4 Google Changes That Retail Search Strategies Must Embrace
Even through the recent turbulent times, Google hasn't stood still. There have been a variety of innovations that address the changing needs of searchers and new ways to make search results even more relevant.
Among the main changes, here are four important developments that retailers need to mobilize to get the most out of the search channel:
1. Search results are getting even more precise.
As Google gets more savvy about understanding online content and shopper intent, it's beginning to evolve search results to cater even more closely to what shoppers are looking for.
For example, the recently announced subtopics feature uses machine learning to home in on shoppers’ diverse interests around a main topic or keyword. So, for a search on “Home Gyms,” it can identify and automatically present results that include key related subtopics such as “affordable home gyms” and “best products to build your home gym.” Retailers need to anticipate additional volatility in search engine results pages (SERPs) and ensure their content captures shoppers’ wider intent and key questions around their main topic.
Similarly, Google is expected to roll out passage indexing to display search results that highlight the specific lines of text from a page that directly answer a searcher’s questions This aims to help searchers find “that needle-in-a-haystack information” they’re looking for.
For retailers, subtopics is expected to have a greater impact on head terms and top-of-funnel queries that could impact category pages. Passage indexing, on the other hand, is expected to have more impact on long-tail queries in long-form editorial content on retail sites.
2. Expansion of Google Shopping integrations and free product listings.
Google launched free product listings towards the beginning of the pandemic in U.S. This was first launched as a feature in Google Shopping, however, it has now been further integrated into SERPS, meaning retailers can now find their products in SERP features like “popular products” and “best products.” Google has also further expanded its product knowledge graph by taking a significant amount of real estate in the mobile search experience, where these feeds are also being used.
As Google continues to expand its inventory of structured data on products, it will continue to expand these integrations.
3. Video results are getting more granular.
The appearances of video in search results has been on the increase in recent years (video now appears in roughly two-thirds of desktop search results on page 1). And the way it’s used is likely to get more granular. Late last year, Google announced that it's able to understand and identify individual segments or chapters within videos, allowing it to return the specific section within a video that best addresses a searcher’s query. This makes video an even more valuable tool for retailers, and in this context, we can expect an even bigger rise in video in SERPs.
4. Search is becoming a branding opportunity (as well as a performance marketing opportunity).
For a while now, Google has been increasing the number of SERP features such as Featured Snippets, Direct Answers, Knowledge Panels, People Also Ask, and Videos Carousels, appearing in its results. The aim is to present relevant information directly at the top of the SERP to stop searchers from ever having to click away.
The downside is that search traffic to retail sites has been falling (data suggests 48 percent of e-commerce searches on Google produced no clicks at all, meaning there was no traffic generated to retail sites). Retailers can react by getting their search engine optimization teams to optimize their content to increase the chances of appearing within SERP features. Perhaps they can also stop viewing search as solely a traffic channel. Appearing in SERP features may not always produce a click, but getting your company name and content appearing in them is also a valuable branding opportunity.
As Google continues to innovate, retailers can’t afford not to keep up with the evolution of search.
Tyson Stockton is vice president of client services at Searchmetrics, the search and content optimization specialist.
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Tyson Stockton is the U.S. Vice President of the Digital Strategies Group at Searchmetrics. Over the past 10-plus years, he has driven success in SEO & Digital marketing in both in-house roles and externally with some of the top online businesses. Over the last 4+ years at Searchmetrics, Stockton has led Fortune 500 companies in utilizing search data to drive SEO and content strategies. Stockton leads the Client Success, SEO & Content Services, Account Management, and Data Services teams at Searchmetrics.