Brian.oco 0 Posting Whiz

We've all heard of search engine optimization, or "SEO".

That's the online search engine mechanism that allows online businesses to seed their web landing pages with key code words to entice visitors and shoppers.

One big SEO term this week is "Black Friday" -- the day-after-Thanksgiving shopfest that launches the holiday shopping season.

Online retailers are already advertising their Black Friday shopping specials - - and getting good results. This leads me to believe that the holiday shopping season will be more robust than the notoriously negative national media would have us believe.

Here are some early numbers to back that sentiment up. According to the web online shopping tracking firm Hitwise, online traffic to Black Friday advertising websites is rising earlier in 2007 compared to 2006. Online traffic to a custom category of Black Friday advertising websites increased 52 percent for the week ending Nov. 10, 2007 compared to Nov. 11, 2006. That's an interesting number -- last year's shopping season was considered strong. With online shoppers out even earlier this year, shouldn't this year's holiday season be equally strong - - or better -- for retailers?

Hitwise adds that online interest in Black Friday is taking place earlier this year and becoming more widespread than the past two holiday seasons. Searches on the term "black Friday ads" are up 91 percent compared to last year and have increased 954 percent since 2005. This is a continuing trend as searches for the same term were up 452 percent in 2006 compared to 2005.

Wal-Mart received the most traffic from Black Friday advertising websites for the week ending Nov. 10, 2007 among a select group of brick and mortar stores. Sears and Best Buy received the second and third most U.S. traffic, respectively. In 2006, Best Buy, Circuit City and Sears were among offline brands to receive the most traffic from Black Friday websites.

“Consumers are becoming increasingly more knowledgeable about the availability of Black Friday promotions online and are actively seeking out the websites which offer the advertisements before public release,” says Heather Dougherty, director of research at Hitwise. “Much to the chagrin of some retailers, shoppers are well-aware of the leaked promotions and are able to plan their Black Friday purchases before Thanksgiving arrives. While some retailers resist having their sales announced prematurely, others are embracing these sites as a customer acquisition opportunity.”

Hitwise also has an online shopping benchmark called the U.S. Retail 100 Index. Its most recent reading shows that visits to the websites within the Index were up seven percent for the week ending Nov. 10, 2007 versus last week (Nov. 3, 2007). U.S. traffic is up 13 percent compared to the same week last year (Nov. 11, 2006). remained the most-visited website within the Index last week, receiving 11 percent of visits among the Retail 100 Index. Wal-Mart received the second-most visits with six percent. was the biggest gainer for the week, as their traffic increased 18 percent compared to the previous week.

iPods and Uggs were the most popular search terms sending visits to Shopping and Classifieds websites for the week ending Nov. 10, 2007. The terms “ipod”, “wii” and “uggs” were the top three product searches. The term “playstation 3” cracked the top 10 product searches for the first time this holiday season (probably because of the price reduction that Sony slapped on the PS3 just in time for the holiday season.)

Hitwise -- U.S. Retail Index Top 20 Websites

Ranking By Market Share of U.S. Visits for Week Ending Nov. 10, 2007

1 11.49%
2 Walmart 6.72%
3 Target 4.64%
4 4.29%
5 Yahoo! Shopping 3.18%
6 BestBuy 2.57%
7 JC Penney 2.41%
8 2.38%
9 2.33%
10 BizRate 2.27%
11 TOYS 'R' US - USA 2.18%
12 Shopzilla 2.01%
13 1.96%
14 1.91%
15 Circuit City 1.89%
16 Dell USA 1.86%
17 Ticketmaster 1.77%
18 Lowe's 1.35%
19 The Home Depot 1.32%
20 1.27%

Source: Hitwise

Top U.S. Search Terms Driving Traffic to Shopping & Classifieds Category -- Week Ending November 10, 2007

Top Brand Searches Top Product Searches

ebay ipod
craigslist wii
walmart uggs ugg boots
target ipod touch
best buy xbox 360
amazon ugg ipod nano
sears playstation 3
craigs list ipods

Source: Hitwise

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