Tag Archive for retail

Amazon hints at keyword traffic

Black Friday DealsThe crew over at Domain Name Wire have picked up on an interesting registration by Amazon of several Christmas and Black Friday related generic exact match domains. These .com domains enable Amazon to benefit globally but a number of the terms are very American retail specific such as “black friday” and “holiday toy list”.  The purchase of the domains signals that Amazon is trying to increase the number of direct visitors that they are attracting and trying to cut the reliance on Google to deliver these visitors.  The strategy can be very effective but also can start an arms race with competitors to register every variation of domain that Amazon has failed to register first, and also search engines may adjust their algorithm further to reduce the benefit of exact match domains.

What are their exact match domain keywords?

  • black friday deals clothing
  • black friday deals movies
  • black friday deals tools
  • black friday deals watches
  • amazon holiday toy list
  • gift ideas books
  • gift ideas cameras
  • gift ideas games
  • gift ideas kitchen
  • gift ideas movies
  • gift ideas music
  • gift ideas toys
  • holiday toy list electronics
  • holiday toy list games
  • holiday toy list movies
  • holiday toy list music
  • holiday toy list sports
  • holiday toy list toys
  • holiday toy list videos

What is the value of this typed-in traffic?

If amazon wanted to buy this traffic via Google AdWords it would be costing them around $0.56-0.80 per click so it’s going to be a lot cheaper to try and capture visitors via type-in traffic.  When a visitor types the keyphrase directly into the web browser’s address bar, Google will often see it as direct navigation and send the visitor directly to your website.  This is a very effective way for Amazon to capture traffic for a number of these long tail terms but benefits them as it also skips the entire process of them seeing Google results and possibly clicking on your competitors links.

What is the traffic trends around the “Gift Ideas” terms?

It’s perfect timing as the biggest area of traffic that spikes in the 2nd week of November each year according to Google Insights for search.  The related search terms around “Gift Ideas” also show that this area is larger than just the holiday season with search variations of gift ideas including: birthday, christmas, wedding, anniversary, diwali, baptism.  This might also hint that some of the low hanging fruit for SEO or PPC might be focusing around the same terms as the new Amazon domains, that may now deliver them several thousand extra visitors every month.

What is the traffic trends around the “Black Friday” terms?

The generic term of “black friday” outperforms “gift ideas” by around 30 to 1 according to Google Insights for Search.  The purchase of the domains also support Amazon’s new Black Friday Deals website which is counting down to the start of the Christmas shopping season and one of the busiest shopping day for US retailers.  Being how Cyber Monday is the online version of of Black Friday it’s interesting to see that Amazon is focusing on the offline retail channels.

What is the traffic trends around the “Holiday Toy List” terms?

The potential traffic that these terms will drive is much lower that “gift ideas” and “black friday” but it’s likely that many of these terms are keywords used during the research phrase before a decision is made what toy they should buy.  If Amazon has multiple touch points and manages to get an item added to their wish list or shopping basket the chance they will purchase from Amazon greatly increases.  Even if the visitor doesn’t purchase this year, Amazon is also able to tag the visitor with a cookie to better understand consumer behaviour in time for 2012 Christmas shopping season.  You will also notice that Amazon is not focused on “toys” or “lists” but the singular version of the keyword.  They are focused on the plural version of the actual item as they understand the shoppers mentality and also want shoppers who are going to purchase more than one item.

What is the Top Toys for 2011?
While we are talking holiday toys, the Guardian has already outlined what presents parents must ensure they purchase for their kids, based on the Toy Retailers Association “Dream Toys” list.

So if Amazon is on the money already, so have you started planning your Christmas campaigns yet?

Google Shopping opens in Australia

The launch of Google Shopping in more countries now including Australia makes it that much harder for online retail stores such as new startups like Appliances that seek to capitalise on the growth of consumers accepting online shopping is a faster and often cheaper solution.

The last few years have seen a growth in comparison style websites such as Get Price but also hybrid models like Appliances Online that delivery to customer direct from their warehouse or manufacturer depending on your location. Google is obviously happy that they have finally been able to launch Google Shopping into the Australian market as it’s been pending launch for over a year but the question is how will users react to it and will they even use it?

Google Shopping Example Searches

Google Shopping Example Searches

The biggest winner in the launch of Google Shopping is likely more direct sales of popular appliance brands who want to increase revenue but at the same time reduce the number of affiliates they deal with each day. For most brands one of the primary factors for wanting Google Shopping is that they can also increase their profit margins as they can now sell more products direct to consumers.  Part of the general idea of Google offering a shopping portal is that the wholesalers and big chain retailers who traditionally considered online too hard can now just supply a feed and let Google do the rest, but it also places more dependence on the Google search platform to continue to grow and deliver traffic to their websites.

Search online buy instore?

It’s certain that most retailers who are listing within Google shopping will also get an uplift in offline sales as consumers will search, view products and compare prices online and then drive to their local store to pick up the products when they are ready.  The reason that many visitors to Google Shopping will buy in store is that many retailers listing within Google Shopping still do not offer online ordering facilities, have a limited or outdated range of products or have such a terrible user experience that consumers avoid their website.

Having a Google Merchant feed is a great step forward for many retailers to get more online traffic but traditional retailers still need to examine why they still fail to accept online shopping as a new channel of sales.  The advantage of the Google Shopping platform opening in Australia is that since Google is a dominate player in search it may encourage big retailers to move quicker to make full use of it and online shopping if they don’t want to have to depend solely on affiliates and shopping comparison websites like Getprice to be their only channels of online sales outside of Google.

Getprice likes it

Not much has been said by the other comparison websites about the Google launch in Australia but interestingly Getprice say that it’s a positive step for their industry. The reasons that David Whiteman of GetPrice states that it is a good idea is that Google Shopping re-enforces the concept of consumers buying and shopping online.  My feelings are that Google will not want the product to sit still and gather dust so will likely aggressively ramp up their online and offline advertising targeting general consumers encouraging them to shop/browse online but will also expand the number of merchants using it as if they don’t move online now with Google Shopping they will go the way of the dinosaurs.

Testing Google Shopping

It’s always interesting to see how smart the algorithm is when a new product or platform is launched, how does it handle natural language and do homonyms confuse it? One point I have to make clear is that I obviously looked to pick some terms that I have seen historically Google struggle to offer a perfect result and much of the feed is dependant on retailers getting the data feed right they upload to Google Merchant center. It’s also likely that there is not enough traffic for Google Shopping to understand enough about user preferences and even a limited range of products made available via retailers so far so the platform might be a little rough as I discovered initially.

Another big area of improvement will be once Google starts bringing in social data and integrates it’s +1 platform to refine and rank the results, until that happened it would have made sense to integrate a better onsite search platform such as Sli-Systems or what ever happened to their Google Store platform?

Test 1 “Organs”

The first test used the keyword “organs” and while the category options filters include sheet music and music but a logical category to also include would be instruments.

Google Shopping results for Organs not music

Google Shopping results for Organs not music

Test 2 “Ford”

The test search result for Ford was interesting as it offered both Ford products but also related items such as scale models and remote control cars.

Ford Search Results

Ford Search Results

Test 3 “DVD”

The search for DVD was a very generic term and the first two results weren’t that bad but the third result shows a failure as the matching picture relates to security cameras and does not match the product title or my search query.   The other concern is only the first result shows any product description, but both of these issues are likely linked to poorly formatted Google Merchant feeds which is something I would think Google would have sorted out by now and even automated image processing.

DVD Search Results

DVD Search Results

Test 4 “Laptops”

The test on searching for laptop was a bit of a failure with the top result being a laptop bag which is not the best result for revenue for retailers but also not the most relevant result expected.

Laptop Shopping Results

Laptop Shopping Results

Google Checkout overdue?

The question is now that Google Shopping has been launched what is the time frame for Google Checkout finally be ready for to be launched into the Australian market? It was rumoured back in 2007 that a launch was pending and then again in August 2009 but it’s been mostly quite on the front since then. On the 28th April 2011 they lodged their Financial Reports with ASIC but no real other announcements have been made or major changes to the company information.

Part of the delay in launching Google Checkout Australia is Google holds the licence under which it is authorised to offer Google Checkout only as a “non-cash payment product”. The company is not licensed as a bank or deposit-taking institution in Australia and does not provide banking services, so until this changes their shopping product is not going to shake up the market too much.

Product Ad Extensions are next

While it’s currently in limited release the biggest step forward for Google Shopping is when via your Google Merchant Centre you are able to feed your products directly into Google Search results via Ad Extensions. When your AdWords appear and if products linked in your Google Merchant Centre are relevant to users search query they will show images, product details and pricing under your text ads.  The advantage to retailers is that they only have to pay the same cost-per-click as a standard ad but the CTR is far higher because of the visual elements. Because of the sheer potential search volume, AdWords Product Extensions are the real killer for comparison websites and provide the next big uplift in retailers marketing budgets allocating spending more money on Google AdWords and less on traditional media.

Google AdWords Product Extensions

Google AdWords Product Extensions

The biggest concern for comparison websites and affiliate websites would be the massive amounts of money that manufacturers and retail chains will withdraw from them and pour into Google AdWords increasing their profit margins and taking control back of their business models.

See the video on Google Ad Innovations below

Going forward for online?

While Google Shopping won’t likely affect the large appliance stores it is a perfect solution for those shopping for small appliances or quickly comparing prices before visiting a retailers bricks and mortar location, it will be interesting how retailers and comparison websites change to deal with the launch of Google Shopping. It’s likely that once Google starts promoting its Google Shopping network via it’s AdWords platform it will shake up the online retail industry.

Online discounts to flooded residents

It’s always great to see people using their best skills to help those in need and last week Brisbane boutique design firm Niche Studio and Stretch Marketing launched a collaboration website Flood Discounts.  The not-for profit website is a online platform for those who were affected by the floods are able to access genuine discounts from trusted retailers and service providers across 21 categories who want to help their community get back on it’s feet.

The idea around platform is great because while it’s completely free for businesses to list and those affected by the floods it’s also been built with both intelligence and usability in mind and is not the typically hack website, its a really great site and a testimony to their skills and their staff who likely worked overtime to complete it and get it live so quickly. There are slowly a number of featured suppliers who are some of the first to come on board listed below:

How does Flood Discounts work?

There is 4 simple options for those wanting to help rebuild or those needing help to rebuild as up to 50% of those affected by the floods are predicted to be denied the ability to claim on their insurance.  The website is accurate in the statement that even with insurance it’s an enormous task for a huge number of families and communities to rebuild after the floods.

  1. List your Flood Discounts
  2. Find a Flood Discount offer by category
  3. Sign up as a flooded resident
  4. Search for relevant Flood Discounts

How do you get a discount?

The conditions are that you must present proof that your house has been affected by flood damage from a licensed electrical contractor, Energex, or an invoice from a another relevant service provider. The discounts maybe subject to terms, conditions and limitations and you will need photo ID.

Flood Discount Terms & Conditions

The websites Flood Discounts are offered over two periods of time:

  • 17 Jan 2011 – 31 March 2011
  • 1 April 2011 – 1 July 2011

How you can support them?

Become a fan of Flood Discounts on Facebook and follow Flood Discounts on Twitter to get updates on all the retailers and business who are joining up and supporting those who were affected.

Other ways to show support for those affected online

You can still show support of those affected by joining community Facebook pages like News Limited’s QLD Floods page, signup to be an emergency volunteer, or donate to the QLD Premier’s Flood Relief Appeal directly. Still going strong as one of the true leaders during the disaster was the Queensland Police Service who continue to be a great source of what is going on post-disaster with the clean-up effort. Remember to please always check the legitimacy of charities when donating to help flood victims in central and south east Queensland by visiting the Scam Watch website.

WalMart fails to understand online marketing

From several previous posts we have discovered that a majority of traditional retailers don’t place as much effort into their online strategy as they do their shades of colour used on the logos or even the material used for corporate furniture….

While a majority of the Toys R Us web properties fail to follow the basics around search optimisation, they still rank #1 or #2 for many of the high volume terms because they have an effective and established backlinks.  But with some on site optimsiation it is possible that they can further increase their online sales from their current position. This will also help them expand their reach to the profitable and higher converting long tail search terms that their competitors currently capture. They appear to be well ahead of Walmart.com in the market to capture a bulk of the profitable online toy market.
Website Traffic
Even the more established online sites Toys.com and eToys capture significantly less traffic according to compete.com site analytics. The site analytics figures show that even though ToysRUs.com is a niche retailer it still attracts a significant amount of website visitors.
Walmart.com (51.8 million)
Toysrus.com (18.7 million)
Amazon.com (76.4 million)
What is interesting is that Walmart traffic grew 52% less than the 78% growth for Toys R Us leading upto the Xmas period.  Amazon showed far less of a spike with around 8% growth but matched the other 2 websites for yearly growth rates according to compete.com.
Keyword Ranking?

So how does eToys managed rank #2 for the search term “toys” when Walmart struggles to rank #5. The basic analysis revolves around eToys is a keyword friendly domain and has always been associated with toys.  This combined with around 20,000 links from 2,500 domains

vastly out performs Walmart.com/toys which has 57,000 links but from only 80 domains. Domain diversity is an issue and Walmart’s backlink strategy is leaning closer to spam and failing to give it the extra online sales.
So how does Walmart rank for its key terms and products it seems to indicate are key areas of business or has plans to capture more market share. It doesn’t appear that they have made an effort to improve what toys are the hot/popular from Christmas 2008 which is not the best start.
Walmart.com Keyword Rankings in Google.com (Top 100)
Toys #5
Games #N/A
High School Musical  #N/A
Disney #N/A
Iron Man #N/A
Elmo #70
Star Wars #N/A
Batman #N/A
Barbie #N/A
Lego #N/A
More #N/A
Action Figures #24
Bikes #7
Scooters #21
Skates #11
Building Sets #N/A
Dolls #N/A
Stuffed Toys #N/A
Games #N/A
Kids Electronics #3
Learning Toys #12
Music Instruments #N/A
Karaoke #N/A
Outdoor Play #3
Preschool Toys #3
Riding Toys #2
Radio Control Vehicles #53
Video Games #27
Gift Finder #19
We did not include universal search results that showed Google Product listings for some searches such as Scooters, only actual organic results for Walmart.com.  The biggest problem is that based on our own clients data you need to be first page of the search results at 92-94% of clicks occur here and do not goto the second page, combined with expanded universal search results it is key to be in the top 3 results to be successful. There is so many gaps in their products that don’t even feature in the top 100 which I thought would be impossible for a website like Walmart.com which shows there are major issues with their online marketing strategy.
Meta Tags
It also seems that Walmart still seems to follow some basic points to guide the search engines such as Meta description or Meta Keywords and leaves this marketing message to algorithms. It is not always best to leave your advertising message to a robot to self generate based on its estimates on what would encourage people to click.
Canonical Tag
But a guiding point is that they are using Canonical tags to reduce duplicate content and give Google/Bing the hint of what page they wanted showed in the SERPs. http://www.walmart.com/toys
The canonical choice of URL does show some hope for WalMart at a top level but they seem to fail around most other factors such as relevant title tags, and even SEO friendly URLs within the store.  These failures combined with overuse of onsite ads, too many images, too much flash and poor page loading times affect website usability.
Site Navigation fails consistency
I would rate this is a poor navigational URL for a website and one that could easily lead to broken links
Product URL fails to rank well
How could what product or item this URL is for? http://www.walmart.com/catalog/product.do?product_id=11018843
It doesn’t make sense to the user and would i be likely to share or bookmark this link? Once again Toysrus.com ranks higher at #3 for the search term “DC Universe Batman figures” but below Amazon.com #2 which shows that there is something wrong with the online marketing by Walmart.com
Google Insights
Using Google Insights for Search Toys R Us has around 10 times the amount of branded search traffic that Walmart Toys does.  Combined with owning 3 of the top online domains: Toyrus,eToys,Toys gives them a massive lead over Walmart. Using the basic calculation of a #1 & #2 result for Toys R Us website this gives them an estimated of around 53% of clicks from searchers seeking toys in the US market.
SEO Factors such as Domain Age?
Looking at some key search ranking factors for Walmart.com and it appears to be around 2 years older than the eToys.com domain so we can say that in this case domain age is less of a factor. Also it seems that Walmart.com’s competitors such as Toys R Us fail to take onsite optimisation as seriously which leaves link strategy as the only differentiator between the two companies.
Walmart Domain Strategy
Walmart continues to buy back domains which it didn’t secure early in the dot.com days, but is it making effective use of these domains as part of an overall strategy.  The only domain that is partly setup correctly is “wal-mart.com” which has a 302 redirect to its primary Walmart.com domain. It would appear that they wish to have these other domains show within the search results, and they are likely causing issues such as duplicate content and maybe marked as spammers due to how the search engines are treating the domains.
  • wallmart.com (200)
  • wal-mart.com (302)
  • Retaillink.at (200)
  • Wallmartphoto.com (200)

So based on our initial analysis their appears to be several key areas where Walmart fail to be the 800 pound gorilla of the online retail world and may just need to sit back eat some humble pie and consider its strategy with some more thought.  Only digital strategy takes more planning and requires a site wide view that matches with several elements of your online marketing and some companies still need work.

Top Xmas Toys

So Christmas Day 2009 is 5 days away but does that doesn’t mean its too late for online retailers who are trying to push guaranteed delivery spots for last minute buyers.  We focus was made on the US market as it is far ahead in online retail and also has a larger amount of search traffic for analysis.
What is interesting is that with all this discussion around Toys R Us making this years Zhu Zhu Pets hot and also securing the most available stock was hot little this affected online interest in search queries.
Another interesting point is that Zhu Zhu pets unlike Eyeclops Night Vision did not generate a significant amount of interesting outside of the US/Canada.
Also we can see that of the top search terms, or even the rising search terms for the past 7 days it didn’t feature, so have parents given up on trying to buy them or were they just over hyped?
Top Toys search terms last 7 days in USA
  1. toys for tots
  2. kids toys
  3. christmas toys
  4. best toys
  5. toys for kids
  6. toys for christmas
  7. toys for boys
  8. top toys
  9. girls toys
  10. baby toys
Rising Toy Searches
  1. Avatar toys
  2. Parents toys
  3. Salvation army
  4. RC toys
  5. Haba toys
  6. Green toys

Avatar Toys?
It is surprising that considering the amount of money spent on advertising Avatar that more wasn’t spent around the promotion of its toys as it was released so close to Christmas.  Even a google search for “Avatar toys” only shows 1 AdWords campaign running by MR Toys.

With the initial hype in July 2009 around Mattel’s New Web-Enabled “Avatar” Toys Will Offer Augmented Reality very little appears to have been pushed or promoted and a must have toy for Christmas might have been missed by Mattel.

It does show the official Avatar i-Tag website but they have failed to use any descriptive title tags or meta descriptions to explain its relevance. The only retail toy sites to show are:

  • Shopping.com
  • TysToyBox.com
  • Amazon.com

Best way to sort toys?

So having the ability to sort and filter toys is one of the areas that many of the local online retail stores fall down. Even some of the bigger US sites still seem to struggle to match the usability of Amazon.com or upcoming sites like Milo.com.

While eToys & Walmart miss 2 key features “best seller” and “top rated” toys filter that can make shopping for presents that much easier.  But both eToys.com which is owned by Toys R US and Walmart.com do actually follow a very similar process for finding gifts, using age based avatars. But eToys does a better job at selecting images and making them large enough to be able to see the child.

But while eToys does as a much better job as visually displaying the options its website also goes about breaking almost all onsite guidelines for search optimisation, but because of its design they likely convert online sales higher than Walmart.

The one store that seems to excel at combining both is Target.com that while dropping the graphically shop by age pictures, does use a gradient colour scale to that darkens at the age/price increases.  They also have the ability to sort toys by age brackets with pricing guidance selectable from a top level which reduces an extra step in the search process.  The 3 large shop by price buttons are very clear and easy to find as is the ability to find best selling toys by category which Walmart.com and eToys don’t offer.

It is likely that the price breaks have changed since last year with many clients seeing a decrease in average price of items purchased but an increase in total number of items purchased.  It would be interesting to find how many of Target.com’s online sales are above $50 and have they even got the price breaks correct?

Shown below is the Australian online store for Toys R Us which falls well short of its competitors, and its selection of Top 10 picks don’t seem to be supported by any other data such as top selling items, most popular items, more of a staff/company list of the crap they want to offload online. The website design standards is far below its competitors, and for a company looking to increase profitability I would expect more than 50 cents spent on webdesign….

The website that continues to offer the best online experience for filtering and sorting its vast inventory with a single click is Amazon, and it also provides a helpful sales chart.  This chart of top items is ranked, complete with indicator of current trend increasing/decreasing popularity and also how long it has been featured in the top 100.  This is useful for being able to ensure you don’t buy last years version of the toy by accident and also shows the continuing popularity of items such as Lego that have been in the top 100 for almost the last 2 years.

The next best website to be able combine both easy filters to find the right toys by price/gender/age and also include “top sellers” information was Target.com.  The cool point is the easy and quick loading “quick info” mini-detail pages that are available which don’t require you to leave the page to view product information. The let down is the Google Adsense that is showing in the bottom at the “narrow by” filters which may distract from the user experience.

The final site that seems to fail to follow its eToy model of making it easy to find toys is Toys R US.  One of the more useful features “top sellers” is hidden at the bottom of the “top rated” page.  While the website tries to be basic, it seems to lack any actual business model, and seems to be more of an land of banner ads and confusing cross promotion offers.  The only saving grace is the easy to view and fast loading “top sellers page” as it informs you if the product is in stock and what unique promotion is relevant to that item.  The “top sellers” page also like the Australian version doesn’t provide any filters or any details about how the top sellers data was generated.
Based on the top selling items they are missing the “zhu zhu pets” audience they have been promoting and many of the other items listed on their competitors websites as popular selling products.  It is likely that this relates to the typically demographic that visit Toys R Us stores, not looking for high-tech just the basics at a reasonable price.  It seems that along with their recent purchase of a number of specialty/traditional toy stores they have also attracted more of these shoppers online and missed out on the high-tech high profit toys like the Amazon Kindle or iPhone.

One followup blog post we have discovered while doing research for this post and will have written up is around how WalMart fails at online marketing. So remember don’t believe all the hype that you read about what is the must have toy of the year, and remember to use the online stores that offer you the best value and easiest experience.

Google Insights upward trends for Retail Jobs

Im doing a few posts around retail so I thought I would take some time to get my head around how the industry is reacting to the GFC (not Global Flavour Crisis).  While I have some clients within the retail sector, they appear to be doing better than others due to a strong brand, quality products and effective online marketing campaigns. Those who don’t have this in place, I believe are struggling to get a decent or even positive ROI for any campaigns.

Using my favourite Google tool “Insights for Search”  is a great way to examine how trends have been tracking over the last 5 years and how Google forecast the search trends will continue. What makes the forecast point interesting is that the Google research team recently published an article about how a high percentage of search queries were seasonal and could be predicted upto 12 months ahead.  The report outlined that over half of the most popular Google search terms can be predicted 12 months ahead, with several highly predictable categories:

  1. Health (74%)
  2. Food & Drink (67%)
  3. Travel (65%)

The research did find that some categories such as Entertainment have a very low 35% level of predictable queries, this is due to often unpredictable human nature, unforeseen blockbusters/music acts and generally fresh and new words/brands. Retail is another category that does have a number of predictable search queries with obvious spikes around Christmas each year.

retail-shops

Looking at the retail research using Insights for Search one of the  areas that seemed to stand out was the number of rising search terms around “retail jobs” being searched for in Australia. This seems to be going against the downward trend in retail search queries but is this would be likely due to increased unemployment levels and increased interest in securing “jobs” but not “employment” which is trending downward.

Search Term: Retail Assistant
What is interesting in the rising searches, which feature several interesting keywords and why we think the term is showing.
retail award (government agreement for minimum conditions,wages)
retail resume (not sure of what is needed on a resume for retail jobs)
retail wages (people looking to find if they are being paid the correct amount or how much they would get paid in a retail job)
retail duties (staff being ask to do extra tasks)

retail-assitant-trends

Search Term: Jobs in retail
What is interesting in the rising searches, which feature several interesting keywords and why we think the term is showing.
Jobs in geographic locations (more intention focused searches)
casual jobs (less fulltime jobs available)

jobs-in-retail-trends

Search Term: Retail Jobs
What is interesting in the rising searches, which feature several interesting keywords and why we think the term is showing.
Westfield (world’s leading center operator)
seek (australia’s largest jobs website)
jobs in geographic locations (more intention focused searches)

retail-jobs-trends

So with general retail search queries tracking down it is interesting to see that shopping queries show absolutely no change or no predicted change over the next 12 months. So its likely that the GFC is not the end of online retail but a shift in interest and a decrease in how people search for information online.  Australian search patterns appear to show an increase in brand terms and geographic locations used to refine search results, highlighting how a client should be running their online campaigns.

shopping-trends