Episode Overview: Retail giants swept the field once again on Black Friday 2019, with Amazon expanding its online dominion and Best Buy experiencing visibility gains in mobile and desktop. Meanwhile, home furniture companies Wayfair and Overstock along with staple retail giants like Nordstrom and Kohl’s found themselves at the mercy of the Big 10. Join Ben and Searchmetrics’ Director of Services Tyson Stockton as they review who emerged victorious and who fell during the battle of Black Friday 2019.
- Amazon, Walmart and Best Buy conquered Black Friday 2019, with Amazon owning 49% of the U.S. e-commerce market share and a significant portion of SEO market share visibility.
- Big box enterprise e-commerce sites experienced significant gains in mobile views, whereas Best Buy was the sole exception, experiencing gains in mobile and desktop.
- Best Buy won Black Friday 2019 with its strong supply of popular electronics and technology products. Overstock and Wayfair’s month-after-month of continued losses in visibility gained the least during Black Friday.
GUESTS & RESOURCES:
Ben: Welcome to our December 2019 edition of Winners and Losers on the Voices of Search Podcast. Today, we’re going to take a look back at the month and talk about some of the trends behind the biggest movers, shakers, and slackers in the SEO community. Joining us again for Winners and Losers is Tyson Stockton who is Searchmetrics’ Director of Services. Tyson manages our SEO, content and client success organizations. Outside of shepherding Searchmetrics’ 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. But before we hear from Tyson, I want to remind you that this podcast is brought to you by the marketing team at Searchmetrics.
Ben: We are an SEO and content marketing platform that helps enterprise scale businesses, monitor their online presence, and make data driven decisions. To support you, our loyal podcast listeners, we’re offering a free trial of Searchmetrics’ Suite. You can test out Searchmetrics’ Suite and the content experience platform to help optimize both your SEO strategies and your content. To start your free no credit card required trial, go to searchmetrics.com/trial. Okay, here’s our monthly sit down with Searchmetrics’ Director of Services, Tyson Stockton. Tyson, Happy belated Thanksgiving and welcome to the Voices of Search Podcast.
Tyson: Happy Thanksgiving. Hopefully you’re recovering well from the turkey day hangover.
Ben: I’m never going to be the same. Traveling with a young child is always an exciting time, but by the time everybody hears this, they’re probably pretty far past Thanksgiving. We should talk a little bit about some of the other holidays that are happening. Do you have big Kwanzaa plans?
Tyson: I’m still up in the air. Last minute shopping is a good deal. Maybe I’ll get some extra, some fun plans for the last stretch of the year.
Ben: Well, today’s the day. We’re recording this on Cyber Monday, but we’ve dug through the Searchmetrics Suite and have an update that actually was completed yesterday. We have a pretty good view of who’s winning the holidays so far. Tyson, let’s talk a little bit about e-commerce today. Tell me what have you seen, how was Black Friday, what do we think is happening on Cyber Monday. Give me the lay of the land for the e-commerce winners and losers for this month.
Tyson: Yeah, and this is kind of in the e-commerce world. I mean, one, it said it’s a category or like a segment of business that I think is near dear to both of us, but especially this time of year and I felt like when the data came out on Sunday for our U.S. market and the Searchmetrics Suite, I kind of felt like a kid like sitting there with popcorn, watching the success stories and carnage of some of these big players kind of duking it out at their peak time.
Ben: It’s like an SEO boxing match washing Amazon and Walmart take over the world. Tell me a little bit about who you saw. Am I right? Is it the big boys that are taking all of the market share? Did we see some of the little players claw some market share back? Give me some data.
Tyson: Yeah. I mean, that was my kind of assumption or hypothesis going into it and just how some of the bigger players had been fairing and really just kind of hearing over the course of the years some consistent woes in the e-commerce crowd of the mid or smaller players really having a tough time with the big brands as well as like the shifting landscape. We had this kind of assumption or gut feeling kind of also just looking at how the data was going the last couple months or so going into this date. Really I think the overarching story is, yeah, like the biggest winners were the big players. You know, Amazon, Walmart, Best Buy, they’re among the brands I would say had strong performance and continue to get stronger through this time.
Tyson: We did see some significant players that had a softening, which obviously it’s a key time so that’s kind of tough for them, but I think like across the board, kind of like the macro story through this is the bigger players are attacking that market share and really continuing to press on that dominance in the industry. I think we’re seeing more and more … The rate of e-commerce is still growing faster than retail, but we’re still seeing more and more of that market share gobbled up by Amazon and these other top 10 or big five players. That’s really what we’re seeing take the lion’s share this holiday season.
Ben: When I sat down with Jordan to talk about some of the data that he received from Google, we talked about what the top searched products are and a lot of them were well-branded products. It was the Nike’s. It was the iPhones. Really well-branded products. Tiffany’s, Tumi, things like that.
Tyson: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Ben: To me, I think of what’s happening in retail specifically as there being a lot of micro brands that are coming up that are making it harder for sort of the traditional big box retailers to compete. But on the flip side, we’re seeing that the search terms are all for these well-branded products. Is it the case that people are searching for products and Amazon is just showing up everywhere because they have more of an assortment, or are people looking for the big brands and going to the end retailers?
Tyson: I think it’s actually a kind of a mixture of both. I think in looking at what market share different e-commerce websites are capturing right now. I think one helpful piece is to take Amazon as one conversation in itself because when you throw Amazon into comparisons to these other sites, even though you know Walmart, Best Buy, like these are substantial players, there’s still a fraction of Amazon. Amazon’s sitting at owning and the last number I saw was 49% of the e-commerce US market share. They’re gobbling up most of this growth. I think, one, when we look at them in terms of SEO market share visibility, to give some perspective, they’re sitting just over 10 million.
Tyson: Then when you look at the kind of what’s called the big five players, which is going to be Walmart, Best Buy, Target, eBay, those are all going to be sitting kind of between that 1.8 to one million mark. Amazon is about 10 times the SEO presence or market share leader compared to those other brands. When we look at Amazon, the first thing to know is yes, based on the volume of their … Like the size of the website, number of skews that they have, their rankings, they are I’d say, one, taking the most traffic from these terms. But then if we also look at what’s going on with their website, I mean, especially in this last week’s update, which was published on the Sunday right before Cyber Monday, we saw roughly a 1% increase on their desktop.
Tyson: Then really interesting is if you look at their mobile visibility over the course of the last let’s call it a few months and with some of these algorithm updates and some of these other changes that have been happening in the landscape, we’re really seeing this significantly like widening discrepancy from their mobile and desktop performance. Although their desktops been a little bit flatter and they only showed a modest 0.7% increase this last week in desktop, we’re seeing a 2.8% increase in mobile. Over the course of the last three months, this kind of large widening gap between their mobile performance. I’d say the biggest thing for Amazon is the protected market share made some small wins and then further increased their advantage or their lead on the mobile front as well.
Ben: Why is Amazon 10 times the size in terms of visibility of the other side? Is it that they have a larger product assortment or are they just that much better at SEO, or is it domain authority that is, you know, people are just looking for things on Amazon?
Tyson: I mean, honestly it’s going to be a little bit in all of those. I wouldn’t say it’s just, oh, well, their website is just perfect for SEO purposes. Because of their size and their dominance in the industry, they’re going to get away with some stuff that probably smaller websites wouldn’t be able to get away with because of that strong domain authority and just the overall like volume of products and assortments. Pretty much any product query you’re going to find in Amazon or a foreseeable like ranking you are on Amazon that could rank for that term. It’s like they have the breadth, they have the domain authority, they have some strong SEO factors, things like site speed.
Tyson: All in all, it’s like, yeah, it’s the 800 pound gorilla in the room and I think anyone in e-commerce feels that in some capacity.
Ben: You mentioned before that mobile visibility was increasing for Amazon. Is that a trend that you’re seeing just for Amazon or is that something that’s happening with the other big five or e-commerce broadly?
Tyson: Yeah, it is something that we’ve been seeing across all the larger players. This is not specific to this month. I would say this goes back. I think we briefly touched on it in maybe the last month’s Winners and Losers as well. This is something that we discussed seeing it on Amazon. They did take a little bit of a hit or they came back down on I would say about mid-November and then the last two weeks they’ve been trending back increases with let’s call it less than 5% increases week over week. That same period of time also corresponds with similar trends that we’re seeing in Walmart, Best Buy, Target, so a lot of these big box enterprise e-commerce site.
Tyson: We’ve seen that strength in mobile performance. Then in particular in a lot of them we saw at the beginning of November a sharp increase. Some of these websites, it was up to 20% of their overall visibility. Then most of them kind of a recalibration or coming back down a little bit around mid-November, but then seeing some further strengthening or some further improvements over the last couple of weeks. I’d say across these large e-commerce sites, that is a trend that we’re seeing and we do see it across multiple domains.
Ben: I think that that’s one of my biggest takeaways from having looked at e-commerce this month and last month getting ready for the holidays and also going through update season was the difference and disparity and visibility for mobile versus desktop where we’re seeing some pretty significant shifts for the e-commerce companies where everybody’s sites for desktop is staying relatively flat. Where we’re seeing the real drastic fluctuations is their mobile experience. If you’re working in e-commerce and you’re not addressing what your mobile SEO and what your mobile usability looks like, it’s something that you probably want to consider even more than you had been before.
Tyson: Yeah. I think this is something that’s interesting because before I feel like you found more instances or cases where there’ll be a website with a significantly worse mobile performing site. It’d usually be some sort of cue of their mobile experience not being up to par. But this is kind of the first time I can think of where I’ve seen almost consistently across all the major league players in the space having increases in their mobile. We looked into finding some spaces or some areas where we’ve seen losses in it. However, this is something that I would say like we’re not finding like a glaring like, “Oh, well, this was a big box website that just took a tumble over the last three months because the other ones were winning.”
Tyson: We found one-offs, individual websites that maybe they had like m-dot or like a separate mobile site versus their desktop and they didn’t have the proper signals or the alternate tags pointing to them. Then you saw all of a sudden Google not respecting the mobile site and their mobile visibility fluctuate a bunch. But I’d say I still haven’t came across kind of like the blanket, like, “Oh, this is absolutely the case in all situations.” It’s been spotty kind of one-offs that if you add together lots of those, you could explain this larger macro trend.
Tyson: But I would still say there’s some … In full transparency, there’s still some uncertainty as far as where these are coming from because it’s not just one website that just took a hit and all the big ones are acquiring their market share.
Ben: At the end of the day, SEO is a zero sum game. When someone gains a position, somebody else is losing. If we can’t pick out one big player that we’ve noticed that had a drop, which enabled everyone else to have an increase, my assumption is that it’s lots of small players. We’re seeing people searching for the big branded terms and they’re looking for buying experiences that are familiar and consistent and fast and well-structured. Those are the big companies that are able to find that edge. We’re probably just seeing smaller companies losing out on that visibility. Tyson, you mentioned the big five, Amazon, Walmart, eBay, Target and Etsy. We’ve talked a lot about Amazon. What did you see from the other members of the big five?
Tyson: Yeah. In addition to Amazon and to me Amazon being termed as kind of a winner this month or more targeted this holiday kind of Black Friday, Cyber Monday season is Amazon from a defensive perspective. I would say the other two websites that I would also have in this like winner’s category for the month and also this season is going to be Walmart and Best Buy. Walmart, a little softening on the desktop, big increases on mobile, and then a strong last two weeks on both. Best Buy I would say is probably the one that I’ve seen the most gains across mobile and desktop. They’re seeing the increased performance on mobile, but also increasing the desktop. That would be a winner as well. From the loser’s side, two kind of separate industries and a mixture of kind of size companies.
Tyson: The first one is actually two larger players. One of them that’s in the top 10 largest e-commerce sites and another one that’s just been around for a while, but both Wayfair and Overstock in kind of that home furnishing. Wayfair, we’ve seen actually some growth in the last month. When you look at the website in the lens of the last 12 months or even the last six months, Wayfair’s had this kind of roller coaster through these recent waves of algorithm updates where there’ll be on the loser side and next one they’ll be on the winner’s side. Then the last kind of I’d say six months they’ve been down from the previous update and overall they’re still at a weaker kind of market share than they were mid-summer. They would be one that I would have in the loser category.
Tyson: The other one, Overstock. That was another website that if you look in the five year lens, really having some significant struggles few years back. The last 12 months they’ve been having a really positive trend. However, end of September we saw them take a hit and then they’ve kind of been trickling downhill since. This is one that was going the right direction. There’s several articles coming out showing their focus on content, user experience and all those kind of positive things that we all strive for in SEO, but then I’d say in the last few months, seeing them kind of come back down and having a little bit of a softening going into this holiday season.
Ben: It’s interesting that you bring up Wayfair and Overstock. I think of those as home furnishing goods. To me, when I think of what people are going to buy on Black Friday, it’s essentially the mall experience that is being replicated online. Whatever happened to like going to the mall, the Nordstrom’s, the Macy’s of the world, or even getting down to the like department stores, Kohl’s for example? How are those companies trending?
Tyson: Yeah. I think there’s a handful that are kind of treading water, keeping some growth. It’s like you can find some positive stories with Target, Macy’s. But two that I’d also have in the kind of loser category, similar conversations to Wayfair and Overstock would be Nordstrom and Kohl’s. The first one, Nordstrom, this website, it’s right there. It kind of sits around 500K for SEO visibility. They’re about halfway between what Macy’s and Kohl’s is. But when you look at where they’re at the beginning or 12 months back, they’ve had definitely some ups and downs, but overall they’re almost 150,000 SEO visibility points below where they were last time at this year.
Tyson: They’re one that have probably about two months decline in SEO performance, but in the 12 month lens, you see a softening from where they were. Then the other one I would say is Kohl’s, which had some more significant declines if you went into like a wider lens. They had a couple moments kind of in the last year where they had some wins, but in the last kind of three months or so, they’ve been one that have had a softening or losing a little bit of market share from some of the competitors in their space.
Ben: Is the trend that you’re seeing that companies that replicate the mall experience going in shopping, whether it be at Nordstrom’s of the world or a Macy’s or Kohl’s? Is that type of business seeing softness in SEO visibility? Are they just getting their lunch eaten by Amazon, or are those just a couple of companies that are struggling?
Tyson: I would say it’s more in the couple of companies being struggled. When you look at overall in e-commerce, who’s winning, I would still say that more of those brands or a larger portion of those brands are the big 10, or I think like we said in the beginning of the episode a lot of ways it feels like the rich getting richer here where it’s like the big brands are expanding their market share. In Amazon’s case, they’re protecting that 49%. You do see some of these larger ones that have had some softenings that we reviewed, but I’d say like when you look at it, you have a mix bag of websites that cover essentially all categories like the Amazons, the Walmarts where it’s not just electronics or fashion or whatever.
Tyson: They have a little bit of everything, and they’re still able to put together strong performances and grow their overall visibility. Then you have other ones that may be more niche into one specific category or even kind of smaller subset of like a supportive specialty or like a specialty type shot that’s winning. I think again, like Best Buy is a great example. It was like they’re more niche than someone like Walmart, but they’ve shown tremendous progress and improvements from their overall SEO performance. Really I’d say in a lot of ways, Best Buy would probably be my overall winner from an SEO standpoint going into this holiday season.
Ben: Tyson, let’s wrap up this holiday season or the winners and losers for at least Black Friday. Who’s your winner for the month and who are your losers?
Tyson: Yeah, so like I said, my overall winner for the month is going to be Best Buy. I think electronics historically has been a very popular category during Black Friday, Cyber Monday time. Certainly having the increases and the wins they needed over the last couple of weeks are going to help them in their numbers for the season. I’d say Best Buy would be my overall winner. Then as for overall losers, probably be a mix of Wayfair and Overstock actually. Wayfair just in the sense of what they’ve lost from mid-summer or going into summertime around the let’s call it like end of May time period.
Tyson: Then Overstock in the sense that they had a really strong last nine months, incremental growth consistently throughout those nine months, but then in the course of the last couple months seen kind of a regression, a little bit of a softening of it. They’re still up year over a year, but if you look at kind of where they’re at even four months back, I would say they’re down.
Ben: I’m going to go with Amazon for the winner. They are the biggest e-commerce company. They have 10 times the volume of the other individual big five companies, and we’re seeing them gain market share specifically by focusing on their mobile experience. I’m going to go chalk here and just pick the biggest, baddest e-commerce player on the block. In terms of losers, I’m going to say that Nordstrom’s and I think that there’s something to be said for the e-commerce brands that are replicating the mall experience having some struggles. They’re going to be my loser for the month. Tyson, any last words before we let you go related to the holiday season?
Tyson: No, I mean, it’ll be interesting to see. The season’s not over yet, so there’s certainly room for some of these websites to kind of respond. However, with a lot going in code freeze, it’s going to be kind of tough to overly swing where the lines are right now, but it’ll be interesting to see over the next couple of weeks who’s able to get some kind of last minute wins in for the last rush.
Ben: Tyson, I was waiting for you to say, “Ho ho, ho, SEOs.”
Tyson: Oh, it’s too early. Too early. We got to save that for the end of December.
Ben: All right. Well, Tyson, happy holidays to you in advance and everybody. Hope you had a happy Thanksgiving and you’re enjoying your holiday season. Don’t get too wrapped up in Black Friday. Keep the money in your pocket. That wraps up this episode of the Voices of Search Podcast. Thanks for listening to my conversation with Tyson Stockton, Searchmetrics’ director of services. If you’d like to learn more about Tyson, you can find a link to his LinkedIn profile in our show notes. You can send him a tweet where his handle is Tyson_Stockton.
Ben: If you have general marketing questions or if you’d like to talk to me about this podcast, you can find my contact information in our show notes, or you could send me a tweet @BenJShap, B-E-N-J-S-H-A-P. If you’re interested in learning more 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 a complimentary trial of the Searchmetrics Software and Content Experience Suite. 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 soon. All right. That’s it for today, but until next time, remember, the answers are always in the data.