How to control your Ecommerce search results: lessons from the big retail brands

19 May, 2014

A few weeks ago we showed you how to find out what your customers are searching for online.

If you missed it, get acquainted, you can thank us later.

Now I want to explain how the big retailers manage to control related eCommerce search results to win more customers.

Chances are, one search term your online detectives (otherwise known as potential customers) are using to find you is your brand name. I know, cutting edge insights here.

You might think a potential customer using your brand name as a search term is a sign to pick up the phone to call the courier. Sure, it’s a fine start, but don’t break out the gift wrapping just yet.

In our post that showed you how to find out your common search terms, we made it clear that your potential customers are becoming online product detective super sleuth ninjas. Technical industry term. You heard it here first.

People have an abundance of free information about your products and their typing fingertips, so they’re bound to find out everything they possibly can before submitting their glorious add-to-cart click.

This brings us to the reason why you need to start getting interested in the details of your brand name search engine results. Even if you provide ‘the best online customer service ever’, you will still have the occasional unhinged customer indulging in a slanderous review. It’s hard to make everyone happy. There’s always someone lining up to call you a nincompoop

Netflix Negative Customer Review

This is why you need to learn how to keep control of your brand in search results. You can’t Kim Jong Un all the bad stuff away. You just need to make sure the bad reviews and negative press is buried beneath the good stuff when your customer-to-be starts sleuthing.

There are a bunch of ways to influence the top search results for your company name, but we want to show you how some of the dominating Australian eCommerce brands are doing it.

We cherry-picked seven of Australia’s eCommerce giants and analysed how much of their first page Google results were populated with “company controlled properties” (content they own).

Brand Search Results Table


Cotton On came out with the highest percentage of owned properties. This was also the shortest page of results, but the clothing colossus clearly has some reputation management clout at their digital marketing disposal.

Cotton On has dealt with more public relations disasters than most eCommerce companies. From flammable sleepwear to Bangladeshi sweatshop manufacturing, Cotton On have flooded the highest authority online media sites for all the wrong reasons.

Without deliberate promotion of their owned media properties, the high ranking stories from these authoritative media sites could be dominating Cotton On’s brand search results. Not what you want you to want your customer to find on their search for some new pyjamas.

Cotton On

Appliances Online and Dick Smith’s have slightly more difficult playing fields to contend with.

“Appliances online” is a business description as well as a company name, which means well ranking competitors also make the front page. Dick Smith is impacted by the great man himself and his swathe of helicopter piloting, world-saving, Ozemite purveying wonder.

Kogan and Shoes of Prey show that a sound PR program is just as important in the online world for the big end of the eCommerce town. A number of search results for these brands come from good news stories in high authority online media publications.

Kogan Search Results

For you smaller eCommerce pro’s, there is plenty to learn from the big end of the online town. It doesn’t take a million-dollar marketing budget to maximize your brand presence on Google page one.

Here’s a bunch of web properties that are easy for you to add to Google page one:

  • social media profiles
  • business directories
  • microsites
  • paid ads
  • shopping aggregation

A couple of hours setting up some or all of these will have you in more control of Google page one when those online product sleuths come looking.

The best way to control your brand’s search engine results needs a little more explanation.

All of these brands are missing an opportunity to turn their paid and earned media opportunities into owned ones. Instead of leaving your message in the hands of the publisher, think about investing the PR dollars into your own content marketing program.

There’s no reason why Shoes of Prey couldn’t create content that’s every bit as good as this interview from the Design Files that features on the brand’s page one search results. Instead of the Google juice going to Design Files, Shoes of Prey could have an amazing piece of blog content pulling in potential customers. A call to action to subscribe for email updates would allow them to talk to their readers for an extended period. Suddenly, Shoes of Prey can control the customer’s research as well as their brand message.

Goulet Pens show the big guys how to create quality, owned content to whitewash search results in their favour. 4 posts a week for 4 years of consistently amazing content makes sure Google sends its love and new customers keep flooding through streams of archived articles.

Goulet has a Content Mission that allows all employees and external contractors to understand the strategy behind the team’s content marketing:

“provide product education with a bit of entertainment to bring together pen enthusiasts from around the world to share in a common passion”

A spate of FAQ’s, how-to vids, reviews, comparisons and helpful tips establish trust and prove Goulet’s thought leadership standing in their niche. This content proves Goulet’s authority, meaning customers know their products are of the highest possible quality.

As a result, the brand becomes the ‘go-to’ whenever readers look for some new writing inspiration. No expensive PR campaign is needed because Goulet’s amazing owned content swamps Google’s search results in a stream of ink-blotted glory.

Goulet Pens Search Results

The earned media that does rank is more easily shaped by the content Goulet has proliferated. Anyone writing a story related to Goulet Pens doesn’t need to look far for its research. You can refocus the resources you spend trying to influence the media into becoming the media provider yourself.

Don’t rely on the journalists, bloggers and reviewers of the world to give your brand a pat on the back. Prove it. Let your content do the talking. If your customers think it’s good enough, Google will take care of the rest.

US eCommerce fashion retailer slash media company Net-A-Porter know the value of owned content. They really have created content so good you would pay for it. $60 a year to be precise.

Porter Magazine

Their newly released Porter Magazine makes Vogue look like an overall clad, spots-on-stripes fashion hick.

Instead of compiling an annual advertising budget to throw at the high fashion mags of the world, Net-A-Porter has decided to jump in and create their own publication every bit as good. Their readers are prepared to pay for the content, their competitors are preparing to pay them for advertising and the content marketing world is standing back to applaud perhaps the finest launch in the fashion industry’s esteemed history.

Net-A-Porter is controlling the representation of their brand and getting paid to do it. By their customers. Who is also throwing a bit more money Net-A-Porter’s way when they want to buy one of the gorgeous products profiled on-page.

So what shows up in a Net-A-Porter Google search? Just a little mention in the New York Times. Suddenly the earned media is about Net-A-Porter’s owned content. The PR team is publicising an owned asset. The interest pushes readers to the Porter magazine, exactly where the marketing team want the Google searcher to do their online due diligence.

Net A Porter Search Results

You have the keys to an online media empire. Entertain, educate and inform your customers on your owned media properties. Find them on social media. Draw them back to killer blog content. Sign them up for email updates. Publish regularly, consistently, brilliantly. If you do a better job than the media, you control your own message. Google can’t help but listen in.

A few notes for those scientific researchers playing along at home:

  • For the sake of simplicity, we analysed the core brand name only
  • Variations such as “brand reviews” or “brand vouchers” were left for another time, these deserve a post of their own (they are much harder to control)
  • Chrome Incognito mode was used to remove personalisation

Remember, think customers first, search engines second. Create entertaining, informative and educational content then dominate search results with a killer online promotion plan.

Good luck online.

Gorilla Out.

By Scott Evans
As co-founder and Director of Gorilla 360, Scott has spent the last 12 years helping businesses grow through smart digital marketing.
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