The Real Problem with Borders Books is Search
Borders Books is struggling, with Distribution Centers and Stores closing. The General Counsel and Secretary of the company resigned at the start of the year. Talks about restructuring the chain are filling the news, and the bookseller is starting to open new stores that look to products other than books to attract customers.
I prefer shopping for books in person, and my local Borders is an inviting place, giving me the chance to browse at my leisure, sit in a comfortable chair and skim through books, or grab a cup of coffee while I decide what I might want to buy.
I rarely see the Border’s website in search results when I’m looking up a book. I don’t see their main competitor, Barnes & Noble, in search results as well. I decided to compare search rankings for Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Borders Books for a number of books.
I chose 40 fiction books at random which appeared prominently on the New York Times bestseller lists from last year. I performed a Google search on the Books’ titles, and their authors’ last name. While it’s a small sample size, these were pretty popular books.
I’m not sure how much analysis the following table actually needs. It’s pretty clear that Amazon recognizes the value of ranking well in search results, ranking in the top three results for the majority of the books, with 27 number 1 results. Barnes & Noble outranked Amazon for only one book, and while all of the Amazon results were on the first page, a good percentage of the Barnes & Noble results didn’t break the first page. Borders Books only had one first page result, and the remainder of their books were buried so deeply in Google’s results that there was a good chance that you would see 2 or 3 additional Amazon listings for each book before you were likely to see the Border’s listing. I couldn’t even find a few of these best sellers in the top 300 results from the Border’s site.
It’s possible that Borders is a victim of growing ebook popularity. It’s possible that they may have made some bad decisions regarding store locations, or deciding which books to carry in inventory. I think the following table points out one of the biggest problems Borders faces though – they aren’t being found on the Web for the books that they offer.
|Book Title – Author||Amazon||Barnes and Noble||Borders|
|61 Hours – Child||1||33||44|
|A Mighty Fortress – Weber||1||18||46|
|A Secret Affair – Balogh||1||10||13|
|Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter – Grahame-Smith||2||7||56|
|American Assassin – Vince Flynn||1||3||36|
|Angelology – Trussoni||1||7||68|
|Big Girl – Steel||1||2||30|
|Breathless – Dean Koontz||1||6||161|
|Caught – Coben||1||4||170|
|Changes – Butcher||1||95||71|
|Crescent Dawn – Cussler||1||3||2|
|Cross Fire – Patterson||1||6||44|
|Dead In The Family – Harris||1||20||41|
|Deliver Us From Evil – Baldacci||1||4||47|
|Every Last One – Quindlen||2||14||108|
|Fall Of Giants – Follett||1||3||73|
|Fever Dream – Douglas Preston||3||12||72|
|Flirt – Hamilton||1||83||55|
|Ford County – Grisham||1||9||33|
|Frankenstein: Lost Souls – Koontz||1||29||14|
|Freedom – Franzen||8||35||79|
|Full Dark, No Stars – King||2||3||40|
|Getting To Happy – Mcmillan||3||10||67|
|Heart Of The Matter – Giffin||1||112||>300|
|Hell’S Corner – Baldacci||1||4||39|
|Innocent – Turow||1||9||228|
|Kisser – Woods||1||8||>300|
|Last Night At Chateau Marmont – Weisberger||2||3||36|
|Lowcountry Summer – Frank||1||12||46|
|Matterhorn – Marlantes||2||10||112|
|No Mercy – Kenyon||1||16||18|
|Pirate Latitudes – Crichton||1||15||83|
|Room – Donoghue||2||23||126|
|Roses – Meacham||1||3||76|
|Safe Haven – Sparks||1||3||211|
|The Girl Who Chased The Moon – Allen||4||2||30|
|The Man From Beijing – Mankell||1||38||62|
|The Postmistress – Blake||1||4||190|
|Towers Of Midnight – Jordan||2||35||34|
|Wicked Appetite – Evanovich||3||6||139|
This is a problem that Borders can fix. Without restructuring. Without bankruptcy. Without selling things other than books.
It wouldn’t hurt Barnes & Noble to think about their internet marketing approach either.