Will changes in product search help or hurt your business? With the holiday season upon us, Google and Bing, two of the largest search engines in the world, have made some pretty extensive changes to their product search options. What does this mean for your companys SEO and advertising efforts? Everything.
The changes announced by Google in late November (just in time for the rush of Black Friday sales) relate to consumer features think Amazon-style. Many of the changes involve keeping as much information as possible on the initial search result screen. This allows viewers to get the information they need, regardless of device, without clicking around. By selecting an item in the products category of the results, a detail box explains with additional descriptive terms. The catch? This feature is only available for big-box retailers who can afford it.
Furthermore, online shoppers will be able to create Shortlists essential collections of items they are interested in from their search results and save them to their Google accounts.
The Google search has become even more consumer-friendly in that visually similar items will be available for each search, as opposed to those matching keywords. This changes the SEO landscape for retailers of all sizes.
Starting in August of this year, Bing began enhancing shopping and product searches with the consumers in mind, much like Google. Shopping results are now integrated into main screen search results to make it easier than ever for consumers to find what theyre looking for.
Then, on November 20, they took it one step further by creating a dedicated shopping experience for their users.
Much like Googles Hummingbird update, Bing has started crafting results around consumer intent, rather than word choice alone. Now, when a product is searched for, shopping results appear automatically, assuming a consumer is looking to make a purchase the results appear in the right column with snapshots and other basic information such as price and availability.
The Advantages for Big Retailers
Large retailers who can afford to pay for their products to be displayed by Google and Bing are rejoicing in the changes. Now, a customer doesnt have to find their site to make a purchase. Instead, big retailers products are automatically displayed across major search engines creating revenue potential like never before.
For customers, the potential is also great. Its no longer necessary to visit 10 sites to compare prices and shipping options before making a choice. It can all be displayed on a single screen with a single search assuming youre okay leaving the price comparison up to the search engine. Still, its good for consumers in a rush, and as far as ease of use goes, it doesnt get much better than that.
The Drawback and the Alternative
As is common in the rapidly-changing world of search marketing, small and medium businesses miss out when it pertains to these changes. Not only is it very expensive to have products displayed on the major search engines results pages, it also creates a level of competition which is less obvious than in the past. Customers can see the prices at a dozen or more different stores on a single page of results. If the prices are comparable, theyre most likely to go with a name theyre familiar with.
The bottom line? Smaller players, such as Custom Car Covers, will miss out, even if they choose to invest in this area. Even though they have a great selection when it comes to this specific product, the household names are more likely to win out with Google Shoppings newfound competitiveness. They are simply trying to reach out to their target demographic while increasing their online presence, but it is hard to compete with big brands on account of both name recognition and pricing.
There is an alternative, and its simple: retargeting. By choosing to advertise on the networks your past web visitors are already using and by showing the products theyve already searched for on your own site, the need to compete dwindles. Customers are reached where they are, with products theyre interested in, without ever having to search. In addition, it builds up brand recognition, making it more likely that they will choose your business even with competitors like Amazon and Walmart. This affordable alternative gives the edge back to the smaller retailers, allowing for continued growth, regardless of whatever changes Google and Bing may throw our way.
Do the changes announced by Google and Bing matter? Absolutely. Is there an alternative? Absolutely. Retargeting is an investment you cant afford to ignore.