Six Retail-Specific Search Ranking Factors for Google

New research from Searchmetrics identifies the most important retail-specific ranking factors that online retail and ecommerce brands should include in their content and search optimization strategies to help improve their visibility in Google searches. A key point among the findings: retailers gain visibility by giving shoppers a seamless, generally ad-free experience in which they can find things they want quickly and checkout fast.

“Most marketers appreciate that you need to create relevant, high quality content to perform well in search, but our latest study highlights that online retail and ecommerce marketers must also pay close attention to a variety of retail-specific factors” said Furch. “This includes considerations such as ensuring content is structured with bullet points so that product details can be more easily scanned by visitors; making the online checkout section easily visible without scrolling; and – in most cases – avoiding ads on the page.”

Below are six key findings from the study that online retail and ecommerce sites should consider when planning their content and search optimisation activity:

  • Keep your content well structured

62% of the top 20 Google results for online retail/ecommerce focused searches have at least one unordered (bullet point) list on the page, compared with 52% for general searches. And the results for online retail queries also tend to include 70% more bullets per list on average than those for generalised searches.  It appears that Google knows that searchers who show an intent to research online purchases prefer better organised, structured content that lets them quickly scan product details and easily compare potential purchases.

  • Organise your site with menus and internal links

Pages listed in the top 10 search results for online retail and ecommerce queries have 70% more internal links than those found in general searches. Well-structured internal links and menus help visitors easily locate and browse through products and related products.

  • Google likes the online checkout facility to be highly visible on the page

Of the top 20 search results for online retail queries, over half (56%) have an online store checkout section that is visible above the fold (without scrolling).  When it senses that someone is researching a purchase, the pages that Google presents in its results tend to make it quick and easy for visitors to make a transaction.

  • You can get away with slightly larger pages

In general Google seems to reward pages that have smaller files sizes (which will tend to load faster) with higher rankings.  But it makes some allowances on this point for retail and ecommerce searches.  File sizes for pages that appear in the top ten search results for online retail queries are on average 30% larger than those for general queries. It may be that Google’s algorithm recognises that file sizes for some retail and ecommerce pages, such as those that cover an entire product category or range, are necessarily larger because they have to display numerous product images.

  • Video may not be as important as you might think

In general embedded video content is found in almost half (49%) of sites that appear in the top 10 Google search results. For ecommerce and online retail searches it is only present in 35%.  Video is obviously useful for demonstrating product installation or set up, but Google has learned that the most relevant results often tend to be retail sites that carry catalogue style listings allowing searchers to easily compare choices from an overview of products featuring small product images and descriptions.

  • Avoid hosting ads on your pages 

Just 3% of sites that feature on the first page of Google for online retail searches carry Google AdSense advertising compared with 9% of first page results for general searches. While in many other industries advertising is an acceptable form of website monetisation, Google appears to believe it is less well suited to online retail sites. This could be because, too much additional information such as ads and offers about other products could distract from the product the searcher is currently viewing.

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