Case Study 10 min read

Sally Beauty & Salon Services: Styling Out A Global Pandemic

By Mark Anderson 16 December, 2020

We have a long-standing relationship with leading hair and beauty retailer Sally. In the UK, their business is split across two brands; Sally Beauty, the retail arm and Salon Services, which caters to the trade audience.

We used rigorous data analysis and savvy prioritisation, while matching agility with a customer focus, to deliver great SEO results – all while the industry was facing a dynamic COVID shaped challenge. Here’s how.


At the start of the year, prior to any kind of ‘new normal’ or working in ‘quaranteams’, Sally and Salon Services laid out their objectives for the year. These included;

  • Increasing online revenue YoY
  • Increasing new site visitors
  • Becoming a trusted industry expert

Naturally, our SEO objectives aligned as we sought to grow organic traffic to the sites and organic visits, as well as increase the organic traffic to the trade focused blog on Salon Services.

The strategy to hit our objectives

Although both Sally Beauty and Salon Services sell the same products, there are two distinct audiences. However, separating them at a transactional keyword level brings some challenges. People searching for many hair and beauty products don’t always reveal whether they are a trade or retail customer with the wording they use on search engines.

So, for the transactional element of the strategy, user behaviour on the different sites was a key factor in determining where we should focus our efforts for the best return. With our time split across two domains, we were selective about the category pages to focus our content optimisation efforts on.

The guiding principle, for the approach to driving both traffic and revenue increases: focus on the pages with the best opportunity for biggest change, and fastest.

Building trust through expertise

The initial approach to becoming a trusted industry expert required working with multi-disciplinary teams at Salon Services to create quarterly blog calendars and content.

The posts had to resonate with salon owners, salon staff, and freelancers in the hair and beauty industry. So, we fed in to publishing schedules with data driven content ideas that were informed by a range of sources, including;

  • Social media engagement
  • Customer service feedback
  • Keyword research
  • Sales data
  • Organic rankings.

Ultimately, the topics we recommended had to be things that customers wanted information on or had shown they would benefit from.

Implementing our strategy

In quarter 1, our strategy followed the initial plans we created for achieving our SEO goals;

Technical SEO

Our tech SEO experts audited both sites at the start of the year to identify the most pressing issues. We then worked with the client team to implement fixes which provided a springboard for growth.

On-page optimisation

On a monthly basis we split the on-page optimisation into two groups:

  1. Pages with the biggest opportunities for traffic increases
  2. Pages with the biggest opportunities for revenue increases

For traffic increases, we analysed:

  • Search volume
  • Keyword competition level (from Ahrefs)
  • Current rankings
  • Keyword seasonality.

This allowed us to prioritise pages by selecting those we could quickly increase rankings for, at the right time, to maximise traffic.

Having determined the priority pages, we crafted expertly optimised copy and meta data that helped us drive the required results. Although not all pages had a high conversion rate, non-converters could be re-targeted with paid activity – part of our wider, multi-channel, strategy.

We took a similar approach for priority pages for revenue growth. However, much greater weighting was given to conversion rates and average order values of each page, which was combined with the metrics we had identified for driving traffic increases.

As both sites sell the same products to different audiences, this allowed us to focus on the most relevant pages on each site, thus minimising cannibalisation.

Pre-transactional content

With the blog, we worked with the Salon Services team in the first quarter to create and optimise regular posts on a range of subjects as outlined in the strategy phase. These spanned from inspiration for salon décor to industry updates and business management advice.

Did somebody say pivot?

Yes. Incessantly on LinkedIn.

Through the early spring, you couldn’t scroll through LinkedIn without seeing endless boasts about the ‘pivots’ businesses had made to deal with the coronavirus crisis. However, that’s exactly what we had to do with Sally and Salon Services. Admittedly, this post is a long format pivot-brag…if you can’t beat them, join them.

The whole landscape changed, particularly for Salon Services, with many of their customers not allowed to trade in the UK during lockdown. Of course, we also had to change our tactical approach to deliver our objectives.

How we adapted the blog approach

In March, it was evident that we could provide more valuable content for our target audience that were uncertain of how to deal with these ‘unprecedented times’.

So, the focus changed, and the overriding principle was to provide support – thus living Salon Services’ brand values of putting customers at the heart of everything and having a bias for action.

The experts at Salon Services created some incredible blog posts that were packed full of useful advice for guiding the target audience through the evolving crisis. We worked on ensuring they would be useful to as many people as possible, by optimising them for organic performance.

With little directly relevant historical keyword data to inform the targeting, we had to turn to alternative sources of information to inform keyword optimisation. These included identifying rising trends and topics, pre-empting questions based on the information being shared by authorities, and taking inferences from common phrasing used in other informational searches by our target audience.

Some of the posts created include:

How we adapted our prioritisation of transactional content optimisation

Throughout the second quarter of the year, purchasing behaviour for both our target audiences changed, as did the ability to satisfy demand.

Social distancing restrictions impacted both global supply chains and UK-based distribution centres and networks. Therefore, additional information about ability to fulfill orders was used to determine the pages that would give us the best opportunity for increased performance, fastest.

We also had to examine and account for behaviour (keyword data and onsite interactions) over a much shorter period to understand where we could drive the most value. Our focus was on what people wanted right now, rather than what they had wanted previously.

The results

It’s fair to say the numbers are impressive. In the first half of 2020, working with the Sally Beauty and Salon Services teams, we achieved the following results for year-on-year growth:

Sally Beauty;

  • Organic sessions +141.78%
  • New organic users +160.50%
  • Organic revenue +431.70%

Sally Services;

  • Organic sessions +93.92%
  • New organic users +128.55%
  • Organic revenue +95.65%

Sally Services Blog;

  • Organic sessions +286.15%
  • New organic users +292.96%

We’re thrilled with the numbers, and particularly the revenue growth for Salon Services, at a time when their customers were not able to trade. However, beyond the numbers we’re also proud of the direct and indirect feedback we’ve received about how the blog helped hair and beauty professionals through a challenging time.

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