Comparison Shopping Leading to Increase in Search Traffic, Decrease in Direct Traffic


Direct traffic is widely considered the most valuable channel driving traffic to your e-commerce website.

It’s a logical correlation – those who visit your site are, at worst, already familiar with your brand and are, at best, ready to make a purchase (actually, the best case would be that they’re a repeat customer who’s ready to make another purchase).

So as an e-commerce marketer, it’s got to be a pretty scary sight when your direct traffic begins to dip. And it’s a lot scarier when it doesn’t rebound after a week, a month, a quarter or – gasp! – a year. But don’t lose hope; a dip in direct traffic may not mean that you, your company or your job is in trouble. Instead, it may mean that you need to start targeting a different kind of consumer.

It’s never been easier for consumers to compare products without leaving the couch. Regardless of whether the product is a new teddy bear for their kids, a new boat to celebrate their retirement or a used plasma TV, online comparison shopping is now the way of the millennial generation and their parents are following suit.

What does this mean for you? On the surface, it likely means that potential customers are arriving on your site from search channels rather than direct traffic. We’ll get to what you should do about it in a minute.

Three of 451’s most prominent e-commerce clients have seen their direct traffic dip, only to be buoyed by a strong increase in search traffic. For some, the decline in direct traffic was slight:


For others, it was temporary:


And for still others, it was a larger drop:


So now you’re thinking, “great, my site isn’t the only one seeing a drop in direct traffic.” But what does it say about your target audience and your marketing strategy?

We mentioned before that comparison shopping is the way of the world now. It’s no surprise then, that search traffic would increase because customers will be using Google and shopping engines like to learn more about your brand and your products before even visiting your site.

However, visitors from search/shopping engines have one trait that shoppers just a few years ago didn’t have: they’re much more educated. This is not only regarding your brand, products, prices and customer service, but also about your competitors offerings. You won’t be able to fool them with flash sales or gimmicks, and they’ll have a good idea of what the bottom line is on your products, too. They may not be more qualified traffic, but they’re certainly more informed traffic.

So what can you do to ensure that you’re still winning new customers? A lot. The list is long, but you want to ensure that you’re placing your products everywhere that they can be seen. This includes:

  • Setting up paid campaigns in Google and Bing – don’t forget to buy ads for your brand name to ensure maximum visibility!
  • Partnering with online shopping engines
  • Setting up Product Listing Ads (PLAs) so that your products can be seen in Google search results
  • Engaging in remarketing campaigns through Google and Facebook
  • Setting up social ads, especially in Twitter and Facebook
  • Optimizing your title tags, meta descriptions and header tags with valuable keywords, products and product names
  • Implementing alt tags on images that include brand name and product keywords
  • Using hashtags and sharing product and original content on social media
  • Adding schema tags to your product (and retail store) pages
  • Using Webmaster Tools to keep tabs on low-hanging fruit keywords
  • Regularly refresh keywords to ensure that you’re targeting the most valuable/most searched keywords
  • Set up Google Alerts on key branded terms to track where people are talking about your brand online – this could become an opportunity to market through bloggers who write about your industry or to implement guest blogging

Of course, there’s no end to what you could do to grow your online presence and take advantage of all the new searchers looking for information about you and your products. 451 can help you determine which strategy is best for you – just give us a call today!

Ryan Durling

Ryan Durling is Digital Project Manager at 451!

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