Technical SEO

The graph Boohoo’s SEO Team does not want you to see

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Background

For many years, ASOS (asos.com) was the king of e-commerce websites on Google. It had the most optimised website with the highest visibility score and according to Sistrix, it had a higher visibility score than high street giants like Next, John Lewis and Marks & Spencer in 2010.

It was all going well for ASOS  until Google rolled out a Core Update in March 2018. It was a disaster. ASOS was penalised by Google for a number of issues. Its overall visibility started dropping week-on-week. It was more than a year until Google’s June 2019 core update would be released, and ASOS was struggling.

It was even mentioned during ASOS’s interim result statement:

To stay competitive, the retailer launched 200 localised microsites – smaller sites which perform alongside its main website – which had a negative effect on ASOS’ search engine rankings.

ASOS’ INTERIM RESULTS STATEMENT

The New King 🤴

In the meantime, another brand started taking over ASOS’ lost kingdom. It was the Boohoo Group, which has a number of websites for different brands. Boohoo owners not only bought new brands, but they also started acquiring more and more search traffic from Google and other search engines.

For this post, I will only use its top three websites; Boohoo (boohoo.com), Pretty Little Thing, aka PLT, (prettylittlething.com) and Nasty Gal (nastygal.com).

In August 2018, ASOS (asos.com) had a visibility score of 61.36, compared to Boohoo’s combined score of 3.143 – PLT and Nasty Gal didn’t even exist. 

Let’s hop in the time machine!

In January 2019, ASOS’s visibility score dropped to 49.82, but it still had higher visibility than Boohoo’s main website. But if you combine all Boohoo’s website visibility scores, it had overtaken ASOS easily and reached a comfortable high score of 73.04!

Website NameVisibility Score (August 2010)Visibility Score (January 2019)
ASOS (asos.com)61.3649.82
Boohoo (boohoo.com)3.14338.301
Pretty Little Thing (prettylittlething.com)028.442
Nasty Gal (nastygal.com)06.297
Boohoo Group (Combined)3.14373.04 🏆

Then after the June 2019 core update, all the websites kept improving their visibility scores.

Happy days, right?

Oops!

The Awful May Core Update

Here comes Google’s May 2020 Core update

Core updates are always scary for any webmaster. You never know if it will go against you, or work miracles.

This May 2020 core update did a miraculous job for ASOS and the opposite for all Boohoo websites. 

Google started rolling out the update from 5th May and was said to keep rolling for two weeks until the third week of May. However, looking at the visibility graph, this does not give the Boohoo team peace just yet. 

All three websites are still losing (or have unstable) visibility while ASOS is improving every day. DAMN!

Just before the update, ASOS’ visibility score was 109.84 and Boohoo’s combined visibility score was 101.782. And according to today’s score, they stand at 128.18 and 64.496 respectively!

Website NameVisibility Score (Pre-Update)Visibility Score (Post-Update)Gain / Loss
ASOS109.84127.8916.43% 🏆
Boohoo61.08235.213-42.35%
Pretty Little Thing33.25325.313-23.88%
Nasty Gal7.4473.585-51.86%
Boohoo Group101.78264.111-37.01% 😢

It is quite surprising that all the Boohoo website scores are dropping in the same pattern. I didn’t investigate any possible issue as Google always says: “It’s not your fault if your website is losing ranking”. 

But it seems like there is a common issue with its websites. I am sure Boohoo’s SEO team is more than capable of investigating and figuring out the issue(s) soon.

My Experience with Core Updates

In the past (while working for an agency), one of my clients had a similar problem. Its visibility score dropped after the March 2019 core update. My team and I worked very hard with the client, and we recovered from the dip in the following core update. Both the client and the team were very happy. 

I checked my ex-clients website while writing this article, and found that its visibility score is rising since the update. Currently, it has the highest visibility score of all time!

I published an article on the steps we followed to recover from the core update. In addition to these steps, I would also recommend checking Google’s latest User Experience score KPIs, Core Web Vitals. Traditional SEO practices are not enough anymore; I mentioned going for a 360deg SEO strategy.

It is time to add another dimension to the SEO campaign, improving visitors’ experience on the website. I am really impressed with Google’s Web Vitals documentation. It has well-written definitions, figures, graphs and more. Additionally, Google is arranging a digital event from 30th June to 2nd July on modern web technologies.

Conclusion

After looking at the last few update outcomes, it is clear that most of the time, it is nobody’s wrongdoing. We need to accept the core update as a new normal and keep improving our website using a holistic 360-degree SEO approach all year round. I am sure that Boohoo’s SEO team has explained the issues to the stakeholders thoroughly and has already started working on recovery.

PS: I am not affiliated with any brand mentioned above. I hope not to hurt anyone personally, either.

I am an SEO professional, expert in both on-content and technical search engine optimisation. Besides eating, breathing and sleeping SEO, I am passionate about travelling, photography, collecting vintage mobile handsets and philately. I am also keen on financial freedom - saving, investing and passive income.

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