Walmart ‘Fat Girl’ Costumes Controversy: When SEO Meets Human Emotions

Walmart is currently being raked over the coals for the retailer including a “fat girl” category on Walmart.com, a gaffe that has the retailer’s PR team doing the apology dance on October 29 to continue to quell anger over the hurtful “fat girl” language, reports CNN.

“This never should have been on our site. It is unacceptable, and we apologize. We are working to remove it as soon as possible and ensure this never happens again,” read a statement received by The Huffington Post from Walmart about the “fat girl” language.

In viewing the whole “Walmart fat girl” brouhaha through the lens of a writer and webmaster familiar with search engine optimization – or SEO as it’s known in the industry – one sees this “Walmart fat girl” controversy in an entirely different manner.

Indeed, plopping the term “fat girl costumes” site:walmart.com into Google’s search engine currently still shows the evidence of categories and URLs that contain the “fat girl costumes” language:

www.walmart.com/c/halloween/fat-girl-costumes/page/2

www.walmart.com/c/kp/fat-girl-costumes?relm_ref=007

prodrp-www.walmart.com/c/kp/fat-girl-costumes

However, clicking through to those links currently shows the offending “fat girl costumes” language scrubbed from the category field that’s still visible on Google’s cache of the page from Oct. 27, whereby the “Fat Girl Costumes” label can still clearly be seen.

That leads one to believe that the “fat girl” labeling on Walmart’s website was either the work of an inept and insensitive webmaster, or an intelligent one merely instructed to grab all the search terms and traffic possible based on consumer behavior. Plenty of times, retailers like Walmart study the search queries typed into their own search engines to develop categories based on what consumers want. It may sound strange, but there could be a subset of folks who type “fat girl costumes” into Walmart’s search box instead of plus size costumes.

After all, Google reports that at least 27,100 searches for “fat girl” come into their search engine each month, so it’s not a stretch to think that the “fat girl costumes” query that’s so popular it has defaulted into its own URL on Walmart’s Google results queries would be something that was customer driven, not merely webmaster created. It’s a tactic seen used by other websites besides Walmart, such as when so many people search for an Ulta coupon that the page becomes its own URL indexed by Google, but when clicked, leads to a dead end.

The fact that the search results on Walmart.com for “fat girl costumes” reflected costumes for “girls” as well as plus-sized costumes lets the users know further that this melee seems more mechanical that human-based and intentional. Welcome to the world of SEO, whereby this reporter just included the terms “Walmart” and “fat girl” an optimal number of times in order for readers searching for the “Walmart fat girl” controversy to find the article.

[Image credit: Walmart.com ‘Fat Girl costumes’ page]