Macy’s Magical Online Disappearing Act

In today’s Wall Street Journal Macy’s CMO and Chairman of the Online Division Peter Sachse talks about Search Marketing. It’s rare to hear a CMO of a major retailer discuss search marketing so it was with great interest that I read his comments.

WSJ: How do you measure the effectiveness of search marketing?

Mr. Sachse: It’s not as precise as we would like it to be. …We have certain techniques — surveys, tests, all sorts of things — to find out how many people “activated.” If they searched for “perfume” did they buy it in a Macy’s store? We do know if they bought it on the Web site. We have that. What we don’t know is what action they took in the store.

With rising gas prices, increased consumer time pressure, higher offline operations costs and lower offline margins his cross-channel answer to how well the intent driven medium of Search was working for Macy’s was a bit puzzling. So, I decided to see how well Macy’s digital marketing experience was doing using the very scenario he described, a person searching for “perfume” on Google.


Unfortunately for Mr. Sachse (or his Search Agency & PR team) Macy’s does not appear to be buying the keyword “perfume” nor are they listed in the first five pages of the natural results (I stopped looking after page 5). Not being sure why Macy’s is not buying what would seem to be a good keyword where they could leverage their brand – maybe low conversion rates due to poor landing pages, maybe a missed opportunity – I decided to take a look at the Macy’s website and see what their perfume category and product pages looked like.


Ouch. I haven’t seen a page like that since 2002.

Once I was able to get on the homepage a quick view of the source code (below) shows that they have a number or errors with their website analytics tracking and implementation. I wonder if the numbers Mr. Sachse’s team has and that he refers to are truly accurate?


One more coal on this fire. Macy’s does not buy their brand keyword. From what I’ve seen I doubt they’ve tested the ROI and brand impact of this decision. Especially since every one of the five competitors I searched on (including one I worked with in the past and know their brand kw ROI) buys their own branded terms. Also, with their interest in cross-channel metrics you would think at the very least Macy’s would want to know the impact TV and other media campaigns have on search volume for their brand term. How are they not?


This is Q2, 2008. It is absolutely ridiculous that C-level execs have no clue about their digital marketing strategies and execution – especially in retail. It’s completely unacceptable for a major retailer’s website to be down during lunch – likely the highest temporal period for conversion rate and volume during the weekday.

Search is the single most important channel for branding and advertising (and yes, I said branding). Your digital experiences define your brand and that starts with the keyword query. According the the interview it seems Mr. Sachse is pouring millions of dollars into online marketing initiatives yet Macy’s doesn’t even have the basics down. You can build a beautiful house but if it’s on a poor foundation eventually it will crumble.

Some previous posts that Mr. Sachse and his Agencies might find interesting.

Buy Branded Keywords? A Case Study on Traffic, Conversion and RPV

Brand Marketing in the Digital Age

Platforms, Applications and the Future of Digital Marketing



17 responses to “Macy’s Magical Online Disappearing Act”

  1. Jaan Kanellis Avatar

    Go through the Fortune 500 and do the same review. My guess is you will see the same or worse for over 75% of them. Oh and SEO is dead, LOLOLOLOL.


  2. Thomas Avatar

    unfortunately, it is not the only big company which thinks they are doing well, and actually have no clue of what is really going on in their websites ! Poor site construction, poor analysis, old fashionned,…


  3. thinks Avatar

    Small Business Ecommerce Link Digest – May 23, 2008

    Huge roundup of ppc search engine marketing tips and techniques for the holiday weekend.


  4. Stefanie Avatar

    I think that very few people actually go through their sites from a user point of view – which is why so many of them are the way that they are. I have had issues when doing campaigns for retailers with seeing success on the online store, but not knowing if people are moving to the retail location. Right now I assume that more conversions on the online store must mean more conversions overall (people visiting the retail location as well). But that is less than perfect.
    If you have any ideas on how to see if the adwords campaign is working other than through doing a survey at the cash register I would love to hear them!


  5. Paula Lynn Avatar
    Paula Lynn

    Keep in mind what Ken Rutlowski constantly repeats, “Experts are expensive; amateurs are a fortune.”


  6. Louis Wing Avatar

    Seeing this is not a surprise at all. Most of the large, branded companies feel they shouldn’t have to bid on their branded terms,…what a mistake.
    Many of the campaigns we’ve taken over perform very well by starting on the branded terms, and then moving out to more generic (broad) keywords. The one comment I see here, that marketers tend not to look at their sites from a user perspective, that hits home in a big way..something more people should be doing in their review of the eCommerce process.


  7. paisley Avatar

    simple fix.. have Macy’s hire me.


  8. Dwight Z Avatar

    This is a great post and call-out to a major retailer that just is not “getting it” nor is their advertising agency. It’s amazing to me time and time again that many traditional advertising agencies don’t invest enough in to sem/seo solutions, or align themselves with a true digital agency. I run in to this problem frequently and it’s usually a situation like this one written about that brings calls from my customers- always an afterthought or when their in trouble.
    Maybe us “real” SEM’s are like defense attorneys or auto mechanics- never any real proactive steps to prevent trouble, and when their in trouble- always call excited and ask about pricing to fix. Amazing, simply amazing.


  9. EricZ Avatar

    how are you defining “real SEM”? I’ve never heard of your company before. Macy’s handles paid search internally.


  10. Jonathan Mendez Avatar

    Eric- Thanks for adding that insight about Macy’s. I wouldn’t be surprised to see and RFP come to your new headquarters.


  11. James Avatar

    They may be buying the term. It might just be that their campaign budget is low & has capped out for the day.


  12. Jonathan Mendez Avatar

    I checked the next morning as well and there was no add. In any case you wouldn’t want to have your campaigns structured so that you hit your cap on your brand terms.
    Interestingly, as of tonight there is now an ad on their brand term.


  13. SEO Company Pakistan Avatar

    Hi there Jonathan:
    I am finally reached the destination. I meant to say, Thank you for leaving your link there.
    “Many of the Employeers do no think as Employees”….This is the case in SEO As well. The SEO Companies, do not have time to look at it and lag-behind 🙂
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  14. NVM Avatar

    @Thomas – there’s a myriad of ways to get this data. First, incenting with some type of customized coupon would be one way to go about tracking offline conversions. How many were downloaded/printed vs. how many were actually redeemed. You could theoretically tie this all together and see which keywords/campaigns/ads were driving offline conversions after redemption.
    Unfortunately, unless you’re working with bigger clients, this can be a tough sell.


  15. perfumes for men Avatar

    yeah thomas your right it is not the only big company which thinks they are doing well, and actually have no clue of what is really going on in their websites ! Poor site


  16. Joel McLaughlin Avatar

    Wow, that is very interesting stuff…


  17. Professional SEO Company Avatar

    True, I agree with SEO Company Pakistan, the things still seems to be quite very un-clear anyway.


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