How about $15,000,000+ EVERY Month important!?**
Successful SEO Title of the #1 Ecommerce Brand Disappears
In June of 2021, the world's largest ecommerce brand embarked on possibly one of the biggest single on page SEO tactics in history. Fascinatingly, very few have analyzed it.
As a leading Shopify Ecommerce SEO agency, we're constantly monitoring the effects of all the SEO strategies and their impact. After they changed their meta title, we speculated it could potentially strike their bottom line -- more than they expected.
Amazon's Title pre-June 4, 2021
Amazon's Title post-June 5, 2021
The new title was for a large branding campaign. For it, they decided to leverage one of the most important elements in the SERP (search engine results page): a website's homepage title.
Their goal was to tell shoppers that it's much easier to save money on lower priced items. The company had garnered so much SEO value over the years. They thought perhaps they could leverage all that branded demand and use it for this new shift for their brand . You can google it today and see it remains to this day:
Some parts of the marketing organization might argue it doesn't have as much impact including even digital marketers and search engine optimization specialists. However, we're data driven with our decisions. So, we didn't merely speculate, but looked at the before and after metrics. We examined the specific keyword topics they switched away from: online shopping, electronics, apparel, computers and books.
In particular, we focused on 3 metrics:
- Organic keywords coming from each bucket,
- Traffic generated from those topic clusters and
- Online savings you get by getting that organic traffic via SEO instead of paid media.
You can see the topics bolded are now omitted from the title.
SEO Savings Impact in the Keyword Topics
Losing over 400,000 keyword permutations with "online" in them, the company potentially lost over a million dollars in monthly traffic visibility.
With fewer "shopping" permutations, Amazon still managed to grow their overall organic traffic from the reduced inventory of "shopping" search terms. They were even able to eke out more savings with the potential stronger positions with the fewer phrases.
Their "electronic" keywords didn't take as big of a hit as they did with their "online" keywords. Nevertheless, both the organic traffic and total number of keywords related to this topic took more than a 25% hit a year later.
While the "apparel" category was one of their weakest in the old homepage title, all 3 metrics went south for the ecommerce giant.
"Computer" keywords took a smaller hit in overall permutations. With that said, they took a much larger loss in traffic and a significant loss in potential traffic savings. So, now they now have to allocate to other channels like google ads.
And the category "Amazon" was almost synonymous with from their genesis, "books", took the second largest hit to the bottom line. And given that it represented a huge sum of keyword visibility in the highest volumes, it contributed more than $10 million in estimated monthly keyword visibility loss.
Overall, this summed up to over $15 million in monthly traffic savings (now loss).** The company generated over $121 billion in revenue for both quarters that ended in the periods we evaluated. So, the percentage compared to the overall revenue might feel like a tickle. However, adding up a monthly sum of ~$15 million is close to $200 million a year in costs -- which could easily usurp their entire google ads budget.
Alternative Methods of Measuring the Impact
We also looked at the same metrics in December of 2021 and the recent holiday season -- December 2022. We hypothesized before obtaining the results that it could be larger in impact, but interestingly, the holiday season was not as costly as we expected. They still squandered over $11.5 million in online traffic savings. They dropped 52% year over year in the aforementioned categories.
And we took a look at their "spend less" and "smile more" keyword buckets. We're quite sure these keywords weren't enough justification to change the title. At the same time, we thought it would be a fun exercise to see how much these "branding terms" grew or shrunk.
- Prior to the large title change, Amazon had 33 keyword permutations of "spend less" already generating organic traffic
- They also had 172 combinations of "smile more" phrases bringing in organic traffic
- However, both were driving less than a thousand visits a month to the site
- The Seattle based FAANG had close to 5000% increase in "spend less" keyword traffic and over 500% in "smile more" phrases. Combined, they only contributed $3300 in traffic savings. We're quite sure that "savings" wasn't as appreciated however.
- Ironically, they also lost tons of savings in "smile" keywords and "spend" keywords losing $6.5 million with "smile" keywords specifically (Amazon has a program called Amazon Smile)
And we also looked at their overall losses organically and compared them to the overall loss in these categories:
- Overall US Organic Keywords for the entire Amazon.com site from June '21 -> June '22: -5.45%
- Overall US Organic Traffic for the entire Amazon.com site from June '21 -> June '22: -33.43%
- Overall US Online Traffic Savings for the entire Amazon.com site from June '21 -> June '22: -30.13%
However, their overall loss on just these topics was MUCH greater:
- Organic Keywords loss w/ these title tag categories was -555% worse
- Organic Traffic loss w/ these title tag categories was -35.3% worse
- and Online Traffic Savings from Organic Gains Dropped -63.4% more with these title tag categories!
Mobile SEO Traffic Changes as a result of the Title Change
In June of 2021, Amazon had 17 million keywords generating 1.2 billion in traffic and $1.1 billion in traffic cost savings from mobile. A year later, that number dropped to 13.6 million keywords and 1.1 billion in traffic and almost $200 million less in traffic visibility costs.
The biggest category of loss, "books" reduced from 240.2k -> 194.3k keywords from June 2021 to June 202. It also went from 17.2 million organic traffic -> 14.5 million in traffic a year later. And overall, it reduced from $24.8 million in monthly savings to -> $15.8 million in organic traffic cost savings. While it wasn't as massive as the desktop loss, it almost matched at least 2/3rds of the loss. And combined, it could have been close to $25-30 million in monthly traffic visibility savings lost.
Importance of Title Tags for Pages
- It's important for SEO (as you can see from the data we've shared)
- It's the first thing that shows up in the SERPs on behalf of your page
- It show up in the tabs in our web browsers
- It's used as the first thing to display in social networks as well & any other platform that reads the page
- And it can help with CTR (click thru rate) and ultimately conversions and revenue
Electriq's SEO Recommendations for your Homepage Title Tag
The case study reminded us to help CPG/DTC companies leverage their title tags & prevent such costly mistakes. As a result, here are some guidelines on how to use keywords in the title tag for growing brands:
Our tips for your unique meta title tags come from over a decade of analyzing thousands of title tags of top companies and their digital results. On top of that, we consider what google specifically tells us to do. Take a look at the top 76 organically optimized Ecommerce websites and you will see that more than 63% of them use our best practices.
HOMEPAGE META TITLE STRUCTURE:
[Brand]: Keyword or Keyword Phrase, Keyword 2
We recommend you use unique keywords you're targeting to represent your brand. As you can see from the following 6 examples from highly efficacious brands, we associate them with what they have chosen after the colon, pipe or hyphen. We say unique because:
*Redundancy of the keywords prevents you from obtaining a larger diversity of keyword "signals"
And make sure every page you want google to use for a set of keywords is also unique. While you could potentially use the same words on 2 different pages, you will want to order them differently and show them your priorities from left to right.
Place your important keywords at the beginning -- i.e., to the left. This is why we tell you that putting your brand on your homepage first is advised.
Examples of the Top Ecommerce Site Performers
6th Organically Optimized Ecommerce Site: eBay
11th Most Organically Optimized Ecommerce Site: Walgreens
18th Most Organically Optimized Ecommerce Site: IKEA
The "|" (pipe) or the "-" (hyphen) are also used, but there's a distinct reason why we use the ":" (colon) and we'll explain in our "length recommendations." With that said, these are other examples that at least use the keywords after their brand:
14th Most Search Engine Optimized Ecommerce Site: Wayfair
15th Most Search Engine Optimized Ecommerce Site: Kohl's
21st Most Search Engine Optimized Ecommerce Site: Samsung
Some recommend the following standard:
Keyword or Keyword Phrase - Keyword 2 | Brand Name
However, this format has 2 disadvantages:
- You use the pipe (|) or hyphen (-) which can lead to less visibility of other keywords
- Google already places it back into the format we recommend. You may be communicating to google that you're not paying attention to the difference between the homepage & other page standards. While it's not an official ranking factor, it could be one of those hypothetical indirect "signals" you're telling google you're not doing.
Do you notice the trailing periods "..." at the end of the title? We'll speak to the length and what shows up next.
***And please note, these are for your homepage. For other pages on your site, we have other recommendations. Please contact us for your on page SEO optimization needs like meta title recommendations and rewrites. There are very sound strategies that can raise your visibility or tank them, as we saw in this case study.
Recommended SEO Title Tag Length
We aren't completely against using the "|" (pipe) or the "-" (hyphen), but you do lose 1 character space for each. It also makes sense for our general recommendation for pages other than the homepage. However, the use of those characters could be circumvent your SEO if you use one character too much. In the last example above for Samsung, they are actually sacrificing another character with every term they include in their title which could be instead separated with a comma. If they used our recommendation, it would look like this:
With their current implementation, potential visitors don't even know that last keyword is "Home Appliances." However, using commas, they save enough character space to now show "Appliances" and instead of using a redundant term (i.e., "home"), you can let google interpret the extra term as such along with the estimated 135,000 who are searching for the collocation or expand your visibility to the 368,000 (est) searches of "appliance." This one strategic decision could potentially help Samsung reach another 1/2 million people globally (in terms of visibility). Perhaps Samsung should contact us for SEO?
Typically, it's best to choose between 55-65 characters long including spaces for your title. Obviously, you want to include your primary keyword(s). However, you can test the lengths by using a SERP generator tool that you can easily google to find one of many.
With that said, the keywords beyond what shows up in the SERP are potentially still recognized by google's ML. They may display in some formats like iPads or similar devices where the meta title and descriptions sometimes are longer.
Amazon's old Meta Title used to be:
Amazon.com: Online Shopping for Electronics, Apparel, Computers, Books, DVDs & more
...which is 87 characters. They may have considered the tablet devices.
If you're a growing CPG/DTC brand needing to boost your SEO or Technical SEO, we would be happy to audit your site and provide you some strategic recommendations! Among them include using our world class Content Marketing department and our SEO to flip your branded traffic into a larger unbranded source of regular conversion driving marketing. Our Amazing Web Development team, our incredible Social Media Management Team and our 2nd to none Email Marketing have all energized popular brands. Take a look at our CPG case studies!
**Note: Our analysis of the impact used 3rd party analytics tools which may not have 100% accurate traffic data which only the host website has. Additionally, there are many factors that could impact a website's increase or decrease in performance. We analyzed a very interesting phenomena that occurred and wrote today's post to spawn debate over the impact of one of the more significant on page factors contributing to a website's SEO. Feel free to contact us to continue the discussion or leave a comment below. We would love to hear all thoughts about this momentous change that may have frankly been impacted by this meta tag change.