SEO > Merchant Voice

Is Google the right search engine to optimize for?

In my previous post — “Is search engine optimization worth the effort?” — some readers questioned what I wrote. But no one picked up on my first assumption, that Google, being the largest search engine, is the one you should optimize for. This assumption is not always correct, and should be questioned.

The aim of an ecommerce site, presumably, is to attract customers — people who buy from your company. As such, look at your target customers’ search preferences: where they go and what they use in order to find the products they want to purchase. So whilst Google is the most popular search engine, the real question is what is the most popular search method for your target customers. There is little point in optimizing for Google if most of your prospects do not use it.

As an ecommerce seller, you hopefully know more about your target customers than the average search optimization company. You should have a good idea regarding the kind of websites and forums your prospects visit and the type of searches they do.

For instance, many shoppers start their search on Amazon and bypass Google completely. Others, such as collectors who buy and sell specialized items on Ebay, may start on Ebay, looking for certain products. For these potential customers, if they find what they are looking for on Amazon or Ebay, then no amount of optimization for Google that will attract them.

Likewise there may be niche-specific search engines or sites that provide a more popular resource for your target customers than Google. Almost certainly a percentage of potential customers will use Google, but it may not be the majority — depending on what you sell.


If most of your customers start their search on Ebay, then list your products on Ebay. There are many expert blogs that detail how best to list on Ebay. I will not repeat the full details here. But the important things are the obvious things. Choose the category carefully; have a good, descriptive title that includes the main key phrase that the shoppers will use; have a decent photograph; and have a good description.

These days Ebay requires an article number (an “EAN”) and the brand name to list most products. Whilst this may provide the key details that Ebay will include on the product listing, it will be the same for all your competitors. So use the title and description to improve your position on the Ebay search.


Optimizing for Amazon’s search is considerably different than for Google. This is because Amazon’s search is trawling through a database with fixed fields, rather than spidering a huge variety of pages and having to guess the meaning of them.

Amazon search uses all the fields it provides sellers. As such, when you create a product listing on Amazon, fill in as many of the fields as possible. For example if your product is red, then complete the color field. Otherwise, if you leave it blank and a shopper searched for that product and filtered by the color red, your listing would not appear. Likewise, complete the search nodes, as leaving them blank simply help your competitors. Fill in the bullet points, since Amazon search appears to give weight to the phrases used there.

In general, the more key phrase information you put on a product, the more likely it is going to appear at the top of the relevant search results.

Other Search Engines

Amazon and Ebay searches are only helpful if you list your products on those platforms, and if your prospects use those platforms.

Other than these two giants, there may be small niche resources that are more relevant to your market. Time spent researching these and getting known on them may provide a better return than optimizing for Google. If you do start driving traffic to your site from these alternative routes, this natural increase in traffic and natural increase in inbound links will likely help when you start optimizing for Google.

In short, my point in these two articles is to question the perceived wisdom regarding search engines. Research what is best for your site, rather than assume that the generalizations are right for you.

Richard Stubbings
Richard Stubbings
Bio   •   RSS Feed