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Black Friday 2018 Winners and Losers

Episode Overview

Listen as we discuss the accuracy of our Black Friday SEO predictions and who the big winners (and losers) were from the busiest shopping day of the year.

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Episode Transcript

Ben:                 Welcome 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 and the ever changing world of search engine optimization. This podcast is brought to you by the marketing team at Searchmetrics. We are an SEO and content marketing platform that helps enterprise scale businesses monitor their online presence and make data-driven decisions. If you’re looking to understand how you can optimize your content, understand what topics you need to cover next, or how to ensure that your writers produce effective posts, go to for a free tour of our platform. Joining us again today is Jordan Koene, who is both a world renown SEO Strategist and the CEO of Searchmetrics Inc. And now that Black Friday has come and gone, today we’re going to review some of the predictions we made in our pre-Black Friday episodes to see if they came true. Jordan, welcome back to the Voices of Search Podcast.

Jordan:             Hi Ben, I hope you had a stuffing filled thanksgiving.

Ben:                 I want you to know that I optimized the crap out of some mashed potatoes and turkey.

Jordan:             Well done. Well done.

Ben:                 My gravy was down year-over-year, but the pumpkin pie was flat and it was a high volume play.

Jordan:             Well played. Well, every year I make amazing turkey and this year it came out perfect. Every year I prepare the turkey the night before, leave in the fridge and take all the salt off and it keeps the meat very tender. I want to let our listeners know that’s the way to prepare your turkey.

Ben:                 I can hear our listener rate dropping as we speak. Let’s get on to reviewing the predictions that we made a prior to Black Friday. They were actually posted a couple of days after the holiday, but a couple of things that we talked about first and foremost our big prediction was that from a search perspective, the Big Box Retailers, we’re going to have a better Black Friday, then internet behemoth Amazon … We said that they would outperform Amazon specifically, were we right?

Jordan:             Not really.

Ben:                 Damn!

Jordan:             The main retailers like Target, Gap and a few others had a slight decline in their SEO traffic. Another one that received a lot of recognition for their Black Friday and their Thanksgiving deal was cause … I’m sure there’s a lot of hype and a lot of recognition and of course from their deals, but from an SEO perspective, they didn’t really see a big increase during that weekend.

Ben:                 So, we pretty much focused on Walmart and Amazon. We said big box retailers sound like some of the Non Walmart and Amazon big box retailers didn’t perform as well as we had expected. How did Amazon do and how did Walmart do? Our big prediction was that Walmart was going to be the big winner for Black Friday because going into the day we saw that they went from 26 to the third position in a short period of time in only two months. Did Walmart out performance Amazon. Did Amazon end up gaining share or losing share what happened?

Jordan:             Walmart was the winner here. Walmart saw a huge increase in their winning keywords. The keywords that already rank in a positive place, they saw also a strong hold on the Black Friday keywords and the keywords around Black Friday. So they maintain those positions, positions that in some cases displaced Amazon. They had a really positive outcome from a Black Friday and deals perspective versus Amazon. Amazon actually did slip in the visibility rankings and we saw a lot of decreases to Amazon over the weekend and the week that we’re very directly correlated to deals or two holiday related type keywords. And so the reality is if we’re looking at the head to head, hadn’t had debate here and there, that one Walmart took.

Ben:                 We got that one right.

Jordan:             You know everything that I see in my twitter feed was that Amazon crushed it. Amazon has taken over the world. Amazon had the greatest Black Friday. Anything that was ever purchased in the history of the world, it went through Amazon. But we’re saying that Walmart actually picked up some share in terms of search. What does that mean for Amazon and search just in general?

Ben:                 So the reality is that Amazon, Walmart, and many of these brands, they have behemoths recognize brands, that during these very busy shopping periods attract a lot of shoppers. Online and offline. And so, the expectation here is that yes, there’s going to be a lot of transactions, there’s going to be more traffic coming, there’s even going to be more search traffic. So, I wouldn’t be surprised if every single company we’re talking about today, saw not only increase, but a significant increase in their SEO traffic during this holiday period. That is not uncommon. What we’re really talking about here is market share and who controlled more of that traffic during this period, in particular we’re talking about who’s controlling that traffic from SEO search.

Ben:                 Yeah. My big takeaway is that Amazon’s brand is a huge and growing, and so when the stories that I’m seeing on the twitter feed about Amazon taking over the world, that’s really relying on their brand metrics and maybe they’re doing some paid advertising or something along those lines, but really they’re not necessarily gaining share and organic, which just means that it’s a smaller portion of their business relative to their direct traffic would be my assumption.

Jordan:             Yeah. There’s always going to be a much smaller portion of their traffic coming from SEO. The question that we’re trying to see here is, who’s really the big winner, who’s taking away a little bit of that traffic from the other brand. And that’s what we’re analyzing. That’s what we’re looking at with our data. We’re looking at market share studies and we’re looking at disability, which is really an indication of who’s gaining traction during these time periods. This week long time period and in particular who is doing that within the search results.

Ben:                 So who has stuck out to you over Black Friday? What did anything else interesting happen?

Jordan:             Well, one of the craziest things, I think it’s just a crazy story in general and I’m super excited about sharing it is, what we saw with REI. Not only in our data, but what was published during Black Friday shopping period from the REI leadership, a blog post declaring that they would be closed for Black Friday. So, they kept the stores closed during the Black Friday events and their employees were at home enjoying thanksgiving with their families. And the funny thing is that when you look at our data, they had a 16% increase in visibility week over week from the week before Black Friday to the week of Black Friday.

Ben:                 When they closed their retail stores was the website’s still open?

Jordan:             Absolutely.

Ben:                 Okay.

Jordan:             So no question. The website is still open for business. And it is remarkable. I’ve never seen anything quite like this to be honest with you. Some of the keywords that they suddenly started ranking for just popped out of nowhere. They went from very low rankings for keywords like sports store to a very high ranking position, three and four for sports store. They went from ranking for Black Friday related terms that they weren’t even on the radar of, or they didn’t even have content for it, and then suddenly their website was ranking for Black Friday related terms like, stores closed for Black Friday or store’s Black Friday. These keywords just came out of nowhere, because of the decision they had made and the press coverage that they received. Google was associating their website and their brands. And that’s easy.

Ben:                 So basically, I would guess that there’s a couple things happening. One, there’s the REI Nation that, everybody that normally would have gone into the store and that was their habit for Black Friday to go pick up their shopping gear, stores closed. They start googling for REI or stores that are closed and right you’re picking up some of what would’ve been your brick and mortar traffic online and that gets filtered through your organic search and two, you’re getting all the press around, hey, REI, this gigantic retailer is deciding that they’re not even going to open their doors. That giving everybody the day off. You’re going to get tons of links back to the store and now also of a sudden google is taking all of that data from your new, let’s call it a linking strategy and you’re showing up for a bunch of terms that you never showed up for it before.

Jordan:             That’s correct. So the number one asset that they published during this Black Friday period was the REI blog post about closing down during the holidays. So they added this blog post in their news section. It got a lot of press and then overnight that page received a whole bunch of rankings. So yes. Absolutely, that is the main driver. But what you’re alluding to hear Ben, is exactly the sweet spot that REI stumbled into here, which is by publicizing and showing this information or promoting this inspiration. The tide rise for all their other keyboards. And so all their other keywords, all of a sudden starting to bump up another spot. Whether it’s things like North Face jacket or running shoes or other very competitive keywords, the tied rows and they moved up one or two spots, because of the recognition of the brand, the amount of demand that was lightly getting pushed through google to search and identify the REI.

Ben:                 Is it as simple as their domain authority is increased because of all the visibility that they were having or the linking that was happening?

Jordan:             That’s right.

Ben:                 Okay.

Jordan:             That’s exactly what domain authority is there to address.

Ben:                 Great, so anything else that was interesting on Black Friday? We talked a little bit about some of the popular gifts. We said tech accessories, home goods, video games, specifically AirPods, Roomba and Dyson, the Nintendo Switch. Were there any surprise gifts that people should be expecting under their tree Hanukkah Bush, I don’t know what the other holidays are.

Jordan:             So, We talked about certain products last time like Nintendo Switch, Roomba. Roomba was probably one of the most remarkable increases in search volume. So Roomba more than doubled. Almost tripled in search volume during the Black Friday shopping period. Switch on the other hand had a significant increase, but they had a lot of momentum going into the week, so they only doubled. Which is still a lot in terms of search volumes for the Nintendo switch. And then we also talked a little bit about some home goods, which saw some strong positive momentum, but that was more along the lines of 30% increases versus doubling or more in the case of the Roomba.

Ben:                 So at the end of the day, the big winner seems like Walmart had a very strong Black Friday, Amazon had a very strong Black Friday, but not specifically in search. REI managed to pull a rabbit out of a hat by closing the store and everyone should expect a Roomba for a Nintendo Switch under the tree.

Jordan:             That is correct. And I think maybe as one of the interesting leaving remarks for our listeners, especially when you think about the REI cases, it’s really interesting to read the letter from the president and CEO of REI and the reasons for them to opt out of the Black Friday event, but the interesting in beautiful part about this message is what kind of an impact we can have to the rest of your business. And I’m sure, I can assure you, and I can assure all the listeners, and I hope that someone from REI can validate this for us. Is that they noticed some significant sales online because of their choice to close their stores and give that to their employees to spend with their family and friends.

Ben:                 I’m sure that that was a factor for giving the time back to the employees. Hopefully that was the driving factor, but my guess is they were looking and seeing that the vast majority of people are moving to their Black Friday shopping online. I know that the food traffic in stores was down nationwide and that this is becoming more of a digital holiday. Which to me just highlights that your SEO strategy during the holiday. You got to start thinking of that early and often and let’s call what they’re doing, altruism. It also seems it could have been a PR strategy, but one last question before we let you go, now that we’re looking back on Black Friday and you’ve seen some of the initial data for how the big retailers have performed. Any thoughts on any changes in the dynamic that you’re seeing that can be implemented for next year?

Jordan:             Yes. So I’m back to the Walmart example, getting yourself organized around Black Friday and the heavy hitting terms relevant to Black Friday, whether it be the products themselves, the categories or the actual head terms for that shopping season is an absolute must. I mean, there is nothing better that you can do for your business and get out early on this and start preparing to produce the content and the assets that you need. We talked about this in the last episode, in order to rank and be present for those keywords. So that’s number one. And then number two, the other component that really is critical to the brands who noticed significant uptick in traffic and visibility during this time period.

Jordan:             There are ones that really took a very holistic approach to this holiday season. So they connected things like their deals section with their Black Friday content with the top demand products. And the brands that did that well connected. All those online assets together, are the ones that really started to see the tide rise. And I’ll be really transparent. I don’t know if any of you guys went to Amazon during Black Friday, but it’s very interesting because Amazon diverge from their historical strategy when it came to content on their Black Friday deals page. They were more focused on QVC like experience, where they actually were streaming deals, putting out video behind the deals, then were on the content assets, prioritizing lists, creating an experience around the high demand products. And I don’t know if that was successful for them. I do think videos and important asset, but I do know that from a search perspective that didn’t drive as much success.

Ben:                 Interesting. I just want to say for the record, thank you to the Marketing Manager who decided to discount the 65-inch LG TV from best buy 50%, I appreciate it. I hope you continued to success throughout the holidays and for next year and for you, the rest of our listeners, this is probably going to be the last holiday episode that we have for the year. We’re going to move our attention towards focusing on some of the recent changes that Google has been making, their recent algorithm updates and also starting to talk about what planning looks like for the end of 2018 and 2019. So, if you have questions for the holidays, feel free to go back and listen to some of our previous episodes where we talk about holiday strategies, our Holiday Triage Week. We hope you enjoyed our holiday series. We hope you have a great happy holiday. We’ll be back in your podcast feed with an episode everyday next week, talking about Google’s updates. So that wraps up this episode of the Voices of Search podcasts.

Ben:                 Thanks to Jordan , the CEO of Searchmetrics for joining us and sharing his thoughts. If you’re interested in learning more about Searchmetrics or if you’d like a walkthrough of our platform, head over to If you liked this podcast and you are one of regular stream of SEO and content marketing insights and your podcast feed, hit the subscribe button in your Podcast App. If you have questions you’d like us to answer on the Voices of Search Podcast, click the link in our show notes or head over to twitter. You can contact Jordan @jtKone or you can reach out to me @benshap. We’re happy to answer your SEO or general marketing questions. Lastly, if you’re feeling generous, we’d love for you to leave us a review in the iTunes Store and that’s it for today, but until next time, remember, your content is always king.

Jordan Koene

Jordan Koene

Jordan Koene is the CEO of Searchmetrics Inc. a wholly owned subsidiary of Searchmetrics. Previously, Jordan was the Head of SEO and Content Development at eBay. During his time at eBay, Jordan focused on utilizing eBay content to improve user experience and natural search traffic.

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