News • 11.02.2022

'Bricks beat Clicks' on Google as Walmart, Nordstrom and BestBuy make search visibility gains

Brick-and-mortar retailers dominate Searchmetrics’ top 10 eCommerce winners

A search field of a search engine in front of a digital colorful background;...
Source: PantherMedia/Wavebreakmedia (YAYMicro)

Traditional big box retailers and department store brands with brick-and-mortar locations dominate the list of top ten eCommerce websites with the biggest gains in google.com search performance in 2021, new research finds.

While apple.com enjoyed the biggest absolute boost in search visibility during 2021, established retail brands walmart.com, nordstrom.com, bestbuy.com and target.com are in the top five in the analysis by Searchmetrics.

No pure-play eCommerce brand (those without physical stores) made the top ten winners list. And while three major online marketplaces – amazon.com, ebay.com and etsy.com – were among the major eCommerce winners in search in the 2020 analysis, no online marketplaces featured in 2021.

“The pandemic continued to impact people’s ability or willingness to shop freely in physical stores last year, meaning curb-side pickup, click-and-collect and buy online pickup instore (BOPIS) have been booming. So perhaps it’s fitting that the sites that have made the most gains in search during the year are mainly those with physical stores who can offer shoppers these options,” said Lillian Haase, CMO of Searchmetrics. “During the pandemic, the brick-and-mortar retailers invested significantly in improving their web presence, product range and their purchase, delivery and collection processes. They seem to have accepted the challenge to compete with online marketplaces and they are seeing some good success, as this study reveals.”

Top 10 eCommerce sites with the biggest improvements in Google search performance in 2021

Rank
Domain
SEO visibility increase (absolute number)
SEO visibility increase (in %)
1
apple.com
1,005,355
19%
2
walmart.com
718,040
36%
3
nordstrom.com
461,831
183%
4
bestbuy.com
448,982
47%
5
target.com
402,730
33%
6
homedepot.com
106,706
10%
7
lowes.com
84,023
17%
8
macys.com
75,008
12%
9
costco.com
72,790
34%
10
ikea.com
71,533
48%


2021 was a busy year for search with the roll-out of two major core algorithm updates (in June / July and November). Google uses core updates to correct and optimize its algorithm to ensure it is delivering the most relevant results. While the timing of the November update was criticized for hitting retailers close to the holiday shopping season, Searchmetrics’ analysis shows it actually had a positive impact on the Google visibility of retail websites including bestbuy.com and target.com.

July also saw the roll-out of the Core Web Vitals update (also known as the Page Experience update) in which Google began rewarding websites that deliver a good user experience in areas such as load time, interaction, and stability. This new ranking factor is not just important for eCommerce stores’ visibility in search, it also has a positive impact on revenue and conversions.

Also, Instagram, which many retailers use to drive product discovery, saw traffic and sales achieve an unprecedented rise in absolute search visibility in Google.com searches. While its competitor Pinterest was one of the biggest losers in 2021. “This trend is the same across all the countries we analyzed; Instagram seems to be getting a lot right, while Pinterest seems to have fallen out of favor with Google,” said Haase.


The Searchmetrics study measured search performance by analyzing 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 2021.

Source: Searchmetrics

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