If your eCommerce company is like many, your competitors fall into two categories:
And everybody else.
Unfortunately, Amazon has become harder and harder to compete with every year. Many eCommerce companies have given up on organic traffic altogether, knowing the top of those results are always dominated by Amazon.
Instead, they dedicate their budgets to paid traffic.
Many actually join forces with Amazon, giving up some of their revenues in exchange for not having to give up altogether.
That’s why this most recent Google algorithm update is so interesting to me.
Whether it was on purpose or not, the changes do seem to hurt Amazon.
In the fight between two online Goliaths, the victor may –finally– be smaller eCommerce companies.
Google’s Most Recent Core Algorithm Change
Back on December 3rd, Google confirmed that yet another core algorithm change was rolling out.
Most website owners weren’t thrilled, to say the least.
It’s natural to always bea little nervous when one of these algorithm changes occur.
But given that it’s 2020, all the site owners I know reacted with a collective:
This was the third update during a year that was already full of not-so-fun surprises.
And the one in May came shortly after it became clear that COVID-19 was here to stay, which made it especially unpopular.
So, even though we’ve come to expect 3-4 updates from Google every year, news that another one was actually happening despite ALL that 2020 had already put business owners through and that it was rolling out during the busiest shopping season of the year…
Well, it was a bit…aggravating.
While it’s still too early to know exactly what the fallout will be, so far, it definitely looks like the December core algorithm change is causing much more volatility than the one in May.
This chart by RankRanger paints a pretty clear picture:
The fun wasn’t over after the initial changes, either.
Reports of ranking disruptions spiked again on the 10th confirming that the full rollout hadn’t completed until the 9th.
If you’re interested in seeing how this update affected a whole host of individual sites, check out Barry Schwartz’s comprehensive breakdown of this latest Google update.
What I want to do in this post is review why this update may actually be a GOLDEN OPPORTUNITY for eCommerce sites, especially those who share one very big competitor.
In Google vs. Amazon, Are eCommerce Companies Going to Be the Winners?
So, yeah, I wasn’t exactly thrilled when Google announced that their early Christmas present would potentially shake up the rankings my agency and our clients have worked so hard to earn.
But as I began looking into what those changes entailed, I discovered something very interesting.
As Charles Floate reported in a video back on December 10th, the biggest loser of Google’s latest update seems to have been Amazon.
A Brief History of the War Between Google and Amazon
Though the two clearly benefit from one another, the relationship between these online super-powers began to fracture when Amazon became the most popular site for product searches back in 2018. That throne had pretty much always belonged to Google.
Among other things, this meant that Amazon started to generate ad dollars that once went to Google.
In 2019, this was still “only” $3 billion compared to Google’s $30 billion, but the point had been made: people were beginning to go directly to Amazon for the products they needed. Sellers were taking note and adjusting their ad budgets accordingly.
It should come as no surprise, then, that Google has taken numerous steps to fight back. From improving Google Shopping to introducing shoppable YouTube ads to, of course, revising their algorithm to better help them, “own the funnel.”
Still, this most recent update seemed like an especially notable example.
Maybe it’s just a happy coincidence that Amazon is taking the biggest hit.
Either way, I highly recommend that you take advantage of the situation right now by updating your site to level the playing field.
4 Steps You Should Take Right Away to Get an Edge on Amazon
Again, it’s still too early to know for sure, but if Google’s newest update really has made things harder for Amazon, that’s reason to celebrate for eCommerce sites that have gotten used to sitting in its shadow…waaaaaay down the rankings.
That’s also a reason to do the following ASAP.
1. Bulk Up Your Thin Content
Thin content describes the type of page that offers little-to-no value to your customers.
As such, it’s a problem that usually goes unfixed because what website owner believes they’re publishing pages that aren’t going to be helpful to their market?
Here’s the fastest and most effective way I know of to check if one of your webpages qualify as thin.
Check the first page of Google for the keyword you want it to rank for and see how it stacks up against the competition (assuming it’s not already there; if it is, you’re fine).
Are the other pages longer by a lot?
Then, consider bulking yours up with useful content. Take a page out of theirbook page and see what kind of information they have that yours doesn’t.
Maybe you could improve your product page by going into more detail about how yours works or what it’s most compelling benefits are.
You could create a comparison between your product and those of your competitors to make it clear why yours is the right choice.
Don’t stop at text, either.
Is your product page lacking images, graphics, or videos?
Now’s the time to add them.
Amazon limits how much and what kinds of content companies can add to their pages, so don’t take this opportunity lightly. Create the kinds of pages on your site that your competitors can’t on Amazon and show Google how much you care about your customers.
Don’t stop at product pages, either.
Take this moment to improve your blog posts, too.
If they haven’t been successful at generating traffic, check to see if thin content is the culprit. This could be an easy way to bypass competitors who have been relying solely on Amazon for sales and neglecting the need for a blog that drives traffic to their actual sites.
2. Start Making YouTube Videos
YouTube was one of the biggest winners of this latest update.
(I’m sure it has nothing to do with the fact that Google owns YouTube)
While Amazon allows videos on their product pages, there’s no limit to how many or what kind you can upload to YouTube and host right on your site.
Show your products in action.
Show video testimonials that prove how much your customers love them.
Use videos to show off how much you know and position yourself as the authority in your industry.
Year after year, YouTube videos are taking up more and more real estate at the top of Google, so they could quickly become your most reliable source of consistent organic traffic.
3. Start Building Backlinks
Make link-building a priority in 2021 to even the odds.
Amazon isn’t lacking for backlinks, but that doesn’t mean you should give up this tactic. Another takeaway from the latest algorithm update was that backlinks continue to be vital for placing high in Google’s search results.
This does not mean practicing broken link building or link insertions across low-authority domains. The latest update seemed to target those kinds of practices, so they may end up doing more harm than good. If you can use these techniques to build links through high-authority domains, then by all means.
Otherwise, roll up your sleeves and start guest posting, publishing high-quality blogs, and even creating the kinds of infographics that other companies will share on their sites (and backlink you in the process).
4. Improve Your Interlinking
Google seemed to reward sites with great interlinking during this update.
While it wasn’t enough to save Amazon from taking a hit, interlinking is something the massive site does do really well.
So, don’t let a lack of interlinking keep your site from catching up during this important time. Interlinking might be one of the easiest ways you can improve your website’s organic traffic.
The best way to go about handling this issue is to use an audit tool like SEMrush that can quickly identify where your site has orphaned pages or pages with only one incoming link.
That said, I’d also find time for a bit of a manual review so you can find other opportunities for interlinking. Read through your blogs – starting with the most popular ones – and look for chances to link to other pages on your site. This is a great way to help boost some of those pages that are struggling.
Don’t go crazy and spam your own site with interlinks, but the rule-of-thumb is that fewer than 100 links on one page is fine, so you shouldn’t have to worry about that too much.
Make 2021 the Year You Go After Amazon
At the very least, the recommendations I’ve made above will help your eCommerce site generate more organic traffic in the future.
However, if Google really is putting the squeeze on Amazon – and will continue to do so – this could be an incredible opportunity to win back some of the traffic it’s been taking from your store for years.
2020 was tough for most eCommerce sites.
Get busy ensuring 2021 will be much better.