Retailers’ Google Strategies Need to Get Niche-Specific
Retailers’ organic search strategies on Google should now be tightly tailored to the niche they operate in. That’s because artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning are helping the search engine to pinpoint more clearly than ever the specific factors that best satisfy queries for different niches, topics and user intentions.
This is the main takeaway from a new study by Searchmetrics which concludes that generic search optimization strategies aren't as effective as before. In fact, they might even negatively impact your search visibility.
The research analyzed the top 10 Google results for thousands of queries spanning eight different niche topics. This included searches related to "furniture" and "cars" within e-commerce; "camping" and "destinations" in travel; and other niche topics from the health and finance sectors.
There were big variations in what Google appears to consider best practice for different niches. Here are five useful insights for retail marketers.
1. Images: E-Commerce Niches Tend to Favor More
Too many images can sometimes make pages load slower, which generally has a negative impact on search performance. However, Google seems to accept that queries for an e-commerce niche such as furniture are best satisfied by giving searchers the opportunity to view a large selection of relevant images. In fact, the top 10 results for furniture-related searches average 27.9 images per page, the highest of all niches analyzed. By contrast, the finance sector niches had the fewest on-page images; the "credit" niche with around 6.5 and "financial planning" with 8.4.
2. Video: No Longer Always Desirable
There was a time when the presence of relevant video on a page was a very effective way of boosting search visibility for most topics. However, our research indicates video is not necessarily desirable or required for all search queries. For most niches — including in e-commerce — the top 10 results had close to zero videos per page.
People don’t necessarily want video when searching for furniture or fashion, for example — images are more important. In fact, video was most prevalent for searches around the niche topic "weight loss," with an average 0.4 videos per page, often showing video demonstrations of exercise routines.
3. Content Length: Less is Often More
Some niches require relevant, comprehensive explanations, which means more words. For example, the top 10 financial planning-related results averaged 2,581 words per page. Furniture-related searches averaged only 1,139 words per page, making it one of the niches with the lowest word counts. Travel "destinations" had even fewer — 1,018 words per page. In certain niches people are more satisfied by images than text.
4. Internal Links: Help Shoppers Browse
Internal links improve the user experience by helping visitors easily navigate a site and find related content. They can be especially important for some e-commerce sites where shoppers want to easily browse through similar and complementary products.
Hence the first-page results for both the e-commerce niches — furniture and cars — were found to have the most internal links, an average 424 and 223 per page, respectively. Contrast this with the credit niche in financial services in which high-ranking results averaged only 93 internal links.
5. Tables: Great for Head-to-Head Comparisons
Although they’re not widely used, presenting information in tables is useful in niches where visitors want head-to-head comparisons — e.g., when evaluating car models, mortgages or facilities at a campsite. Hence financial planning-related results had 1.5 tables per page, the highest in the study, while camping had 1.3 and cars 1.1 tables per page. Other niches had close to zero.
These examples show how search optimization strategies now have to be more differentiated than ever, as well as the value of relying on niche-specific data insights and rules.
Jordan Koene is the CEO of Searchmetrics Inc., an enterprise SEO and content marketing platform.