Target and Home Depot join Apple, eBay and Etsy with biggest gains in Google search visibility

Google research finds rising customer expectations of online retail

Target and Home Depot are the only traditional bricks-and-mortar retailers whose online retail stores rank among the 10 eCommerce sites found to have made the biggest gains in Google.com search performance during the pandemic according to analysis by Searchmetrics.

Based on a comprehensive analysis of eCommerce brands’ overall improvement in Google search visibility during 2020, the Searchmetrics top ten winners list is dominated by the three big online marketplaces, Amazon, eBay and Etsy, together with the websites of technology giants, Apple, Microsoft and Verizon.

The list also includes home entertainment brand Nintendo which improved it search visibility by 85 per cent and Amazon-owned online audiobook and podcast service Audible which created a 567 per cent improvement.

No fashion eCommerce stores improved their search performance enough to make it into the overall 10 winners list. Most notable was the drop in performance from Macy’s, which lost over 20 per cent of its search visibility. Searchmetrics’ wider analysis identified H&M, ASOS and global fashion search platform, Lyst, as the top 3 brands that made the biggest search visibility gains on Google from within the fashion category over the course of 2020.

Top 10 eCommerce sites with the biggest improvements in Google search performance in COVID-19 Era

Rank Domain SEO Visibility Increase
(absolute)
SEO Visibility Increase in % Sector
1 apple.com 1914499 52% Electronics
2 amazon.com 1176625 10% Consumer Goods
3 ebay.com 919932 83% Consumer Goods
4 etsy.com 434489 55% Consumer Goods
5 verizon.com 327866 102% Electronics
6 microsoft.com 232120 15% Electronics
7 homedepot.com 189317 20% Home Improvements
8 nintendo.com 164921 85% Electronics
9 audible.com 158470 567% Personal Development
10 target.com 137706 13% Consumer Goods

The Searchmetrics study measured search performance by analysing weekly search results for millions of keywords throughout the year, scoring websites for factors such as how frequently they appear in results and how high they rank. The top ten ranking was based on a website’s absolute improvement in search performance between the start and end of 2020.

Some of the websites that made the top ten list like the online marketplaces are broad sites featuring a wide range of products, meaning the sheer breadth of content covering different items would give them a head start in organic search, in addition to their continued effort to SEO hygiene and indexed page quality. Established brands also generally do well because Google recognizes that they generate more trust from users in search results according to Searchmetrics.

“It’s not always easy to reduce to one reason why certain brands are winning on Google,” said Tyson Stockton VP client & account management US at Searchmetrics. “However, one important factor is that Google’s algorithm reacts to changes in user behaviour and this has given some brands a boost during the pandemic. For example, Google Trends data showed a big increase in searches for eCommerce brands such as Home Depot and Etsy especially during the first lockdown period in the spring and some experts believe this can carry over into helping those brands also rank higher for their generic non-branded search terms. Something similar may also explain the improved performance for the Nintendo website, because the ‘Nintendo Switch’ saw huge spikes in searches as people clamouredgoogle for home entertainment and gadgets during the lockdowns – Google is then able to make the association that home entertainment queries are relevant to “Nintendo Switch.”

Apple.com generated significant gains in search visibility in the last weeks of the 2020 due to a significant boost of the App Store in the Google rankings.

Looking ahead, in 2021 Google is introducing its new ranking factor, the Core Web Vitals which is scheduled to roll out in May and Tyson Stockton advises that this will significantly impact eCommerce websites this year:

“Core Web Vitals will reward websites that deliver a good user experience in areas such as load time, interaction, and stability. eCommerce stores that are well prepared for this new ranking factor will be able to gain an all-important competitive edge in Google rankings.

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