Dominate the Google search results for greater performance from both paid and organic search.
Before embarking on a career in digital, my first job out of higher education was as a category executive for a well-known chocolate brand. It was a great gig, not only because I’d eat my weight in chocolate every day, but more importantly because it provided me with solid insight into the marketing challenges of an FMCG brand out there in the real world.
Within a retail context, it’s all about on-shelf visibility. If your brands aren’t visible at eye-level, chances are that your rate of sale will be ‘underleveraged’ (FMCG speak for slow).
Once we’d negotiated a strong shelf position for our brands, it was said that we had achieved an optimised Share of Shelf. This was actually a primary KPI - anything less than 30% at eyeline level was simply not acceptable from a marketing point of view. On the other hand, a Share of Shelf above 40% would be considered a major win, as typically this meant more space for us and of course, less for our competitors.
As online retailers navigate Q4, there are a number of lessons they can learn from how FMCG companies jostle for space among the most competitive aisles.
Effectively, retailers need to think of the Search Engine Results Page (SERP) as a kind of ‘digital shelf’. For highly-competitive, high-value SERPs the primary objective should be to increase your ‘Share of Shelf', or perhaps more appropriately ‘Share of Page’ (SOP).
Why is share of page important
Think about your most important SERPs, in terms of performance. Maybe there are certain search queries that drive a high number of transactions historically within Q4. Perhaps there are others that drive strong ROI or Lifetime Value. There could also be some that are great for feeding the ‘upper funnel’ or driving offline store visits.
Your most important search landscapes represent the digital shelf. Previously, you may have owned just a small part of this (a text ad, the odd product listing ad (PLA), or an organic listing – but not all three in the same SERP).
By optimising towards SOP, retailers can effectively increase their share of clicks, and more importantly, unlike Impression Share, it’s an absolute measure in that the higher your SOP, the lower the share available for your competitors. In other words, by increasing our SOP, we’re effectively redistributing impressions, clicks, and sales away from the competition.
There are four processes involved in achieving this: regular text ad management, shopping campaign management, SEO, and affiliate management.
Calculating share of page
Looking at all of the components of a typical search results page, we can only really look at including those elements which are ‘above-the-fold’ as part of the SOP calculation. Anything below this is less likely to be seen, and so probably won’t be as important to your overall search visibility.
For desktop, realistically the top four PPC ads, together with the PLA listings and top three organic listings may comprise the SOP landscape. The top text ads will likely have more ad extensions applied, therefore these would effectively be worth 2x vs. other ad and organic listings, from an SOP perspective.
The formula for SOP is: # of your listings / # of overall listings (above the fold).
If you have one PPC ad in the top slot on this landscape, and nothing else, then you have approx. 12.5% SOP (your top placed ad is worth 2 slots; 2 slots / 16 slots overall = 12.5):
Let’s say you have one text ad or PLA ad, and an organic listing. That would equate to approx. 20% SOP:
Now let’s look at an example, where a retailer really understands the value of SOP. Here, there are multiple PLA ad units in the mix, as well as a text ad unit and multiple organic listings - all come together to achieve a whopping 62.5% SOP:
Why go to all that effort? Perhaps I’m speculating, but it could be because door closers are a highly profitable product. Or maybe because they could deliver a higher Lifetime Value than other products. What’s obvious is that this is a deliberate strategy to ‘own’ this landscape, and one that will certainly deliver a high click share vs. others in this space.
The key takeaways here are that SOP across your most important search landscapes is equivalent to maintaining high visibility on the ‘Digital Shelf’. Unlike other competitive metrics like Impression Share, SOP is an absolute metric, meaning that by increasing your own SOP, you’ll take it away from your key competitors on the SERP.
Below is a breakdown of the four key processes involved:
- Text ad management: Ensuring visibility via your own text ads.
- Shopping ad management: Harder to achieve than the above, especially if the key focus is on achieving more than one ad unit serving on the same landscape. Key activities here include segmentation of key product stock keeping units within the shopping campaign structure, and ensuring that the data feed is well optimised, with specific emphasis on granular categorisation and title optimisation.
- SEO: Optimising key product pages in line with specific search queries. The process for ranking can take weeks, if not months, so this should be planned and executed well in advance of Q4.
- Affiliate management: Fostering key partnerships with other retailers or affiliate companies. This may take the form of aligning PPC activity, so that collectively you take up more of the SERP.
It’s also important to remember that SERPs are dynamic in that they are constantly changing. With this in mind, tracking SOP should be a baseline activity for sophisticated retailers, facilitated by SERP scraping tools and data warehousing tools like Google’s BigQuery. We can then use this metric as a benchmark to optimise against, and also track causality between higher SOP and performance.
Who knows…maybe next year we’ll even see SOP as a metric within Google Ads!