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e-Commerce Industry News


October 8, 2014
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Google gets a bit trickier for retailers
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October 8, 2014
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New site search may drive traffic to competitors' home pages. New site search may drive traffic
to competitors' home pages.
It all starts with a search engine query. Whether people are looking for a specific retailer, want to research a product before buying or simply need to compare prices, the search engine is the first place many shoppers go. And of course, the king of the search engine jungle is Google.

Retailers have had their run-ins with Google in the past. For example, the Panda algorithm update ended up hurting many merchants because they were using duplicate content for separate product pages that fit under numerous categories. Google saw this as being abusive, and perceived retailers as trying to game the system, whereas merchants were just trying to help their customers find ambiguous items that could fit under numerous categories.

Fortunately, retailers were able to reconcile with Google through the use of canonical tags, which are essentially a marker that helps retailers mark pages as duplicate content. When Google's spiders crawl through the Web, they know to simply ignore those pages and go on indexing the rest.

Site search: A new conundrum
Now, it seems Google may have aggravated even more retailers. The search engine decided to roll out the "search within a site" feature to a broader number of retail pages. This feature has good intentions - it allows shoppers to search a retailer's page for specific items without having to go to the actual site. For customers, this can help them save time and quickly identify merchants carrying the product they want to buy without having to visit numerous pages.

However, Jarred Goldberg, the senior director of marketing at eCommerce brand Revolve Clothing, made an astute observation - when Google displays the results of the searches, it also shows paid results that may lead customers to competitors' pages. This could not only result in a loss of traffic and sales, but it also leads potential customers to that merchant's competitors.

Retailers spend a lot of time and money trying to get their content to the top of search engines, and for a long time, those efforts were paying off big time with organic traffic. However, the new "search within site" feature may wind up just driving this hard-earned traffic into the arms of competitors.

"Anytime you take someone's branded search and introduce the potential for the competition to take that share of voice, any brand out there is going to see some type of impact," Goldberg told Internet Retailer.

Whether this will become an issue for retailers hinges quite significantly on how popular the "search on site" function winds up being. However, it is something retailers will need to consider as they move forward.

Considering all of the options
Retailers have a number of options available to them when it comes to promoting their brand. Social media can be utilized to stay in constant communication with customers and address any customer service needs. Regular email newsletters allow merchants to promote new products and sales through a tremendously popular medium that can be accessed through desktop computers and mobile devices.

Search engine optimization, however, is one of the most significant engagement tools simply because of how influential it is to people at the start of the shopping journey. At the same time, it can also be quite expensive. Retailers need to consider cost whenever they are making decisions about how to best engage prospects. A healthy balance between all the different communication channels may help merchants become less reliant on a single one.