Forrester Research predicts that online retail sales will grow at a compound annual rate of nearly 10% through 2018. Yet many retail operators have failed to optimize their product pages to take advantage of the continuing shift to e-Commerce.
The first step in a prospective customer’s path to purchase typically is an online search, usually through Google. If the retailer fails to catch the customer’s attention at this critical juncture, the sale is likely lost. The key to catching the customer’s attention is a first page listing in the Google search. In a study that Chikita Insights conducted, it was discovered that 91.5% of Google e-Commerce referrals come from the first page, and another 4.8% from the second page.
We further uncovered five strategies essential in putting a product on the first search page:
Maximize use of keywords: Keywords are the most important SEO element for Google and for every other search engine; they are what search strings are matched against. But simply using the keywords in the product description or the description is not enough. Content Analytics research shows that including descriptive keywords in the title and the description make it far more likely that the product will be found on the first or second page of a Google search, while if the keyword is included in the title not the description, the product will likely land on the third search page or later, severely limiting the chance of a sale.
Include videos, multiple images: Videos and images sharply increase the likelihood of the product landing on the first page of a Google search; they also provide important visual details for prospective customers. Our research shows that items with images are 50% more likely to be found on the first or second pages of a Google search than items without an image. A single image helps, but only moderately. Highly visible products will have at least three images.
Video further boosts the likelihood of a product landing on the first or second search page, while also providing the prospective customer with another compelling reason to make the purchase. However, slow-loading videos can frustrate customers because they can slow the loading of the entire page.
Encourage positive reviews: Reviews are among the factors included in Google’s listing quality calculation. The calculation takes into account all reviews, positive and negative. Of course, positive reviews will benefit the company the most because in this day of active social media use, reviewers are likely not just to leave their opinion on your product pages, but will also share their thoughts on Facebook, Twitter and on other social media platforms. Encourage customers to engage with you on your product page and provide excellent customer service to ensure that most of those reviews are positive.
Ensure items are in stock: An out-of-stock item not only results in lower Google results, it also means that a prospective customer will go elsewhere, likely to a competitor, to find it before you are restocked.
Review pricing strategy: When looking at all searches, we found that the prices found on the first two pages of a Google search had about the same prices as the items found on the tenth page. Pricing products too high will limit search rankings and will drive prospective customers to lower-priced items in many — but not all — types of searches. When conducting a commodity search for an item like an HDMI cable, the prospective customer wants a good, though not necessarily the lowest price. Items priced near the average for the commodity will appear.
Similarly, prospective customers conducting brand searches were looking for reasonably priced items, so high-priced items tended to appear much later in searches.
However, customers conducting targeted searches for a product like name brand blender or juicer will not find the lower cost items related to their searches on the first couple of pages. In our research, we tested a search for “Ninja Blender.” In addition to the blender itself, the search results also included the accessories, which are priced much lower than the blender itself. The Google algorithm pushed the name-brand blenders themselves higher in the search results, while “knock-off” blenders and accessories were far lower in the search results.
The lull that most retailers have following the holiday shopping rush provides a good time to review your product pages to ensure you are following the about five tips in order to maximize your Google search ratings to boost online sales.
David Feinleib is the founder of Content Analytics, which provides deep insight into on-site search rankings, content quality, product assortment, product naming, and product purchase associations to improve discoverability and increase sales.