Sales originate through traffic. Google is the number one source of traffic, accounting for up to 80 percent of total traffic on e-commerce sites (organic, paid, and shopping). Does Google like your site? And, most importantly, does Google like and deliver traffic to your product page, on which the "add to cart" button is located? We analyzed the top 20 e-commerce sites (Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide 2010) and here's what we found. While most sites do a good job optimizing their pages/URLs, many sites have ignored their user-generated content (UGC), which is unfortunate, because that content is often the most valuable in Google's eyes.
Why does Google not index customer reviews on 65 percent of the top 20 sites' product pages?
The customer reviews are displayed in an iFrame. Google, Bing, and Yahoo do not attribute content in an iFrame to that page. This means that user-generated content in an iFrame will not be attributed and indexed on the product page that it's contained within.
Who's Doing It Well?
Amazon's reviews on its product pages are indexed by Google. Staples, Apple, Sears, SonyStyle, NewEgg, and Grainger also have reviews indexed by Google, rounding out those in the top 20.
Below is what an Amazon and Staples' product page looks like to Google. In gray, under the retailer logo, you'll see the Amazon/Staples product page as consumers see it. Under the Google icon next to each consumer view, you'll see the same page as Google sees it, highlighting indexed UGC in green.
What you'll notice about the above examples is that in addition to standard product page keywords such as product name and description, Google is also indexing the extensive consumer-generated keywords produced by reviews.
Who Doesn't Google Index on the Product Page?
On the other side of the fence are those displaying customer reviews in a way that Google cannot recognize on the product page. We found that 65 percent of the top 20 e-commerce sites do not have indexable customer reviews on their product page. Bold/red clients on the list indicate those not being indexed:
|IR Rank||Retailer Name||Indexable UGC?|
|2||Staples Contract & Commercial, Inc.||Yes|
|5||Office Depot Inc.||No|
|6||Wal-Mart.com USA, LLC||No|
|10||Best Buy Co.||No|
|15||Costco Wholesale Corp.||No|
|16||J.C. Penney Co. Inc.||No|
|17||HP Home & Home Office Store||No|
|18||Victoria's Secret Direct||No|
|19||W.W. Grainger, Inc.||Yes|
|20||Macys.com (Macy's West)||No|
In contrast to the Amazon and Staples examples above, the following is what Walmart, Best Buy, Home Depot, and Office Depot look like to Google. Again, the gray version under each retailer logo shows how consumers view the product page. Next, on each consumer view, you'll see the same page under a Google icon, showing the page as Google sees it with red outlines highlighting the content gaps where Google is not indexing anything.
These retailers have opportunities to increase their SEO. Why can't Google index this content? To recap from above, it's because Google, Bing, and Yahoo do not see content in an iFrame, and therefore do not index any of the user-generated content contained within one.
In addition to having proven conversion impact, customer reviews on the product page are a key component for improving your organic search results. Here's what to do to ensure that your product pages are optimized for UGC to drive more organic search traffic.
How to Increase Traffic With Customer Content
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Cathy has over 20 years of experience in both multichannel and online retail and a deep understanding of consumer needs and goals. Cathy's proven track record spans a range of industries and companies, from start-up ventures to multibillion dollar operations. Cathy is currently a Board Member at Ulta Beauty (ULTA), the largest beauty retailer that provides one-stop shopping for prestige, mass, and salon products and salon services in the United States. She has served as SVP, marketing & sales at PowerReviews, the world's most widely deployed social commerce platform, where she was responsible for overseeing the company's rapid customer and revenue growth. Prior to PowerReviews, Cathy held executive-level positions at Walmart: chief marketing officer Walmart.com, vice president of market development, global e-commerce, and vice president of product management and multichannel integration. Ms. Halligan has also held executive positions with leading retailers Williams-Sonoma, Gymboree, and Blue Nile, and was an associate partner at Prophet, a leading management consulting firm. She started her career as a marketing coordinator at Lands' End.
For real-time social commerce news and updates, follow Cathy on Twitter at @CathyHalligan.
March 19, 2014