Secret to High Google Visibility for Online Retailers
An axiom of retail is that providing a great customer experience drives revenue growth. However, did you know that many of the things e-commerce websites should do to give customers a superior experience also will contribute to better search performance on Google?
Online retail sites that have some of the best visibility in Google search results tend to give shoppers an easy, usually ad-free experience in which they find what they want quickly and can check out fast, according to a new study by Searchmetrics. The top 20 search results for over 6,000 keywords and phrases were analyzed to find commonalities and offer advice for online retailers.
Underpinning this research is another important learning for retail marketers: There are now a variety of search and content optimization tactics to follow that are very specific to online retail and e-commerce. Broad approaches and general advice are no longer as effective as measures based exclusively on e-commerce data.
Google has a much better understanding of the search intent signaled by the words that people enter into the search bar, including whether they relate to retail, travel, finance or other verticals. The search engine rewards pages that most closely satisfy the specific requirements of searchers within each sector.
Here are five considerations the research suggests you should keep in mind for high search visibility in online retail and e-commerce:
1. Make online checkouts highly visible. When it comes to retail search queries, 56 percent of results that rank on Google’s first page have an online checkout that's clearly visible above the fold. For general search queries, the rate is just 23 percent. When searchers show an intent to make online purchases, Google seems to favor sites that help them check out quickly.
2. Balance more product images against keeping file sizes small. In general, Google prefers pages with smaller file sizes because they usually load quicker. However, Google seems to recognize that retail searchers are different. The search engine tends to value seeing more product images and information — e.g., to compare products within a category. Hence file sizes for pages appearing in the top 10 for online retail queries are 30 percent larger, on average, than for general queries.
3. Use more bulleted lists. Google appears to acknowledge that retail searchers prefer well-structured pages with lists to help them quickly scan though product details, pick out key information and compare purchases. This could be why 62 percent of the top 20 Google results for retail-focused searches have at least one unordered (bullet point) list, and with first-page results showing around 70 percent more bullets per list than those for general searches.
4. Include well-planned links to let shoppers research easily. Pages listed in the top 10 search results for online retail queries have 70 percent more internal links than those in general searches. Well-structured links and menus are always important for helping visitors navigate a site, but even more so in retail for helping shoppers who want to easily locate and browse through products, find related items, and view associated information.
5. Switch off advertising. Ads and offers about other products and services could distract visitors from the purchase they originally came to the site to research. Just 3 percent of sites that rank on Google’s first page for online retail searches carry Google AdSense advertising, compared with 9 percent for general searches.
All these recommendations help to deliver a better customer experience, enhancing customer loyalty, revenue growth and search performance.
Daniel Furch is the head of content marketing at Searchmetrics, a data and online content development firm.