27 May 2024, 00:37
By Lucy Dodds Jul 07, 2022

How can sofa retailers build online visibility?

Three sofa retailers dominate the UK’s online search market – but where are they missing a trick, and what can other e-tailers learn from their approaches? Lucy Dodds, senior content strategist at Evolved Search, asks Google …

As online sofa retailers recover from the volatility in traffic caused by the pandemic, many are preparing to maintain and grow their presence in Google Search.

With a lasting impact on brick-and-mortar stores, consumer attitudes have shifted to buying products online which previously had a much stronger presence at stores – including sofas. With this change in attitude, online retailers must react. But this does not simply involve increasing rankings and growing their presence in Google – it is about developing lasting relationships with consumers and building trust so customers are willing to shop for something they previously would never have considered buying online.

While online retailers are expected to see inflated pandemic figures caused by the lockdown drops, there are clear signs that this consumer shift will remain, and that ecommerce will be able to maintain and grow traffic higher than pre-pandemic levels. 

Our Search Competitor Insight Report found that the organic market value of organic search clicks in the sofa sector is worth over £37m per month. However, three brands dominate the search engine results pages (SERPs) and hold more than 83% of that non-branded organic click value – DFS, Sofology and ScS.

As you can expect, the larger brands lead the way for highly competitive generic sofa and product category terms, although DFS is significantly contributed to by the site’s strong lead for sofabeds, holding a 60% market share – 1.5 x higher than the other 18 brands in our report combined. Sofology isn’t as strong for the generics, but consistently ranks in the top three positions for high-volume sofa product categories.

According to overall search visibility alone, Furniture Village is the highest performer. However, stripping away branded keywords shows an organic downturn, which coincides with a 2018 Google core update that focused on E-A-T (Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness). Sites with poor-quality content were affected by this major algorithmic change, and it appears Furniture Village was impacted as a result. The site’s non-branded organic value significantly trails behind DFS, Sofology and ScS.

Loaf.com is another site that has seen a significant drop in visibility since 2018 – a huge -55% decline – although we have seen more recent changes which could make it one to watch this year.

Our report found that almost all brands are missing out on key SERP features, including ‘Featured Snippets’. A study by Ahrefs says that the search query ‘answer box’ steals away a third of clicks that would normally go to the site in position one for that search term. However, only DFS, Sofology and Darlings managed to obtain more than two Featured Snippets.

In total, only 0.5% of Featured Snippets have been acquired by the sofa brands in our report, out of a total of 6577 opportunities. This is even more interesting when you consider that Featured Snippets are normally acquired through well-targeted, high-quality content, and where a site has the correct technical implementation, indicating that even the largest brands are falling down in this area.

For other SERP feature opportunities, only Love Sofas has correctly implemented Rating Schema for around 200 rankings – which allows sites to display rating stars in the search results. A conversionXL experiment found that star ratings improve organic clicks by +35%, indicating that almost every site in the sofa industry is missing out.

Meanwhile, the Digital PR segment of our report shows that several sofa sites are subscribing to an outdated link acquisition strategy by poorly targeting topically relevant sites. These include sites that are often a source of inspiration for customers researching purchases, therefore a key area to implement product PR and content marketing.

Even larger high street names such as ScS are not acquiring relevant links on topical sources such as Apartment Therapy or Country Life. Surprisingly, Loaf is a leader here, having earned the most topically relevant links as well as other strong links from Tier 1 sites, mostly through proactive expert commentary and product PR.

Our CRO (Conversion Rate Optimisation) analysis of the industry shows that almost all brands could increase their organic traffic value by reducing PLT (Page Load Time). Several companies are losing out on a significant number of sales from lost traffic caused by a high PLT impacting the bounce rate of these sites.

With the highest-valued traffic, Furniture Village has the most to gain, with up to £220,000 worth of organic traffic lost due to a less-optimised PLT. This increases to a huge £620,000 if PLT could be reduced by three seconds. The other top players – DFS, ScS and Sofology – could retain over £30,000 of organic traffic monthly by improving their PLT by just one second.

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