Walmart Defeats Target in Monumental Marketing Matchup

Meghan Keaney Anderson
Meghan Keaney Anderson



Nothing says happy holidays like the early December glow of a big box store. To celebrate, we thought we’d take a look at how two of the biggest holiday retail outlets compare as inbound marketers. To do so, we used Marketing Grader, HubSpot's new free tool that evaluates businesses' full scope of marketing activities spanning from website quality and mobile readiness to middle of the funnel activities like lead nurturing efforts. Now, let's see how these two holiday shopping giants fared.

Website Traffic: Walmart Wins

Walmart and Target both generate an enormous amount of traffic. According to data from Marketing Grader, Walmart gets approximately 59,168,536 unique visitors a month. To give you some perspective, that’s more than Canada’s entire population (43 million), every month! In case you’re wondering, there are more Canadians than Target’s monthly traffic, but not by much. Target generates monthly traffic of more than 40,929,000.

Attracting traffic is an important first step in inbound marketing, but remember that it's not the only goal. A complete inbound marketing strategy needs to aim both to increase traffic and to grow conversions over time.

Search Engine Optimization: Walmart Wins Again!

Both sites generate a ton of traffic and inbound links, but Walmart eeks out a win with 48,908 inbound links, 10 of which are from highly authoritative pages including the New York Times, BBC and The real reason Walmart wins this category, however, is some smart decisions they've made when in terms of page descriptions. While Target gives all of its subpages the same description (“Expect More, Pay Less”), Walmart wins the SEO gold medal with its varied and detailed descriptions for each subpage.

To maximize effectiveness, pages' meta descriptions should be both keyword-rich and informative about what visitors will find on the page. Marketers should also be aware that it's important to remember to stay under 160 characters in these descriptions so search engines like Google don't cut them off prematurely. Here are two great examples of Walmart's page descriptions.

walmart page descriptions

Mobile Optimization: Tie! (Both are Mobile-Savvy Retailers)

Both sites are optimized for mobile devices, enabling me and everyone else to do some holiday shopping on the train ride home. Mobile optimization has already shifted from a nice-to-have to a must-have for most companies. And by the end of 2011, it’s projected that 50% of Americans will own a smartphone (Source: Nielsen 2010). Mobile optimization is even more critical during the holiday shopping season, since 74% of smartphone users have made a purchase from their smartphone (source). Both Walmart and Target have mobile versions of their sites, icons at the ready for iPhones and other app stores, and meta viewport tags to help mobile phones users view content better.

Optimizing your site for mobile doesn't have to be hard. It really comes down to a few key steps. Ensuring that your website is accessible to mobile will prevent you from losing access to an increasingly large segment of buyers. Here's a free kit to help you get started. 

Social Media and Blogging: Tie (But Both Could Do Much Better With Blogging)

Both businesses also know their way around social media. If we’re going on follower volume alone, Target wins Twitter with 225K followers compared to Walmart’s 126K. But Walmart is clearly focused on Facebook, with more than 9 million Likes vs. Target’s 7.2 million, as well as a budding partnership with Facebook. But there’s also one glaring hole in this category: Neither retailers have a blog as far as we can see. You may think that ecommerce sites don’t need a blog, but HubSpot data shows that companies that blog get 55% more website traffic on average than those that don’t.

There’s a qualitative side to this, too. When you search for Walmart and Target, you are met by a slew of third-party blogs and negative posts about the two retailers. Having a well-maintained blog that helps rank in search engines could offer these businesses a way to downplay negative, third-party reviews and fuel goodwill. There are countless inbound marketing benefits to blogging, so if you haven't started a company blog yet, here's how to get started.

Middle of the Funnel Engagement: Walmart Wins

Visitors tend to stay on for three minutes. In digital dog years, that’s a good, long time. Target isn’t far behind, but according to Marketing Grader, Target averages between one and three minutes. On both sites, visitors look at between two and six pages when they're there. Length of visit could be an indication of engagement, but it depends entirely on the purpose of the site and the customer experience.

Think about the ideal experience you want on your site. Should your site prioritize quick decision making or does more time getting informed about your product or service lead to more qualified leads? Try to optimize your site for the best scenario by using analytics to determine which pages have the greatest influence on purchase behavior and creating clear paths to those.   

Final Assessment: Walmart Claims Victory

In this matchup, I'd say that Walmart takes the (fruit)cake. They've done a much better job optimizing their whole site for search and appear to have a pretty engaged online shopping base. Target's certainly not doing too shabby either, but there are definitely a few areas for improvement. Finally, both companies should really look into launching an on-site blog as New Year's resolution number one.  

Curious about your own marketing grade? Be among the first to try out our newest free tool, learn where the holes in your marketing are, and get tips on how to start improving. Give it a try. Happy grading!


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