How Two Top European Clothing Giants Overpowered the Search Marketing Competition

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How Two Top European Clothing Giants Overpowered the Search Marketing Competition

Editor’s Note: The comments at the end of this article have indicated one of the companies mentioned in this post may not be as “white hat” as the author assumed in her research. We appreciate our readers’ feedback and comments on this! -Kelsey

There has been a monstrous wave riding through Europe’s search market and it’s crushing the competitors with the force of Poseidon’s trident. The brilliant search marketing conducted by companies like Zalando in Germany and ASOS in the UK reveals strategies to be mirrored, no matter what industry or market you are in.

These two domains have taken the Clothing & Accessories industry as their own and what’s even more amazing is their share of search. Inspiration from these companies can put you on the right path to great visibility in the SERPs. Just wait ‘til you see the tremendous advantage that these guys have over the mere fish in the sea!

ASOS and Zalando: Search Marketing

Let’s take a quick look at the search marketing situation in the Clothing & Accessories Industry in Germany and the UK.

Hoosh Infographic -ASOS & Zalando Search Marketing

Image Credit:

This data refers to the share of search of each domain on January 20, 2014. and are showing incredible search visibility in several Clothing & Accessories categories in the UK and Germany, respectively. The percentages in the infographic are based on the top 100 most visible domains in each category and the visibility of these domains derives from the top 20-25 most searched and competitive generic keywords per category.

These two domains take the #1 position in the categories above and what’s even more amazing is the share of search of the next ranking domain. The graph below shows the search market situation for Boots in Germany and the difference between and the #2 domain (which varies over time) is almost constantly about 30 percent. Do you think Zalando is lonely up there?

InsideIndustry Share of Search - DE Boots - Search Marketing

Screenshot taken 11/02/2014 of

So who are these guys and why are they so good at being seen? Maybe we can get some tips to increase our own visibility and rise above the tide? Let’s take a closer look.

ASOS Reinvents Themselves

ASOS, originally As Seen on Screen Ltd., is a UK-based online fashion and beauty retailer that was established in 2000. They sell branded and own-brand fashion items almost all over the world. In 2008, they received high acclaim for their online store from famous magazines like Cosmopolitan, In Style and Maxim. In 2010, ASOS received e-commerce Awards for both Best Direct Retailer and Best Use of Social Media. I could go on about their awards and recognition online and off, but I won’t. The fact is, in almost 14 years of service, they have become UK’s largest online fashion and beauty retailer and Google doesn’t mind at all.

What Google is really happy about, is the augmentation of search engine marketing that ASOS underwent last year to make their website even more retail savvy. SEM is important for any company that plans to convert traffic into revenue, regardless of whether they are actually selling products online or not. According to Marketing Week, ASOS increased their digital marketing efforts in 2013, focusing on country-specific campaigns. Gemma Lovelock, Director of promotions marketing agency Lock-In Marketing, also said that ASOS made sure that their online store was accessible to customers from anywhere and with any device. You can find details about the search marketing strategies of ASOS in recent a blog post by Lara Vogel that compares brands and retailers online. They’re not doing so bad on social media either which supports their organic visibility with social linking.

Pinterest Boards for ASOS - Social Media

Screenshot taken 10/02/2014 of

Large e-commerce sites may find it challenging to implement good SEO, but ASOS has managed brilliantly. According to Ruth Attwood, SEO Manager at 4Ps Marketing, large e-commerce websites should “[c]ome up with a process for optimization, train [their] staff to do it properly, put quality procedures in place, measure the result of those changes, then rinse and repeat.” As someone who monitors share of search results on a daily basis, I can tell you that finding the right service to measure the results can be tricky, but it is definitely an important step. Apparently ASOS has done a great job and even managed the rinse and repeat with the unveiling of a new design for it’s men’s and women’s category pages, focusing strongly on product ideas and good content.

Zalando’s SEO Excellence success all started in October 2008, with a small range of products from selected brands. Now, Zalando is live in 14 European countries and offers thousands of different brands. It won the 2012 German Marketing Prize for outstanding marketing performance and the 2012 European e-commerce award for best transnational online shop at the Global e-commerce Summit.

Zalando has excelled in many ways as far as marketing. They have poked around in social media, fancy TV ads, Google ads, and with the use of good content and linking, they have managed to optimize their page emphatically. I guess their idea was “go big or go home!” But it worked for them and it’s very likely that it would work for all kinds of industries. In 2011, Sebastian S. Vlasich of Business Development Strategies told us that Zalando uses social media to get potential customers to interact with them. He also talked about how they launched a new business concept, selling their own brand in a Pop-up store in Berlin, while offline, as an inaugural event for the brand. Although this doesn’t really have an effect on share of search, it definitely affects the brand’s recognition.

In an interview by State of Digital in June 2012, Alessio Madeyski, the SEO Manager of Zalando at the time, states that Zalando practices only white hat SEO as it is not a matter of the color of the hat, but what the user gains. “I strongly believe that the brand belongs to the user, not to the company. So we, as Zalando, are trying to do all we can to listen to what the user wants.” He prefers the term “idea building” instead of link building, as he believes in developing authentic relationships brought on by good content and creativity.

Now you know more about the monstrous waves in European search marketing and as you can see, there was no Greek God behind their amazing share of search. They simply followed the rules that we all know and aim to master. Of course, there was a bit of creativity in the mix and that should always be welcome. Gain inspiration from the success stories like these and use them as a guide for your own success, regardless of your industry or market. It might even be an opportunity for a little fish to grab a trident of their own!

Dorothy Wheeler

Dorothy Wheeler

Marketing Assistant at Hoosh Technology
Dorothy Wheeler is a citizen of the world, having grown up in Africa, Asia, North America and Europe. Born of an Iranian mother and American... Read Full Bio
Dorothy Wheeler
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  • Thad James

    Thanks for the great article. This just proves that working hard within the rules can build superior online presence. No tricks, no work-arounds, no spamming. Just good, creative content and attention to customer needs. Even us small companies can learn from these experiences.

    • Dorothy Wheeler

      Thanks for the comment! I’m glad you liked it. Big or small, you can definitely learn a lot from these guys.

  • Hudson

    Thanks for the article, but it tells us very little in the way of HOW these companies actually achieved marketing dominance. You can summarize this article by saying: “practice white hat, train your employees to do similar, and have a presence across media outlets.”

    • Dorothy Wheeler

      You are right Hudson. Actually, this was the whole point. These two domains might have had a bit of creativity on their side, but they didn’t do anything particularly special, besides following standard SEO practices. Yet, they have an incredible share of search in several categories, and in the case of Zalando, in a very short time frame.

  • SEOleaks

    “Zalando practices only white hat SEO”, that´s just a lie. Zalando base their SEO growth on buying links. In Germany every single fashion-blogger can tell how Zalando approach them offering vouchers or money in exchange of a post with a link or two, what is, by the way, against the guidelines of Google.

    In Berlin everyones talk about that, and this kind of approach to blogger is usually called: linkbuilding Zalando style. So, please, dont be naive. Zalando bought their rankings and is still doing it.

    • KingKong

      Yes… I can confirm the linkbuying techniques @SEOLeaks describes. Zalando never stopped Linkbuying. There is no “White Hat” Linkbuying ! Regarding google guidlines this is known as “Black Hat”- it is a non-creative way of “Black Hat” SEO – it is the “Money Rules the World (SERPS)” approach.

  • s

    i was up there on the old christmas jumpers page at no 2 /3 . then got knocked off by the big boys……


    small sme stands no chance

  • Basti

    Yep, I can confirm that Zalando is buying links big-time! We who live and work in Germany know that very well. But than again, every fashion retailer is doing the same. The links on “fashion blogs” pointing to Zalando are meaningless, no added value at all.

  • bigtimenoob

    “SEO Manager of Zalando at the time, states that Zalando practices only white hat SEO as it is not a matter of the color of the hat, but what the user gains.”

    Which basically means: Doesnt matter the color of the hat, we do it all by any means necessary because we think we are the best so the user should come to us.

    Praising them as super white hat and saying they do decent work when infact they just do easy linkbuiling is a bad move by sej, maybe actualy look into them for a second?

  • Dorothy

    It’s great to see discussions on this article. The statement by the former SEO Manager of Zalando might not be completely transparent, but that was his statement. Either way, Zalando has their fingers in every pie when it comes to SEO practices and buying links might be one of the ways that they gain visibility, but this kind of ranking does not come from link building alone. They must be doing something right.

  • Felix

    Funny article when you know how Zalando really did SEO for the past few years. White hat SEO ? Idea building ? Yeah sure… They created their own linkbuilding company (well Rocket Internet did it but the main project was Zalando) and hired interns from all around europe to create forum links and to comment on blogs (which is still called spam so far I know). Sure they are great in many things they do, especially their other online marketing channels, but please don’t write about Zalando’s SEO “Excellence”. It’s just ridiculous.

    • Dorothy Wheeler

      Thanks for the insights!

  • Alessio Madeyski

    Hi Danielle,
    just a quick note: I was the SEO manager for the italian, french and spanish Zalando markets.

    The head of SEO was and still is Norman Nielsen.


    • Dorothy Wheeler

      Hi Alessio! Great to hear from you!

  • Seb

    The only reason why Zalando still rules SEO is that they untwisted marketing (esp. offline and TV) so hard, Google can not afford to cut them off cause ppl still expect them to show up. In this case, they did a great job gaming Google.

    • SEOleaks

      well after, expedia and lastminute seems like google doenst care much of how big you are. I really dont think that google is letting them play black because they are bigger or because they are on TV. One day Zalando will face a strong manual penalty.
      Thanks to the reconsideration requests, Google is gathering a lot of information about which blogs are selling links, the price, the agencies that are selling them… with that information Google will have the chance of addressing those link building strategies.

      • Dorothy Wheeler

        It will be really interesting to follow up on these guys and see what Google does. I will be tracking both companies to see what happens.

  • Ruth Attwood

    Thanks for quoting my old ASOS review Dorothy! Their SEO basics really are solid, and it is great to see their growing use of content marketing onsite as well.

    Interesting stuff about Zalando from other commenters – but I’d agree that there seem to be multiple factors at play here. It would be interesting to see a backlink analysis for them – especially given Google’s recent strong warning to German webmasters about link spamming.

    • Dorothy Wheeler

      Thanks Ruth! It really would be interesting to see a backlink analysis. Maybe we will do that just to see what comes out.