What gets an e-commerce website to the top of Google? It’s a very valid question and one that formed the basis of a recent major study, the results of which make imperative reading for any business that relies on internet sales as a key part of its turnover.

The study in question – the Searchmetrics E-commerce Rankings Factors 2017 – looked at the top ranking e-commerce sites with a view to analysing the factors that netted them the best spots in Google. Online retailers really need to sit up and take notice of this retail-specific study if they want their sites to do well in search.

The study was conducted in response to Google’s increasing ability to interpret the search intent behind individual search queries. This is helped in part by its RankBrain system which comprises artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning techniques, something we have looked at in detail in a previous post.

Artificial Intelligence in Action

A very important point revealed by the findings is that retailers gain visibility by delivering a seamless experience to shoppers that is free from ads and during which they are able to locate the things they want fast, and then checkout with ease. But how are shoppers directed to precisely what they want in such a streamlined fashion?

RankBrain detects whether the words used in search queries relate to particular vertical sectors, i.e. retail, finance, travel, etc. It also takes unfamiliar phrases and makes guesses as to what they might mean so that it can filter the results accordingly. This allows it to be effective in dealing with search queries or keywords that have never been seen before. You’ve no doubt seen this in action when you start typing in something that is personal to you, such as this query as to what the bar was called you visited on your recent holiday…

What bar did you want to find?

Thanks to artificial intelligence, Google is now able to more precisely determine what it is you are trying to find based on the keywords and phrases you enter. This means results are more relevant, which in turn means that marketers need to take a far more specific approach with their content.

Relevant, Well Structured Content is Crucial

We all know by now that online content needs to be totally relevant and of a high quality in order to perform optimally in search. However, this latest study really does hit home that when you’re promoting an e-commerce site, you seriously need to pay attention to retail-specific factors. So what does this mean?

Daniel Furch is head of content at Searchmetrics. He says that online retail marketers need to make sure their content is structured with bullet points so that product details are more easily scanned by visitors. He also suggests the online checkout section is easily visible without scrolling, and that the page is free from distracting adverts.

E-commerce websites call for a different approach to search engine marketing.

Key Findings: What Online Retailers Need to Know

The study was based on an analysis of the top 20 search results on Google.com for more than 6,000 typical e-commerce and retail search phrases. It revealed some interesting findings in comparison to Searchmetric’s separate Google ranking factors study which was based on the results of 10,000 general, high search volume keywords applicable across all industries (considered the ‘benchmark’ for comparison purposes).

Here are the key revelations:

  • Within the top 10 e-commerce search results, only 3 per cent of them displayed Google advertising links on the page
  • The number of interactive elements on the highest ranking sites is around 40 per cent higher than the benchmark
  • E-commerce pages within the top 10 Google positions tend to have on average 70 per cent more bullets per list than the benchmark
  • E-commerce pages ranking on page 1 of Google search results have 70 per cent more internal links than the benchmark
  • More than half of e-commerce sites feature an online store ‘above the fold’ which equates to more than double the overall average
  • Only 35 per cent of e-commerce sites ranking in the top 10 results have embedded videos
  • The word count for e-commerce sites within the top 10 results is in the region o 25 per cent higher than the overall average

So, the messages are clear for e-commerce retailers: there are certain factors that get an online store those all-important top Google rankings. If your site is not meeting the grade, then it’s got to be time to make changes, otherwise the fact is, you’re just not going to compete.

Need some assistance bringing your e-commerce website up to scratch? Speak to Figment.