If you’ve been searching on Google in the last couple of weeks you may have noticed some changes to the layout of the search results page. Google has launched its new advanced search layout and there are plenty of snazzy things you can do with your search results, some of which were available before but perhaps tucked away and therefore you may not have known about them.
There are plenty of great blog posts (like this one from @dannysullivan) that run you through the different options available and how to use them. However, we thought we would focus on some of the main functions that benefit retailers and how they can use them to improve on their multichannel marketing efforts.
First let’s have a look at the new column on the left where all these lovely new tools sit.
If we conduct a search for “designer handbags” this is the page of results we get.
For a while now Google has incorporated a number of different media types, such as images and video, into their natural search results (this is called Universal Search in Google’s case or blended search elsewhere). Google’s new look search results page now includes a very useful list of search options on the left hand side making it easy to refine your search according to images, blog posts, news, video and so on.
Once you have refined your search, to view video results only for example, you are presented with a further set of options in the lower part of the left hand column to refine your results still further. In the case of video, you can refine by length, quality and source (amongst others).
We believe this added functionality presents a number of opportunities for multichannel retailers, namely to:
- Increase brand & product visibility to shoppers
- Find influential people to review and talk about products
- Find and engage with customers
- Research hot topics to help shape a social search strategy
- Help measure the impact of your marketing efforts and tweak accordingly
Let’s look at each of these in turn:
Increase brand & product visibility to shoppers
Consumers are becoming far more sophisticated in how they search for products online. The new layout from Google will facilitate this and retailers need to be aware of the areas where they must be prominent by presenting relevant content:
Although image search has been a large part of the Google experience for a while now the more prominent advanced search option opens up opportunities to increase the visibility of your products to engaged searchers.
As you can see, a search for “designer handbags” now brings up the normal page of results but with a whole new bunch of refined searches in the left hand column. You can now refine by size, type of image, and even colour.
By creating great imagery in the first instance and then optimising it accordingly, this is a great opportunity for retailers to have their products featuring for a wider range of targeted searches. Make sure your product images are named according to the type of image (i.e. photo, drawing, etc) and include other details, such as colour.
The more well optimised imagery you have on your site, the more exposure your products will get within image search. And as retailers will only be too well aware, when prospects are shopping online, especially for higher ticket items, great imagery can have a significant impact on conversion rates.
Video is a further extension of good imagery and allows a higher level of engagement with customers. Product demonstrations or showing the product in a real life situation, such as catwalk style clips for clothing, can have a dramatic impact on conversion rates. And with a more prominent position on the search results page, and numerous options to refine video results, we should see more searchers viewing more videos on the search engines.
With the rise of YouTube and social media it’s been increasingly important to get involved in creating video content for the past few years. Now that Google has opened up its video results it is even more so.
Again, make sure you are optimising your video properly whether you are putting it on your site or on channels such as YouTube.
Maps The maps results option in the new layout shows Google Local Search results overlaid on a map. Therefore those looking to buy a product in a particular location can find the nearest store stocking that item. This has huge potential for retailers, especially as so few currently appear to have local business listings for their stores, optimised with their key products. Look at the results when we conduct our search for “designer handbags”:
Regardless of product range or number of stores there is huge potential in setting up and optimising Google Local Listings to ensure you are visible to regional shoppers, and importantly those searching on smart phones using mapping applications.
Find influential people to review and talk products
As search marketing and PR have converged, an essential component of a successful digital marketing strategy for retailers is engaging with ‘influencers’. In other words, bloggers, journalists, twitterers and owners of Facebook groups whose opinions, comments and product reviews can have a significant bearing on a retailers sales, brand visibility and reputation, as well as search engine rankings (every review can generate a link to a brands site).
There are two sections of the new advanced search layout that we think can help retailers in their search for those all important influencers.
Using this advanced search feature, when searching for product related keywords, will yield a list of bloggers most relevant to those products i.e. those people that appear to be most active in talking about, designer handbags, for example:
This gives the retailer a great starting point to select the bloggers they should be building relationships with. It may be that a retailer sends their latest product as an exclusive for the blogger to review, perhaps offer some useful content or ask if they could have a guest blog slot. By building these relationships it gains the retailer extra visibility, traffic and perhaps even a link or two!
The refined search options include ‘by timeframe’ so bloggers can be approached who have been talking about the retailers type of products in the last few days, making this search option fantastic for identifying those talking about the latest trends and topics (particularly relevant to fashion).
The ‘updates’ section in the advanced search results shows what’s happening on social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook. These networks are highly relevant to retailers as many of their prospects and customers will be active in talking about, sharing and reviewing their latest purchases. Like bloggers and journalists, individual customers can also have an influencing affect over their friends, colleagues and peers.
Using the updates results section retailers can look through the list of people mentioning their specific products, or similar products, and what they are saying about them. They can then click through to visit relevant Twitter or Facebook profiles to see how many followers/fans/friends they have to determine their level of influence.
Engaging with prospects and customers across social media channels, in an open and public way, can lead to a positive mention of a particular product which will be seen by all the influencers followers. In addition to this, updates from networks such as Twitter, are increasingly being featured in search results, and in real-time, so regular mentions of a retailers brand or products in these spaces will start to have more and more impact on their search engine visibility.
Engage with customers
There are 2 areas of the new layout that retailers can utilise to engage on a one on one basis with customers:
This section as we have mentioned previously not only allows a retailer to research influential people who are talking about their products but also allows them to engage directly with them.
This great blog post by Danny Sullivan shows that by searching using terms such as “anyone know + key product” it will show all of the updates from people likely to be asking questions about those products. In turn, the retailer can answer those questions publicly therefore engaging with a customer or prospect, whilst also demonstrating to anyone else who might see that conversation that they are personable and care about the individual customer.
In exactly the same way as an update search, the discussions search will show discussions happening in forums across the web related to particular products. This, again, is a great opportunity for retailers to get involved where their target audience is hanging out and provide the answers to their questions in a completely transparent manner. Be informative but friendly and the added brand visibility, loyalty and back links could have a dramatic affect on sales.
In the example below we have used the “anyone know” search again.
Again, there are a number of refined searches that can be used to filter by time and length of discussion, for example. Retailers should utilise these to make sure the discussions they get involved with are timely and on topic.
Research hot topics for a social search strategy
Central to the success of a digital marketing strategy for retailers is creating great content, in a wide variety of formats.
Creating useful content aimed at prospects and customers increases time spent on site, conversion rates, brand visibility, loyalty and search engine visibility. But how do retailers decide the type and format of content that will be most useful to their audience?
They use Google advanced search features, such as News and Updates of course!
Retailers will know the key products they want to create content around (the ones that yield the most sales and/or best margins). Using relevant search terms within the News section of Google search gives great insight into what is being written around those products at the moment and by who, as well as further insight into changes in the retailers industry that might affect core customers.
Retailers should look at what is being said within the online publications that their target market would read. If there is talk about “designer handbags being stolen” then write a guide to keeping expensive accessories safe or insuring against theft. If there is a key celebrity endorsing a certain handbag then write a blog post about how a particular range would suit the outfits they wear.
Again the search can be refined by date so retailers know they are writing about hot topics.
Researching using updates can give great insight and ideas to help shape a content strategy.
A key piece of information is the time line at the top of the page which shows peaks and troughs in mentions of a certain product. Retailers can therefore plan to release fresh content around a certain product at the time where activity online is at it’s highest. Strike while the iron is hot!
See the impact of marketing efforts and tweak accordingly
The Update tool is also extremely useful to measure the impact that a marketing campaign is having on brand mentions and conversation online.
The example below shows the conversation around the Burberry “Art of the Trench” campaign. It combines Facebook and Twitter updates and shows what people think of the campaign and the way they are engaging. Burberry can use this data to tweak the campaign to address any issues people have with it and focus the content around the campaign to fit with the language their target audience are using to talk about it.
As the updates are in real time, using these search filters can give an instant picture of online sentiment surrounding a campaign as it is launched to allow tweaking for better engagement and results.
Retailers can find the people who are evangelising about the campaign, engage with them and get the message spread further, deal with any confusion others may have about how to get involved and tweak the optimisation of content according to the language people are using online.
This type of response tracking works equally well with other types of marketing material likely to form part of a multichannel marketing strategy. Just sent out a catalogue? Then check what people are saying online. Are they happy to have received it, what do they think of the layout and so on?
Or perhaps track people’s immediate response to a new advertising campaign, such as this search for ‘M and S’.
We have only really touched the surface here on the opportunities offered to retailers with the new layout from Google. We have not even mentioned Google Shopping Search!
As mentioned before many of these options for search have been around for a while but many people using Google will not have been utilising them. Now they are right there in front of the customers eye retailers should be working hard to ensure their digital marketing efforts tie in with them.
The additional research tools offered are absolutely free! Any retailer who can’t afford sophisticated buzz monitoring and social media research tools should view Google’s added functionality as a viable alternative.