SEO is one of the most powerful tools in ecommerce. Without a product being findable, after all, it can’t be bought.
Search online for “SEO tips for ecommerce” and you’ll find no shortage of guides and articles. Interestingly, most of them focus on Google. At first glance, this makes sense—an average of 3.6 billion searches are performed on Google each day, accounting for well over 90% of the search engine queries worldwide.
Ecommerce brands would be amiss, however, to focus solely on Google or any other general search engine.
After all, ecommerce brands sell their products on marketplaces like Amazon, Walmart.com and Etsy, each of which are also search engines and require SEO. The opportunity there is colossal, too: 49% of users searching for products today start directly on Amazon. If you exclude YouTube search queries from the Google conglomerate, Amazon becomes the second largest search engine worldwide.
Today, ecommerce brands are best to factor in SEO for online marketplaces—and even social channels. SEO, in other words, doesn’t stop at Google.
Just like SEO for Google is based around the regular updates to their algorithm, optimizations for online marketplaces and social networks require their own analysis. There are several key differences, starting with the intention behind a search query and ending with what it is you ultimately want to rank.
To get a better handle on exactly how ecommerce brands can win at multichannel ecommerce SEO, keep reading to see how SEO for marketplaces differs from SEO everywhere else.
SEO for Google vs. Amazon: Key Differences
Amazon has over 2 million products listed on a given day and ships over 2.5 billion packages a year. It’s where 9 out of 10 consumers price-check items, too, meaning a brand’s incentive to optimize for Amazon search is huge.
Amazon is not the only online marketplace, of course, but it is the most ubiquitous. In the interest of hashing out SEO for marketplaces vs. SEO for everything else, we’re starting here.
To choose which marketplace makes the most sense for you, start with this comparison between Amazon and Google SEO and then continue reading about other marketplaces your brand should consider. The same differences we discuss here will hold true for other marketplaces, too.
1. Performance indicators
Amazon’s search function has one key purpose: find the product the user is most likely to buy.
Google, on the other hand, is what’s called a universal search engine. It’s optimized to answer questions.
SEO is all about optimizing a webpage (or product listing) for the search queries that the perfect user will type in. If you’re optimizing for Amazon, your SEO will favor the kinds of search queries buyers will type in when they’re looking for a product like yours.
Google SEO, on the other hand, is about the earlier stages of your sales funnel. You wouldn’t optimize a product listing for Google if the most common search string is something like “birthday gift ideas for Mom,” because the user looking for inspiration isn’t ready to buy yet. Your product page optimizations will be in vain.
Google also acts as the catch-all when user intentions aren’t clear. Someone could type in “five-step skincare” with the intention to learn what it is, not to buy it. Similarly, someone could even type your product type into Google with the sole intention of reading reviews.
Performance indicators change on Google and Amazon as a result:
- The sole purpose of Amazon’s search feature is to direct consumers to products they want to buy. That’s simple enough—your performance indicator is your sales conversion.
- Google, on the other hand, is constantly trying to show consumers better answers to questions along with more clickable content. This means that something like your website traffic and time on page will be the end goals of Google SEO, which matches up with where those users are in the sales funnel.
2. Influence of on-page vs. off-page SEO
We’ll get a little technical here, but there are some key differences between on-page and off-page SEO between marketplaces and universal search.
On-page SEO refers to optimizations you can do in visible text. For example, it weighs more to use a keyword in the title of a blog than in the regular paragraph text. Likewise, a user will see that keyword in the title and know what the blog is about.
Off-page SEO refers to the text the user doesn’t see, like the meta data on product photos.
There are clear differences between Amazon and Google when it comes to the adjustments ecommerce brands can make to these two types of text.
- Differences in on-page SEO: Amazon product pages have pre-determined fields that an ecommerce brand can work with. This radically reduces the on-page optimizations a brand has access to. There are also character limits to consider. When optimizing on-page text for Google, in contrast, web design provides limitless options to structure weighted text (like titles) as a brand pleases.
- Differences in off-page SEO: Google takes things into account like the quality of external links when ranking pages. Amazon listings, on the other hand, don’t include this kind of content. Furthermore, the control brands have over the meta data on images loaded to Amazon is considerably less than what brands can control on the backends of their own websites.
While marketplace SEO might suddenly seem a lot more restrictive, optimizations can still be done. Perfecting product titles, descriptions and bullet points has become more competitive as AI has been more aggressively used in ecommerce listing optimizations, too.
Managing product data well is yet another competitive edge for the ecommerce brands who win at marketplace SEO.
For instance, if Amazon has a 100-character limit for product descriptions, but Etsy has a 70-character limit, those differences require careful adjustments. Managing multiple versions of SEO-rich product data like this becomes a beast for brands if it weren’t for product information management software (PIM). Paired with a marketplace-specific SEO strategy, an ecommerce brand becomes unstoppable.
3. Company transparency
A whole industry flourishes today around Google SEO. Despite the company’s secrecy of the specific ins and outs of their unique search algorithm, years of study by SEO thought leaders has led to many published lists of factors we know Google weighs heavily.
Thus, the Google SEO industry was born. Ecommerce brands have no shortage of firms ready to offer their services in this space.
Amazon optimizers are fewer and farther between. There aren’t as many tools to dig deep into the data, either. Amazon provides sellers with less data about traffic and users, too, making analysis even more difficult.
With every challenge comes an opportunity, however. Today, with AI-powered technologies now able to compare top listings and extract the likely sources of their success, proactive ecommerce brands are able to leapfrog the competition and optimize smarter than all their competitors.
Amazon and marketplace SEO is still in an early stage, but by digging deep into analytics as changes are made to a brand’s product listings, SEO efforts can be even more fruitful than even the most competitive SEO strategy on Google.
Social Search SEO
When we said we would discuss SEO for marketplaces vs. SEO for “everything else,” it was always the idea to include social search in the mix.
Comparing the user intention behind Google and Amazon search queries offers a valuable starting point. If Google users are looking for answers and Amazon users are looking to buy products, what are social searchers looking for?
The answer: inspiration.
54% of social media users today perform product searches on social while researching a potential purchase. That’s not to say, however, that they’re searching by product name. More commonly, search strings include things like “beautiful home décor” or similar. The intention behind the search is to generate ideas and consume attractive content while they do it.
Certain social networks are more geared toward this activity. Many users perform “inspiration searches” on Pinterest where pins have also been rendered click-to-buy, making a purchase decision easier when a user sees something he or she wants. This type of discovery shopping is the second most popular reason why users visit Pinterest today.
While platforms like Facebook and Instagram are more popular for searches around social proof (i.e., searching for an influencer’s endorsement of a product or searching for product recommendations), the power of that search potential shouldn’t go ignored—Facebook’s reach includes a volume of 2 billion searches per day.
Back to SEO, though, how does an ecommerce brand look at social SEO in comparison to SEO for marketplaces?
Fortunately, most of the SEO best practices for social media are in-line with Google best practices. An ecommerce brand has total control over on-page SEO, including how content is formatted. There is no off-page SEO to speak of in most cases, however, so optimizations are built exclusively into the content users see.
To seal the deal on social SEO, when researching keywords, the question should always be “what intention could bring my perfect client to my product?”
SEO is a behemoth of a to-do, but it’s also one of the best tools for ecommerce brands to reach consumers. Products have to be findable in order to sell, and being findable on an online marketplace requires different optimizations than being findable on Google or social channels.
Get started on all your SEO plans with these SEO optimization tools and look at your SEO strategy in parts. Your marketplace optimizations come together with your Google and social optimizations to support your bigger SEO strategy sustainably.
Amber Engine is a software company passionate about ecommerce. The company’s fast and simple PIM software gets sellers, distributors and brands to Amazon and other online marketplaces in weeks instead of months and frees up time and resources to allow ecommerce and marketing professionals to create content that inspires modern discovery shoppers.