Why you gotta be so rude, Walmart? This past Monday, a reader alerted Jezebel to a shopping section on Walmart’s website labeled “Fat Girl Costumes.”
What happened next was highly predictable:
People on Twitter go into freak mode. “Oh no you didn’t, WallyWorld!!! #noclass”
Walmart takes the category down (aka redirected it to an already existing “Plus Size Costumes” category).
Walmart issues a public apology. (“This never should have been on our site in the first place,” a spokesperson told Bloomberg Businessweek. “It’s unacceptable that it appeared, and we apologize.”)
Everyone from CNN to Time to Cosmopolitan covers the story.
People on Twitter still find reasons to hate Walmart.
How Did Walmart Let This Happen?
Many people suspect that a developer was just joking around with the “Fat Girl Costumes” category (which featured the same costumes as the “Plus Size Costumes” category) and forgot to take it down.
This could very well be true, but I suspect something else could be to blame—SEO. Well, let me rephrase that, bad SEO.
Is Bad SEO to Blame for the Walmart Halloween Costume Disaster?
As someone who does SEO and content marketing, I can safely tell you that keyword research plays a pretty big part in determining what content to put on a website. So what makes a good keyword? In my opinion, it’s a good keyword if it’s one your target audience is using to find your products and services online. However, it is also helpful if it’s a high search volume, low competition keyword.
Infinite tools exist to aid SEOs in their keyword research, but one of my favorite is simply using Google’s Suggest feature—aka the feature that autofills suggested search queries when you start typing something into the search box:
Why is this a good keyword research strategy? Because those are queries that people are actually searching (as messed up as they may seem!).
So what makes me think that Walmart’s Halloween costume disaster might have been a result of bad SEO? Take a look at some of the suggested searches below:
Here’s the thing: yes, SEO is a good way to get more traffic to your website. But for every single one of our clients, that traffic doesn’t mean shit(take mushrooms) if it doesn’t convert into leads and sales.
And do you want to know what will prevent your target customers from converting into leads and sales? Calling them “fat girls” (or you know, pissing them off in some other way that’s more relevant to your business).
When it comes to marketing your business online, you should never have to choose between the customer and the search engine. The customer trumps all.
Don’t forget to consider the intent behind certain keywords, either. Are people who are searching with the term “fat girl Halloween costumes” actually women looking to purchase costumes or are the people using this term actually really immature 10 year old boys being assholes on the Internet?
Do you think this is an accident? Do you think that someone over at American Apparel is just really bad at their job?
Actually, it’s the opposite.
In his book Trust Me, I’m Lying: Confessions of a Media Manipulator, Ryan Holiday (the former Director of Marketing for American Apparel) details his strategy of:
Purposely creating controversial advertisements
“Leaking” these advertisements to small bloggers
Waiting for larger news networks to pick up the stories from the smaller bloggers
Reveling in all the free press
It’s hard to say whether the Walmart Halloween costume disaster was a result of bad SEO, media manipulation, or simply was just a developer screwing around. But I do think it’s important in these situations to learn from big brand mistakes. Of course, if this really was intentional media manipulation, we can hardly call it a mistake. How ethical you want to market your business is truly up to you. As for me, I won’t be calling you a “fat girl” anytime soon.
Lexie Bond would like to thank Ryan Workman for this blog post idea. Ryan is too busy kicking ass over at our Rank First Local service to write it himself.
About The Author: Lexie serves as Blue Corona's Content Marketing Manager. She's also the author of our soon-to-be famous, and someday to be written white paper, "Horse Hat SEO: Giddy-Up Your Google Rankings."
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