Retail SEO: How do I fight Amazon?


amazonMany search optimization specialist that have been in the industry for a while knows the pains of dealing with retail SEO. We often talk about the difficulty of tracking your effectiveness and proving that your work has value. Less, but still quite often, we talk about how to appeal to consumers and get their attention with meta descriptions when they see your listing on Google.

But retail-based (for our purposes in this article, we consider retail to be anyone who sells a product to a consumer) SEO is facing a new problem: Google is not where the client starts. No matter how great your content and descriptions are, if a growing population is not seeing your work because they are not even looking, you have a whole new issue when your numbers reflect a loss of conversions because you aren’t even getting the search volume.

“But how much traffic could Amazon actually be stealing?” This might be your first thought. The answer is pretty surprising, 44% surprising. That’s a bigger chunk than anyone else is taking. To compare, only 34% of people start their retail purchase search on Google. The other 32% are spread across a large number of outlets, with direct traffic only being about 21% of what a site sees. While Google is still quite an important chunk, this is still a serious problem for advertising specialists.

An excerpt from an interesting read on SEMrush can spell out why Amazon is generating such mass appeal:

Amazon: Reinventing the Consumer Search Engine

I know, you’re saying that’s all well and good, but how DID Amazon grow to where it is today, rivaling Google for consumers’ top terminus?

The excerpts below are from the company’s 2015 letter to its shareholders giving them a blueprint of Amazon’s long-term plans, which include: 

  • Reach: Amazon’s initial business growth is based on a detailed approach to SEO and AdWords that target millions of keywords.
  • Act: Creating clear, simple experiences through continuous testing and learning.
  • Convert: Using personalization – i.e., targeted ads – to make recommendations to consumers, plus a simple checkout process that many of its rivals imitate.
  • Engage: Amazon calls it “Customer Obsession,” which means giving consumers low prices, fast and reliable delivery, and siding with consumers in disputes with third-party sellers.

At its core, Amazon has always been a data-driven company, collecting details on just about every transaction in their swiftly expanding cosmos. It’s the age of the consumer. Your customers are not what you assume – they don’t want to be served, they want to be charmed. Which is why Amazon’s customers are attracted by the value it offers, not its shopping carts. Other e-commerce sites are locked in a life-or-death battle to hold their places in the SERPs against retailers like Amazon. The company has come a long way since its humble beginnings as a simple online bookstore, as indicated in the chart below: 

If you want to actually see the chart referenced, you can find it and the full article at https://www.semrush.com/blog/the-amazon-that-stole-black-friday-from-google-amazon-s-revenue-growth-story/

With the bad news delivered, now we move to the good news. Google is not oblivious to this news. They are taking rapid action to expand their services to compete directly. While Google product search has existed for some time, Google has launched a new service as an experiment: Google Express. This is part of Google’s retail suite, which is also expanding in other services. Google Express is a service that focuses on same day and next day delivery of items from various retailers. They are accepting new retailers and any smart marketer is going to get their feet in as soon as possible.

Another important option to consider is that you can and should seriously consider joining the ‘enemy’ in this case. Listing your merchandise on Amazon is a valid strategy. Other articles will tell you more about the proper methods of how to use Amazon merchant services and implement tracking for your conversions.

There are a number of caveats when using Google Express. The largest is the current very limited rollout. The service areas include:

 

  • Phoenix
  • Flagstaff
  • Tucson
  • Boston (same-day)
  • Chicago (same-day and overnight, depending on store)
  • Manhattan (same-day)
  • Wisconsin
  • Michigan
  • Illinois
  • Indiana
  • Ohio
  • Iowa
  • Minnesota
  • Missouri
  • Kentucky
  • Nevada (overnight)
  • Northern California (same-day and overnight, depending on your area and the store you order from)
  • Southern California (same-day and overnight, depending on your area and the store you order from)
  • Texas and nearby (Overnight and 2-day)
  • Oklahoma
  • Kansas
  • Arkansas
  • Louisiana
  • Washington, DC (same-day)

The above list, while far from complete, is certainly serviceable for an early release of the service.  Another issue is that, much like Amazon Prime, Google Express also has a premium service it uses to charge customers. While this does come with a three month free trial, there are various other expenses that come into play, such as an extra charge for cold foods and alcohol. For non-members, delivery starts at $4.99 and goes up from there. There is also a minimum order size to qualify for the discounted or free delivery charge. One spot of good news is that you can share the membership with one person in your household. After the free trial, the price is $10 per month, or $95 per year.

Perhaps one of the biggest hurdles is the fact that the merchant service seems to more readily resemble Instacart (a 6-8 dollar local grocery delivery service that also has a membership option with gratuity for people who want to use it frequently) than it does Amazon’s standard services (or Amazon’s own Prime Fresh, which provides same day delivery for $299 a year (which includes a full regular prime subscription) with no other delivery fees on the same day orders over $59).

But Google is more than prepared to squeeze into the entire prime market, their early aggressive steps already drawing in both major and more niche retailers. A smart online marketing specialist will move on the opportunity before it becomes part of the standard checklist.

– Nick Winkler, SEO Manager