When governments tried to control the spread of COVID-19 by locking down the country, e-commerce sales skyrocketed 43% in 2020, rising to $815 billion from $571.2 billion in 2019, and there is no sign the boom in online shopping will slow down in the post-virus era.

Google began focusing on driving e-commerce during the lockdowns and it’s pulling out all the stops in 2022, expanding its AI (artificial intelligence), ML (machine learning), and NLP (natural language processing) technologies to direct consumers to retailer websites that best meet its search parameters.

Those technologies will have a dramatic effect on SEO (search engine optimization) strategies that will touch all retailers, including music stores whose sales and services depend on getting to the first page of Google’s local SERP (search engine results page). Winning the SEO competition means higher rankings and a spot on the SERP map. It also means more hits on the website, more customers in the door, and more sales.

Music store owners and managers who adapted to the e-commerce revolution during the pandemic are in a better position to accommodate the new search realities than those who did not. The good news for the late adopters is optimization is a process, not a result, and getting up to speed and remaining competitive is possible.

Here are some of the high impact changes that music stores need to be aware of, plan for, and adjust to right now.

Google challenges Amazon.

When the world closed down in 2020, consumers leapt to e-commerce, and retailers that made the adjustment quickly avoided disaster. Overall, online sales are expected to break $1 trillion in 2022, indicating consumers haven’t lost their passion for digital shopping.

This has finally made Google take online shopping seriously, an area it’s ignored for a long time. It’s positioning itself to steal some of Amazon’s thunder.

Music stores must take Google’s interest in online shopping very, very seriously. It could be a boon to their businesses or bury them.

Google’s Shopping Graph is powered by artificial intelligence, machine learning, and capable of analyzing data to deliver realtime understanding of:

  • Product differentiation in musical instruments, variations, and models
  • Sales generated by retailers, including music stores and big box stores.
  • Consumers’ brand choices
  • Inventory and product information
  • Ratings and reviews
  • More.

Converting that data into knowledge and SERP position helps consumers find and buy products, including musical instruments, based on seller information that updates in realtime.

How music stores can prepare for Shopping Graph: Updating online back-end systems and related product descriptions will help search engine results and e-commerce as well as in-person sales.

SEO Becomes Smarter and More Sophisticated.

Google is on the leading edge of artificial intelligence and machine learning. Those technologies are built on mathematical formulas—not code—that update themselves as they receive new data. Keywords are not enough to win the SEO competition. The search engines now evaluate things like market position, backlinks, context, snippets, structure, user experience, videos, customer-service chatbots, and more.

How music stores can prepare for greater SEO sophistication. If the terms in this section are foreign to you, it’s critical that you deep dive the subject of today’s—and tomorrow’s—SEO and become familiar with it. Contact us to get the help you need to take your music store’s SEO to the next level.

Google’s Going MUM

2022 marks Google’s most recent major update, the Multitask United Model (MUM), which expands the capacity of its SEO algorithms to understand and support users. Google says this update will be a thousand times more powerful than its BERT (Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers).

BERT, an algorithm-driven AI technology, rolled out in 2019, improved the search engine’s ability to understand search intent beyond the literal words used for the query. With music being a complex topic and the searches related to music stores extremely varied, it seriously upset the rankings of many music businesses.

MUM is another huge step forward. It uses advanced natural language processing to analyze text, video, audio, and images in 75 languages. This will allow it to better understand the intent behind complex search queries and provide more valuable answers. It also has the AI-powered ability to understand users’ emotions, search contexts, abstractions, and intent. Imagine being able to find exactly what you are looking for on your first search attempt rather than having to re-think search terms.

That’s what Google is shooting for with MUM.

It will support search using images, sounds, words, videos, and other media to make their queries more dynamic. For example, if you are looking for a top-shelf Delta blues guitar and think you have found one, upload a picture of it to find out if there are other instruments that are better for the genre, and possibly include video demos in the results.

How music stores can prepare for MUM: MUM places greater emphasis on visual content, so adding images to your website could help get the search engine’s attention. MUM could also place website images in the SERP “Image” tab and videos in the “Video” section. High-quality, authoritative content about music in a range of formats including text, images, audio recordings, and video will be important, along with content that includes questions and answers.

Google will have conversations with users.

Google has gotten good at voice searches.

Now it wants to master spoken dialogue.

Language Model for Dialogue Applications (LaMDA) is a machine-learning NLP technology that supports two-way conversations and uses data gleaned from them to deliver better-quality search results.

How music stores can prepare for LaMDA: Optimizing for voice search will be critical once LaMDA is released. Failing to account for that could render your website pointless in terms of SERP placement. If you depend on it to drive sales at all, that could be a disaster. Contact us if you need help with this.

Excerpt Ranking

They say if you want to hide something where nobody will find it, put it on the second page of Google search engine results.

It’s not going to get easier. With the new zero rank position (snippets) will make competition for SERP visibility even more challenging.

Google launched Excerpt Ranking, supported by passage indexing. It gives a page the opportunity to rank for a specified passage or section instead of the entire page. With Excerpt Ranking, the search engine can now factor in the stronger signals coming from a web page and deliver more meaningful results for niche queries.

How music stores can prepare for Excerpt Ranking: Excerpt Ranking is expected to affect just under 10% of searches when Google completes its roll out in 2022. As is Google’s custom, it keeps information for optimizing not easy to find. Based on observations, however, it seems that having the best, most authoritative music related content, especially about specialized topics, will still be critical to page ranking.

Google Sets New Page Ranking Parameters

Page Experience, another addition to Googles’ rankings system, measures customer experience metrics such as the time it takes a website to load and how long viewers stay on it.

Or, as Google describes it, Page Experience comprises “a set of signals that measure how users perceive the experience of interacting with a web page beyond its pure information value.”

The measurement of the page experience is through Core Web Vitals, the metrics for a page’s load speed based on how a viewer experiences it.

  • First Input Delay (FID): This is the interactivity metric. An FID lower than 100 milliseconds would be your best bet, according to Google.
  • Largest Contentful Paint (LCP): This metric looks purely at load performance. The search engine suggests that a page LCP should be under 5 seconds starting on load.
  • Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS): This refers to the measurement of visual stability. Google says that a website should maintain a CLS score no higher than 1.

Google combines Core Web Vitals with other factors, including mobile friendliness, HTTPS protocol use, along with a lack of intrusive interstitials as the base set of measures that support making user experience a key part of its algorithm.

How music stores can prepare for a Google that’s more focused on user experience: Your site must be optimized to meet the Google-recommended Core Web Vitals. Since it’s likely that Google will continue down the path of focusing on user experience, it’s a good idea for you to do everything possible to optimize yours. Plus, it’s quite simply the right thing for your music store customers.

While it’s impossible to be sure of what Google will do before it does it, music stores can use the information in this article to begin planning for the future. Contact us if you need help preparing your music store’s website for what’s next with Google.