The State of SEO. within Retail Ecommerce Research Report. August

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1 The State of SEO within Retail Ecommerce Research Report August

2 Something s not quite right in SEO I don t think there s an ecommerce business in the world today that doesn t want, and isn t trying to improve its rankings in natural search. But it seems that few are achieving the improvements they expected. Having worked exclusively in search marketing for over 14 years, I ve witnessed a constantly recurring pattern of frustration, and under performance: a company hires an agency or consultant to do their SEO, everyone s excited, huge amounts of time is spent in the first few months analysing the website, keywords, competitors, site structure, content etc and then the client is given a long list of recommendations. The client hands the list to the technical team to implement, who then chop the recommendations to prioritise the quick wins and drip-feed a handful of low impact changes into the business over a period of months, and the needle fails to move. The client s frustration grows over the ongoing investment, and that they re not seeing the improvements they expected, while the agency is also frustrated that the client isn t implementing the changes they ve recommended. Both blame each other until ultimately, either the incumbent is fired or a new person client side eventually comes in, and the cycle starts again with another agency or team. The fact that half the respondents in our survey say their company has hired between 2 and 5 agencies in the last 5 years, and as many as 60% of them suggested their expectations were not being met, underscores this frustrating trend. So what s really going wrong in SEO? Our survey probes in more depth the issues that retailers face with implementing SEO at the kind of scale their businesses operate, so that the right solutions to the real problems can be identified. With innovation in automation technology enabling SEO recommendations to be implemented, there is simply no reason why SEO is still not getting done. Warren Cowan CEO & Founder, OneHydra Our survey probes in more depth the issues that retailers face with implementing SEO at the kind of scale their businesses operate. 2 The state of SEO within retail ecommerce Research Report

3 Introduction OneHydra undertook an extensive piece of research within ecommerce, measuring the state of SEO and the deeper issues retailers are facing every day. OneHydra canvased the opinions of 200 senior ecommerce / marketing directors and senior managers, during the months of June and July 2014, with the purpose of highlighting the best practices and anomalies within the industry. The research identified the following key findings: 67% 70% noted that it can take over three months for SEO changes to be implemented stated that they don t have technical resources in which to implement the required SEO changes Despite 82% admitting search marketing is an integral part of their business model, less than 20% of SEO requirements were met in the last 12 months A quarter of retailers could be wasting more than 100,000 a year on SEO The state of SEO within retail ecommerce Research Report 3

4 SEO is essential The research confirmed how fundamental SEO is to a company s business model, with 82% saying that it was integral (35%) or important (47%). With SEO playing such an essential role, many of these large retailers invest heavily in either an in house SEO team or hire one or more SEO agencies. As the research showed, nearly every responder confirmed that they currently work with an agency or in house team, and in most cases they work with both. How important is SEO to your organisations business model? 35% INTEGRAL 47% IMPORTANT 11% NECESSARY 6% NOT VERY 0% IT ISN T 1% UNSURE Does your organisation work with an SEO agency or an in-house team? 25% IN-HOUSE 37% AGENCY 37% BOTH 1% DON T KNOW 4 The state of SEO within retail ecommerce Research Report

5 Current SEO processes aren t working With the retail industry subject to change depending on the day s weather, retailers are under an increasing amount of pressure to optimise their website s SEO processes in real time. Those who get it wrong have felt the bite with the likes of Marks and Spencer reporting an eight per cent drop in their online sales 1. That is hardly surprising when you look at the statistics for fashion retailers who have over 16 million searches per month and a vast keyword set containing 53,000 high street fashion terms, but only one IT Department who are unable to keep up with the demand. The research supported this view and suggests that only 20% of the required SEO changes are actually being met per year. Roughly what percentage of your total SEO requirements have been implemented in the last 12 months? 2% 0% 15% 10-20% 32% 20-40% 22% 40-50% 14% 60-80% 5% >80% 9% Unknown Only 20% of the required SEO changes are actually being met per year, the research suggests. ¹From Obamacare to Marks & Spencer: when websites go wrong - The state of SEO within retail ecommerce Research Report 5

6 What are the most complex and challenging SEO tasks for your organisation? 28% EDITING THE CONTENT OF PAGES & META TAGS 35% CONTENT CREATION 29% CHANGING HTML MARKUP 38% URL CANONICALISATION & DUPLICATE CONTENT 24% REFINING CATEGORY TAXONOMY 28% CHANGES TO NAVIGATION AND HIERARCHY 22% REPORTING TRAFFC AND ROI 30% ALIGNING SEO EFFORTS WITH BUSINESS GOALS 20% MANAGING REDIRECTS 24% WORKING ALL THE WAY ROUND THE ENTIRE SITE 50% GETTING SEO CHANGES THOUGH THE IT DEPARTMENT 19% KEEPING UP WITH CHANGING KEYWORD TRENDS 22% WORKING WITH HUGE AMOUNTS OF DATA 70% of those canvased also highlighted their lack of technical resources in which to implement the required SEO changes. And of those, 36% admitted they couldn t keep up with the keyword content creation strongly suggesting that SEO potential is not being maximised. 6 The state of SEO within retail ecommerce Research Report

7 The IT Departments are not fully to blame however. Retailer s lack of trust and understanding of agencies they work with was demonstrated throughout the research with almost 1 in 5 retailers admitting they had hired more than two SEO agencies in the last five years. Only 30% had stayed with the same agency throughout the five-year duration.. What is the biggest barrier when implementing SEO in your organisation? 71% TECHNICAL RESOURCE AND CAPACITY 27% MANAGEMENT BUY-IN 17% STRONG BUSINESS CASES FOR MAKING CHANGES 43% UNDERSTANDING OF SEO WITHIN THE ORGANISATION 13% LACK OF FUNDING Roughly how many SEO agencies has your company hired in the last 5 years? 5% NONE 30% 1 38% 2 9% 3 6% 4 2% 5 0% 6 OR MORE 11% UNKNOWN Why is this? Is it the agency under-performing or the inability to implement the recommendations? Most likely it s a combination of both with retailers struggling to understand SEO within the organisation (44%),in conjunction with unsuccessfully making a strong business cases for changes (17%) and ultimately failing to get management buy-in (17%) as highlighted by the survey. The state of SEO within retail ecommerce Research Report 7

8 An expensive mistake to make Research revealed that a quarter of retailers could be wasting more than 100,000 a year on failed search-marketing procedures, of which many don t even make it through the IT Department. Therefore it was unsurprising that when assessing the efficiency of the agencies almost half of the respondents are not happy with the results delivered by their SEO agency. A mere 10% said their agency has significantly improved SEO results. How much does your organisation spend on SEO per annum in s? 17% 0-10,000 27% 10,001-50,000 25% 50, ,000 9% 100, ,000 12% 200, ,000 10% 500,001+ Overall what is your view on SEO agencies? 40% PARTNERS - THEY PROVIDE US WITH STRATEGIC GUIDANCE AND ADVICE 13% FRUSTRATING - GET RECOMMENDATIONS THAT CAN NEVER IMPLEMENT 32% EXPENSIVE - I DON T SEE CLEAR RESULTS 9% GOOD VALUE - EXPERTS THAT SIGNIFICANTLY IMPROVED OUR SEO RESULTS 15% DISAPPOINTING - THEY PROMISE A LOT BUT ALWAYS UNDER-DELIVER It is clear that while many retailers are open to utilising agency expertise, the results have been mixed. Given these results, it s easy to see why multiple SEO agencies have been employed time and time again and this pattern will continue unless something changes. 8 The state of SEO within retail ecommerce Research Report

9 Time to make the change Traditional SEO processes are simply not working. The survey sharply highlights a number of areas where current practices fall down, whether due to a lack of technical resource, challenges aligning SEO processes with business goals and or keyword content creation. This has led to only 12% of people stating that they have been extremely successful in their current approach to SEO. While less than 50% cited that they have had some successes, given the time and money invested in SEO, companies should be recording a 100% success rate. How would you rate the success of the current approach your company has to SEO? 12% EXTREMELY SUCCESSFUL 36% MOSTLY SUCCESSFUL 46% SOME SUCCESS 4% NOT VERY SUCCESSFUL 2% UNSUCCESSFUL 12% of people stated that they have been extremely successful in their current approach to SEO. Only The state of SEO within retail ecommerce Research Report 9

10 As the report highlights, there are many barriers to achieving a successful approach. The majority of respondents said that it can take up to three months for SEO changes to be implemented and only 20% of requirements being met within a 12-month period, it is obvious that even with the combination of an external agency and an in-house team in place retailers are struggling to keep up with the pace of the retail industry. How long does it take for SEO changes to be implemented on your site? 68% 1-3 MONTHS 20% 4-7 MONTHS 6% 8-12 MONTHS 1% MONTHS 5% I M STILL WAITING Given that SEO is widely regarded as an integral component within a retailer s business model and strategy, the findings are concerning. It s clear that existing SEO practice is actually undermining business strategy and revenue potential rather than driving it ahead. Only 20% SEO of requirements are being met within a 12-month period, and can take up to three months for changes to be implemented. 10 The state of SEO within retail ecommerce Research Report

11 Summary Effective SEO practices have never come without its share of issues: the most significant being the task is never completed; the other is the extensive cost to retailers, which means 80% of the SEO initiatives retailers have invested in, don t see the light of day, and won t return any investment. This research highlights the widespread and recurrent nature of this. As competitive pressures increases, if SEO is to remain an integral part of a retailer s business model, they simple cannot afford to continue to align their investments with approaches that deliver so infrequently and inconsistently. The next step retailers and SEO s must address is to look for SEO processes that can: Actually deliver scale improvement quickly Reliably remain across, and on top of the huge amounts of variables that need to be managed Constantly identify and output optimal recommendations at a scale that deals with every product, category and keyword Deliver the change required, without major dependencies on IT departments, technology limitations and sparse resources. In short, it s time for intelligent technology to automate the process of optimisation, and finally make an impact on SEO. By integrating a process that can continuously deliver and implement SEO changes in real-time, it will not only be possible to finally complete the SEO process, but enable to remain optimal, and also provide the retailer with a greater improvement in traffic and revenue, sooner in the lifecycle of the project. What about agencies? SEO agencies and practitioners will always have a role, and the good ones have always been able to re-align their approaches to techniques that work. But the fact remains that the traditional role of SEO specialists recommending changes, neither scales to a sufficient magnitude, nor gets over the line. Continuing to provide lists of technical recommendations that cannot be implemented is only going to result in wasted budgets, and further increase the frustration between agencies and clients. Agencies and SEO s of the future should continue to align their services to the more strategic and human creative element, such as content creation, authorship and engagement that technology platforms cannot provide. They need to deepen their expertise and integration capabilities with the ecommerce platforms and technologies where issues and required changes will manifest. In addition they can utilise technologies and methods that empower the people that want better SEO, to identify and make the changes required to get it. And there is no better time than now. As competitive pressures increases, if SEO is to remain an integral part of a retailer s business model, they simple cannot afford to continue to align their investments with approaches that deliver so infrequently and inconsistently. The state of SEO within retail ecommerce Research Report 11

12 About OneHydra OneHydra is an SEO automation platform, that integrates directly with e-commerce sites to deliver on demand insight, recommendations and targeted website change. Based in London, the company uses big data technology and the cloud, to automate the discovery process of the keyword language used by online shoppers, to enable large e-commerce sites to be optimised for millions of search terms. OneHydra s continuous approach also enables it to dynamically re-optimise to react to trends like seasonal stock changes and market opportunities, resulting in more qualified traffic, higher conversion rates and increased revenue. Customers that already trust OneHydra to drive their SEO performance include Currys, Debenhams, Expedia, Nisbets, River Island and Superdry. For more information Visit: Call: +(44) OneHydra, The Varnish Works, 3 Bravingtons Walk, Kings Cross, London, N1 9AJ

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