Back to school shopping trends: Who performs best in SEO?

Emily Hogarth, 31 Jul 2019

In the UK the summer holiday back to school market is highly competitive, and as parents are increasingly purchasing school items online, SEO for back to school should be a high priority for any retailers selling during this time of increased demand. 

According to a study by Nimblefins, the average amount spent on each child’s back to school uniform, including PE trainers, school shoes, and blazers, is £180. That price excludes the inevitable stationery and tech supplies many kids will need/want. The opportunity is therefore huge for online retailers! 

In this post, we’re going to reveal:

  • Back to school trends
  • The back to school terms with the highest search volume
  • The most searched subcategories (footwear, stationery etc.)
  • The top back to school SEO performers
  • What the winners are doing right
  • Tips for a successful back to school strategy

Back to school trends: The most searched back to school terms

Using Pi’s Market Intelligence tool, we tracked the most valuable back to school keywords by category to reveal where the online opportunity lies. 

The top UK retailers

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Back to school shopping trends: top ten ‘Back to school’ search terms

Date range: August 2018

Back to school shopping trends: top ten ‘Back to school’ search terms

In August last year (2018), Backpacks was the most searched term out of 273 back to school terms. 

When we look at the below chart, and the growth of ‘Bag’ searches, their is some hefty evidence that bag terms will be the most searched term this August (2019).

Back to school terms search volume by category

Date range: June 2016 – May 2019

Back to school terms search volume by category

Every category sees a peak in August of each year, with searches for ‘Bags’, ‘Uniform’ and ‘Footwear’ growing YOY. 

Retailers need to be prepared for this yearly window of increased demand; ensure your landing pages are set up and ready to receive shoppers by July.

With products like shoes and uniform, parents and their kids will most likely want to shop in-store so they can try before they buy; however, these same parents will be researching online for the best uniform deals before venturing to the high street. So having strong SEO for wearable school products is essential for catching parents in the research phase. 

Bags the most searched ‘back to school’ category

Bags are by far the most sought after school supply online each August, reaching 1.06 million in search volume in August 2018. Following ‘Bag’ searches trajectory, we predict an even larger search peak in August 2019.

Stationery searches peak in October

Whilst rising in August, stationery term searches are increasingly searched into September, and peak highest in October and November each year. 

It’s important to have visibility online over August for stationery terms, but as demand for stationery is at its highest towards the end of the year, the clever SEO marketer would continue to optimise their stationery pages in the months after the back to school rush.

Generic ‘back to school’ terms not searched

The generic ‘back to school’ terms have minimal search volume, never reaching above 50k in the last 3 years.

Top tip: having a back to school landing page is a good idea, but an even better one is having separate landing pages for each category of school wear/supplies you offer, that links directly from you main landing page. Search volume for specific back to school categories is so much higher and therefore more valuable – you’ll drive more traffic by focusing on these categories. 

Fashion retailers growth report

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Who performs best for back to school SEO?

Using our share of voice feature we can see which retailers are dominating online for back to school SEO. 

‘Back to school’ terms share of voice 

‘Back to school’ terms share of voice

Amazon performs best with almost double the share of market than other performers. They have the most visibility for ‘Bag’ terms and ‘Stationery’ terms. 

Perhaps unsurprisingly Clarks has the most share for school ‘Footwear’, closely followed by Asda, who has the most share for ‘Uniform’. 

Back to school insights: top performers SERP real estate

Using Pi’s Digital ecosystem analysis tool which tracks all Google’s SERP features, we can assess how much real estate Amazon, Clarks and Asda claim in the SERPs for the category they perform best for. 

Amazon’s SERP visibility for ‘Stationery’ terms

Amazon’s SERP visibility for ‘Stationery’ terms

This chart visualises the percentage of all features returning for all terms in the ‘Stationery’ category in the SERPs – the darkened area is the percentage Amazon’s site is present. So 100% of the time ‘Classic links’ return for ‘Stationery’ terms, and 80% of the time Amazon performs. 

Not only do Amazon have strong visibility for ‘Classic links’, but ‘images’. They’ve also invested in ‘Text ads’ and ‘Product listed ads’ for further exposure.  

Their year round landing page isn’t specifically geared towards back to school stationery, but instead ‘Stationery and Office supplies’. However, as consumers most likely won’t be searching ‘back to school stationery’ but terms like ‘pencil case’, ‘pens’ etc., thanks to Amazon’s broad product range they perform again and again. 

Clarks SERP visibility for ‘Footwear’ terms

Clarks SERP visibility for ‘Footwear’ terms

Of the four SERP features that appear for ‘Footwear’ terms, Clarks completely dominates ‘Classic links, ‘images and ‘Text ads’. 

Clarks has an impressive category structure and has the added benefit of a long history online. On top of this they have a year round landing page, with links to gender specific footwear subcategories. 

UK Fashion Leaderboard

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Asda’s SERP visibility for ‘School uniform’ terms

Asda’s SERP visibility for ‘School uniform’ terms

Asda performs across four out of 11 returning SERP features for uniform terms. 

Asda’s George has a year round ‘School Shop’ landing page with links to subpages for every item of clothing, including sports and swimwear. 

What do the winners have in common?

Of all three performers analysed here, they have not only had an organic search presence, but also invested in a paid search strategy. In doing this, they have appeared in the SERPs more frequently and occupy more real estate. 

They also all have year-round landing pages, with sub-pages linking from there. In this way they are not only prepared for periods of increased demand between July and September, but they consistently perform through lower search volume months.

Back to school SEO strategy

  • Create individual category pages around school related products, to capitalise on year-round demand and high search volume. 
  • Theme these category pages around the highest volume terms, to build traffic and gain traction throughout the year.
  • Create a ‘Back to school’ hub page to make the most of this seasonal event which happens without fail every year, and link back to all affiliated product and category pages.

Fashion Report: Retail growth in the UK

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