November 29, 2001, 12:00 AM

Big retailers must improve search rankings to capture sales, study says

Major search engines find company and brand names, but 83% of top retailers don’t use metatags that allow search engines to find specific content and pages within their sites.


Just because you’re big doesn’t mean you get it right all the time.

A new report from iPropsect, a provider of search services, says search engine positioning that’s not up to par could leave the e-commerce sales of some of the biggest mass retailers out in the cold this year, even though every prediction says growth in online sales will outstrip growth of offline sales this holiday.

In fact, all Fortune 100 retail companies use technology that hinders to some degree the likelihood that specific pages and content on their web site will be found by major search engines, iProspect reports. For example, iProspect found that one of the country’s leading home improvement retailers, known for carrying a large section of outdoor equipment, didn’t turn up in a single major search engine on queries for “snow blower.” Similarly, according to the report, a major consumer retailer and online pharmacy didn’t turn up in any major search engine results under queries for “beauty products.”

Failure to appear in search engines results is partly because many major retail web sites – 83% of the Fortune 100 retail sites – don’t employ keyword metatags, which are HTML code embedded in web pages that help search engines identify and rank pages in search results. As a result, says the report, many of the pages that contain items shoppers are searching for are almost impossible for people to find when searching for anything other than a company or brand name. "Consumers increasingly rely on search engines and less on banner advertising and e-mail promotion to find content on the web,” says iProspect CEO Frederick Marckini. “It’s more important than ever that online retailers be found in the top-30 search matches of major search engines if they wish to take their piece of the pie this year.”


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