Traditional Retailers Return Dismal Search Results

February 16, 2009

This article is included in these additional categories:

Analytics, Automated & MarTech | CPG & FMCG | Paid Search | Retail & E-Commerce | Search Engine Optimization

Online retailers represent more than 30% of the search listings from a typical online retail search on a major search engine, while brick-and-mortar stores only show up in searches 12% of the time, according to an analysis of search-engine results by Internet-Engine.


The results from the Retail Search Presence Study reveal that online-only retailers, such as, have a very strong presence in both paid and organic search listings, while brick-and-mortar retailers – despite a slight increase in search presence over the past three years – consistently have the weakest performance of every group, including manufacturers who do not sell directly to consumers, the study found.

The research suggests that traditional retailers might not be keeping up with changes in consumer behavior since they are relying on a brand-push marketing strategy while online retailers using search marketing present a consumer-pull strategy, said Internet-Engine.

“Online retailers have developed and maintained a dominant presence in search marketing,” said Thom Disch, Internet-Engine’s CEO and the director of the study. “To put this in perspective, when a shopper does a search on the internet, he or she will find three listings from on-line retailers for every one listing from a traditional retailer. I find it very surprising that brick and mortar retailers have not invested more dollars in search marketing, since e-commerce sales have grown 28% since 2006 (according to comScore) while total retail sales have grown by only 3% over the same time period.”

Free vs. Paid Results Show More Dramatic Difference

The study also compared paid and free search results and finds that the free or organic listings of the traditional retailer websites have only a 2% share of the total listings. This is dramatically smaller than the share for free listings for eCommerce sites at 17%, shopping comparison sites at 11% and manufacturers’ websites at 10%.


“Not appearing in the free listings means that the brick-and-mortar retailers must spend more of their money on paid search listings which ultimately will have a negative impact on their overall profitability,” said Disch. “Investing in search optimization techniques to increase the organic or free listings would help these traditional retailers by balancing their listing placements, reducing their overall costs and increasing their market presence.”

Comparison Sites Headed for Trouble?

Shopping comparison sites, such as and, showed the largest year over year drop in search presence, dropping from 27% in 2007 to 19% in 2008, Internet-Engine said, adding that – though it still may be too early to tell – this could spell trouble in the coming years.

About the study: Internet-Engine’s Retail Search Presence Study was conducted over the past three years during the holiday shopping season and included? analysis of more than 6,000 web pages in 10 product areas. Product areas included digital cameras, power drills, gaming systems, MP3Players, snow blowers, strollers, treadmills, TVs, GPS systems, and watches. This study analyzed both paid and organic listings that were presented on the three major search engines: Google, Yahoo and MSN Live.

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