October 2, 2009, 12:00 AM

Last year’s holiday search data offers insights for e-retailers this year

Last year, search drove 30% of all holiday traffic to retailers. In fact, some retailers bought holiday campaign keywords as early as July.


Online marketers that pay more attention to the terms that drive paid and organic search traffic to their sites will gain an edge over the competition during the upcoming holiday shopping season, according to a new report from Experian Marketing Services.

The 2009 Holiday Marketer: Benchmark and Trend report, offers data from last year’s holiday season to help marketers this year. It says that last year, search drove more traffic to online retailers than any other single online marketing vehicle. In December 2008, 30% of all traffic to retailer web sites came from search, an increase of 6% from last year. 15% of traffic came directly from other retail sites and 11% from e-mail.

Search referrals varied slightly by type of retailer during Holiday 2008. 31% of traffic to web-only retailers came from search engines last December, catalog- and call center-based- retailers got 25% of their traffic from search.

Searches for the term “layaway” peaked during the five weeks leading up to Thanksgiving, with some online retailers promoting layaway options as early as mid-summer. Kmart.com and Sears.com last year launched holiday pages offering layaway plans in July. In fact, search traffic for the term ”layaway” during the four weeks ending August 8, 2008, for the retail sites tracked in the study was completely driven by paid search terms from Kmart.com and Sears.com-all representing variations on the core keyword “layaway.”

“With many consumers remaining cautious with spending, more retailers are turning to layaway programs again this holiday season to offer shoppers a payment plan to buy gifts,” the report says. That means that to drive sales early in this holiday shopping season, retailers should promote deferred payment programs in early e-mail campaigns, according to Experian Marketing.

The report’s findings were based on data gathered from the top 500 retailer web sites as measured by Experian’s Hitwise web traffic measurement service.

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