September 23, 2004, 12:00 AM

Most of the 100 largest e-retailers don’t optimize well for natural search

Searching for title tags, indexable content and other elements that affect page rankings in natural search results, OneUpWeb finds only 12 of the Top 100 sites are well-optimized. The rest, says the search marketing firm, leave money on the table.

A study conducted by search marketing company OneUpWeb on the 100 largest retailers in Internet Retailer’s Top 300 Guide to online retailers shows that the majority are leaving money on the table by failing to optimize pages effectively for natural search.

On each site, OneUpWeb reviewed criteria such as site architecture, title tags, meta tags, keywords, content and other factors affecting the site’s ability to be indexed by and to appear in the first page of relevant search listings on Google and Yahoo. A report preview released to Internet Retailer shows that only a dozen of the top 100 sites used search optimization well, and more than one-third of them don’t do it at all. Internet Retailer’s Top 300 online retailers were ranked on sales volume.

The analysis, conducted on the home page and other pages throughout each retailer’s site, showed that some companies were paying for positions on keywords that they hadn`t also optimized pages for. OneUpWeb typically recommends that online marketing strategies include both paid and natural search.

“These companies are paying for coverage in sponsored listings that they could obtain using natural search optimization,” says OneUpWeb president Lisa Wehr. For example, a home shopping network purchased an ad for “cubic zirconium,” but didn’t optimize its pages so search engines could easily find it outside of paid listings, while a cosmetics company purchased an ad for one of its own brand names without also optimizing its pages accordingly.

Wehr notes that the 12 well-optimized sites, defined as having substantial indexable content throughout the site as well as unique title and meta tags, were spread evenly throughout the Top 100, ranging from (No. 7 in Internet Retailer’s Top 100) to (No. 97.) Other Top 100 sites determined by OneUpWeb to be well-optimized included (No. 12), (No. 42), (No. 44), (No. 47), (No. 49), (No. 54), (No. 60), (No. 62), (No. 70) and (No. 78.)

Of the 12 well-optimized sites, 67% had pages that appeared in the first page of relevant search queries on Google and 58% appeared on Yahoo’s first page. In addition, 75% appeared in Google’s first three pages of results while 67% appeared in Yahoo’s first three pages, the study found.

Beyond the 12 sites categorized as well-optimized, 23 were judged to be moderately optimized, meaning they had unique titles and meta tags throughout the site, as well as industry- and company-specific keywords, but they lacked additional indexable content. 29 sites were categorized as nominally-optimized, meaning that titles and meta tags on only the home page were optimized. 36 of the Top 100 sites showed no evidence of search engine optimization efforts.

“Moderately-optimized sites scratch the surface of search engine optimization benefits, and sites with nominal optimization or no optimization leave visibility to chance,” notes the report. Wehr notes the risks of failure to optimize for natural search as “lost sales, diminished market share, increased cost per lead, acquisition or sale, and eroding brand value.”


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