April 8, 2010, 12:00 AM

Highly visible e-retailers are largely invisible in search results

Big online retailers do a better job of showing up in natural results on Google than Fortune 500 companies do—but not by much, says search engine optimization firm Conductor. And visibility falls when consumers type in search phrases several words long.

The top e-retailers do a better job of showing up in natural results on Google and other search engines than Fortune 500 companies do-but not by much, says Conductor Inc., which specializes in technology for measuring and optimizing natural search results.

The study of the Internet Retailer Top 500-the 500 leading North American merchants by online sales-shows that only 7% showed up often in the top 50 natural search results on Google for the keywords they considered most important. (For each retailer the most important keywords were assumed to be the words the retailer was targeting for paid search ads, as determined by online marketing research firm SpyFu.) 36% of the Top 500 retailers typically showed up in positions 50 to 75, 38% in positions 75-100 and 19% did not typically show up in the first 100 Google results. Conductor based the report on fourth quarter data.

By contrast, only 0.2% of Fortune 500 companies frequently showed up in the top 50 Google results and 53% were practically not to be found, typically absent from the first 100 results, Conductor says.

As with the Fortune 500, top e-retailers fared worse in Google natural search results when searchers entered multi-word phrases. While e-retailers garnered a search visibility score of 71 for single-word phrases, that dropped steadily to 58 for 8-word search phrases.

Among the four major categories of online retailers defined by the Internet Retailer Top 500, web-only retailers scored the highest at 72, followed by consumer brand manufacturers (69), catalogers (68) and retail chains (66).

Here are the best-performing retailers in each of the merchandise categories defined by the Internet Retailer Top 500, according to Conductor:

  • Apparel/accessories: Shoebuy.com
  • Books/music/video: Netflix
  • Computers/electronics: SuperMediaStore.com
  • Flowers/gifts: GourmetGiftBaskets.com
  • Food/drug: igourmet
  • Hardware/home improvement: ToolBarn.com
  • Health/beauty: Perfume.com
  • Housewares/home furnishings: ivgStores
  • Jewelry: jomashop.com
  • Mass merchant: Online Stores
  • Office supplies: Databazaar.com
  • Specialty/Non-apparel: Zazzle.com
  • Sporting goods: SportsGiant
  • Toys/hobbies: GameFly

Conductor studied only the primary domain for each online retailer and selected the 200 most expensive keywords targeted by each domain in the fourth quarter of 2009. Conductor says the Internet Retailer Top 500 collectively spent on average $1.2 million per day on pay-per-click advertising on the 88,758 keywords studied.

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