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How online retailers can use search data to boost performance

Though growth has slowed down from 2020 levels, online retail remains at high levels, with online accounting for 27% of all retail sales in Q2 2021.

The pandemic brought millions of new shoppers online, and many will keep buying into 2021 and beyond. Online demand remains high, especially when compared to 2019 levels, and retailers have a huge opportunity to capitalise on this.

One major key to this is search performance. It’s a major acquisition channel for any online retailer, and demand remains at historically high levels.

Strong search performance allows you to grow your business by acquiring new customers, and to take advantage of surges in demand for your product category.

In this article, we’ll look at three ways you can use search data to improve business performance.

Understand your Share of Voice

Share of Voice, sometimes referred to as Share of Search is a great way to assess how effective your SEO strategy is, as well as to see who your major rivals are within a specific sector.

For example, this chart shows the Share of Voice for the top ten retailers in the Electricals sector. It shows that Curry’s has the biggest visibility for searches in this sector.

Image source: Pi Market Leaders: Electrical UK

This data can also be shown by specific product groups, so we could see how visible an electrical retailer is for search terms related to computers and laptops for example.

This data can be used as a benchmark from which to measure future performance, and it can also identify key competitors or potential partners in the same sector – if you find that publishers are visible in your target search market, there may be PR or advertising opportunities there.

Learn from search trends in your sector

Historical search data can help you to plan market strategy, understand the popularity of product terms, and help you to identify key peaks in demand in order to focus your content and SEO efforts.

For example, homeware retailers can use the chart below to understand the search volumes in their sector over time, and see the seasonal changes in demand. So, if Garden & DIY searches begin to grow in March and April, content strategy can be timed to achieve maximum search visibility to take advantage of high search demand.

Image source: Pi Market Intelligence

Search trend data can also help you to respond quickly to customer behaviour. It can tell you which products are becoming popular, allowing you to adjust buying strategies to meet demand.

Understand the SERPs

Google’s results pages are no longer made up of ten blue links, they’re full of different results types which are in constant flux.

Retailers looking for organic visibility need to compete with SERP features like PPC ads, Google Shopping results, image results, news, video and more.

Search data helps you to understand what the search results look like for your target keywords, and create the kinds of content that is most likely to be visible.

For example, in some Home DIY categories, results can be image heavy, as people are searching for inspiration. For retailers, producing visual content such as kitchen design ideas can help them to be more visible to potential customers.

Assess the impact of Google updates

Google is constantly tweaking its algorithms to improve search results and make them more relevant (or increase its ad revenue).

So far in 2021, we’ve seen a two-part Core Update and the introduction of Core Web Vitals, which brings page experience factors into its algorithm.

Search data can help you to identify any impact from Google algorithm updates, allowing you to make any changes that are necessary to fix any issues, or to help you to identify positive impacts from Google updates.

In summary

In a competitive online retail market, the effective use of search data can give your business the edge.

It can help you to understand market opportunities, track performance, identify key competitors, and understand trends in your sector. Data can also help you to monitor any impact from Google algorithm changes and understand the changing SERP features in your target market.

For more data on search trends by sector, as well as the impact of the pandemic on the ecommerce market, see our recent report: How will online retail develop post-lockdown?

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