Google has conquered the search engine market, email market, and smartphone OS market. It became the undisputed champion of internet traffic and still is the most visited website in the world. But it always hungered to rule other lucrative markets. Their failed attempt at being a social network with Google+ was a sore reminder that not everything Google touches turns to gold. Back in 2012, they made their first big move into eCommerce beyond just price comparisons with the rebranded Google Shopping. Now they aim to directly challenge a company so big and powerful, one whose CEO can afford to purchase Luxembourg. We’re talking about Amazon of course helmed by eventually to be the first trillionaire Jeff Bezos and possibly supervillian:
As we covered in our previous article on the subject, Google has recently made a bold move into the eCommerce marketplace playing field by offering to list products on the shopping tab for free. Essentially, at least for now, most shopping search results are entirely organic for all products that are not being boosted by paid ads.
Usually, updates like these generate mostly SEO/SEM centered articles, but this is big enough that even mainstream outlets such as Bloomberg have covered it.
If there is one field that took the COVID-19 impact relatively well, it’s eCommerce. Some eCommerce niches such as jewelry and other luxury items have dropped in traffic while others such as supplements, house necessities, and toys rose.
Multi-billion dollar companies became billionaires because they are good at seizing opportunities. While most of us see a crisis unfolding and are busy just trying to survive, they ask themselves “How do we buy the dip?”.
Amazon, for example, has been making moves to establish their dominance as more and more small retailers fall under threat of collapse. The demand for household goods and necessities has risen to such an extent that at the start of the crisis, they hired an additional 100k workers to handle the crazy spike in demand. Amazon also started slashing commission rates to affiliates, which made it lose favor among sellers and marketers. It’s no wonder then, why Google would unveil this move now of all times.
Google is becoming an alternate marketplace where all small online shops can offer their goods for free with ease is a clear advance on Amazon’s turf.
Just what odds does Google have to beat in order to make a noticeable stance among marketplaces? And what perks does it offer which can give Amazon a run for its money? And most importantly, should you move your bets and start specializing in Google shopping SEO?
To understand Google’s claim here, we have decided to compare the two combatants. So today we will go over some cool stats and facts, and by the end of this, you can formulate your own opinion on the matter!
Google vs. Amazon: The differences
Daily product searches
Google may rule general search, but Amazon still rules eCommerce search, by a respectable margin.
According to a few surveys compiled by emarketer, two-thirds of respondents claimed they start their product search on Amazon and not Google.
Amazon has been edging closer to Google since 2015 in product-related searches, and in 2018 eventually passed Google to become effectively the biggest eCommerce search engine on the planet.
Another survey found that 9 out of 10 consumers will research a price on Amazon. So, a visit to Amazon for a product search is virtually guaranteed down the purchase line, even if it doesn’t start there.
Amazon is the 12th most visited website on the planet and enjoys targeted intended purchase traffic of about 90 million daily visitors, not including the local Amazon versions, which also enjoy their fair share of the locally targeted slew of visitors.
The process of product research, which will result in a purchase, will likely pass through BOTH websites. But there is a difference in buyer intent here in favor of Amazon, even if the same high purchase intent keyword is searched. Google is still perceived as a general search engine, so if a user searches to buy something on Google, he might still be in the research phase and further away from taking action.
Google’s recent move aims to change that so that more purchasing intent will be associated with Google than ever before. If it becomes popular, this may end up being the case.
Amazon not only enjoys high buyer intent but also has the powers of Amazon Prime and fast deliveries. Both features are a HUGE sales booster. Early 2020 Amazon Prime had 150 million subscribers, a figure which has likely grown since the pandemic started. Prime users are more active buyers than other Amazon users (which are by default more likely to buy, even without the perks of Prime).
Amazon currently holds the gold standard of fast delivery times, with 1-day deliveries for Prime-eligible products, which also show the Prime icon to let people know on the SERP which product belongs to prime, and which doesn’t.
This 1-day standard is only likely to improve as the technology to deliver with drones improves (eventually leading to our subjugation by them from a vengeful super A.I. Alexa, but that is for another story).
Since Prime also offers streaming content with Prime Video that aims to compete with Netflix, people are more tempted to keep their memberships, and as a result, are more mentally prone to shop with Prime discounts and delivery times.
The only way Google can compete here is by possibly offering sellers on their platform a fast and reliable delivery service of their own. They could link their YouTube Red streaming services to products akin to what Amazon does with Prime Video. No mentions of such a plan have been made yet, so Amazon has an edge with this one.
Having said that, Google still holds some novelty factor and the ability to target those non-Prime users that have no paid loyalty to Amazon.
A significant portion of people uses voice searches with actual buying intent, especially when it comes to shopping from lists people made in advance. We also made an article about the rise of voice search, which you should add to your open tabs for later.
Google and Amazon also compete heavily in the voice search market with their virtual assistants Alexa and Google Assistant and smart speakers Amazon Echo and Google Home. They have even traded blows in this field by Amazon withholding search results for Google Home, and Google in response, pulling YouTube from Amazon’s video services.
According to the Edison Research group, there are more than 53 million smart speakers in use. Amazon wins in the smart speaker race meanwhile with a 61% market share of home smart speakers.
However, virtually every smartphone has a virtual assistant, and there are estimated to be more than 272 million smartphone users in the U.S. alone. Google dominates the smartphone OS market with a 76% market share via Android, which uses Google Assistant by default.
Alexa uses Google for general searches, but for products will go to its source – Amazon. Google will likely start taking search results for products from their new organic shopping SERP, which may not include Amazon, thus giving them the edge purely numbers-wise.
Ease of use
Google made sure to make the opt-in process for Google shopping easy – if you want to sell on Google, you need to be a registered Merchant Center user and go over documentation that shows you how to feature your product in their search feed. You don’t even need to be an AdWords user to start listing products, just like the regular search results and GMB.
Next, if you want to boost your organic visibility with paid ad campaigns, Google Shopping ads are as easy to use as AdWords, and after a quick review of their explanation, it should be smooth sailing.
Amazon has a steeper learning curve with several unique layers. You’ll need to familiarize yourself with their strict guidelines, how the A9 search algorithm works, various quirks, the different levels of product pages, how to place content and keywords correctly on your product pages, and a unique Ad placement system to name a few.
As for shoppers, Amazon is slightly trickier to handle and may require more clicks to complete the transaction, especially for new non-registered users.
Google has a smoother process that can, in some cases, take shoppers directly into the payment stage via their shopping interface, which includes Google Pay with all the saved information, with no logging in or registering to anything other than their Google account. Don’t forget that many are already automatically signed into their Google account passively with chrome and android smartphones.
Visibility on Google
While many start their search directly on Amazon, Google remains both a neutral ground and a competitor on its own court.
Google fuels Amazon’s success and has helped Amazon become the giant it is today by featuring them on top of the SERP for most product searches, simply because the algo benefits websites with huge amounts of traffic. Now they will have to face the monster they helped create.
Amazon currently spends a lot to be featured on both AdWords and Google Shopping Ads and, as a result, takes a huge visibility chunk out of Google’s SERP. If Google wants a solid fighting chance, they might start featuring organic results for the shopping snippet, thus weakening Amazon’s ability to dominate the search results.
Other than being listed organically and for free. By using Google’s Smart Shopping, you will be featured in Product Shopping ads, Local Inventory ads, and display responsive ads (including dynamic remarketing and dynamic prospecting). These ads are eligible to appear on the Google Search Network, Display Network, YouTube, and Gmail among others.
SEO: Google SEO and rank tracking is the main focus of our blog, and the internet is full of information and tips (Here’s our meta-guide on how to find the best tips and guides on SEO for beginners). It widely depends on which niche you will be competing in. But generally speaking, Google SEO is considered a hard multidisciplinary skill to master and is very competitive and time-consuming.. Will shopping SEO be easier than regular SEO? Time will tell. For now, what we know is that it exists, and as time goes by, more strategies will be shared.
Amazon has its own unique ranking algorithm called A9 with its own SEO dynamics and ranking factors to learn. The internet is full of specific Amazon SEO strategies, which is also why we made our own Amazon SEO guide as well (part 1, 2 ,3). Amazon SEO doesn’t require backlink chasing like Google. However, it still will require you to master content placing while abiding their guidelines, being a wise marketer with a good aesthetic sense, optimize product pages, and more.
Amazon has three main ranking factors: CTR, conversion rates, and sales, which lead to a higher ranking. These factors are like Google’s ranking factors of visits and bounce rates. Generally, Amazon SEO is considered easier than Google SEO but certainly not easy.
Since Google shopping SEO is a new field, it’s unclear which one will be easier to rank on.
As we mentioned on more than one occasion and even in a separate article, reviews are one of the main influencers of purchase. They can be the difference between someone buying or bouncing, which is why they deserve their own consideration here.
Amazon features reviews left by their users and is plagued by fake reviews and system tampering. To this, they have been too slow to act, and as a result, you need a browser extension such as ReviewMeta or Fakespot to check review authenticity for you.
Also, Amazon doesn’t have the option to sort products by reviews, which I personally always found to be aggravating.
Google features reviews collected from all the sources that they crawled, and this means that review wise it will be better for a high-quality product which is well liked by people to be listed on Google. Since it will aggregate reviews from every place that they crawled, this includes sources that don’t depend on Amazon, such as your website and other directories. Having a larger number of reviewers to explore gives a slight edge to Google in this case. Google also allows users to sort by review score, which in my book is also a plus.
Price and Ads
Amazon is made as a sales-funnel by design and enjoys traffic already set on acting. Their funnel pages only require that you insert content the correct way. You can also choose several levels of product pages with basic, Enhanced Brand Content (EBC) and Amazon A+ Content.
Ranking high for A9, and running ad campaigns, can get expensive and have poor ROI if you offer a low-quality product and are not well familiar with their ad placing system. Amazon is also a free-for-all battleground. It allows brands to place bids on terms that have their competitor brands in them, and also doesn’t restrict relevancy that much, allowing, for example, expensive branded products to be featured for a search term that has “cheap” in it. You can calculate the pros and cons of such a system based on your preferred marketing style and budget strategy.
Amazon not only charges a commission of every sale and ad but can effectively become your direct competitor by launching their own Amazon brand product similar to yours if your product proves “too successful.” As a competitor you will have a hard time fighting them in their home turf. And as we’ve mentioned earlier, adding product on Google, and buying Ads will see you facing Amazon as well as your direct smaller competitors.
Google, on the other hand, offers organic shopping listings for free, but we all know there is no such thing as ‘free’ in this field. You will eventually have to either optimize products yourself, which takes your valuable time and effort, hire an SEO expert to do it for you, pay affiliate commissions to promote you, and directly pay for ads to boost visibility. Google shopping SEO will likely get expensive. And depending on how accepted and popular this feature and search becomes, it might also eventually get a nice chunk of exposure. The more people associate Google with direct buying and not just searching, the better the ROI will become, but also SEO will become more expensive and competitive.
Ad-wise, Google has a wide variety of top used platforms where their ads can reach – their main SERP, the Shopping tab, YouTube, AdWords hosted on websites, and most importantly – Gmail, which now features shopping ads. And their bidding system is more “honest” restricting the extent to which brands can bid on competitor brands, and factors in content relevancy more heavily than Amazon.
Essential key information
The key information points a customer usually needs to know about a product are:
Ø Which brand is the product
Ø Who is the seller
Ø What is the price
Ø Is the product also purchasable in-store and where
Ø Does the product have any unique features
Ø What the reviews are saying
Ø What are the delivery options and price
Ideally, these points need to be discernible at a glance without too much scattering about.
Amazon offers this information with ease but is also scattered with shiny thumbnails, ads, and often exaggerated product pages boosted with many images and a lot of details. Not to mention the other noises we listed above, which include fake reviews and not the greatest search relevancy.
Sometimes people already know what they want to buy and just need the gist of it – the main points (mostly reviews + best price). Amazon has a lot of distractions, pitfalls, and noise that can hinder the purchase process of already decided customers and lower the user experience quality.
Google offers a slick, minimalist direct design that shows the essentials, with simpler and faster search filters, making it much less noisy than Amazon and better for “hotter” customers and the overall user experience.
For example, if a user searches for a product like ‘running shoes,’ they will be able to filter out the results according to what they need, such as by a specific brand, color, size, feature, price, and more. Google will deliver them the more relevant results, with all the key points visible in one box. Once the person has found the product they need, they’ll see their pick of buying options, either to purchase straight from the merchant’s website, from a physical store near them (via GMB and location targeting), or even directly through Google within the shopping interface. These purchases are backed by a Google Guarantee, customer service, and easy returns). This possibly shortens the clicks that are needed to complete the purchase.
Key points and takeaways
Ø More product and eCommerce searches
Ø 9 out of 10 shoppers will research the price on Amazon
Ø Higher buying intent for visitors as default
Ø Designed as a sales funnel as one of the main features
Ø Prime: 1-day delivery, often free, original streaming content, captive members
Ø More product voice searches on home speakers with Echo dominating the market
Ø SEO is considered less difficult than Google and requires fewer fields of expertise (but Google shopping SEO might be easier. Remains to be determined)
Ø More visible on Google’s SERP and AdWords than any other domain
Ø More potential traffic
Ø Buying intent of visitors can potentially rival Amazon given the right branding moves
Ø Possible rival solution to Amazon Prime at some point with YT Red and supported delivery service?
Ø More product voice searches on smartphone virtual assistants via Android market share
Ø Easier to use and handle than Amazon, simple opt-in process
Ø Organic listings are free (for now)
Ø Multi-platform ad visibility – the SERP, shopping tab, AdWords, Gmail, and YouTube
Ø Less noisy and cleaner design, potentially a better user experience
Ø Higher quality more relevant search results with no rival brands term targeting
Ø Currently less competitive since it’s just the beginning (but this will likely not last long and will soon become as hyper-competitive as Amazon)
Ø Sources and aggregates user reviews from all around the web
Ø Connection to physical store location via GMB
Ø Links to merchant’s website
Ø Direct purchase from Google’s shopping interface for some products (with a Google Guarantee)
Ø Price – which one is more affordable is hard to determine, since it’s very dependent on a case by case basis, with too many factors to consider.
It’s not easy to decide in this case who is better, since both show strengths and weaknesses. The best practice here seems to be – “why not both?” to get as much exposure as possible. But clearly, this isn’t affordable for all or even most merchants. Having a free organic product listed on Google can be a great additional sales outlet that can supplement your main website. It’s an opportunity many who can’t afford Amazon will gladly take. Because of that, Google will have the chance to develop its own unique group of exclusive sellers and brands, which originally could only be found on Google.
Now is also a good time and chance to solidify your claim in this new SEO field. This opportunity presents a nice opening to bounce back for SEO experts that have lost clients and took financial damage during this crisis (Here’s our guide on how to keep clients during the Coronavirus crisis while we’re at it!).
Do not be mistaken though, Amazon is still the number 1 search engine when it comes to eCommerce, and it will still be for a while longer. Even if Google puts up a solid fight, they might still not catch up even after several years.
If you liked this article, you should also check out our Amazon stats compilation and Google stats compilation, which has a more detailed breakdown of stats for each! Also, subscribe to our blog to be updated when we publish our next article.
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