Target Stores – An SEO Challenge

Ian Lurie

Dear Target,
You are currently spending, the pundits say, over $250,000 per day on pay per click marketing.
That may well generate a decent return. I dunno. Given past ppc issues you’ve had (cough negative keywords cough), I’m willing to bet you can improve. But that’s beside the point.
If you took 1% of that spend and put it into search engine optimization, you could increase sales another 20%, minimum.
Wait! Don’t go away. I’ve done real math-type stuff here. Bear with me:

What you’re missing

Let’s take one term: Nintendo DS.
You’re on page 2 of Google’s search results.
Christmas time there are 4 million searches a month on ‘Nintendo DS’.
Four million
Get a top-5 position and you can grab, what, 10% of those clicks? That gets you a paltry 400,000 additional clicks to your site.
Convert 2% of them to either game or DS unit sales, and I figure you earn at least $200,000-250,000 more a month.
And that’s just one term.

What you need to do

Let’s not worry about fancy stuff like code optimization and link structures just yet.
I’ll give you 3 changes to make. Make these and see what happens:

  1. Change all links to your home page to link to ‘’. That’s it. Not ‘’ or whatever. You want to track clicks on the logo? Use event tracking in Google Analytics, or set cookies. Just fix this canonicalization problem, OK? It’ll take even the most overtasked developer about 15 minutes.
  2. Change the graphical heading on the Nintendo DS pages to a text heading. That’s another, what, 15 minutes?
  3. In your navigation, change ‘DS Lite’ to ‘Nintendo DS Lite’.

Don’t stall. Don’t say it hurts your brand. Don’t tell me it’s not that simple.
It is that simple: Make these changes. Get on page 1. Sell 8,000 more Nintendo DS products per month.

My challenge

That’s my challenge. Make those 3 simple changes. Or, go to your board of directors and let them know you didn’t think 8,000 additional orders was worth an hour of development time.
Oh, and you’ll want to tell them why it’s not worth under $100,000 a month to do that for every product you sell.
K? Thanks!
With affection,
Ian Lurie
PS: If you want to, think about a little content marketing, fixing some duplicate content issues, maybe some code cleanup and content rewriting and stuff. Then things will really get going. E-mail me. Any time.

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Ian Lurie

Ian Lurie is the founder of Portent. He's been a digital marketer since the days of AOL and Compuserve (25 years, if you're counting). Ian's recorded training for, writes regularly for the Portent Blog and has been published on AllThingsD, Smashing Magazine, and TechCrunch. Ian speaks at conferences around the world, including SearchLove, MozCon, Seattle Interactive Conference and ad:Tech. He has published several books about business and marketing: One Trick Ponies Get Shot, available on Kindle, The Web Marketing All-In-One Desk Reference for Dummies, and Conversation Marketing. Ian is now an independent consultant and continues to work with the Portent team- training the agency group on all things digital. You can find him at

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  1. Brilliant post. This works on so many levels–it’s as much a “how to write linkbait” as a “how Target can get a clue about SEO” post. You’ve got some seriously impressive writing (as well as SEO) skills.

  2. Great post. Your advice seems shockingly straightforward, but it’s remarkable how such things (particularly the canonicalization problems caused by parameterized URLs) are so often overlooked in enterprise SEO.
    Can’t help by point out (yes, with a smart ass smile) that you searched for and found the key term on “page 2” and hypothesized about the benefits of a “top-5 position.” Thought rankings don’t matter, dude (2008/12/seo-2009-adapt-or-die.htm). 🙂 Heh … subject of a much-overdue blog post from me, where I promise I’ll give you the opportunity to pillory me.

  3. If you have ever worked in the client side, you will know that there are daily pressures on delivering instant sales.
    If you have ever sat in on regional sales meeting, daily sales meetings where you are lynched upon by a sales director with the ferocity of an alsatian with a rubber band around its genitals, to deliver sales now, not tomorrow then you will understand why Target spend on PPC and not SEO.
    PPC is the equivalent of “oh sh*t, marketing team we need sales and NOW.
    Iain, you are totally correct in everything you say, but you couldn’t honestly turn around and increase traffic within the hour with these tweaks.
    SEO doesn’t deliver instant results and that’s what a box shifter wants.

  4. @Fraser The changes won’t increase traffic in an hour. The changes themselves will take an hour.
    I WILL say, though, that reordering title tags and fixing a basic canonicalization issue like home page linking will have a very fast effect on their long- and short-tail traffic.

  5. Ian,
    First time, long time. I love reading your blog and This is a great (and quite funny) post. It’s AMAZING how business is simply ingnored by Fortune 500’s. I am with DAN J – let us know if you hear back from Target.

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