific details in a product (the examples you gave). This avenue in reaching their customer is what has made ASOS one of the few successful online fashion retailers.

      Do you purchase items yourself from ASOS? Are you attracted by the paid advertisements and the high search result presence of ASOS when you’re considering purchasing a particular piece of fashion?

      Like

  2. marketingdigitality says:

    Hey Benjamin,

    very very enjoyable read. You have constructed this blog excellently. I really like how you spoke broadly about SEO and its implications while also focusing on ASOS and giving SEO real life context.

    I never thought about how keywords can be used for niche teams but you right in that ASOS have really harnessed this. In the modern day we have so many options and choices that we are searching more directly and narrowly for what we want. I know that ASOS have come up in my searches many times, and not just in their paid ads.

    Thanks for the read. Look forward to the rest! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for the comment!

      I thought that was the best approach in writing on this topic. It’s hard to find a good example of a company implementing both SEO and PPC, even more so when they’re extremely successful like ASOS has been.

      ASOS have definitely differentiated themselves by targeting their customers through having a presence with ‘niche’ key terms. More often that not, consumers are searching for specific products based on style, colour, size etc. and it really allows ASOS to have a foot in the door when it comes to customers searching for any type of product. Appearing at the top of the search results and at top of mind for consumers has directed a lot of traffic to the website that has resulted plenty of sales!

      Looking forward to reading some of your posts!

      Like

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