July 3, 2013, 12:14 PM

Credibility matters

Search success requires retailers to have strong content, including videos.

Google Inc.'s Product Listing Ads promise to become increasingly important for retailers striving to snag shoppers via online search, according to experts at the 2013 Internet Retailer Conference & Exhibition.

When consumers search on Google, they now often encounter Product Listing Ads, which contain product images and text and appear high up in search results. Retailers have to feed product data and bid for placement to get those ads in front of shoppers; the ads were free until Google last year began charging for them. Some 30% of non-branded paid search spend now goes toward those ads for clients of the Rimm-Kaufman Group LLC, said Adam Audette, president of the marketing agency, which exhibited at IRCE.

Such spending ratios seem certain to increase in favor of Product Listing Ads. "I've seen with more than one large e-commerce client that their non-branded search campaign clicks are down," said Marc Weisinger, marketing director for Elite SEM Inc., another marketing firm exhibiting at IRCE. "It's not that search volume is lower year over year on non-branded terms. It's that click traffic is consistently and increasingly moving towards Product Listing Ad campaigns."

Dungarees.net showed why more spending might go to Product Listing Ads. The ads give a better return on investment than standard paid search ads, said Darren Baldwin, e-commerce manager for the work apparel retailer. He told conference attendees that his Product Listing Ads have an average cost per click of 42 cents, compared with 75 cents for the other paid search ads.

Gaining visibility in search involves more than bidding on ads, though, as attendees and vendors repeated during the show. Strong content can persuade web sites to link to a site, or lure in shoppers, which can boost credibility and lead to higher placement in search results.

For instance, Jeff Oxford, owner of BeerPongStadium.com—yes, he sells drinking-game gear—told attendees he writes guest posts for relevant blog sites, which help him gain links and improve his organic search rankings. He advised attendees to find blog outlets via such venues as MyBlogGuest.com, Guestr.com and BloggerLinkUp.com. He also said retailers can create infographics—yet more good link bait—via Infogr.am.

Retailers should go beyond text content to boost organic search results, advised Ryan Ostrom, chief marketing officer of Craftsman and head of digital KCD Brands at Sears Holdings Corp., during a session called "Creating a content strategy to boost commerce." He said pages with videos are 53 times more likely to appear on the first page of Google search results than pages that only feature text.

Google's retail industry director, Jochen Heck, encouraged retailers to think more about Google-owned YouTube, which he described as the world's No. 2 search engine, with some 1 billion unique monthly users. He and others at the conference suggested putting calls to action or product links into videos. After all, those experts said, videos that win links from other web site operators, including bloggers, can persuade search engine algorithms that the original site is a credible authority.



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