SHEIN is a prominent fast fashion brand known for its affordable and trend-driven clothing and accessories. Founded in 2008 in China, SHEIN quickly gained global recognition for its vast online catalogue, catering to a wide range of fashion preferences and sizes.

The brand’s success is largely attributed to its ability to rapidly produce and release new styles, often mirroring high-end fashion trends at budget-friendly prices. SHEIN’s online platform, user-generated content, and influencer collaborations have also played a crucial role in its popularity.

Competitors in the fast fashion market include Zara, H&M, Forever 21, and Boohoo. These competitors, like SHEIN, cater to consumers seeking fashionable apparel at competitive prices, contributing to the competitive landscape of the fast fashion industry.

SEO holds substantial promise for fast fashion brands like SHEIN that endeavour to scale their operations. An effective SEO strategy could orchestrate a notable increase in organic and precisely targeted traffic to their website.

The main element of an SEO strategy for a site like SHEIN would be from a technical standpoint, where many areas could be improved.

Mobile vs desktop rankings

SHEIN operates both a mobile and desktop version of the website. The current SEO implementations lead to numerous pages competing for the same keywords.

Using 3rd party tools to analyse both the and versions of the site, we see the following search presence. 

Site Ranking keywords
Mobile 390,241
Desktop 82,960

While the mobile version of the site is favoured, a significant number of keywords rank for the desktop domain. This signals there may be widespread cannibalisation across the two domains.

With Google operating mobile-first indexing, it’s important to have a crawlable version of the site on mobile as a priority. Having separate versions is not best practice partly due to it not giving users the best experience when using a site, among other reasons

It’s important to point out how much of an impact this may have on revenue. With a site as vast and wide-ranging as SHEIN, several parameters can be placed on certain areas of keyword performance. The first is to look at some of the most popular categories on the site. These include:

  • dresses
  • tops
  • blouses
  • skirts
  • jeans
  • leggings
  • jackets
  • jumpsuits
  • shorts
  • camis.

To distill this even further, the keywords with the highest traffic driving for SHEIN can be pinpointed. These are any keywords relating to the above categories that sit consistently within the first 2 result pages.

This leaves us with just over 7,000 keywords. When this portfolio of keywords is analyzed we can see that SHEIN has several commercially relevant terms they perform well for that have ranking positions on both of the domains.

Topic Number of Mobile Rankings 1 – 20 Number of Desktop Rankings 1 – 20 Total Number of Keywords Percentage of Desktop Keywords
Dresses 2590 481 3071 15.70%
Tops 580 19 599 3.20%
Blouses 441 39 480 8.10%
Skirts 760 119 879 13.50%
Jeans 499 110 609 18.10%
Leggings 272 49 321 15.30%
Jackets 527 72 599 12.00%
Jumpsuits 416 44 460 9.60%
Shorts 1028 89 1117 8.00%
Camis 120 33 153 21.60%

Many desktop URLs hold high-ranking positions against stronger-performing mobile URLs, with Dresses and Skirts having the highest number of desktop URLs performing well.

This is compounded by the fact the competing URLs are frequently not the same across both domains. An example of this is for the keyword “backless bodycon dress”, which receives around 400 monthly searches in the UK.

Google currently serves two completely different products from two separate SHEIN domains on the SERP for a highly competitive keyword.

This also points towards Google treating the domains as separate entities. Within the UK, we can see the desktop version of the site ranks for 954 branded terms with an average position of 26.31. The mobile version, however, ranks for 2,478 branded terms at an average position of 1.5. This shows the mobile version of the site is being favoured over the desktop one considerably in SERPs for branded terms.

This isn’t the case across all regions however. As showcased below, we can see major discrepancies between mobile and desktop versions in multiple European regions across several different languages.

Region Mobile Total Rankings Mobile Average Position Desktop Total Rankings Desktop Average Position
France 5757 5.14 4172 9.1
Spain 7125 6.76 4629 15.26
Germany 2651 6.39 1573 13.35
Italy 4448 6.64 3048 11.5
Poland 2138 4.13 1513 7.15
TOTALS 22,119 5.81 14,935 11.27

The mobile versions across all regions rank for 7,184 more branded keywords and have a lower average position by 5.46. Upon investigation, this competition is being driven by several technical issues.

Low-value proposition content

When we look at the individual product pages, we see they have a similar structure to most eCommerce websites. However, the SHEIN product pages do not include much information on the product at all apart from the minimum amount of metadata such as Titles, H2’s, and meta descriptions. This leads to the pages being very thin on content.

Pages lacking substantial, valuable information struggle to secure high search engine rankings, ultimately reducing user engagement and increasing bounce rates.

Moreover, thin content often fails to leverage the possibility of SEO-focused copy, making it challenging for search engines to comprehend the page’s topic and purpose, further diminishing its search visibility. Search engines may assign lower crawl priority to these pages, resulting in less frequent indexing and reduced chances of appearing in search results.

This understanding of a page’s purpose is even more important for SHEIN as we can see the competition for rankings between both the mobile and desktop versions of the site. With thin content on pages, we are seeing Google serve completely different pages from both versions of the site.

Internal link quantity & crawlability issues

With SHEIN focusing on a business model where the prices they charge are comparatively low to competitors, it’s important they have as many of their products accessible to users as possible.

One of the main ways to do this from an organic perspective is through internal links.

Internal links are essential for guiding search engine crawlers through a site. Without these links, some pages may remain undiscovered by search engines, potentially resulting in lower visibility.

Currently, the only links served are related product ones that are dynamically updated for each user. These currently aren’t easily crawlable. This means SHEIN is missing out on sending crawlers through to valuable product pages.

Internal linking for a site of any size is important, but for a site at the size and scale of SHEIN’s it’s crucial. Not only does it help pass pagerank to pages deeper in the architecture, it also allows Google to understand the architecture of the site.

Within a space like fast fashion where there are a substantial amount of categories and subcategories, it can be difficult for crawlers to navigate the site.

This can lead to several pages simply not being crawled or Google not having enough context around the value proposition of the page to rank it for relevant queries. In the eCommerce space, this can have a direct knock-on effect on revenue.

Moreover, internal links help distribute page authority across a website. This allows crawlers to begin to understand the hierarchy and architecture of a website. By not having internal links that can be followed easily SHEIN is not showcasing its most important pages.

Hreflang and canonical implementation

It’s important that hreflang and canonicalisation are properly implemented for SHEIN to keep up with its international operation.

When canonical tags are not used correctly, search engines may struggle to determine the most authoritative version of the page among the various regional or language-specific alternatives. This can result in indexing and ranking challenges, potentially leading to lower search visibility and traffic.

The absence of canonical tags can lead to inefficient allocation of the crawl budget. Search engine crawlers may spend excessive time and resources trying to index multiple versions of the same page, reducing the crawl budget available for other crucial pages on your site.

In terms of keyword optimization, multiple hreflang entries without canonical tags can dilute the SEO value of your content. Different versions may target distinct keywords or regions, making it challenging to rank effectively for specific search queries.

Lastly, user experience is compromised when canonical tags are omitted. Users may land on the wrong version of the page, causing confusion and potentially resulting in higher bounce rates and lower user engagement — factors that can negatively impact SEO. To address these issues, it is crucial to implement canonical tags alongside hreflang annotations to guide search engines to the preferred page version and improve overall SEO performance.

ROI potential of an effective SEO campaign

SEO can positively affect SHEIN’s organic performance by enhancing its search engine visibility, ensuring that potential customers are more likely to discover its fashion products when conducting online searches.

We can look to forecast the impact against a cluster of their top performing keywords. Taking the cluster of over 7,000 keywords used to analyse the domain competition, numerous growth opportunities can be identified.

Current Ranking Position Keyword Count Total Search Volume
1 484 56690
2 133 12280
3 144 20740
4 153 14720
5 174 16100
6 185 30410
7 263 51070
8 299 60870
9 389 69200
10 393 62880
11 378 68770
12 417 82910
13 443 66080
14 394 70040
15 450 63820
16 455 90270
17 473 61810
18 457 84900
19 550 109090
20 598 119010

As seen in the table above, there are numerous commercially relevant keywords SHEIN ranks for. Certain levels of CTR can then be applied to the keywords per their position so we can understand the growth potential of improving the ranking performance against these keywords.

Potential Est. Traffic
10% of Potential 91,930
20% of Potential 140,494
30% of Potential 189,059
40% of Potential 237,623
50% of Potential 286,188
60% of Potential 334,753
70% of Potential 383,317
80% of Potential 431,882
90% of Potential 480,446
100% of Potential 529,011

What is important to note here is that this is against some of SHEIN’s most commercially relevant queries they already hold valuable ranking positions for. These top performing queries could be focused on at the start of any SEO campaign before work is then branched out to lower performing queries, which would only serve to positively affect the potential traffic gains. All of this could be assisted by fixing the issues outlined earlier in the article.

Additionally, other areas of SEO could be explored, such as the creation of valuable content like fashion guides and trend analyses, positioning SHEIN as an authoritative figure in the fashion industry.

By tailoring SEO strategies to local and global audiences, SHEIN can expand its reach and compete effectively in both markets.

Wrapping up

Engaging in technical SEO is a strategic imperative for SHEIN as a fast fashion brand aiming to maintain and expand its market presence. The implementation of technical SEO measures can have a profound and positive impact on their bottom line for several key reasons.

As discussed, SHEIN’s success hinges on its online visibility. In the fiercely competitive world of fast fashion, where consumers rely heavily on online searches, technical SEO can be an important way of increasing search engine visibility. Optimizing internal linking and effective implementation of hreflang and canonicals should not only improve technical performance but also keeps visitors engaged and more likely to make purchases due to the enhanced experience.

This will also help SHEIN target and capture specific niches and geographic markets effectively, which they are currently not doing due to technical SEO issues.

Technical SEO is not just an option but a necessity for SHEIN. It is the linchpin to achieving higher search visibility and attracting the right audience. By investing in technical SEO, SHEIN can bolster its bottom line by driving more traffic, increasing conversions, and maintaining a competitive edge in the dynamic landscape of fast fashion.