Winning top search positions on retail sites becomes a crucial factor for brands.

SEO is poised for a new type of growth that we have never seen before – and it’s going to require a new kind of content strategy. Today, e-commerce SEO is on the rise. Shopper searches performed on retailer sites like Amazon have a more powerful impact on e-commerce than the general queries made on traditional search engines like Google. On-site search optimization is a massive benefit to consumers, retailers and brands, and it’s surprising that the boom has taken this long to occur. Now, however, there is enough quantitative growth in this type of search in the market as well as a glut of qualitative changes to how product information and other data is collected and stored to ignite this trend.

It’s still early days, so if you’re among the first to focus on “e-commerce SEO,” you’re setting yourself up to earn dividends for years to come given that within the virtuous cycle of the SEO game, winners continue to win.

Mounting Trends: The Quantitative Proof

Here’s a quick rundown of quantitative industry facts supporting this boom theory:

  • The SEO industry is currently worth around $65 billion, and the vast majority of that is focused on gaming Google. Moreover, it’s still growing very, very rapidly.
  • Recently, Amazon surpassed Google 38 percent to 35 percent in terms of where shoppers start their journey – meaning consumers now use Amazon as their product search engine.
  • All retail growth is in e-commerce (14.6 percent YoY e-commerce growth on 1.5 percent YoY total retail growth). The strategy that smart retailers are taking: tread water in-store, grow online.
  • The top search position matters a lot (33 percent of clicks). This is even more pronounced on mobile, where the drop-off after the fourth position is even more dramatic than on desktops. This will be just as important on retailer sites, if not more.

Another way to look at the last two points is this: if you win the top search spot, you’ll be poised to gain around 33 percent of the entire growth of your organic search category online, which means a big chunk of all of the growth in retail in your category.

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Large companies are thus highly motivated to compete for the top search positions on key e-commerce sites, including Amazon and Walmart.

Tools and Talent Ecosystem: The Qualitative Proof

Just as with search engine SEO, you can’t win at e-commerce SEO without the analytics to drive the action.

A whole industry ($65B!!!) has blossomed around Google which provides analytic tools, A/B testing capabilities and strategic know-how for companies looking to win those top organic spots for key search terms. Notably, Google itself provides tons of analytic information on search in general, via their AdWords interface, which is key to playing the organic SEO game.

The boom will start with building the same types of tools for e-commerce SEO.

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There are already some early players investing in both the product side of things (ClavisOne Click Retail) as well as consultancies focusing on the overall optimization strategy for brands and retailers (Content26, Accenture).

The real significant wins in e-commerce SEO will be driven by analytic product performance data from the retailers themselves. This is not lost on key retailers, as they are already sharing more data with their vendors than they have historically.

For example, Amazon’s analytics is critical for premium Vendor Central suppliers (and frankly should be released for all participating vendors of any scale, including on Vendor Express). Jet.com, prior to being acquired by Walmart, garnered significantly more brand loyalty and focus than its gross revenue would itself dictate because Jet shared tons of analytic data with brands. Google Manufacturing Center does the same, and even though there is no Buy button, brands participate for the data alone. All this data brings the customer journey to life and informs strategies for performance improvements.

Other retailers will have to follow suit to remain competitive and encourage their suppliers to help with SEO-optimized e-commerce content.

The Amazon Product Detail Page is the New Brand Marketing

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Brand manufacturers are shifting their game plan as well. A data point from a Salsify customer: Its product detail pages on Amazon and Home Depot garner 30 million views each month, orders of magnitude more than its corporate home page (the most highly trafficked page on its site).

Yet you can probably guess what got more brand marketing dollars in their annual budget: rebuilding the home page…again. But the question is, are these dollars well spent?

Not only is there the strong SEO case to invest heavily in on-site search and conversion optimization, but qualitatively these sites are where your consumers interact with your brand most often. Spending MORE on your Amazon product detail pages than your own corporate website just makes sense.

Onward

The combination of quantitative and qualitative trends, as well as the vast buckets of brand advertising that should rightly be refocused on product detail page experiences, will lead to the rise of e-commerce SEO over the next several years.

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The largest brands and retailers are already investing millions in e-commerce SEO (technology, consultancies, content development, etc.) while other top retailers are keeping pace by sharing analytic data to make gaming their sites possible. Other brands and retailers will follow suit to remain relevant.

Let the new SEO games begin.

Salsify provides a web-based service that enables manufacturers to distribute product content to retailers.

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