By Paul Norris, Organic Media Director at twentysix
The organic search landscape in the home retail sector has seen a dramatic change over the past few years. Historically, big brands and high street retailers have dominated organic search largely due to brand size, authority and visibility for generic search terms. But improvements to the algorithm, diversification of search results and increased expectation from searchers have caused things to shift.
When it comes to the ‘beds and mattresses’ niche, some big players in the sector have lost their footing whilst some specialists (see Happy Beds) have edged ahead of retail giants such as Ikea, Amazon and Wayfair. So how have they achieved this? By putting their audience first, scaling their website to capture demand and doing this all in a user-friendly way.
We take a look at three areas where home retailers should be focusing their efforts to win at SEO this year and beyond.
The past year has been anything but normal. Consumers’ wants and needs changed, typical seasonal trends were bucked and planned campaigns were no longer fitting as a result. Brands that were able to reduce friction and make a difficult time a little easier came out on top. So how did the leading beds retailers provide a seamless experience and increase discoverability?
- Creating collections and categories for emerging trends. For example, an increase in people working from home means increased demand for working areas in bedrooms. Beds with storage, ottomans and divans have seen sharp rises in demand.
- Adapting their navigation to signpost users. By analysing navigation patterns, on-site search data and market search demand, you can gauge what your audience is looking for. Ensuring your most-searched mattress size and type is included in your main navigation is a must.
- Embracing new enquiry methods. Whatsapp, Facetime and Skype went from being largely personal methods of enquiry to being essential for business.
- Offering broader payment options to remove barriers to sale. Think: PayPal, Amazon Pay and ‘buy now, pay later’ options. Klarna and Clearpay have seen significant growth, supporting customers in purchasing higher ticket items such as beds.
- Providing slick website experiences. High-performing brands prioritise both UX and technical performance, which go hand-in-hand. Whilst a strong technical foundation has always been the base of SEO success, Google’s upcoming algorithm change will make page experience metrics a stronger ranking factor this summer.
Own the messy middle
The home retail sector has not only experienced an increase in searches, but an increase in more varied searches too. Query length and complexity grows as people ask Google questions about bed sizes and quiz mattress features. Customers look for the best possible deal, with 78% of users in the home sector visiting six sites or more throughout their buying journey, comparing different retailers.
This behaviour is expected to stay. The growth of the “messy middle” means opportunity to get in front of in-market shoppers seeking your products. Being there when needed is one of the strongest brand building benefits of search.
- Deepen, don’t dilute. Whilst it may be tempting to try to capture all pockets of demand with the addition of new categories and indexable facets for all possible attributes, it’s not the best approach. To capitalise on demand, add depth to your current content by expanding in a staggered way – focus on what will drive ROI.
- Embrace the ‘lengthening longtail’. Customers are using more complex and specific queries (think: bed sizes, shapes, colours & styles) than ever before. Search queries that combine these features and attributes grow as people edge closer to conversion.
- Use paid search data. PPC accounts are a gold mine to find out what queries convert well. Use query-level PPC conversion data to inform where to focus your SEO efforts.
- Increase your digital shelf space. Retailers must be able to capitalise on all available SERP features to increase visibility. Plan, create and optimise content with featured snippets and PAAs (People Also Ask) in mind.
Search demand in the beds and mattresses space remains high in 2021. Whilst down -5% on April last year (1 month deep into lockdown), there’s been a +42% uplift against 2019. Planning ahead is more challenging than before, but brands should keep in mind:
- Lockdowns, sale periods and viral demand (the chlorophyll craze, most recently) all act as catalysts for shifts; making average monthly search volume a poor proxy for year-round demand. Keep this is mind when planning.
- Historic search volumes by month are useful in understanding how demand changes seasonally and use data around previous milestones to get an idea on how market demand shifts.
- Searches for bed styles have far outstripped other attributes, with extra storage still in high demand. Searches for Divan beds and bases increased by +4% YoY (+40% vs 2019), whilst searches for beds “with storage” increased by +6% (+66% vs 2019).
Significant opportunity awaits brands that can capture the growing demand by being there when needed, and delivering a smooth, content-rich experience.