Twenty years ago, it seemed like every kid went to Toys R Us. The company had great branding, right? It was a destination for kids who wanted the latest toy or adults looking to buy gifts for the younger demographic.
But like any business, retail has changed. Retail is now overwhelmingly digital, giving birth to websites like Amazon and forcing traditional brick-and-mortar stores to rethink their business model. Sure, Toys R Us has a website. It actually looks pretty good, too. Fact is, though, that retail companies cannot rely on the type of “destination branding” Toys R Us had in the 1990s. People don’t immediately go to websites when they shop. What do they do? They Google things they want to buy—making search engine optimization vital to the survival of any retail business.
Toys R Us is weak on a very simple and basic SEO best practice—image alt tags.
For toy products, Amazon, for example, is using an image alt tag that tells the search engine crawlers exactly what the image is in a clear and concise manner—matching what a consumer would likely type in as a search query.
Toys R Us product:
Toys R Us is using a few of the keywords but in a much more cryptic manner. Search engine crawlers have no way of knowing what the image is as they can’t actually see the image. Without a properly configured image alt tag, they tend to rank it far less favorably.
It seems like Toys R Us is using a map to find its way even though a GPS is available. Successful online retailers like Amazon stand at the forefront of SEO practice.
There are various other factors that go into organic image search rankings but the image alt tag is arguably the most important one. Fail there and the other efforts usually can’t save you—especially when competing with e-commerce giants like Amazon. Amazon plays the game the right way. If other retailers don’t, they’ll be left behind.
Toys R Us outranks Amazon for a ton of great short-tail keywords: toys, toys for sale, kids toys, boys toys, girls toys, to name a few. Organic Search Traffic for toysrus.com is trending up nicely over the past 10 years:
Its Domain Authority is certainly high enough to compete with Amazon. This combined with Google’s Rank Brain determining that they are a toy industry “giant” leads to them outranking Amazon.
So if Toys R Us has better short-tail organic rankings and better prices, why is Amazon capturing more market share? The answer is two-pronged: 1.) Amazon wins the long-tail or product specific keywords. 2.) Amazon is taking over e-commerce just because nearly everyone is already using them.
In the capture above we can see that Amazon is using paid ads to get on top and only outranked organically by the product manufacturer for this product. In fact, the only presence Toys R Us has on the first page of SERPs is in the shopping slider where they are competing with Target, Walmart, etc.
Additionally, the Amazon paid ad quotes “Free 2-day Shipping” which can be a killer for all of those competitors. The word “Free” is always huge click bait.
As for the second reason mentioned above – people are familiar with shopping online at Amazon and feel comfortable doing so – especially 10 year olds! That has a huge impact and can prevent shoppers from doing an Internet search altogether. Amazon is winning the brand and consumer confidence toys war with a fire-breathing-dragon-like power.
For images, Amazon has the edge there as well – at least on the organic side. In the screenshot below, Toys R Us again is featured in the sponsored shopping slider but nowhere near the top of the organic results. Amazon has the No. 3 organic ranking here.
Toys R Us is successful at certain SEO practices that can advance the company’s sales, but fails in the most fundamental area.
It’s as if Toys R Us showed up to a gala in a tux jacket, shirt and bow tie but no pants. Look like that? We’re betting you’ll get kicked out of the party.