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Google’s Holiday Shopping Experience: Black Friday Recap – Jordan Koene // Searchmetrics

Episode Overview: We’ve reached the end of the road for 2019 on the Voices of Search podcast, rounding out the year taking one final look at data from Black Friday’s aftermath. Join host Ben and Searchmetrics CEO Jordan Koene as they review some of the big winners and the key winning strategies from Black Friday. Also, Ben and Jordan take a moment to reflect on the Voices of Search’s growth in 2019 and share with listeners what they can expect from the podcast in 2020.

Summary

  • Google’s efforts to share data from its Google Shopping experience to divert traffic from Amazon led to positive gains during Black Friday, which can be attributed to their multi-media awareness building strategy.
  • Retail giants Walmart, Target and Best Buy secured a significant amount of traffic during Black Friday, due to creating more content, diversifying category sets, improving product pages and product descriptions.
  • YouTube acquired a large segment of informational query traffic as people sought information about products, watching YouTube influencers unbox and review products before they made purchasing decisions.

GUESTS & RESOURCES:

Ben:                 Welcome to the last 2019 episode of the Voices of Search podcast. I’m your host Benjamin Shapiro and joining us today is Jordan Koene who is the lead SEO strategist and CEO of Searchmetrics Inc. And today Jordan and I are going to talk about a couple things going on in the SEO world about Black Friday, and we’re going to wrap up how we feel about the Voices of Search podcast in 2019.

Ben:                 But before we hear from Jordan, I want to remind you that this podcast is brought to you by the marketing team at Searchmetrics. Searchmetrics is an SEO and content marketing platform that helps enterprise scale businesses, monitor their online presence, and make data-driven decisions. And to support you, our loyal podcast listeners, Searchmetrics is offering a free trial of their services. That’s right. You can have a 14 day trial, no credit card required, risk-free of Searchmetrics’ suite and content experience. Do all your keywords, your competitive research, and optimize your content by going to searchmetrics.com/freetrial.

Ben:                 Okay, on with the show. Here is my last interview of 2019 with Jordan Koene, lead SEO strategist and CEO of Searchmetrics Inc.

Ben:                 Jordan, welcome to the last episode of 2019 on the Voices of Search podcast. We did it, buddy.

Jordan:             We made another year happen. How about that?

Ben:                 Should old acquaintance be forgot and all the rest of the words. Is it New Years yet?

Jordan:             Not yet, and you’re definitely not getting a singing career out of that.

Ben:                 Hey, I want you to know I did lots of musical theater in high school. I’m very accomplished when it comes to singing off key in front of people, but let’s talk a little SEO, buddy. You got a-

Jordan:             Hey, we got more skills than that, don’t we?

Ben:                 I’m hopefully a little better at marketing than I am at singing, but let’s talk about Black Friday. That’s the big thing on everybody’s mind as we wrap up the year here. What did you learn about this holiday season, and what can you tell the SEO community?

Jordan:             Yeah, well, let’s look at the top line numbers right off the bat. So over that Black Friday season, which includes Cyber Monday in a collective set of days there over the weekend, the analysts have said that the shopping season topped over $7 billion, which is another record in the U.S. No surprise I think for anybody there. I also think that one of the big drivers for this year is just when Black Friday happened this year. It happened quite late, so it was just kind of more of a blitz in terms of just shopping explosion that took place towards the end of November.

Ben:                 I think the interesting thing to me, and this isn’t specifically SEO related, more general digital marketing, is that Black Friday is a season now. Between Black Friday, between Cyber Monday, between I think it’s Small Business Saturdays, the other event that people are marketing.

Jordan:             They have a Green Event as well. So yeah.

Ben:                 There’s more and more of the e-commerce is happening online and there are no lines anymore. People are just running to their phones, their websites. It’s the hungover day after Thanksgiving, sit on the couch and just buy stuff online. And that’s the trend. And obviously SEO has an incredible impact in that space, but just the overall shopping behavior in e-commerce has changed during the season over really the last … God, since we worked at eBay. The last five to 10 years, it was very much a like get in line and head to Walmart type experience. And now it’s just log on and go to Amazon.

Jordan:             Yeah. I mean, I think one of the interesting things though that makes this year different from the last couple of years, not the last decade. You’re right. I mean it’s just an acceleration of what we’ve been seeing for the last five, 10 years. But in the last year or so, like the offers are coming sooner, the discounts are coming sooner, the promotions are happening sooner. And it was kind of funny because I think this year, at least from my perspective, they started to hit my inbox, they started to hit my screen from various digital ads. But the intention to buy really didn’t happen until much later in the year for me.

Ben:                 Yeah. It’s funny for me thinking about the shopping experience, and I was thinking about where SEO impacts my life, and honestly Black Friday really isn’t an SEO buying event for me. I have the behavior of going direct to the brands that I really know and love and I’m looking for the sale, or people are showing up in my inbox and I’m ending up going direct. I’m part of an email marketing campaign and that’s really what’s driving my personal buying behavior. I’m not spending a lot of time researching what’s the best X, Y and Z. Are your buying behaviors focused on SEO? Does Google get you when you’re looking for your gifts?

Jordan:             I mean, that’s another big thing that we saw this shopping season, which is Google’s efforts in the shopping arena. Now, like you said, this isn’t directionally SEO, this isn’t Google saying, “Oh, we’re going to double down on Black Friday and make SEO more relevant,” or even paid search for that matter more relevant. But what Google did do this holiday season is they went bananas about Google Shopping and the Google Shopping experience. They had a ton of press. They released a bunch of data. We wrote an article here at Searchmetrics about some of that data to the Black Friday about top products, top trending products for the holiday season. And ultimately, Google made a very conceited effort to secure users and mind share into the Google Shopping experience. And I think this is a direct move to shift people away from Amazon, right? Because like you said, Ben, people go directly to brands. People go directly to Amazon. I’m already a Prime member. I know I can get something in two days. I’m going to be on Amazon to make my buying decision. And Google is saying, “Wait a minute, time out. Why don’t you come over here to Google Shopping and see what kind of selection and options we have over here?”

Ben:                 And I think the idea is that all of this comes together where people can be in the Google search engine, they’ll either be looking at a search ad, maybe there’s a buying experience related to that down the road. Or they are finding an organic result. And through that organic result, they’re going to be pulling more and more people into Google Shopping to make it a one stop shop to complete the transaction. Very similar to what Amazon is doing. People go direct to Amazon and that has their commerce search engine.

Ben:                 So, let’s talk about what the difference is and what did we see in terms of performance from organic search, knowing that Google is trying to drive people into their search and e-commerce experience. Did we see more/less organic search? Do we see a different mix in terms of who are the winners and losers?

Jordan:             Yeah, that’s a great question. So definitely Google’s a winner here, right? Google Shopping experience was far more prevalent than ever before. Google also made a strong effort to become … And I think kind of eating their own dog food here, right? They became super relevant through other channels, through media channels, through social channels, through, in many ways, awareness channels to build that online reputation for the Google Shopping and shopping products that they were featuring. This includes some of Google’s own products, right? Like Nest products and Google Voice products that they’re offering as well as, according to Google, one of the top products was the-

Ben:                 Let me guess, was it the Google Home Mini?

Jordan:             Close. I think that was definitely one of them, but the Pixel was certainly on the top of the list. And for the computer buyers, their-

Ben:                 Chromebook.

Jordan:             Chromebook was was also on the list.

Ben:                 Yeah. Okay. So Google is putting their products into what the top searched products are, and I’m assuming that that data is legitimate. There’s probably lots of demand for it, but maybe they’re cutting it so it’s a little skewed. Do you have any data in terms of the non-Google brands? Should I just assume that Amazon is the big winner for the season? Do you have any sense of how much of the e-commerce market that they sucked up and over Black Friday?

Jordan:             Actually, shockingly, it’s not the Amazon year. It certainly was last year. This year it’s actually the retail players, and I think it’s a testament to their hard work. I mean, they’ve been working on this for many, many years, but we saw great progress in terms of rank position across many transactional keywords for websites like Walmart, Best Buy, Target. And we saw a really strong pops in terms of rank position and traffic during the holiday shopping season for all these brands right before the Black Friday season, and through the first couple of weeks of December here, we’ve seen that continued trends. So it’s really the year of the retailer.

Ben:                 It’s funny. It makes sense. And my assumption is that this is a strategic decision by the retail players saying we can’t compete with Amazon year-round, right? People’s default buying behavior is going direct to Amazon product selection. Google is just going to give them the domain nod, but when it comes to specific events and deals, we can compete there. We can put all of our eggs in the holiday basket, and Amazon can just win the rest of the year.

Jordan:             Yeah. I mean, that’s definitely a big part of it, and I also think that a part of this is these retailers making very strong strategic investments to build a new foundation that allows them to be more successful during holiday seasons. More content, more diverse category sets, better product pages, product descriptions, and it just takes awhile to get all those things together when you’re a company as large as Walmart.

Ben:                 What other observations do you have about Black Friday? We have the retail companies winning. Wasn’t the year of Amazon like I might have predicted. Google’s focusing on their shopping platform. What else stuck out in your mind?

Jordan:             Yeah, I mean, the other thing that really stuck out in my mind is more from two components, the informational type journey, which oftentimes is consumed by a lot of media players. All the people who put out the top shopping lists, the articles about the best gifts for dads and so forth and so on were not biased at all, Ben. But the reality here is that the winners weren’t the traditional players who launched content early, produced multiple articles or revisions on that content. It was a trend that we’ve been seeing for a few months now and it was YouTube. YouTube took a lot of mind share from consumers, more video carousels, more video ads. No shocker here because we’ve been seeing this trend for awhile. But when it comes to this informational query space, consumers looking for information about products, not necessarily buying the products, we see YouTube kind of taking reign there.

Ben:                 So, talk to me about the digital e-commerce space. Obviously near and dear to our heart, our former employer, eBay, there’s Etsy and there’s some other e-commerce only players. How did you see that part of the market fare?

Jordan:             Yes, it was interesting. The marketplaces or aggregators really didn’t fare poorly, but they didn’t see the same kind of momentum that other retailers had seen earlier in the year. So companies like Etsy and eBay, they did not see as positive of an uptick prior to Black Friday and post Black Friday. They also are coming off of some pretty tough months. They’ve been on a decline here for about two quarters, both of them respectively. And so even this little uptick didn’t make a huge dent in the downshift that they’re seeing in visibility from the previous couple of quarters.

Ben:                 Yeah, it was a tough update season for the marketplaces and the e-commerce only players. And it’s refreshing as an ex eBay employee to see that the company did relatively well during the holiday season. My takeaway here is that the retail companies did well. Online commerce companies sort of tread water. Amazon did just fine, but this isn’t necessarily the priority, the rest of the year is. So if that’s the case, who suffered, who lost visibility?

Jordan:             Ah, yeah, that’s a great question. So a couple of direct brands lost some visibility. So direct merchandisers, especially a lot of folks in the fashion space, the collective of Gap Brands, Levi, those brands really suffered here and lost way too many of the retailers who offer those products directly and offered them, in many cases, a very competitive price. And so this is where we saw some losses in the direct consumer space.

Ben:                 It’s interesting that the individual brand suffered a little. While the aggregators, whether it be the e-commerce players, the retail aggregators, Amazon obviously all did relatively well.

Ben:                 Jordan, let’s take a step back and talk about as we get close to the end of the year. This is our last episode of the year and we’ve done over 100. I think 160 episodes now for the Voices of Search podcast. As you sit back and you think about this year for SEO, for Searchmetrics, for this podcast, just give me some of your reflections and tell me some of your thoughts on, on 2019. Tell me a story, Jordan.

Jordan:             Tell you a story, huh, man. Well, first of all, this has been a remarkable experience, not just for Searchmetrics but for myself as well. Being able to connect with the SEO audience and share not only our data insights, a lot of my experience has been a very rewarding opportunity. And I look forward to continue doing it. It’s also been a year of learning. Ben, when … When we kicked this off, I was a little reluctant. I didn’t know how successful this was-

Ben:                 Yeah. You didn’t even want to do the podcast. You were having to be on it, but you thought it was stupid.

Jordan:             There’s the truth. And lo and behold, man, it was amazing to see the outreach, the feedback, the emails coming in from the community saying, “Keep this up.” And I’ve been really grateful for that. It’s been a real shiny spot throughout the year. Days when I’m having a tough day, I’ll just open up and get an email from some listeners saying, “Hey, thank you. Keep it up.” And that’s been really a positive thing for all of us here at Searchmetrics, as well as everybody who’s involved in producing the podcast.

Ben:                 Yeah, I think that as the producer of the podcast, as the host of the podcast, I’m probably the only person that’s listened to every episode and purely because I’ve had to be on every episode, and I’ve learned an incredible amount about SEO. And, Jordan, don’t tell anybody. I’m not an SEO, right? I’m more of a podcast host and we’ve been doing SEO together, but you’ve really been the strategist and the guy that knows the game and helped me through some of the operational stuff that I had been doing for all of my various projects. And my consulting with Searchmetrics has always been more of a digital marketing focus. And working on this podcast has taught me an incredible amount of SEOs to the point where I still don’t really understand all of the technical stuff and maybe I’m faking it until I make it.

Ben:                 But when it comes down to the SEO strategy and the content strategy, I feel like if somebody asked me, can you put SEO on your resume, I could. And it is purely because of spending … We’re a little over a year. I think we’re about 15 months in doing this podcast made me feel like I went to SEO college, and for everybody who’s been on the show, anybody who’s tweeted at Jordan and I, reached out to Searchmetrics, thank you. I think that if there’s anything that I would ask as a gift for next year under our SEO holiday tree, we’re going to be reaching out to the community and we’d love to have more community engagement.

Ben:                 We would really love to hear from you to understand who you want to be on the show. What should we be talking about? And we’d love to help answer your questions. I might not be the person that’s going to be answering them. Don’t worry. It’s going to be somebody who actually understands SEO much better than I do. But we’d love to hear from you, from the community. We created a Voices of Search Twitter handle. We haven’t really used it all that much. I don’t even know what the logo is on it right now, but we do check it. And so if you want to reach out to Voices of Search, if you want to reach out to Jordan or I, we are actively looking for your feedback, and we’re looking for people to come on the show. We want to produce more content next year. We’re going to try to move this towards being a daily show. So five days a week is our goal.

Ben:                 And we’re really just excited about not only the impact that the Voices of Search podcast has had for Searchmetrics, for the business, for awareness, but also the community engagement that we’ve been able to generate and just the learnings that we’ve been able to share. It’s really a gratifying experience for me, and I know that it’s had a positive impact on our business and everything that we’ve done this year.

Ben:                 So, Jordan, thank you for being the regular guest and for sharing all the SEO knowledge.

Jordan:             And I think that’s the important part here is we want to continue to grow that guest base. So if you have suggestions, listeners, if you have suggestions, shoot them our way. We want to add more guests to the show because we learn as much from them as anybody else. So send those ideas our way.

Ben:                 Absolutely. So as I was saying, Jordan, thank you for everything that you’ve brought to the table here and for being sort of the driving and lead guest on the show and for obviously having Searchmetrics fund the podcast and all of that stuff.

Ben:                 Thanks to Doug Bell who actually wasn’t on the show this year, but he’s the head of the marketing team here at Searchmetrics. And he green-lighted this project I guess 15 months ago. And the next thing you know, it’s one of the main drivers of the marketing engine here.

Ben:                 And like I said, thank you to the community, to all of our guests. I hope you guys have a great holiday season. I hope everybody who’s listening’s visibility increases tenfold. I hope you get some time off, and I hope you have a Merry Christmas. Happy Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Festivus. I’m sure I’m missing one. Happy New Year, everybody. And that’s it for us for 2019.

Jordan:             Thanks everybody. See you in 2020.

Ben:                 And that wraps up this episode of the Voices of Search podcast. Thanks for listening to my conversation with Jordan Koene, lead SEO strategist and CEO of Searchmetrics Inc. We’d love to continue the conversation with you. So if you’re interested in contacting Jordan, you can find a link to his LinkedIn profile in our show notes. You can send him a tweet. His handle is JTKoene. That’s J-T-K-O-E-N-E. Of course you can visit his company’s website as well, which is searchmetrics.com. If you have general marketing questions, if you want to talk to me about this podcast, if you’re interested in being a guest on the show, if you have a search question, send it to us through Voices of Search on Twitter. You can find my other contact information in our show notes or you can send me a personal tweet at BenJShap, B-E-N-J-S-H-A-P.

Ben:                 If you’re interested in learning about how to use search data to boost your organic traffic, online visibility, or to gain competitive insights, head over to searchmetrics.com/freetrial for your complimentary trial of their software, including the content experience, which will help you optimize all of your content.

Ben:                 And 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, and we’ll be back in your feed next year.

Ben:                 All right. That’s it for today. That’s it for this month. That’s it for this year. That’s it for 2019 but remember, until next time, the answers are always in the data.