When the mobile-first index goes live it will be one of the biggest changes to Google in years. In order to capitalise on the mobile-first index, there are a few things eCommerce websites should optimise. We will be looking at a few of the biggest eCommerce sites to see how they will perform when the mobile-first index takes effect.
In order to see performance, we have used a tool called SEMRush to view how many keywords these eCommerce sites are ranking for on Desktop & Mobile.
|Desktop Keywords||Mobile Keywords|
|Ranking for 189.5K Keywords||Ranking for 5.3K Keywords|
|In 1st Position for 15,758 Keywords||In 1st Position for 907 Keywords|
|Desktop Keywords||Mobile Keywords|
|Ranking for 459.6K Keywords||Ranking for 19.9K Keywords|
|In 1st Position for 42,582 Keywords||In 1st Position for 3,097 Keywords|
|Desktop Keywords||Mobile Keywords|
|Ranking for 1.2M Keywords||Ranking for 41.8K Keywords|
|In 1st Position for 18,113 Keywords||In 1st Position for 1,462 Keywords|
I have to admit, I found it surprising that John Lewis are ranking for more keywords than Nike and ASOS put together. However, the more I thought about it the more it made sense because they have a wider range of product types. Therefore, John Lewis have the opportunity to rank for a wider range of keywords.
This also explains why they have fewer keywords in top position as they are competing with the websites for brands they stock. However, the number of keywords in 1st position is still surprising and possibly suggests a weaker SEO strategy compared to the other 2 brands.
This is measured by a tool set up by Google to measure the mobile-friendliness of a website. The issues that can affect mobile usability include small font sizes, the use of Flash, viewport not configured, fixed width viewport, content not sized to viewport and the touch elements being too close together:
So for Nike we can see that on the whole the mobile homepage was friendly:
However, there is a slight problem on their mobile site with a couple of the resources being blocked. This will likely cause them problems if this is related to how Google views their website.
When we look at a specific product page, we see much the same performance with the page being considered as mobile friendly.
However, we also see that more resources are being blocked, likely causing Google problems viewing their page and having a knock on effect on their visibility.
For ASOS we can again see that on the whole the mobile homepage was friendly.
However, ASOS suffer from the same issue as Nike, with a few of the resources being blocked.
When we look at a specific product page on ASOS we see much the same performance as a product page on Nike, with the page being considered as mobile friendly.
However, we also see that ASOS have 5 resources blocked compared to 4 on Nike products, again causing Google problems viewing their page.
For a bit of variation, we went for John Lewis rather than another apparel shop. As you might expect with another large company, they have created a homepage that is mobile friendly.
However, similarly to the other eCommerce sites, we see they have resources blocked. In fact, they have the most with 7 resources blocked, likely prohibiting Google from viewing the page correctly.
John Lewis’s product pages are mobile friendly, suggesting they have a responsive web design.
However, again we see that the product pages are blocking the same number of resources, which include images and redirect errors. This then leads to a drop in crawl efficiency and will have an affect on their SEO Visibility.
URL Length & Structure
URL length and structure affect user experience and crawl efficiency, hence it is a ranking factor in Google’s Algorithm. This means that we should review how the URL structure of a website looks and its relative length. URL structure is the main thing to look at as this usually helps Google understand your website through categorisation, as well as being good for user experience. The length of the URL is similar for crawl efficiency and a user isn’t going to be helped by a super long URL as they won’t know what half of it means.
So starting off with Nike, the homepage has a pretty straight forward URL, with some location differentiation.
However, when we go further in to look at a product you can see that their URL structure is very convoluted with very little categorisation. I went to Men’s training shoes to test this, as I admit I was doing a bit of online shopping at the same time… However, what I saw was a very flat URL structure with the following URL.
So not only is the URL structure above very flat but it seems they have created a subdomain, which then puts this site a step away from the main site. It also harms user experience, as you are never going to guess this is the URL for the product you were looking at. The ideal URL for this product would look as follows.
The fact that the URL structure for the Nike page has all these problems will harm their visibility and means it has a poor user experience.
Once again we started off looking at the homepage for ASOS and what I saw shocked me a bit. ASOS haven’t got an SSL certificate! This means that the website is not considered secure. For an eCommerce site this has got to be one of the biggest problems, because you need people to trust your website so they will input their card details. It is also a ranking factor, which is reinforced by the fact half of all . However, other than that the ASOS homepage URL is pretty standard, as seen below.
So for ASOS I again went to the shoe page. I have a slight weakness. If anyone wants to send anything to the Optus offices (ASOS & Nike I am looking at you) I have a fondness for shoes, watches, and sunglasses. What was the point again? Oh yeah URL structure… so the general category page for ASOS shoes is absolutely fine with some categorisation, as you can see below.
However, when we look at individual products they are done by brand name. This isn’t as big of a problem as Nike where their structure was flat. It will slow down the crawl efficiency slightly, but that may be worth it considering they also categorise by brand.
The real problem with the above URL is the length of it. There are a lot of details that don’t really help the crawl efficiency of the site or the user experience. This is another case of a big eCommerce site not having best practice URLs, and if ASOS don’t sort out an SSL certificate that could really hurt them in the long run.
Ok, so I am banking on John Lewis to show a proper example of URL structure and length… Not a lot of hope considering the previous test but fingers crossed!
A good start! John Lewis have a flat homepage AND a SSL certificate. This is beautiful, I love it when a plan comes together. Here’s hoping there is proper categorisation at the next level.Again I went into shoes… definitely just to keep the theme the same, no other reason… as you can see the URL follows a definite categorisation structure. This is good! Let’s keep it going John Lewis!NOOOOOOO! John Lewis you were doing so well! You can see from the URL above that they have gotten rid of the beautiful categorisation they had put in place and reverted back to a flat structure. Not only that, but the URL above is long and overly complicated, which is a double penalty.
Let’s move on from that crushing disappointment… Site speed is up next and I am optimistic that since I am looking at the big boys they will have quick websites.
I have tested their website using a Google tool that tests mobile site speed. As you can see the Nike page takes 7 seconds to load! That is more than I thought and a lot worse than some of the top performers.There are also some very easy fixes that Nike could do that would improve their site speed and user experience significantly (2-3 seconds).
Despite all the previous results I am remaining optimistic that at least one of these sites will prove why they are on the 1st page and that it isn’t all about brand.
Are you kidding me? Come on! Okay, all this proves is that the system is fixed and we need a revolution. Hopefully, the mobile-first index will be that revolution as an 8 second load time is pretty poor, especially for a website with the funds of ASOS.
I have pretty much given up by this point… however, I refuse to leave a job unfinished. So John Lewis, let’s see how you perform in comparison.
At this point I am not even surprised. John Lewis have the slowest load time of all, and looking at their homepage I am not even sure why other than the fact the images must be massive and they aren’t capitalizing on simple things like leveraging browser caching. After slating all these websites I feel like the nun (she was a nun right?) ringing the bell in Game of Thrones…
The Effect of Site Speed on Traffic
It looks like Nike have a slightly different load time when we measure their site speed with this tool. It isn’t much better but at this point 6 seconds is significantly better than 7 seconds.
However, you a load time of 6 seconds will cause almost a quarter of all mobile visitors to your site leave your page. This is a significant portion of their traffic and could prevent people from converting.
ASOS are likely to lose 28% of all their traffic coming from mobile visitors. This may not affect them as badly as other site’s though as the people visiting these big brands are likely to wait slightly longer for a page to load.
However, even though they aren’t likely to suffer as badly as websites with little or no brand recognition, this will still harm them. It essentially means that they could improve their bottom line even better!
Finally, the slowest and seemingly worst built website of the three eCommerce websites I looked at (explaining why they had the fewest 1st place keywords), John Lewis would have lost almost a third of their mobile traffic!
Admittedly the above is an estimate, however Google have so much data that if they say you will lose 29% of all your mobile visitors due to load time then it is likely to be around that figure. This is going to be especially true if your website isn’t one of the big brand names. You’re much less likely to survive this kind of mobile performance if you don’t have the traffic of a Nike, ASOS, or a John Lewis.
You can see that none of the big boys are completely adherent to the best SEO practices. However, they can get away with it, as is usually the case with big brands (). Their brand will help drive high CTRs, and means that Google will keep pushing them up the rankings for their keywords. However, if you own a smaller eCommerce website, some of these problems could be fatal. If you forget to include an SSL certificate and you expect people to give you their card details think again. I am backing the mobile-first index to bump these brands down to where they belong – VIVE LA REVOLUTION!