Asda tops paid search advertising for UK supermarkets

Walmart-owned Asda has been revealed as the leading UK online grocery retailer for paid search advertising so far this year, according to new research on click-through traffic released today by the Kantar Media company AdGooroo.

The study – which examined desktop advertising activity on 83 branded and unbranded grocery-related keywords in the eight months between January and August 2016 – found that Asda generated 5.8 million clicks during the period, giving it a 2.5 million click lead ahead of its closest competitor, Waitrose.

Sainsbury’s, the UK’s second largest supermarket chain, was ranked a distant sixth with only 230,000 clicks from January to August.

Top six UK supermarkets by click-throughs on 83 search keywords (Jan-Aug 2016)

  1. – 5.8 million clicks
  2. – 3.3 million clicks
  3. – 2 million clicks
  4. – 1.2 million clicks
  5. – 1.1 million clicks
  6. – 230,000 clicks

The study found that investment in branded and unbranded grocery keywords grew an impressive 39% year-on-year with spend growing from £3.1 million in January - August 2015 to £4.3 million during the same period in 2016.

Grocery retailers face competition for their own brand keywords

And it’s a competitive scene with the top supermarket brands competing for market share, with multiple advertisers buying competitor keywords. Asda, Tesco and Sainsbury’s top the list of most competitive brand keywords.

Brand keyword

# of advertisers













“The vast majority of clicks generated by the grocery retailers in the study came from ads served on each company’s own branded keywords, indicating that brand awareness and preference play a strong role in a successful paid search advertising campaign for the U.K. grocery industry,” commented Richard Stokes, CEO at AdGooroo. “At the same time, the high number of advertisers bidding on competitors’ branded keywords, coupled with double-digit growth in ad spend in the grocery category, demonstrate an increasingly competitive paid search advertising market for grocery advertisers.”

The battle for delivery intensifies

The study also removed branded keywords from the study and examined a narrower set of 38 non-branded keywords that are focused on online grocery delivery such as ‘online grocery shopping’ and ‘grocery delivery’.  This provided insight into the retailers that are more focused on engaging consumers who are actively using search engines to find online grocery delivery services – a key battleground in the supermarket wars of 2016. 

By this measure, Asda lost out.  From January to August Tesco led the field, driving 19% of all clicks on the 38 online grocery delivery keywords, followed by Iceland with 14.8% share, then Asda (12.4%), Ocado (11.5%) and Sainsbury’s (10.8%).

Overall year-on-year spend on these keywords grew by 63%, from £46,000 in January - August 2015 to £75,000 during the same period in 2016.