When SEO reaches mainstream news you know something went wrong.
ASOS have recently reported an 87% decline in profits since 2018, with SEO and organic traffic partly to blame.
Taking a look at their historic organic traffic figures (users who have visited the site from a search engine – normally Google for the UK), we can see that things began to go downhill, so to speak, around early 2018.
- Organic Traffic Stats from SEMRush – our go-to SEO tool at FINALLY.
While they’re not destitute yet – they still rake in around 9million users monthly organically – this kind of organic traffic decline is never good, especially for an ecommerce-based brand. The graph highlights that this decline isn’t a sudden occurrence either, organic traffic has slowly leaked away over the course of the year resulting in the headline figure.
So, let’s take a look at why ASOS lost their traffic and what could have been done to prevent this traffic loss.
International SEO Targeting Went Wrong
“To stay competitive, the retailer launched 200 versions of its website depending on which country the customer is in, which had a negative effect on ASOS' search engine rankings."
The 200 versions of the ASOS website that the BBC is referring to here are 200 different regional domains used to rank for different languages and regions around the world.
If you’re browsing from France, ASOS wants you to visit asos.fr, from Germany, asos.de and so on.
Handling a large number of regional domains is always going to be difficult and comes with an inherent risk to SEO performance. If you don’t have the correct relationships (via tagging and international SEO support) set up on your website for international search, you’re vulnerable to content duplication issues and are more than likely going to end up with poor regional targeting. You don’t want a German user to land on a beautifully localised French language domain and vice versa.
It looks like ASOS suffered from exactly this. A quick crawl of their website and we can highlight some issues straight away with how they’ve linked their regional domains. When ecommerce sites, especially large behemoths such as ASOS, face issues like this, they begin to snowball incredibly fast.
Any site launch, domain change, or large site change should have an SEO strategy in place to ensure that organic performance is protected.
How to Handle an International Site Launch
So, if you’re considering expanding into new regional markets or launching an international site, how should you proceed?
Planning is everything
Have the data to back up where and how you want to launch.
- Are you looking at launching into a new region because you have some organic interest from that region already? Great!
- Do you know how those users tend to search in that country, which search engines are applicable for your organic performance? Not every country relies just on Google for capturing organic traffic.
- Are you a native speaker or have native speaking resources? Google translate can’t help you identify specific lingo for terms in regions, especially if it’s slang or a certain colloquialism for your product or service you want to sell.
- Who are your competitors? Is the market saturated and competitive or will you be leading the way? These factors can help decide on your overall strategy and your potential performance.
Reduce Site Launch Risk
Any major site change should be supported by an SEO expert, else you risk losing any organic equity you’ve built over time.
- Have you considered technical SEO requirements if you’re moving to a new platform or introducing a new element to your website? Will your platform have room for future growth and allow you to do the things you might want to do for organic growth in the near future? You should have a technical requirement list to make sure any platform you select can meet your requirements.
- Have you had an SEO expert look over your migration plans and put in place their recommendations? There are several key points within any migration plan that should be reviewed by an SEO expert to reduce the risk of losing organic authority you’ve built over time.
- Are you tracking everything you should be tracking? Benchmarking your performance and ensuring you have a measurement plan in place to track those juicy organic search metrics (goal completions, purchases, traffic, ranking performance) is essential to ensure you’re doing the right thing (and plus it feels great to see those positive figures once you’re post launch!).
Naturally, this doesn’t cover every element of a site launch, which is why FINALLY and our team of SEO experts are on hand to answer any queries you may have about changing your site, or performing organically.