‘If I Owned The Body Shop: International SEO Would Unlock Ethical Gains’

Stuart Shaw 7 years ago

Let’s not pretend you haven’t been drawn into The Body Shop before by the wafting fragrance they pump out into our streets and shopping centres. If you’re one of the rare few with a will of steel then you’ve likely at least received some form of gift basket, soap set or bath bomb collection (my guilty favourites).

As a company, they really do stand apart as a Fairtrade organisation that have strong principals around their ‘Enrich not Exploit’ manifesto.

So, they have impressive humanitarian attributes and are known across the country for making Britons smell just that little bit better… but how does their site measure up when reviewed by an honest and impartial third party?

We’ll dissect this article into a few sections, some quick links can be found below:

The Body Shop® (TBS) Backlinks & Structured Data

Enriching Content with Schema

I love structured data (so does Google) – it may not directly affect rankings but it can really spruce up how listings look in SERPs. A key issue with The Body Shop's site is how ugly the URLs for some products are. For example, the below product URL is so long and complicated it’s truncated.


Aside from adding spaces to the characters within the meta title itself, we would also recommend ensuring the breadcrumbs are clearly marked up with Schema as list elements as detailed on http://schema.org/BreadcrumbList

If the product and category pages held this breadcrumb markup, it could improve how this page appears within the search results, signalling the parent categories of ‘moisturisers’ and ‘face’ (in this example) – potentially increasing CTR.


Product pages also have a number of warnings around the currently implemented markup, especially concerning:

  • Pricing
  • Currency
  • Product Descriptions
  • Incorrect URLs

Understanding the Link Profile

Over the last 9-12 months TBS have attached a sizeable rocket to their link building/recovery efforts. Looking at reports on Ahrefs (https://ahrefs.com/) we can see an increase in both:

The number of referring domains (8,802 – 31,132)



The number of referring pages (118,238 – 805,888)


That is some envious growth! Around 97% of the links are seemingly dofollow too. This kind of velocity suggests a potential migration, some form of recovery or the consolidation of separate sites/domains.

When we start digging around in the links gained since July 16 (using Sistrix to track visibility) we start to get a clearer picture.

The Body Shop Redirects Challenge

The domain of thebodyshop-usa.com has been almost entirely redirected to pages within the main body shop site subdirectory of /en-us/ - a good move if done correctly! However, we can still see that Google is clinging onto the index from the old domain and potentially will do for the next few months (at least):


To help expedite this process we would recommend ensuring the sitemaps for this property are still available and working within Google Search Console. This will increase the chances the old site/URLs will be removed from the index faster (in a similar way to the process seen when performing a HTTPS migration).

Picking the Right Redirects

One aspect we picked up on was that many of the redirects aren’t necessarily providing either the best URL for the user or the most applicable/relevant content for crawlers (in fact these are often synonymous). This can create a soft 404 and could be part of the reason the index still contains these URLs.

See the below example:


Redirects to:


While this product may not map perfectly to an existing product on the new domain, the home page should always be a last resort when performing redirects. There are better URL options and products such as:

Putting the User First

If I happened to be one of the users on hypehair.com (the citing domain to the above link) I’d be slightly miffed when landing on a home page, especially with such a commercial anchor text of “The Body Shop, $18”.


We would recommend TBS review these redirects to ensure that where URLs have links (and if time, even those without) they are redirected to a close product or appropriate parent category instead. I would imagine that the number of reported soft 404s has increased dramatically as these home page redirects are quite common in the spot checks we’ve performed.

The International Nightmare

There are a small number of things that keep SEOs up at night, one of the more common issues are around migration and international SEO. While the solutions are so often simple – finding an implementation method within your CMS can at times be a real challenge.

It seems that this is a key area TBS are really struggling with. A detailed look at their index and a check-up of its status using a tool such as Sistrix shows where this issue stems from.

All Things Become Clear with ‘Visibility’

By analysing the visibility a site has (that is to say, the potential reach of a site based on weighted keyword rankings – against volume) we can quickly establish where potential mistakes have been made.

Below is a graph that clearly shows the sharp increase in visibility around October 2016:


This ties in with the creation of the /en-gb/ directory along with other sub directories such as /body/ and /hair/. However, in the time since this change we can see that the visibility of the site has been declining, even with the addition of country specific sub directories such as /en-us/ and /en-ca/ around March 2017 (and the associated equity passed from the former sites such as thebodyshop-usa.com, previously mentioned).

The creation of these categories appears to have created a great deal of confusion within the UK search listings, as such…

There Are US and Canadian Listings in the UK Index:

The site has ‘en-us’ listings within Google, in fact if we look at the site’s top directories in the UK we can spot ‘en-ca’ listings here too, see the below examples for the search of ‘smudge brush’ and ‘perfume oils’ respectively.


The below list is a short collection of common keywords for which the Canadian and US directory URLs currently rank for.

  • Smudge brush
  • Eyemask
  • Wide tooth comb
  • Dead sea salt scrub
  • Perfume oil/s
  • Body skin care products (Featured snippet)
  • Facial mask

What’s the Effect?

There could be several issues this is causing with regards to how well the pages are ranking for such keywords - increasingly so where products have different names across the pond (lotion, hair product, etc). But let’s think like Google and put the user first…

  • The prices are wrong in the SERPs (in dollars not sterling), this will likely reduce CTR as users will assume there must be an international shipping cost
  • The page you land on might not include deals/offers for your region
  • The product may not be available in your country
  • The accompanying site content/adverts may not be relevant in the UK
  • The store finder is suggesting stores that you’ll need a flight to get to!
  • The contact details may not be relevant or could cost you to call

Can We Fix It? Yes We Can!

Fixing such issues will be a delicate matter now that the pages are ranking and have been established within the UK index, the site is likely dependant on the traffic and revenue these pages might be driving.

The key fix here is making use of hreflang.

What is Hreflang?

Hreflang is a tag that sits within the head of a webpage, it provides Google with the preferred URL based on a user’s language and region/country. It uses the rel="alternate" hreflang = "…" attributes to provide the correct URLs in search results.

The Grouped URLs

Let’s take the following ranking URL as an example to fix.

We need to highlight to Google that this is the page for English speaking Canadians, but more importantly, provide Google with information about the other URLs it needs to consider in regional SERPs:

The US site: https://www.thebodyshop.com/en-us/skin-care/face-masks/c/c03005
The UK site: https://www.thebodyshop.com/en-gb/face/exfoliators-masks/c/c00143

Please note: Many more country properties exist both under thebodyshop.com domain and on separate domains but we’ll focus on these main three.

One of the real barriers to getting this quickly rolled out is this inconsistency in the IA (informational architecture) and URL structure of these sites. We would recommend making this consistent if possible across all properties.

How Does the Code Look?

We’ve drafted this up for the Canadian URL, an important part of implementing hreflang is that any link should be reciprocated. So, if the en-ca URL links to the en-us URL in this manner, that same link must be returned.

<link rel="canonical" href="https://www.thebodyshop.com/en-ca/face/facial-mask/c/c05268" />

<link rel="alternate" href="https://www.thebodyshop.com/en-us/skin-care/face-masks/c/c03005" hreflang="en-us" />

<link rel="alternate" href="https://www.thebodyshop.com/en-gb/face/exfoliators-masks/c/c00143" hreflang="en-gb" />

Computer Says No!

The impact of this on the site could be potentially far reaching, with content potentially duplicated across similar category pages and identical products, while Google is likely smart enough to figure out some of what’s going on with the site – it’s not clear.

If an alternative implementation method is required then using the sitemaps to indicate the hreflang URLs is also a valid but somewhat less common approach.

Technical Issues Abound!

While looking over the site there were an abundance of technical issues and inconsistencies we noticed, ranging from:

  • Lack of pagination of category pages
  • No links in source to product pages under the ‘load more’ function
  • Keyword targeting crossover
  • Thin content pages
  • Use of sub domains for important site elements (dividing link equity)
  • Lost equity due to broken links from authoritative sites such as huffingtonpost.co.uk, itv.com, bt.com, health.com and cosmopolitan.com

However, without a doubt the largest concern I’d have around such an iconic and globally important brand would be its international integration and setup.

Creating Content

With such a detailed look at the technical side of the site my comments on content will almost seem like an afterthought.

What Attracted Me to The Body Shop?

I picked TBS as the subject of this article not because of the issues I noticed but because my better half worked for both TBS stores and for the ‘At Home’ network.
My ears would so often be subject to a relentless barrage of humanitarian benefits to the aloe gel she so ungraciously slapped on my sunburnt face – or whichever salve she thought would benefit me that morning! When looking at the site, it’s certainly missing that passion.

Site Content Improvements

I’d suggest that TBS do more to highlight the people and the communities these products help. Tell me and sell me the story of how that tea tree face scrub ended up in my bathroom cabinet, the ingredients picked, the people helped and the benefits to my health.

Content marketing can do wonders to highlight these journeys.

  • Videos detailing the people helped, ingredient by ingredient and process by process
  • Infographics explaining the process of creating these products
  • Informational keyword led content for example:
    • How is argan oil made? (ranking 50+ or not at all)
    • What are the benefits to argan oil? (ranking 50+ or not at all)

It may be that TBS are making this content right now, but it’s not immediately visible to me as someone purposefully looking for it.

Make the content then make me read it, watch it, understand it, love it. Your story deserves more than a few URLs and a single infographic:



If you were looking for TL;DR then you’ve found it...

  • Assess redirects from site migrations and improve them
  • Make your URLs across regions consistent or at least mapped
  • Implement hreflang to associate these URLs together
  • Create or improve cool content
  • Answer common questions around your products
  • Sell the story of ‘Enrich not Exploit’ through content marketing
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