Williams-Sonoma Cranks Up the Heat

pots and pans window display department store

It’s no surprise that traffic to niche cooking websites, williams-sonoma.com, cooking.com, epicurious.com, and surlatable.com was at a year-long high last month as shoppers looked for the coolest panini press for Mom or the best recipe for ham glaze.

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Looking back at unique visitor (UVs) traffic since December 2008, December 2010 may have been a good month, but it certainly wasn’t a pinnacle. In fact, while Williams-Sonoma and Epicurious saw increases in UVs over December 2009, Cooking.com and Sur La Table seem to have continued their negative traffic trend December over December.

Even more interesting is the fact that Williams-Sonoma and Cooking.com followed essentially the same trends from the start of 2010, but Williams-Sonoma ramped things up in September leaving Cooking.com behind. The same trend occurred in 2009.

By using a couple of different competitive intelligence reports it’s easy to determine how Williams-Sonoma is getting the leg up over Cooking.com each holiday season. (Maybe the golden pineapple is a good luck charm?) A peek at the channel intelligence section of a referral analytics report shows the percentage of referral traffic (upstream) from select marketing channels of both of these websites as compared to the Home and Garden industry category:

Both williams-sonoma.com and cooking.com show almost double the amount of referral traffic coming from email services than the entire Home and Garden industry category. This indicates that they invested heavier than other industry websites in email marketing over December 2010.

Besides email it appears as though neither site saw above normal flows of referral traffic from other marketing channels. However, Cooking.com’s referral traffic from General Portals and Search (mainly the search engines) is contributing almost half the category average. Could this be Williams-Sonoma’s secret sauce?


A dive into search data reveals that Cooking.com has a great opportunity to grow via SEM and possibly make up some ground against Williams-Sonoma. With eight months to spare before Q4 begins, significant changes in search strategy and heavy investments in SEO and SEM could certainly make a huge difference for Cooking.com next holiday season.

About Drew Fortin:
Drew is responsible for strategy and execution of marketing initiatives for Compete.com, including affiliate, blog, email, lead generation, paid search, and social media. Before Compete, Drew worked for office supply giant, Staples, Inc. where he had the opportunity to manage multiple online marketing channels for Staples.com, including affiliate, SEO/SEM, and comparison shopping engines. Follow Drew on Twitter or link him on LinkedIn.