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July 2020 Winners and Losers – Tyson Stockton // Searchmetrics

Episode Overview: As we enter August, a new crucial period for SEOs begins – Preparing for Black Friday and the 2020 holiday shopping season. Join host Ben as he speaks with Searchmetrics’ VP of Services Tyson Stockton about how you can best set up your brand or company for success now to ensure you land in Q4’s winners bracket.

Summary

  • After being overtaken by YouTube as the most visible website at the end of 2019, Wikipedia reclaimed the No. 1 spot with 56 million views whereas YouTube’s views dropped to 43 million. 
  • Before summer concludes SEOs need to start creating their Black Friday strategies now and begin optimizing their websites for Google’s new set of ranking factors called web vitals. Completing these tasks ahead of time will help set up brands for Q4 success.
  • As coronavirus infection rates continue to surge in the U.S., many of the top retailers are moving Black Friday completely online. Tyson predicts that Black Friday will be more of a “Rolling sale,” spanning days or weeks for many brands.
  •  Tyson recommends ecommerce brands begin their Black Friday sales with big ticket items first, while steadily rolling out items to maintain momentum and sell needed low-ticket items throughout the holiday season.
  • Tyson projects that the current economic climate may push some consumers looking to save money toward eBay during the holiday season.

GUESTS & RESOURCES

Ben:                   Welcome to our July 2020 edition of Winners and Losers on the Voices of Search podcast. Today, we’re going to take a look back on the month and talk about some of the trends behind some of the biggest movers, shakers and slackers in the SEO world. Joining us for Winners and Losers is Tyson Stockton, the Vice President of Searchmetrics’ Services Department. Tyson manages Searchmetrics’ SEO content and client success organizations. And outside of shepherding their largest and most strategic clients to SEO success, he’s dug through the Searchmetrics suite to help you understand who’s making moves in the SEO community. All right. Here’s my monthly sit down with Searchmetrics’ Vice President of Services, Tyson Stockton.

Ben:                   Tyson, welcome to Winners and Losers on the Voices of Search podcast.

Tyson:             Thank you, Ben. Got dressed up for you today.

Ben:                  You know, I appreciate that you’re wearing a button down shirt. And Tyson, this is my fifth podcast of the day. We’re in July now. It’s been a long year, and I just want to tell everybody that you and I are having a cocktail together. Everybody join us. It’s the beginning of a new month for you. For us, it’s the end of the last month. Can we do a cheers here? Cheers. That was actually a virtual cheers. I have two drinks.

Ben:                  Tyson, Let’s talk about what happened in July. First, tell me about what’s going on in the SEO world.

Tyson:              Yeah, so we’re still in the middle of this … I don’t know what you want to call it, like, fun experiments.

Ben:                  Shitstorm.

Tyson:             Shitstorm works. That’s actually probably more accurate. So obviously, we’re still in the middle of that. Things are still kind of cruising along. There’s been definitely some movement in the industry, but I wouldn’t say as much groundbreaking, “Hey, our universe has been completely flipped on end.” And maybe that’s getting accustomed to so much frequent changes that have been going on.

Ben:                 I’m going to cut you off right there. We made it through algorithm season, right? We made it through the big algo change. We’ve sort of seen our fluctuations. Things are relatively stable this month, right?

Tyson:            Yes and no. Like there has been movement, and I would say on the algo season, I wouldn’t just [inaudible] another core algorithm. So we looked at last year, you had March and June for the first half, or, sorry, January, March, June last year. This year we had January, May. So I would anticipate something else coming, which is typical. It’s normal, kind of cool fashion.

Ben:                Yeah. There’s another one that’s coming. But this past month there have been no major algorithm changes. We’ve seen some fluctuations. I think offline, you said we saw some fluctuations at the top, and we saw some stuff with social media. Am I right?

Tyson:           Yeah. There was definitely some macro winners in the social platforms space, some gains there, but still some declining. So Twitter had a decent month, but if you look at the larger time frame, they’re still down, there were some movements within ecommerce, like you saw some of the websites that we called out as losers for, or at least kind of on the downside of the algorithm update, we saw some gains on those. So we called out Walmart and Best Buy being pretty negatively impacted. This last week, we saw a little bit of a bounce back for them. So, it didn’t recapture that market share, and it didn’t necessarily completely change, let’s call it the “rankings” of the ecommerce sites. But I’d say there was some movement in that regard.

Ben:                 Yeah. So we probably saw some good SEOs make a recovery after their sites were impacted by the algorithm update. There was the change at the top. I believe, correct me if I’m wrong, I know that YouTube was the biggest or had the most search visibility, and they passed Wikipedia. Did Wikipedia take them over, or did they just pick up market share relative to YouTube this month?

Tyson:             Yeah. So that was interesting where we saw an increase from Wikipedia, which, for the longest time, they were the number one, most visible website online. And then about towards the end of last year, YouTube overtook them. We saw them slip back in March, kind of mid-March this year. But this was the first month that we really saw a separation from where their visibility scores were. So currently speaking, Wikipedia sits at basically 56 million, and YouTube’s dropped down to 43 million, which we had called out this consistent YouTube being the Winners category. It doesn’t change anything as them being the dominant video streaming service or player in the market. But as far as who’s the number one, Wikipedia has solidified and given themself a little bit of breathing room from YouTube.

Ben:                 And in a normal week, in a normal month, this would be the headline. Hey, we’ve got a shift at the top, everyone. And that’s what we’re doing for Winners and Losers, but the world has been so shaken up by the coronavirus that we’re not going to do this standard Winners and Losers this month. Nordstrom’s got crushed. Wikipedia is number one. They are winners and losers.

Ben:                 We’re actually going to cover a little bit of a different topic and take a step back and think about what is happening at the macroscale in SEO. And one of the things that Tyson and I normally sit down and talk about time of year is how SEOs should be getting ready for the holidays. And I actually think that now is really an interesting time to not just think about a retrospect of the previous month like we do for Winners and Losers, but try to take a view and look forward about what’s coming and with the changes, obviously macro changes of the coronavirus, what SEOs need to think about from a larger perspective in terms of getting ready for, for most of us, mostly in ecommerce, the biggest time of the year.

Ben:                 So Tyson, when we think about, “Okay, the coronavirus, potentially another shelter in place coming. Everyone’s working from home. Physical retail is obviously being impacted. People aren’t going into stores as much.” And then you start thinking about, “Well, there’s going to be Black Friday.” And normally, we would be getting ready for the holidays this time of year. Normally, you and I would be producing a piece of content around, “Here’s the five steps that you need to take to get ready for the night of Thanksgiving and getting ready for Christmas.” We’re not going to do that. This year, we’re going to talk about what we think is going to happen if the coronavirus keeps everybody at home. So Tyson we’re obviously speculating here, but if everybody’s going to be sitting at home and doing their online shopping, instead of their person shopping, is that good or bad for SEO?

Tyson:            And I mean, to steal a line from one of our friends is, “The reality is we don’t know what’s going to be happening for it.” We know that it’s not going to be the same as previous years. And I think the anticipation is it’s definitely going to be more fluid from an activation , like our campaign activation perspective, and before it was very cookie cutter, very predictable. It wasn’t even a debate of when you’re going to launch different campaigns. You just look at the calendar, circle the right dates, map out maybe a week ahead of time, and that’s kind of your timeline.

Tyson:            So this year, I think, one, we know that online is going to be more significant, not that it wasn’t significant in the past, but even more so a significant driver to this year’s holiday shopping. I don’t think … Everyone probably listening can predict that online sales are going to be up more than in store. No way around that.

Ben:                There’s the headline. It’s going to be a great year for ecommerce sites.

Tyson:            Yeah. If you’re only in stores and you don’t have the online, it’s going to be a tough Q4, but as far as [inaudible] is working in the online space, it also brings a fair amount of opportunity. And I think the biggest piece with all the uncertainty going on is one, to embrace that, but think that more of preparing yourself and having your campaigns, having your initiatives lined up ahead of time, in which case the exact launch date, or when you pull the cord to make the push is … maybe it changes.

Ben:                 So here’s the big question that I have for you. Is there actually going to be a, “Okay, everybody’s done with their Thanksgiving meal. Let’s all get in line at Walmart or just hop on our phones,” or is it going to be a rolling sale?

Tyson:             I would definitely anticipate more of a rolling sale. And I think we’ve seen hints to this in the past where Black Friday sales seem to inch forward a little bit more and more. People are trying to jump in front of their competitors. I would definitely anticipate that to be the case this year. So I don’t think it’s going to be as much of a one-day event Black Friday, Cyber Monday type thing I would view it more as a period, a week, a few weeks of more aggressive online sales. But I do not expect us to see the same kind of hyper-focused into individual days, as much of being spread out across that entire period.

Tyson:            And okay, well, if we’re not going into the stores, it’s not as pointed. I think that this season will open that door even further. And again, we’ve seen it in the past, but this is going to be more hyper-focused. And I anticipate more companies launching their campaigns earlier in the season as well, just knowing that they’re not necessarily going to get the foot traffic that they were seeing in the past, but it’s going to be more of online campaigns and launching those sales maybe a week, maybe several weeks prior, to make sure that they’re capturing that opportunity.

Ben:                That’s the headline, everyone here. It’s not, “Okay. Wikipedia is bigger than YouTube for this month.” It is, “There might not be Black Friday this year.” And so, as an SEO, when you are thinking about planning your events, the notion of a rolling sale is something that you need to think about and address.

Ben:                So Tyson, what does that mean? If there is no, “Okay. Here is the specific date where everything is going forward. We need to launch our pages in advance and start pushing traffic.” It’s “Everybody’s picking different dates to start rolling out their sales.” What does that mean from an SEO perspective?

Tyson:            Honestly, from an SEO perspective, I would be less, probably going to sound a little odd, but I’d be less focused on promoting and pushing a specific event and more focused on lifting all boats. So it’s like, “We don’t know all the different…” And it’s like the same thing that we saw earlier in this whole COVID piece, is search demands were very spotty. Certain categories were hot, then they’d cool off. And some stayed strong, but it’s like, rather than focusing on chasing this hypothetical demand, I would be focusing on more of tightening up my existing technical side of the site. And what I mean by that is, if you’re improving things like site performance, speed, your internal linking … So it’s like, you don’t necessarily know, especially if you’re a large ecommerce player, all the categories that are going to pop. You have your bets and you’re placing them, but you don’t necessarily know what the climate is going to be, so if you’ve focused on items, they’re going to be strengthening the domain as a whole, you’re hedging your bets.

Tyson:             And one piece that also I would be thinking of quite aggressively for ecommerce sites is, you know you have code freeze coming up, you know that we have this prenotion or this announcement of web vitals, and so you have that timeline or that countdown timer that’s going through. And you basically are saying, “Hey, we’re going to lose two to three months, depending on when our code freeze is of when we can make those advances.” So this summer and right now, if I was an ecommerce site, that would be something that I would be a hundred percent wanting to button up. If you are sitting in September with still a deficit on that, you could be going into next year, a huge risk of potentially being at a deficit compared to your competitors and seeing that negative impact. So I think this summer, in particular, and for the ecommerce sites … And we’ve talked in past episodes as far as summertime’s your core, big SEO initiative time. That is more so the case this year than I would say in previous years. That has to be a top goal this summer, is to tighten up those technical SEO elements.

Ben:               So two things: One, summer is the time to get your projects done. Focus on web vitals. That’s coming. Don’t wait until it’s here. That is an important project for you to work on. The second thing you said is, there’s going to be a rolling Black Friday, potentially. And your thought is tighten up all the technical stuff. I actually think of this from a digital marketer’s perspective, not just an SEO perspective where, “Okay, we’re going to get to conduct our own launch sale, but we get to do, essentially, a product launch Black Wednesday, whatever it’s going to be.” Whatever day you’re going to pick, you can strategically pick a date and have an event and conduct a launch that is meaningful, where you can drive traffic to your site. As a marketing team, you got to do your pre-planning, your promotion, all of the launch stuff that you’re going to do.

Ben:              But people are going to be looking for their Black Friday sales at different times, and instead of it being one sort of nuclear bomb type explosion of Black Friday, it’s going to be a bomb at the west side of the city and a bomb at the right side of the city and the north … It’s going to be stuff going off all over the place. And so you need to strategically think about when you’re going to fire your missiles, and the SEO team and the digital marketing team needs to start thinking about when that’s going to happen.

Ben:              And here’s the opportunity for SEOs to really take leadership in their organization, is to say, “Hey, look, Black Friday might not happen this year in the traditional sense. It might not be on Friday. What’s our launch event, because we need to start figuring out our SEO strategies now. For that, let’s start having the strategy conversations about what we’re doing on the holidays.” Go be a leader in your organization. This is how you’re going to get promoted this year, in-house SEO. Go start that conversation early and figure out how we’re going to manage the holidays, because in ecommerce, it’s still going to be the busiest time of the year. People are still going to buy Christmas gifts. They’re just not going to do it right after Thanksgiving.

Tyson:          I think that’s a great point. And I would stay if I was placing bets, I would go earlier. Like if it’s in your organization, it’s not well determined, and there’s no set plan for it, I would be the one advocating to be more aggressive and go earlier in the season than to be waiting too late. So as far as if that means launching a week, two weeks prior…

Ben:               I respectfully disagree, and I’m going to put a caveat in there: It depends on what you’re selling. If I’m selling socks, I want it the day after Christmas, the day before Christmas, right? Whatever the impulse, the last possible day, your impulse buys, I want that event late. If you’re talking about big ticket items, right? I want that stuff being done early. “Hey, I got the big gift for mom and dad out of the way.” And then the little stuff should come later. And so if I am Walmart, Target, eBay, Amazon, sure, maybe I’m rolling my stuff back a couple of days and letting people buy their hot tubs before Thanksgiving. If I’m shopping socks, I’m waiting and not doing Black Friday, I’m doing Gray Sunday.

Tyson:            Yeah. I mean, which are these names that [inaudible].

Ben:                I’m doing the Sunday after Black Friday, or something closer to the holidays, to sell my impulse buys.

Tyson:           I think that is a good point. The big ticket items is, more so, we start falling into a little bit of a conversation of like, “What’s the status of the economy?” Like different types of… “How are we spending as far as unemployment?” Or, “What kind of stimulus package?” So it’s all of that is going to get wrapped into it. I would say, from the high level view, I would say absolutely spot on for the big ticket items early. It’s first to the game, you want to get there when there’s still the budgets available.

Tyson:           I think as far as the lower ticket items, I agree with it, but I would still say earlier than the last possible. And just thinking in terms of the shifting elements … So for those low tickets, maybe let’s talk beginning in December, like the first two to three weeks December, from that point of view. But it’s … I would say, very pointed, on the big ticket items, those are going to be the ones that would be earlier. And then, I hear your stocking stuffers, but let’s not bash socks as a gift here, because one, who doesn’t like getting new socks?

Ben:               I have the best sock collection you could imagine. Socks are the best gift. I don’t know what you’re talking about, bash socks.

Tyson:          Everyone wants new socks. That is a fact. All right, so

Ben:              Let’s bring it back at home. We’re talking Winners and Losers. It’s July. Most people are thinking summer holidays, but you and I are thinking ahead, and we’re bringing the SEO community with us. God, I hope so. This holiday season, this is normally when we talk about this stuff, it might look a little different. So as you’re forecasting out who are going to be the winners and losers for the holidays, who’s going to win and who’s going to lose?

Tyson:          All right. So let’s bring this back around, one notable loser this month, which isn’t getting to your question, but I think it’s just … We’re noting a huge drop from Nordstrom. We saw two weeks ago, 40% decrease in their overall SEO visibility. So there are those players that are having a tight time now. So that’s just the one caveat I’d throw out there for this month’s Winners and Losers.

Tyson:          As far as if I’m looking into the Q4 push last year, we talked a lot about Walmart being up there with it. I think the elephant in the room front runner is Amazon. I mean, no way around it. They’re obviously in a prime position. A little bit of one that I think has not been as much on the radar, and we haven’t talked as much on this podcast … Obviously, there’s a past experience side, but I would note, too, that eBay’s 2020 performance is definitely one to notice.

Ben:              Oh! You took my Winner of the Year. Jamie Iannone, who worked at eBay when I was there with our dearly departed, from Searchmetrics, Jordan Koene, was there. The leadership is sort of the old guard at eBay, and they’re getting back to their roots, and I honestly think that the business is going to be refocused. And not only from an SEO perspective, but just in general, I believe in good things for eBay. That’s who I was going to say. It was going to be my winner. I think that some people are going to be in tough economic spots, and they’re going to be looking for used gear, and that’s the auction business. And they’re also doing a nice job with getting inventory and fixing some of the competitive shipping issues that they have. I expect good things from eBay.

Tyson:           I couldn’t agree more. And I think when you look at their visibility score for this year, and yeah, there were challenges in the past. But if you look from year to start, they’ve had a consistent week over week increase in visibility, dating back to literally the start of the year. So I would say that is one that I’ve been really impressed with how they’ve … It’s not these gamechangers, 20-30% wins. And we talked about this last year a lot with U.S. news, of it’s just that consistency of week over week wins. And when you look at, they started the year back around, let’s call it like 900,000 from an SEO visibility score, and now they’ve moved up into the 1.5 million range. But yeah, it’s those week over week wins. It’s not these big splashes that’s gaining all the recognition. But I’d say the consistency and what the team’s been putting together, I’d say that’s a real strong push.

Ben:              Who’s your biggest perspective loser for the holiday season?

Tyson:           That’s a tougher one. I would say one thing that I do anticipate is, as far as search performance goes, and it’s slightly painful with everything that’s going on, but Big 10 are poised to have a strong Q4, and, in particular, holiday season, like their performance as a whole or as a collective have been strengthening. So I would say the Big 10 are the front runners, and the smaller retailers and the retailers that have more of the in-store presence, and they don’t have the same domain authority and coverage that these Big 10 have, that’s going to be, unfortunately, probably where I’d see the biggest losers. And it pains me to say it, but I do think that.

Ben:                I think the losers are … You mentioned this, and, hopefully, it still gets in the recording, because my microphone failed. Sorry, everybody, if you missed this. The department stores are going to get totally screwed. The businesses that depend on being the one-stop shop brick and mortar that have … By the way, we have an online version, like sure, Nordstrom’s and Macy’s and Neiman Marcus, where it is not, “I’m going to Nordstrom to look for X.” It’s like, “I’m going to go to Nordstrom’s and I’m going to buy XYZ and ABC, but I’m not sure which ones I need today.” That’s an experience that’s not going to happen. And to me, it’s not very clear, “What would I go to Nordstrom’s dot com for today?” And they’re probably not ranking as well, because they are not a pure ecommerce place, so they don’t have the horses put behind just ecommerce. But when I think about the brand experience, and I think Google knows this, the online department store just has a different experience than the online ecommerce store. It is just, people think about looking for products differently when they go to those sites,

Ben:                Which I agree with that. I would throw one kind of caveat in that. And I would say Target, even though they’re not like your Nordstrom’s, Macy’s … They don’t fit that mold exactly, but I’d say Target is poised to be in a very strong position. We talked about it from the last algorithm update, huge jumps out there. They’re kind of starting to nip at the heels of eBays of the world. So as far as overall SEO visibility, there are at an all-time high, or, I mean, let’s go back a month, they’re at an all-time high … not too far off now.

Ben:                But I’d say three others that I expect to be in the Winners categories, I’d say Target. I see, not as much of the same degree as eBay, but they’ve had a really strong last 24 months. And then the other one, which we’ve talked about a fair amount, which I think is still going to be in this conversation, is Home Depot. It’s not who you think of for a holiday, but as far as just like what they’re putting together in this 2020 a year, I would expect Home Depot to have a pretty strong 2020 overall year.

Ben:                I think that people are spending a lot of time focusing on building their houses. They’re spending a lot of time in their houses. I totally hear that The Home Depot is going to have a killer year. I absolutely agree with that.

Ben:               Okay. Little bit different Winners and Losers this month, everyone. I hope you’re staying safe. I hope you’re enjoying yourself. We’ve got halfway through the year, and if you’re not there, let’s do one more. Tyson, it’s been a pleasure. Congratulations. We made it through July. Let’s get through the rest of the year. Everybody wear a mask. Wash your hands. And that wraps up this episode of the Voices of Search podcast.

Ben:               Thanks for listening to my conversation with Tyson Stockton, the VP of Services from Searchmetrics. We’d love to continue the conversation with you. So if you’re interested in contacting Tyson, you can find a link to his LinkedIn profile in our show notes. You can contact him on Twitter. His handle is Tyson_Stockton, or you could visit his company’s website, which is searchmetrics.com.

Ben:                Just one more link in our show notes I’d like to tell you about. If you didn’t have a chance to take notes while you were listening to this podcast, head over the voicesofsearch.com where we have summaries of all of our episodes, contact information for our guests. You can also send us your topic, suggestions, your SEO questions. You can even apply to be a guest speaker on the Voices of Search podcast. Of course, you can always reach out on social media. Our handle for the show is voicesofsearch. And my personal handle is BenJShap. B-E-N-J-S-H-A-P. And if you haven’t subscribed yet, and you want a daily stream of SEO and content marketing insights in your podcast feed, we’re going to publish episodes every day during the work week. So hit the subscribe button in your podcast app, and we’ll be back in your feed soon. All right, that’s it for today, but until next time, remember, the answers are always in the data.