The vast majority of e-commerce purchases now involve one or more searches, whether that be in web search engines or on-site.

Brands are looking to expand their online presence and grow their online sales need to systematically measure their share of the digital shelf to prioritize their actions.

To supplement our core distribution monitoring solution, BlueBoard has developed an innovative Search Performance product. It has been designed to help:

  • View the entire picture of your market, keyword by keyword, e-tailer by e-tailer,
  • Track progress over time and monitor performance against your competition,
  • Identify underperforming products, allowing you to plan actions to improve ranking,
  • Identify best-performing organic search queries to de-prioritize ad campaigns

Webinar details:

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  • Date: Tuesday (04/02/2019)
  • Time: 5 PM (Paris, France)
  • Speakers:
    • Samuel Masson – Product Manager
    • Katie Hallett – Head of Customer Success
    • Valentin Bayard – Marketing Manager

Huge thanks to everyone who attended the live event!

Sign up for a free trial of Search Performance.

Transcript

Katie:               So we’re going to go ahead and get started. Welcome to today’s webinar. Just to introduce us all quickly for those of you who don’t already know us, my name is Katie, and I am the head of customer success here at BlueBoard. And I’m joined by Valentin to my left, who is our marketing manager, and Samuel, who’s our product manager.

 

Katie:               For those of you not familiar with our solution, BlueBoard is a SaaS tool, which helps businesses track their online distribution in terms of price distribution and availability. And today we’re going to be looking at the subject of search, and specifically what brands can do to improve their share of the digital shelf.

Katie:               Some of you may have already downloaded and read our handbook on search performance. If you haven’t, we’re sharing the link to that now, so do go ahead and download it. If you have any questions, either on what you read in the handbook or anything which crops up during the webinar today, please go ahead and pose them in the webinar itself. We’re gonna be answering them as we go, so don’t hold back.

Katie:               And today, Valentin’s gonna kick us off with a bit more detail on just why search is so important, and some of the challenges that it presents to brands. And then during the second half of the webinar, we’ll have Samuel, who will be demoing our new product, and showing how you will be able to use BlueBoard to monitor and improve search performance. So without further ado, I will hand over to Valentin.

Valentin:           Thank you. So the big question that we’re trying to answer when it comes to search, is really, how do customers reach product pages? And if you’re brand, really what you’re wondering is, “How can I get people to visit the pages specifically of my products, as opposed to those of my competitors on third-party e-tailer sites?”

Valentin:           This question really has two sides. And the first half of the question is, “Well, how do customers online reach e-tailer sites?” So that’s the easiest part of the question. And a recent study has tried to put an exact figure, on exactly what is the respective share of each channel in terms of how they bring traffic to the e-tailer sites. Wolfgang Digital has come up with those figures, and from what we can see, search already has the majority of the share as a channel, because it directs 58 percent of traffic to e-tailer sites, whether it’s an organic search or paid search.

share of each channel leading to e-tailers according to Wolfgang digital

Valentin:           And the second half of the question is, “Once a consumer has reached an e-tailer site, how do they navigate those sites, and how do they get to product pages?” And so really there are three main mechanisms that allow users to navigate from a page to the next. So these are on-site searches, the search bar that 99 percent of sites have; recommendation engines, typically the “other people also liked this product”; and category browsing, because we still have a significant share of users who only use the mouse to navigate those sites and will click on different categories until they reach the product that they are interested in.

Valentin:           So putting an exact figure on these three main mechanisms is very hard, obviously, because it varies tremendously between different sites, depending on the technologies that they use, and how they emphasize each one. Jumpshot has tried to put a figure on this for Amazon.com, specifically, and on-site search has a huge proportion of product page views there. Actually, they found out that on Amazon.com, 90 percent of product page views were generated by the on-site search. So in the rest of this webinar, we’re going to focus heavily on on-site search, and understand how you can leverage how it works, and make it work to your advantage.

Valentin:           So for each of those three mechanisms, basically the sites are coming up with lists of products that they believe are relevant based on what people have searched, or what products they’ve been visiting. And it’s very interesting to understand how the sites are coming up with those lists. Obviously, they are much better than just alphabetical order lists of products. So how do they build these lists of products, and how do you get your products in them?

Valentin:           This takes us to the question of algorithms. And really algorithms are mathematical formulas that will create an ordered list of products to display for searches or for an on-site “Other Product Suggestions” module. If we can understand how algorithms function, then we can figure out some tactics to make them work to our advantage.

Valentin:           For the sake of clarity, we’ve decided to group these algorithms into three big categories in terms of how advanced they are. So they are one, two and three. And these three levels, they correspond to the level of advancement of the algorithms.

Valentin:           Level 1 type of algorithms are the ones that rely heavily on text to find relevant, hopefully, results for what the users have been searching. In some cases, it might be that the user searches for a couple of words in the search bar, and the algorithm is going to look for these two words, maybe in reverse order, in the product titles or the product descriptions that are on the site. Some less-advanced search systems don’t work as well, and sometimes won’t even use what’s in the description, and Sam, I think you’ve had some bad experiences with that.

Samuel:            Yeah, it’s true. So for some websites, even though your client or your future customer will input a product name + a brand, the right product won’t show in the results. Whereas if they used EANs as a token for search, then they were able to get to the right product page. And I’m not sure how many of your customers are power users of this kind.

Valentin:           Yeah, I’m not sure that a lot of people use EANs to find products in their daily lives. So again, this is one group, but there are several levels of advancement inside this group. And some sites are very good at text search, and still get very relevant results.

Valentin:           The second group is made of algorithms who introduce some layers of intelligence in the way that they rank the results, and that pick the results to display to the customers, based on some business factors. So if you are an e-tailer, your goal is obviously to make sure that as many searches as possible will eventually lead to a product being bought.

Valentin:           So how do you do that? If you can introduce some other factors than just text, you will try to show the products that have the highest likelihood of being bought. So one example, one thing that you may do as an e-tailer, is looking at average review scores and say, “Okay, we will take all relevant products based on text, and then we will show, first, the 5-star review products, then 4-stars, 3-stars, et cetera.” That’s one very basic business logic that you could implement.

Valentin:           Some other types of business logic might include, not displaying products that have no stock, that might seem very relevant. Or showing products for which you know that your pricing is competitive. That might be another one. So this is business logic algorithms.

Valentin:           And the most advanced sort of algorithms that we have is the algorithms that are capable of factoring some of the things that they know about the users to reorder the search results for relevance. A very simple example: If you are on a clothes website, you search for shoes, and you only clicked on male shoes. So if you carry on with another search for trousers, this site might be smart enough to essentially show male trousers, because they’ve learned from you that you are interested in male clothes. So that’s a type of user logic that some sites would use in order to try and maximize relevance for the people that are searching.

Katie:           We have a question from Sophie. She wrote asking, “So if you have several different clients, do you have any recommendations on what we can do to identify which of these levels their search engines are incorporating?”

Valentin:           Well, obviously it’s not written, what type of level they are. And these are categories that we made, just to help you understand. But if Sophie’s trying to find for a specific type, what type, which category they may be, I would say my recommendation is just to try and buy something on these websites, just use their search module, and see which products come first. Try with different search terms, just to see if some products keep coming up. If all the first products always 5-stars, well then there you have it. It’s a website that will heavily favor products with a good rating average.

Valentin:           Now that we have a basic understanding of how algorithms may work, we can craft some strategies and try to implement them in our distribution for different retailers in different situations. So we’re going to be looking at three different strategies that you may want to try with your distribution, with your products at your e-tailers, which may significantly improve your search performance, the ranking of your products, on this digital shelf.

Valentin:           So the first strategy, and this is the one that works for all types of algorithms, and is really my first recommendation to anyone trying to improve and work on search performance. And that is optimizing product titles for search by using the right keywords. So this will work on every site, although you may not be able to do it on every site, you may not be able to edit the product titles. But for the sites where you can do it, it’s essential that you try and have, and use some keywords that people may search. So that your products will show up first in search results.

Valentin:           If you have too many keywords that you would like to use, you can still put them in the description, and on many sites, this will also help get their ranking up from that search query. So we have an example from Withings, a customer that has been with us for three years, I think. And so Guillaume from their team has explained to me how their team in the US have worked with product titles to try and improve search performance.

Valentin:           They used to have product titles that looked very much like the one on the left. They were short, marketing-oriented product titles that looked, honestly, pretty nice. And they were not satisfied with the number of search impressions that they were getting. They had the feeling that they could improve. And so they tried, they experimented. And they went for much longer product titles that included some very key keywords, some features, like “water-resistant.” And some category keywords on which they were trying to compete: activity tracker, sleep monitor.

Valentin:           And these, as you would expect, had a very positive impact on search impressions. But you may think, “Well, these titles don’t look as nice. They’re much longer.” I think this may be about 150 characters. So what happened to click-through-rate, would people click as much on a product whose title looks a little bit spammy like this? And the very big surprise that they had is that click-through-rates also improved for these new, longer titles. And the rationale, the conclusion that they arrived to was that people are also scanning for keywords in the search results. Also, maybe, if your title is longer, you are occupying a bigger space in search results, so you may just get more clicks. So that’s it for this first strategy.

Katie:               Just a quick question on this one. So, how many characters do you recommend for the title? Would you say that there is a sweet spot where it becomes actually too long?

Valentin:           So I tended to think that the product titles should be rather short and compelling, but my experience and the first figures that we’ve been able to have on this tend to show that you should be using as many characters as you can on specific sites, as long as it doesn’t make the title too spammy. If you have some interesting features and use cases in the title that are relevant to most of your potential buyers, then I definitely think that you should include them. Some sites will let you use as much as 200 characters, some restrict it to a lot less. But I definitely think you should be using as many as you can. But that’s also something that you should monitor. If you change all your titles you should be looking into how this affects your search performance.

Valentin:           So the second strategy that I would recommend is … Remember how I mentioned that some sites will heavily factor in review averages when they are looking at how to rank your products. So this strategy is for Level 2 algorithms. Try and improve average ratings on the products that have very few reviews. In some cases, if the sites are really just looking at the review average, they will not make any difference between a product that has a 4.5-star rating with two reviews, or a 4.5-star rating with 1,000 reviews. So if you are that first product, you could just get one or two 5-star reviews and completely beat the other product, in terms of how the algorithm is going to rank yours. And, I think, Katie can share a few tactics on how you may want to do that, especially on pages that have some bad reviews.

Katie:               Yeah, sure. So I’m very aware that for some of the people who are on this call, this is your day-to-day job, so forgive me if these seem maybe a little basic. But it’s true that they can seriously impact your position in the search rankings, and consequently your sales. So it’s definitely worth investing some resources to ensure you’re being as proactive as possible.

Katie:               To start with, as basic as it might seem, if the website does allow responses to reviews, you should really be making sure that you’re doing that. At least, at the very least, on the negative reviews. So for many sites, for example, where they do allow this, the user can actually amend their rating, further down the line, if they are happy with the resolution of any potential issues, for example. But also, being reactive increases your chances of receiving positive reviews, so quite simply, as a consumer, you’re more likely to speak if you feel like you’re being listened to, so that can be kind of a two-fold advantage.

Katie:               You might also want to consider ways that you can incentivize clients to leave reviews throughout the different touch points that you have with the buyer. So, for example, when they sign up to register their product, you could prompt them to leave a review. What you put in the product packaging, for example, and even engaging promoters on social media can be something you can look into.

Katie:               And last but not least, if you have a good relationship with your client, it’s possible if you identify, for example, a dishonest review, or one which you’re not sure came from a verified purchase, or one which your sure was actually bought through that website, it’s possible to have those negative reviews removed, and that is especially important if you have one or two negative reviews that are driving down your average. So there’s a whole bunch of things that you can do in there.

Valentin:           And especially on sites that have few reviews, you are actually going to have a tremendous impact on the average, obviously, as opposed to products that have a thousand reviews. Thank you, Katie. And this takes us to our third strategy, which works for Group 2 and Group 3 algorithms, and that’s being an A-player on product content.

Valentin:           When you are setting up the content for your product pages, most of the time you have conversion in mind, because you’re thinking, “Okay, the content will only be seen once the customer reaches a product page, and if I have nice pictures, and my texts are informative, there’s a higher chance of conversion.”

Valentin:           The thing is, on many sites today, content also has an impact on search impressions. Sites like Amazon, for example, will favor the product listings that have at least five pictures, as opposed to the one that only has one. Also, if your descriptions are richer, obviously, they will be containing more words and more keywords that people may be searching for. So really maximizing your content opportunity and making sure that you’re using the proper text is something to have in mind, not just for conversion, but also for search performance. And Samuel’s gonna tease a little feature that we have in store.

Samuel:            Exactly, so that is related to your share of search and the search performance on different e-tailers. And as Valentin just said about the product page content, we are going to be releasing around the end of Q2 or early Q3, our new feature which is product page content monitoring. It will help you to achieve compliance, consistency, and maximization of all your content across your retailers for all your top products.

Valentin:           So this summer, okay. So these are just three strategies, obviously, there are many more that you could try and implement, but many companies are in the mindset that you should not be doing something if you cannot measure the impact. And I think we’re one of those.

Valentin:           So really, it comes down to measuring the impact of the strategies that you are using to try and implement your search rankings. So we’ve shared a few examples. There might be some other ones out there. We think, and we’ve tried some of them, and they do work in some situations, but sometimes it may simply not have an impact. And sometimes it may have a negative impact. You never know. Maybe a site will just change its rules overnight, and titles that are more than 100 characters are considered spammy and will end up at the end of the search results. So it’s very important that when you’re trying to improve your search rankings, that you be measuring very often how this affects the rankings of your product.

Valentin:           And so I’ve put together this one sentence that explains what you should be measuring in our opinion. And that is, measuring first-page brand impressions for all relevant keywords at your top e-tailers every day.

Valentin:           Why first-page brand impressions? The general consensus, obviously, varies a lot, depending on countries and e-tailers. But the general consensus is that, on average, 80 percent of clicks and an even higher percentage of sales, are made from the first page of results. So it is our opinion that you should not scatter your focus on too many pages and that you should be looking especially on the first page because this is where sales are made.

Valentin:           Then, why should you be doing it every day? Maybe you could just watch it, I guess, once a month? Well, really, if you have any experience with SEO, that is optimizing your sites for mostly the Google search engine, you may know that SEO takes a lot of time. And that is because Google’s algorithm is very complicated and factors in thousands of different variables, so if you make a change to your site, it may not do anything for a couple of weeks. Then change your rank by one or two, in two weeks. So if you just measure your SEO scores and SEO rankings every month, every once in a while, that’s enough.

Valentin:           But e-commerce search algorithms, they are much more sensitive. They will react to much smaller changes, and they may do so much faster because they’re not as complex as Google’s algorithm. So if you are using one of our tactics, or any other one, changing product titles, adding new images, it may have an impact on the ranking of your product as early as tonight or tomorrow.

Valentin:           So that’s why we really stress this, that search performance should be measured every day, so that you can see immediately if the tactics that you are employing have a negative or positive impact on your search ranking.

Valentin:           So one part of my sentence here is for all relevant keywords, and so this is the last thing that I’m going to cover today, is, what are relevant keywords to monitor? So obviously if you are a brand, you may want to be looking at what are the search results for your own brand’s name, and maybe you’ll learn that some competitors are sponsoring the name of your brand to essentially steal sales from you. You may learn that. But really what the core of what you should be monitoring are category search keywords that are not related to a specific brand, and, essentially, generate searches that are up for grabs. This is where you really want to be on top of your competitors and be at eye-level for your customers.

Valentin:           So we’ve given here a few examples of categories of keywords. These are examples for a bluetooth speaker, if you’re selling a bluetooth speakers, you may want to use a combination of all the examples that we’ve put on this slide.

Katie:               So quick question, just to interrupt for a second, from Greg. Thank you for this one. So, yeah, you haven’t mentioned among these different combinations, competitors’ keywords. Is there a reason for that? Or is that part of a strategy that you can imagine, as well?

Valentin:           No, I didn’t mention it. But that’s actually a good idea. Monitoring just the name of the brands of your competitors might be a good idea, just to get a sense of, are your competitors fighting for each others’ brand names in sponsored products? Sometimes on sites, the first page of results will have maybe 50 different products, and usually, a brand won’t have as many products. So which other brands are claiming a spot on those? So that’s sort of something that you may be interested in. Definitely that’s something that we could add, monitoring your brand, but also your competitors’, might be, I think, a good idea.

Katie:               Great. Thank you, Valentin. So hopefully these topics ring true for you and what you were experiencing as brands. When you get to learn more about your own experiences managing these scenarios and the different challenges that you’re facing, please do get in touch if you have any further thoughts on any of the above. But I think one thing is for sure, it’s pretty hard to get anywhere without measuring the data, and that leads us on to what we have worked on.

 

E-Commerce Search Performance For Brands: A Complete Guide