Retailers & SEO: Exceeding Expectations
The following article was featured on Adotas on February 21, 2011.
There are obvious and powerful reasons for retailers of all scale to focus on search engine optimization, including increased traffic and demand. But more important, search optimization gives the retailer the opportunity to meet and create customer expectations.
As PM Digital analyzes the reams of data that we have regarding natural search optimization generating increased sales and visits from branded and non-branded keywords, it has become clear that the role of search in retail is to create a natural point of connection between searchers and the retailer’s offerings.
This goes beyond simple product listings, and extends the presentation of the retailer into category presentation, editorial presentation and more. Search helps guide the visitor from their expression of intent, their search query, to the right part of your website where your brand promise and conversion funnel of your site can come into full effect.
A major retailer kept the following as a retail sales floor mandate: “We must meet customer expectations, but also create and exceed new expectations every day.” Search can fill this mandate, as well. Search optimization gives the retailer the power to be present where the customer expects them to be, but further, search can create an intersection between your brand and searcher intent where the searcher has no expectation of your participation.
Imagine that as a retailer, you have core products where your customers expect to find you. That meets their expectation. However, search gives you an unparalleled opportunity to insert yourself into searches around categories, products and values that are outside of your core.
This new intersection creates a delightful expectation that your brand promise will be fulfilled in a new arena. This allows you to extend your ability to brand, to engage and to grow.
Search optimization provides an authentic customer experience with its unabashed matching of intent and offering. High-quality search presentation is the real-life, unadorned roadmap to connecting to the brand and, by fiat, the products. Your other brand marketing initiatives create awareness, and offers and promotions create conversion opportunities, but search is where your offerings meet intent.
Search optimization creates customer acceleration. Presentation drives engagement, and engagement drives demand.
Meeting Customer Expectations
For retailers, including those whose strength lies in brand, as well as those wily players that focus on price or selection, quality search optimization allows you to meet the expectation of the searcher. When you meet the searcher’s expectation, they have greater comfort in visiting your site and consummating a transaction.
Primarily, the expectations that searchers have around finding retailers is a clear match between the overall brand along with targeted product presentation and your position in search engines. Our research tells us that more than 98% of all search traffic is generated by listings on the first three pages of search results, with more that 80% of the traffic coming from Google’s top 20 listings.
It is crucial that your presentation capture the highest quality positions in the search engines, otherwise, you are offering your brand promise to an empty room. Throughout all of your marketing, your brand positioning, and multi-channel advertising, the savvy retailer has created a value proposition, a set of expectations that the average consumer will understand through your messaging.
The expectation that you set revolve around your specific brands terms, like your name, your name plus obvious or signature products, and likely, your name plus some assortment of modifiers like “sale,” “discount” and “coupon.” If your customers can’t find you in these spots where you have created the expectation that you should be, then you won’t be meeting customer expectations.
If you are a branded merchant, with a message and a set of core values, your customers have an expectation of reliability and availability from you. If they search for the most basic expression of desire to engage with you, like searching for your brand name or your brand name with some basic modifiers like location or product, and you can’t be found in the most visible spots in search, your customer will experience a disconnect.
There will be some measure of trust that is broken. If your other advertising drives awareness, and that awareness cannot be fulfilled through engagement through search, you have not met the expectations that you have set with the customer.
Create and Grow
Regardless if you are a large brand or an online-only player looking to create a splash, search visibility gives you the opportunity to meet, create and surpass customer expectations in a dramatic way.
For the established brand, search visibility across your core offerings is a primary tactic for reinforcing your brand positioning and activating those customers that you have engaged through other media. Search gives you the leverage to power re-engagement when the searcher is not specifically engaged with your brand. Visibility and position act as enticements and cross-channel brand visibility will drive the searcher to a trusted brand relationship and, hopefully, a resulting click through.
For the brand that is extending beyond its core, or if you are a player that has not invested heavily in brand-building, search optimization can drive visibility and enhanced brand recognition through impression strength and relevancy. In some ways, the major search engines act as a qualified third-party referral. If Google thinks that your site is worthy, that will transfer some level of trust to the searcher who may be more compelled to click through and engage with your brand.
Search visibility creates opportunity to drive ahead new growth categories and new opportunities. It also has the power to activate your customers when, perhaps, they weren’t thinking of you. Regardless of the state of your brand, high-level visibility through search optimization drives visibility, traffic and demand. More, though, it creates and cements emotional brand connectivity that will impact sales for years.
Without it, you will be easily surpassed by the competition and you could be tossed to the top of the brand scrap heap.