Walmart and Target

Here at The Search Monitor, we love to use our database of competitive search marketing data to pit two companies against each other and see how they compare. This week, we looked at Walmart and Target.

For the comparison, we analyzed the last four months of data (August 2 to December 2) for a metric we call Market Visibility. Market Visibility is like Market Share – it is calculated as the combined reach and frequency of a retailer’s ads. We can look at this metric for any specific company or a rolled-up vertical.

The data immediately shocked us. Two close competitors should not have such distinct market visibility trends, we thought. After our whole team weighed in on what they thought was happening here from a strategic perspective, we agreed upon two possible explanations for the swapping of Market Visibility in the last month of this chart (November):

1. Walmart missed the boat in November and let Target overtake them in terms of visibility.

2. Walmart knew exactly what it was doing and decided to front-load its ads to build considerable impressions in September and October. Then, they waited and let the sales roll in from inbound/SEO in November

There is another fun point to discuss here: What was Target up to in September, during its giant dip? Again, The Search Monitor came up with two more ideas:

1. Target chose to drop its Market visibility to 0 around September 1 and keep it low for the entire month. It wanted  to chill out after spending a lot during its big back-to-school season and save ad money for November.

2. Target got caught with its pants down and either forgot to continue a campaign or just ran out of money. The result was very little visibility during September.

We’d love to get the 3QDigital readers in on the discussion and see what you think. It’s always interesting to get in the minds of the big SEM spenders and learn from their smart (or strange) moves.

1 Comment

  1. rob woods December 17th, 2013

    This is interesting data and I suspect that some of your theories are correct that Walmart frontloaded much of their advertising. One thing that would be interesting to look at would be to include December in this analysis since this year Thanksgiving, and thus Back Friday and Cyber Monday, were pushed much later in the month and Cyber Monday actually got pushed through to December 2.

    Another factor that may have influenced PPC spend some degree is that this year both Target and Walmart, but particularly Walmart, did much better at ranking for their own Black Friday related terms in organic search. In years past affiliate websites have always ranked the highest for terms like “Walmart Black Friday ad” but in recent years many of the big retailers have taken a more active role in attempting to rank for their own Black Friday related terms. For either or both PPC spend may have been adjusted based on their much better rankings this year for their own terms in organic.

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Lori Weiman
-Lori Weiman is the CEO and Co-founder of and has been creating products for SEM and SEO marketers since 2002. Prior to The Search Monitor, Lori co-founded (now a division of Digital River, Inc.) which provides campaign optimization software to SEM marketers and agencies. Lori started her career at Time Warner Cable as part of the team responsible for inventing on-demand television. She has held executive level positions at several early stage ventures including Click Forensics, Webquarters, and Lori holds a degree in business from Emory University, and a J.D. degree from the University of Baltimore School of Law.