Hitwise’s Robin Goad has been taking a look at the growth of traffic to UK supermarkets in his latest blog post, with some interesting findings.

I have picked faults with a few supermarket websites recently, finding ways that both Tesco and Asda could improve online, but there is no doubting their online success.

Setting aside the huge peaks around the Christmas shopping period, traffic to UK supermarkets’ websites is now at its highest level since September 2005: 

UK traffic to supermarkets

Supermarkets aren’t relying on groceries for their web traffic though. Brand terms excepted, the majority of web traffic came from searches for ’laptop’ and other electrical goods.

In fact, food hardly figures in the top twenty terms:

Search terms driving traffic to supermarkets-4 weeks to Oct 4th

The other interesting point here is that supermarkets are paying for the majority of this traffic.

This suggests that, as Kevin Gibbons pointed out in a recent post on supermarkets and SEO, Tesco et al are failing to optimise their websites for traffic and conversion driving search terms.

There are exceptions: ‘recipes’ was the eighth highest search term on the list, and traffic is mainly organic for this. Both Sainsburys and Waitrose have got themselves onto the first page of Google for this with well optimised pages offering recipe ideas. 

However, Tesco needs to buy traffic for this popular term to get on the first page, while other supermarkets are nowhere to be seen.

Tesco’s recipe search is fourth on page 3 of Google.co.uk in the organic results, and looking at the page it’s not hard to see why. In the long run, some time and money spent improving the recipe section would deliver savings thanks to better Google listings.

I also asked Robin for some stats on the most popular supermarkets online. Not surprisingly, Tesco was top in the Shopping and Classifieds – Grocery and Alcohol category with a 27.1% share of UK visits in September.

Asda was next on 10.1%, followed by Aldi (which doesn’t sell online) on 9.5%, Sainsburys on 6.9% and Waitrose on 4.2%. The fastest growing over the last year has been Morrrisons (64% year on year) and Aldi (43%).

People are obviously visiting their websites, so why don’t they start selling online? 

Related articles: 
Small businesses rely more on search engines – Hitwise
What in-store retailing can teach us about how to sell better online

Related research:
Search Engine Marketing Buyer’s Guide 2008
Paid Search Briefing – October 2008