Share of Search Report: Christmas, 2015 (UK)

Amazon and Argos neck and neck in online Christmas shopping battle.

Analysis of the most popular phrases used by UK shoppers who are searching for this year’s ‘must have’ Christmas gifts via Google has revealed that Amazon and Argos currently have the largest share of search in the run up to the holiday retail period.


Introduction

For major UK high-street and online ecommerce retail, search will be an invaluable channel for the 2015 Christmas period. By year end, total online retail sales for 2015 are expected to exceed £116bn1 (representing 12% YoY growth from 2014 figures). Fuelled by such remarkable growth in online retail sales, search has naturally become the most significant channel for consumers as they undergo their seasonal purchase journeys.

Organic search in particular is regarded as one of the most trusted sources of information by consumers2. Every day, millions of people in the UK rely on organic search to research, evaluate, and eventually make their seasonal and Christmas purchases. Additionally, the growing prevalence of mobile and multi-device search means that the “always-on” availability of the channel can drive influence across entire consumer purchase journeys at any moment, not just on retailers’ websites but across a range of publishers at multiple consumer touchpoints.

At Christmas, when commercial stakes for retailers are particularly high, winning or losing in the organic search can make or break the bank. Brands who perform poorly in organic search are often forced to invest heavily in paid media and advertising to make up for shortfalls in visitor and sales volumes, in a period when such costs are frequently heavily inflated by high levels of competition.

Our Research

With so much at stake, we wanted to understand what the landscape might look like this Christmas, and to see which retailers are already positioning themselves to be most visible and visited website by consumers during the festive period.

By analysing the most popular phrases used by UK shoppers who are searching for this year’s ‘must have’ Christmas gifts via Google (looking at today’s data 3), we discovered that that Amazon and Argos currently have the largest share of search in the run up to the holiday retail period.

Our research explored over 7,000 keywords, representing a total of 8.5 million monthly searches in the UK between August and September 2015, focusing on typical Christmas gifts (such as “Playstation 4”, ”Apple iPad”, or “children’s bikes”) and identified which brands had the top market share overall, and in a number of subcategories such as ‘toys’ or ‘technology’.

In light of the findings Jonathan Alderson, Global Head of Digital at Linkdex, had some thoughts for retailers ahead of the Christmas retail period:

“Christmas shopping starts sooner every year, and from as early as September we’ve been seeing a massive 8.5million searches per month for products, toys, and tech, which are likely to be big sellers this Christmas. Organic search represents a huge opportunity for retailers, but based on current data, some of the big players might have to resort to costly paid advertising to make up for shortfalls in their organic visibility if they want to capture traffic and sales over the Christmas period.

Thankfully it’s not too late – investment in effective SEO strategies, website improvements, content marketing, and brand PR activity could radically improve retailer’s search visibility ahead of the crucial shopping period.”

Jono Alderson

Jono Alderson

Global Head of Digital, Linkdex

Of course, the market, search behaviours and volumes, and marketing activities will almost certainly change in the lead-up to Christmas, and it’s therefore difficult to predict winners and losers based on data relating to how people search now.

However considering that as many as 20 percent of consumers start their Christmas shopping in September4, in a channel where overnight changes in strategy and performance are difficult to achieve, and where brands typically operate large, complex and hard-to-change ecommerce websites – by creating a league table which identifies who’s winning and who’s losing today, we can begin to understand what the market might look like this Christmas.

This report highlights key stats, explores our findings, provides some observations, and details our methodology in more depth.


Our Findings

Key Stats

  • Amazon (2.88 percent) and Argos (2.87 percent) have the greatest share of search in the UK across 8.5 million consumer searches.
    • Amazon have a clear lead over Argos in categories such as ebook readers (15.85 percent of overall ebook related searches compared to Argos’ 2.39 percent) and audio products (9.27 percent to Argos’ 2.88 percent).
    • Argos have the larger share of Christmas toy related searches with 10.41 percent of overall share of search. Amazon by comparison have 4.56 percent.
  • Apple (2.67 percent) are the third most visible retailer in the UK, despite having a much smaller product range and total ranking keywords.
  • Currys have the largest share of the TV related searches with 9.16 percent, followed by Argos who have 7.08 percent.
    • Amazon by contrast have just 1.91 percent of the share of search for TV related searches.
  • Argos have the greatest share of searches related to children’s toys with 5.72 percent.
    • Toys “R” Us offer strong competition with 4.15 percent.
    • Smyths Toys (1.55 percent) and The Toy Shop (0.8 percent) also feature in the top ten most visible retailers, showing that specialist national retailers are able to build a strong organic search position within their specific niche.
  • Apple have the greatest share of searches related to technology with 3.79 percent.
    • Overall leaders, Amazon and Argos also perform very well in the category with 2.88 and 2.26 percent share of search respectively.
  • Of the non-retail publishers, Techradar have the greatest share of search, with 2.19 percent of the overall share of search.
    • Wikipedia and Youtube follow close behind with 1.37 percent, and 0.91 percent share of search respectively.

Overall Market Winners

Across likely trending Christmas products and topics this year, a few key themes stand out. As you would expect, there is interest in traditional presents such as bikes, soft toys, and general childrens’ entertainment – but beyond this there are key areas of interest such as fitbit and health technology, console games and construction toys such as lego products. When visualised, it’s easy to see how these trends for toys and tech dominate peoples research.

xmas-2015-all

The report keywords, weighted by search volume, normalised; Aug-Sept 2015

By analysing who ranks where for each term in this set, we can apply clickthrough-rate calculations to the search volume to identify the most visible high-street and ecommerce retailers across the organic search channel between August and September 2015.

sos-xmas-1

As the chart indicates, Amazon (2.88 percent) and Argos (2.87 percent) have a clear lead with the largest share of search amongst UK consumers. Both retailers have prominent organic search positions across a range of high-volume product keywords such as “xbox”, “playstation 4”, and “lego”, and both have thousands of ranking keywords overall (Amazon have over 3,800 ranking keywords, and Argos almost 3,000), giving them broad scope and visibility across a range of products.

Apple occupy the third spot, with a 2.67 percent share of search. The brand provide a narrower range of products than the two leading retailers, and rank for specific branded terms such as “ipad”, “apple watch”, and “beats headphones”. Naturally Apple possess a significantly smaller amount of ranking keywords (360 ranking keywords in total), however this is counterbalanced by a commanding organic search position, meaning the retailer is able to win a large share of overall search volumes around their brand.

Other retailers in the top ten have built healthy positions within their own specific niches. Currys perform very well for audiovisual searches, and Game and Toys “R” Us have strong visibility in the console gaming and children’s toys markets respectively.

Amazon vs Argos

Segmenting share of search by product category illustrates how the two leading retailers Amazon and Argos are competing in specific markets.

sos-xmas-2

As the chart shows, it is clear that Amazon have a clear lead over Argos in categories such as audio (9.27 percent to Argos’ 2.88 percent) and most notably ebook readers (15.85 percent to Argos’ 2.39 percent) – which makes sense, when you consider Amazon’s monopoly in the eBook space with their Kindle range.

The situation is reversed in the case of toys that are expected to be big sellers this Christmas (such as Lego5 and Star Wars toys6), where Argos have 10.41 percent of the overall share of search to Amazon’s 4.56 percent, tablets where Argos have 3.46 percent to Amazon’s 1.85 percent, and TVs where Argos have 7.08 percent overall share of search to Amazon’s 1.91 percent.

While this is by no means an exhaustive list of categories across both retailer sites, It’s interesting to note that with the exception of video gaming, there is a clear divide in each of the category’s between the two leading retailers.

Whilst the two retailers may be neck and neck in overall share of search, the areas where they are winning have a very different flavour. Amazon perform exceptionally for branded technology keywords such as “Kindle” and variants of “headphones” related searches. They also have a huge depth in long-tail keywords, visualised below (we’ve shown how many estimated visits the site receives, by individual term, terms based on our data), representing their broad and impressive reach across a huge quantity of products, categories and ranges.

The report keywords which we estimated drive the most traffic to www.amazon.co.uk weighted by estimated vistis, normalised; Aug-Sept 2015

We can also see how Argos, on the other hand, possess a larger number of toy-related keywords such as “scooter” and “kids bikes”, as well as home electronics such as “beard trimmer” and “flat screen tv”, but a smaller overall breadth of terms.

The report keywords which we estimated drive the most traffic to www.argos.co.uk weighted by estimated vistis, normalised; Aug-Sept 2015

In both cases, organic search performance appears to reflect and compliment a larger business strategy; for example, in the UK Amazon are not big players in the TV market (perhaps due to the benefit-to-cost ratio around exhibition, warehousing, and storage of such large ticket items); conversely, though, Argos’ reach and depth is strictly tied to (and fuelled by) the products it stocks and features on their website, whereas Amazon can extend their reach through customer markets and greater breadth of smaller items. In many cases, the organic reach of retailer is tied intrinsically to the nature, size, and breadth-of-range of the products it retails.

Toys

Overall share of search of the childrens’ toy market was calculated from over 1.6 million searches, encompassing popular searches for categories that are likely to be big sellers this Christmas such as Christmas toys, Lego, Star Wars toys, and teddy bears.

Lego dominates the toys space; their strategy of capitalising on every other major franchise, event and media brand gives them enormous reach, and ensures that they’re right up there with whatever is trending this Christmas. The chart below reflects the sheer scale of their reach, making it no surprise that they continue to be considered as one of the most influential and trusted brands in the world7. Other areas of interest shine through, too, such as traditional ‘teddy bears’, and other toy brands such as ‘peppa pig’.

xmas-2015-toys

The report keywords, filtered to ‘Toys’, weighted by search volume, normalised; Aug-Sept 2015

Argos (5.72 percent) have a clear lead in the UK market, again with a prominent organic search positions across almost 800 keywords. Toys “R” Us perform very well in the specialist vertical (4.15 percent) offering Argos strong competition in the toy market.

sos-xmas-3

With Smyths Toys (1.55 percent) and The Toy Shop (0.8 percent) also within the top ten, it is clear that specialist national retailers are able to build a strong organic search position within their specific niche.

Amazon, Tesco, John Lewis, Halfords, and ebay again make an appearance in the top ten. Notably, Halfords perform comparatively better than they do in the overall share of search ranking, leapfrogging competing retailers Tesco and John Lewis with prominent organic positions for searches such as ‘scooters’ and ‘kids bikes’.

Technology

Overall share of search of the technology market was calculated from over 5.8 million searches, encompassing popular categories including console gaming, smartwatches, fitness, tablets, audio, TVs, ebook readers, and drones (and excluding home appliances and white goods).

Searches for tech products and gifts are more diverse than other areas; brands and topics are more distributed, and more individual products and areas stand out. In particular, there is a focus on games and gaming (consoles and the latest releases), media, health technology and audio equipment.

xmas-2015-tech

The report keywords, filtered to ‘Technology’, weighted by search volume, normalised; Aug-Sept 2015

Apple are the clear winners here, with 3.79 percent of the UK technology share of search – perhaps not a surprise considering their product range and overall share of search across all categories.

sos-xmas-4

Amazon (2.88 percent), and Argos (2.26 percent) again perform well for technology related share of search, with the former gaining an additional organic search boost over competitors for it’s own product line of ‘Kindle’ ebook readers, as well as phones and tablets.

Currys perform especially well here, with strong search presence in the audiovisual and TV market (the brand have a sizable 9.16 percent of the share of search in the TV category when considered separately). The brand have a considerably larger share of search than sister brand PC World who have not managed to achieve the same visibility for typical audiovisual and gadget based searches.

Non-Retail Publishers

In many cases, non-commercial websites including publishers, review sites, and social networking platforms also won a considerable share of search. TechRadar had the greatest share of search with 2.19 percent of overall share of search, built on high visibility for keywords such as “apple watch” and “xbox”; topics where they write exhaustive reviews and comparisons, which drives traffic to their pages.

sos-xmas-5

Wikipedia (1.37 percent) and YouTube (0.91 percent) are second and in the overall non-commercial share of search, showing that independent information resources such as these are providing answers for consumers searches. It’s worth noting that both websites incorporate independent search functions as a means for users to find content, and arguably their influence is not reliant on organic search but user generated content and their own sophisticated search ecosystems.

Review sites, CNET, PC Advisor, Trusted Reviews, and Which all feature amongst the top non-commercial sites, highlighting the importance of reviews for consumers as they research and evaluate their purchases.

Facebook also win a respectible 0.51 percent share of search, largely through the strong performance of prominent brand pages (e.g. http://www.facebook.com/xbox)

Conclusion

At such a crucial time of year, organic search can be a highly competitive channel, and it’s no real surprise that the top share of search positions are dominated by major UK retailers such as Amazon and Argos. Both retailers stock a comprehensive range of goods and appropriately, have a large amount of ranking keywords and pages to match.

There are also encouraging results for retailers such as Currys and Toys “R” Us who have managed to build leading organic positions in the TV and Toy markets. In niche markets, retailers such as Game (video gaming) and Smyths Toys (childrens toys) show that it’s possible for specialist retailers to compete for searches with the major retailers – giving them a much needed boost in online visibility in the run up to Christmas.

“Recent research by Google confirming that 20 percent of consumers start their Christmas shopping in September, and that 40 percent of UK consumers are fully engaged in Christmas shopping purchase cycles by October, should be a compelling incentive for brands to build an understanding of search behaviour and performance as early as possible.

As the results of this report show, even smaller retailers can compete with the biggest ecommerce players within a specific niche, and a key priority for any brand hoping for healthy online sales this Christmas will be how to build an organic search presence that can engage and capture consumer demand.”

Pat Hong

Pat Hong

Content Writer, Linkdex

With search demand and behaviour likely to change in the run up to, and over the Christmas period, there’s still time for retailers to compete for crucial organic search queries and keywords in their markets. For retailers who commit to a holistic SEO strategy in time to effect change in their visibility in the run-up to the festive period, the channel can still provide excellent ROI.

We should point out that whilst this report shines a light on the performance of retail sites, they’re not the only players in the space. Brands’ individual websites, editorial publications (such as the highly visible techradar.co.uk), review sites, and omnipresent information resources such as Wikipedia and YouTube still influence the searcher, their research, and their decision-making processes.

With weeks to go, brands need to be thinking about how consumers form opinions, build brand preference, and make decisions. Organic rankings and visibility play a huge part of this – and there is still time to roll out content strategies, PR and site optimisation activities to shift the balance – but it’s important to think beyond keywords and rankings and to consider what users are looking for and expecting, and how best to meet those needs. Successful strategies blend multi-channel activity, consider how other websites and brands affect their reputation, and compete by winning multiple niches which align with their core strengths in order to provide the best experiences for the end user.

With all of this considered, winning Christmas isn’t necessarily about having the highest share of search – it’s about winning the consumer.

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Methodology

Linkdex performed desk research to identify likely trending and popular topics, products and toys for Christmas 2015, across a variety of categories (including traditional toys such as bikes and stuffed animals, games and consoles, Lego products, Star Wars paraphernalia, and others) for over 7,000 keyword terms, representing a total of 8.5 million monthly searches in the UK between August and September 2015.

We identified and categorised relevant keywords relating to each topic or product, and used search volume data from Google to understand and quantify demand. The Linkdex SEO platform then measured each of the websites which appear in Google’s organic search results for these keywords, and calculated an estimated share of search based on proprietary clickthrough-rate calculations, based on ranking position for each keyword.

As well as search volumes, the equivalent ‘media value’ for each keyword – the cost per click value from Google AdWords for each term multiplied by its search volume – was also collected, so as to enable us to understand the relative commercial value of each keyword.

This data was then aggregated to allow us to identify the most visible and most valuable websites overall, and by category.

Results are indicative of search behaviour in the UK between August and September 2015, and demand is expected to increase and change over the Christmas period. Additionally, overall share of search is intended to be representative of a retailer domain’s organic search visibility, and not of overall multi-channel or retail performance.

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The data and contents of this report were produced by the Linkdex team, using our proprietory SEO platform and data.

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References

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