Voices of Search
A Searchmetrics Podcast
Episode 18, Black Friday SEO Analysis

Episode Overview

Listen now as we take a look at Black Friday SEO Predictions and Analysis.  Jordan Koene is the CEO of Searchmetrics, Inc.

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Episode Transcript

Ben:                 Welcome to back to the Voices of Search podcast. I’m your host, Benjamin Shapiro and in this podcast, we’re going to discuss the hottest topics in the ever changing world of search engine optimization. This podcast is brought to you by the marketing team at Searchmetrics. We are a team of SEO’s, content marketers, and data scientists, that help enterprise scale businesses monitor their online presence and make data-driven decisions using a mix of software and our expertise.

Ben:                 To support you, our loyal podcast listeners, we’re offering a complementary digital diagnostic consultation. A member of our digital services group will evaluate your historical performance, identify problem areas that are slowing your growth, and implement a foundation for sustainable success with your SEO and content marketing efforts. Just go to searchmetrics.com/diagnostic to get started.

Ben:                 Joining us today is Jordan Koene, who is both a world renowned SEO strategist and the CEO of Searchmetrics Inc. And now that the 2019 holiday season has begun, Jordan and I are going to discuss some predictions that we have for the upcoming Black Friday and the beginning of the holiday season.

Ben:                 So Jordan, welcome back to the Voices of Search podcast!

Jordan:             Thanks Ben! Looking forward to diving into my favorite holiday shopping event.

Ben:                 Let me start off by saying that Thanksgiving is two days away at the time that we’re recording this, and I am thankful for you and the Searchmetrics team, creating this forum to help educate SEOs and for allowing me to be the talking head on your podcast. So thanks for keeping me around buddy!

Jordan:             Absolutely, you’re welcome. Thanks for … You know what, thank you to our listeners Ben. They’re the ones who really keep this thing going, and we appreciate all their loyalty, and we hope that they continue to contribute to the great ideas and to the community we’ve built.

Ben:                 Yeah, absolutely. So let’s get down to the meat of this episode. We’re about to head into not only Thanksgiving, but also Black Friday, the biggest shopping day of the year in the US market and there’s also other big shopping days that are happening around the world. Jordan and I want to spend a few minutes making some pre-Black Friday predictions that we have to kick off the holiday season.

Ben:                 And we want to talk to you a little bit about how we’re finding some data to try to make an educated guess at what’s going to happen for organic search for Black Friday.

Ben:                 So let’s start off with who we think are going to be the winners and losers in terms of organic search on Black Friday. Jordan, there was some interesting trends that you and I looked through together. Can you tell us a little bit about who you think is going to win this year in terms of SEO for Black Friday?

Jordan:             Yeah, so one of the things that we did was we looked at the keyword position history for some very hot button keywords. Keywords like ‘Black Friday Deals’, specific products like the Nintendo Switch and other popular products. And what we noticed is with our keyword position history, we can actually see how long a particular domain has been ranking for that particular keyword.

Jordan:             And what we noticed is that there’s been a real strong acceleration for a couple of brands. In particular, Walmart and Target and other brands have really seen a strong uptick in ‘Black Friday’ and other keywords relevant to the holiday shopping season. As opposed to Amazon, who is typically one of the dominating forces, who we’ve seen some slippage in their keyword rankings.

Ben:                 Yeah, I thought it was interesting that the businesses and the companies that are both primarily brick-and-mortar and also have an online presence, the Walmarts, the Kohls, the Targets, the Lowes of the World, they were really dominant for the Black Friday keyword which is the most important one for Black Friday. We saw that Amazon was really sort of peaking in terms of being relevant for the deals keyword but not necessarily Black Friday specific deals. Why is that happening? What do you think the strategy is that’s driving the brick-and-mortar driven businesses to focus on Black Friday?

Jordan:             Yeah, so I think there’s a couple of things there, right? The first reality is that there’s just a stronger emergence of these brick-and-mortar brands becoming more mature in their tactics, their online tactics, and building the content and the resources necessary to be present and relevant during these super, hyper competitive holiday events. And one of the interesting things there is that, “hey, if I can beat Amazon in the biggest shopping day of the year, then I can beat Amazon at other things”. And so, it’s a pretty interesting tactic and I think what Walmart in particular has done here, and Target has been doing this for a while now too, is they’ve now started to flex their muscle online. They used to have all these people standing in front of their stores for hours. Some of them aggressively fighting one another for deals as they walk into the store and that fight has moved from the storefront to the online store and that’s where Walmart, Target, Kohls and others have become really smart about gaining that market share.

Ben:                 Yeah, from a strategic perspective, what I would assume, and this is just my personal opinion, is that the big box retailers are probably saying to themselves “We can’t beat Amazon every day in eCommerce, but we can beat them on the biggest day.” And they’re going to try take as much of Black Friday as they possibly can and for Amazon, it might not be worth the investment to try to win Black Friday because they’re going to win basically every other day throughout the holidays. So Amazon is playing a little bit of the long game, but that’s just me guessing what the corporate strategy is.

Ben:                 Let’s talk a little bit about Walmart. You mentioned that Walmart was really the top for Black Friday related keywords and they’ve made sort of a push in rankings. Tell me what you saw from Walmart and why do you think that they are jumping up the charts for Black Friday related terms.

Jordan:             You’re right. So we have noticed that Walmart has gained some strong positions for Black Friday keywords. In fact, if you’re listening to this and you noticed Walmart while you’re doing your holiday shopping, it wouldn’t be a surprise to us. And the way we came to this discovery is that we were doing some keyword research.

Jordan:             So we have a keyword research section within Searchmetrics and you’re able to do some filtering and refining and you can identify what are some of the branded words that are showing up more frequently and what you notice is that Walmart, Target, Kohls are coming up almost as frequently as the Amazon related keywords. But the bigger and more interesting finding as we were segregating or compartmentalizing these different keywords based on brands is that for the big head terms like Black Friday, Black Friday deals, Black Friday ads … these kinds of keywords, Walmart was starting to take a real strong position on. And what we noticed is over a six month period here, Walmart has gone from maybe being in page two or even low page 1 rankings to top page rankings. And the reason for that is that they’ve made a clear investment to improve the experience and the content that’s available on these pages.

Ben:                 Okay so, Walmart basically went from the mid-20s to easily ranking in the top 5 for Black Friday related terms and you’re saying it’s related to the site design and some of the content that’s on the page. How much do you think it matters that their page is more responsive? It fits different formats now.

Jordan:             Well, I definitely think that had a big part to do with it. Clearly Walmart has invested in a big site redesign and there’s some responsive elements that they’ve invested in and they’ve really improved the overall experience of their website. That is the fundamental, biggest driver to their success here but that doesn’t happen just by itself. You also are in … especially in these situations, I think this is the great learning from the data we’ve looked at is that, this isn’t just about setting up a great website. You’re dealing in a hyper-competitive space now when we’re talking about Black Friday keywords. And so, yeah you have to have a great website AND you have to have the relevant content, the relevant experience in order to be very competitive and that’s where I think the real interesting factor is for Walmart in particular here.

Ben:                 So Jordan, you mentioned the Walmart Black Friday page. Tell me a little bit about the content and what do you think made that page so successful.

Jordan:             So this page has a phenomenal set of content on it. They’ve included Black Friday relevant content. They’ve updated the page to reflect 2018. You can clearly can tell that the maintenance behind the content and the improvement over time has taken place so that Walmart can continue to be relevant year over year for Black Friday. That’s the first piece.

Jordan:             But the second piece that we noticed when we were looking at this particular page is that the page itself actually out-does all the competition. They’ve got something like 8,400 words on the page. They’ve got a ton of internal links referencing back to the page. They’ve got a good breadth of diversity in terms of both branded keyword elements and non-branded. Branded being the word Walmart. So, Walmart has really done well here is they’ve said ‘Hey look, we’re going to get this page to rank really well for Walmart Black Friday and then from there, we’re going to expand our ability for this page to rank for very competitive Black Friday keywords.

Jordan:             And that’s the strategy that you really want to leverage, which is “What can I do really well right now, during this holiday season?” And over time, over the years, I’ll continue to maintain and evolve this page so that it becomes more competitive for very, very, very tough terms like Black Friday or Black Friday deals, and that’s Walmart has done very well.

Ben:                 Yeah, I think specifically for the holiday season, for Black Friday, you have to play the long game and Google is always taking data in terms of what people are expecting. So when you are starting to build a holiday/Black Friday program, the expectation should not be that you’re going to win in year one. It’s that it’s going to take time for you to be competitive and years for you to start dominating your specific category in keywords.

Jordan:             You got it.

Ben:                 So Jordan, how do you get that data on a particular page?

Jordan:             So one of the interesting features that we’ve built on Searchmetrics is the ability to look at any URL and break down certain competitive insights. So our entire database is not just looking at keywords, it’s also looking at URLS. So what I did, I just went in and put in the Black Friday URL for Walmart and it instantly told me how many keywords were on that page versus the top 10 competitors. I could compare that against Amazon’s page, or I could compare it against some of the other retailers, or even some of the media sites that are ranking for Black Friday-type terms like say NerdWallet, or Consumer Reports, or Forbes.com.

Jordan:             And I can compare ‘How is it that Walmart is ranking so well against these different types of competitors’ and it shows me that data in one aggregate view. We call this experience ‘The Content Details’. So it really sucks out all the details of the page, throws it into the platform and you can instantly do that compare and contrast, something that a lot of us do probably intuitively when we scan a page, but here it is, fact-based and all in front of you and you can quickly pivot between competitors.

Ben:                 Okay, let’s change the subject a little bit and talk about the internationalization of the holiday season. I always assumed, the U.S. being the biggest economy in the world, that our holiday season would be the largest shopping event in the world. You pointed out in our pre-production meeting that’s not even close to true. Where’s the biggest shopping event in the world and what’s notable about it?

Jordan:             Yeah, not even close. We are a distant, distant, distant second place. China actually has the biggest shopping event. I believe it’s called the Global Shopping Festival or something along those lines. Literally, China will sell as much in one hour as we do in the entire day. In fact, I think it’s something like 47 minutes. In the first 47 minutes of this shopping day in China, they will sell as much as the United States consumes on Black Friday. It’s pretty crazy. I think they do something over $30 billion and it’s really a –

Ben:                 30. Billion. Dollars.

Jordan:             Yep, $30 billion.

Ben:                 For the season or for the day?

Jordan:             For the day. For the 24 hour sale.

Ben:                 Geez.

Jordan:             [laughing] I mean, it’s a remarkable … When you watch some of the signage that they have around this event … How many goods are sold or how much moneys been … It’s just crazy to see how fast it’s moving and how much money is being transacted on this one event. Hey, we are all excited about our Black Friday event and I’m sure as listeners are listening to this after Black Friday … I’m sure you’re all sitting there either very excited about the new product that you now have or about gifting it as the holiday season comes. Just be reminded that China is outpacing us in what they consume on their holiday event.

Ben:                 Not just outpacing us, but I think what the … Black Friday is 6, 7 billion in total sales?

Jordan:             Yeah, somewhere around there.

Ben:                 So it’s like 5 Black Fridays in one, is the Global Shopping Festival like you said. In China.

Jordan:             It’s crazy.

Ben:                 Totally incredible. You mentioned something about the popular gifts that SEO’s are likely to be excited about, or the new things that they might’ve brought home. What are you seeing terms of gifts and categories that you think are going to popular for this season?

Jordan:             So another aspect that we looked into were some trends on particular products and how those products are trending going into the holiday season. This might not necessarily be a big surprise to folks but I think this is one of those neat places where you can take trending data and then apply it not just search metrics but even how you track and monitor the progress of your website against a certain key product type or certain individual products if they’re that important. There are certain trends that we’re noticing, things like Nintendo Switch or gaming consoles. We noticed also electronics or electronic gifts like AirPods. Then also, lastly, a lot of home good type of products that were trending upwards. Things like Dyson vacuum and Roomba.

Jordan:             These were some of the hot products that we noticed that are getting a lot of attention in organic search. Monitoring the trends but then also, in Searchmetrics, taking your own domain and then seeing how you’re performing against those products or those product groups is a real vital tool during this holiday season. That’s really what helps dictate your success in the holiday season.

Ben:                 So there you have it. If you want to buy the most popular gifts for the holiday season, our prediction is that they’re going to be tech accessories, things like Apple’s AirPods, Home Goods, the Roomba or Dyson Vacuums, or video games, specifically the Nintendo Switch. Those seem to be the most popular.

Ben:                 Jordan, any last take aways or any last things you want to say related to the Thanksgiving, Black Friday, the holiday season to our listeners?

Jordan:             Well, first of all, I hope all of you are not completely stressed at this point in the year. I know for a lot of my folks that do search or work in the retail space, this is an incredibly stressful time of year. It all comes down to the preparation that you’ve put into this. We’ve done a couple episodes on holiday and the holiday triage and setup that you need to do. Ultimately my parting words here are: If you’re feeling down, don’t worry. This season will come again back next year.

Jordan:             It took a lot of these retail folks like Targets, Walmarts and others many years and many attempts to get it right. If you’re feeling down, don’t worry, there’s always next year. If you’re flying high, congratulations. Hopefully it’s a very successful holiday season for you and you guys can continue to flourish in your search strategy and in your sales success because this is when you make most of your money.

Ben:                 I think my take away after having recorded the holiday triage week, if there’s any advice I can give it’s: No matter how your sales perform over Black Friday and the holiday season, don’t delete the pages. Re-use them, re-purpose them, start building your strategy from what you have, from what you know is going to be successful because the page that wasn’t successful this year is still getting traction and giving Google some data and you can always modify and improve your strategy for next year. So build off of what you’ve built this year. Do a better job next year.

Ben:                 I hope everybody enjoys the holiday season. Coming up for the rest of the year, what we’re going to do is start focusing on our 2019 planning at the back half of this month, so you can be ready to hit the ground running in 2019. So, enjoy your holiday seasons. We’re going to be back over the next month to make sure that we give you as many tips as you can to get ready for 2019. And that wraps up this episode of the Voices of Search podcast. Thanks to Jordan Koene, the CEO of Searchmetrics, for sharing his thoughts.

Ben:                 If you’re interested in learning more about Searchmetrics or if you’d like a walk-through of our platform, head over searchmetrics.com. We’d love to have more of a conversation with you, so if you’d like to reach out to Jordan to talk about Searchmetrics or SEO strategy, you can send him a tweet at @JTKoene on Twitter. If you’d like to talk about general marketing trends or about this podcast, you can reach out to me, on Twitter my handle is @BenJShap.

Ben:                 If you like this podcast and you want a regular stream of SEO and content marketing insights in your podcast feed, hit the subscribe button in your podcast app. Lastly, if you’ve enjoyed this episode and you’re feeling generous, we’d love for you to leave a review in the Apple iTunes store or wherever you listen to your podcasts.

Ben:                 Okay, that’s it for today. Hopefully you had a happy Thanksgiving. We wish you a wonderful holiday season and remember, until next time, that your content is always king.