The amount of traffic that online retailers receive from paid search – i.e. from sponsored or paid for links on search engines such as Google, Yahoo!, Live and Ask – has fallen over the last 12 months. During March 2009, 8.9% of all UK Internet visits to online retailers came from a paid search listing, down from 10.1% in March 2008.
Search engines are the primary source of traffic for almost all online retailers, and a typical ecommerce site in the UK receives 2 in every 5 visits from a search engine. However, the proportion of search traffic that comes from paid listings fell from 27.8% in March 2008 to 22.5% in March 2009. Retailers are amongst the biggest users of paid search in the UK, so – as the chart below illustrates – this has also contributed to an overall decline in paid search rates. In March 2009, 9.4% of all search engine traffic in the UK was from paid listings, down from 12.1% in March 2008.
Following yesterday’s post illustrating that social networks now receive more UK Internet visits that online retailers, it is perhaps no surprise to see that the amount of traffic our Shopping and Classifies category receive from social networking websites increased from 5.2% in March 2008 to 7.1% in March 2009. A year ago online retailers received a similar amount of traffic from both social networks and webmail services (such as Hotmail, Yahoo! Mail and GoogleMail), but social networks now account for 58.3% more traffic than webmail providers.
The retail categories that received most traffic from social networks during March 2009 were Auctions, Fashion and Department Stores. Together they accounted for over half of all downstream visits from social networks to an online retailer.
Top 10 online retail websites receiving traffic from social networks, March 2009:
1. eBay UK (1.94% of all downstream visits from social networks)
2. Amazon UK (0.40%)
3. Play.com (0.19%)
4. ASOS (0.13%)
5. eBay (0.10%)
6. Argos (0.09%)
7. Gumtree.com (0.09%)
8. Amazon.com (0.08%)
9. TopShop.com (0.08%)
10. HotUKDeals (0.08%)
Social networks are a relatively small but fast growing source of traffic for online retailers. At present, only a minority of retailers pick up a significant amount of traffic from social networks, but many of those that do have seen a positive impact on traffic. For example, fashion retailer ASOS has a strong presence on Facebook and in March received 13.3% of its traffic from the social network. Another example – in a very different market – is online bookseller Abebooks, which currently receives a quarter of all its UK Internet traffic from social networks, more than it gets from search engines. These and other examples illustrate that a retailer’s success on a social network has less to do with products or demographics than it does with effectively engaging with an online community.