July 23, 2009, 12:00 AM

Retailer seeks better paid search and finds it with help from Google

Gary Bell, vice president of information services at home furnishings e-retailer Touch of Class, once described paid search as overwhelming and underperforming. That changed when he started using free tools from Google.

Gary Bell, vice president of information services at home furnishings e-retailer Touch of Class, once described paid search as overwhelming and underperforming. But that changed over the past year when Bell began taking advantage of free tools from Google Inc. that help him determine what phrases and words to bid on and how much to pay for each one.

Since implementing Google’s Conversion Tracking and Website Optimizer tools, Touch of Class, which is featured in the Internet Retailer Search Marketing Guide, has increased sales from some Google paid search campaigns significantly and saved time. The tracking tool collects data on which paid search terms convert, when they convert and how frequently; the optimizer uses that information to determine which ads to serve, when to serve them and what to pay based on parameters a retailer sets. In the first month that he began using the tools, sales stemming from paid search increased 30%, Bell says.

The process of tracking and optimizing paid search terms in house might seem daunting, but Bell says if retailers follow a set of steps it can work well. He offers a step-by-step guide to using Google tools to monitor and manage search:

  • Create a Google Account and set up an Adwords account within it.
  • Make a campaign for each product category so that each one can be optimized separately. Average order sizes for retailers vary greatly by category, Bell says, and this information can help guide merchants in their keyword bidding decisions. For example, orders from the Bedding category stemming from paid search come in at three times the average order value as those from the Home Decor category for Touch of Class.
  • Create an Adgroup for each product subcategory. For example, a category might be bedding, and a subcategory might be pillows or duvets.
  • Select the landing page for each Adgroup.
  • Enter the AdGroup heading, text, and URL into the Google system.
  • Develop a structure for a tracking code that is embedded in each URL. This reports the traffic and sales to the Google analytics package. For example, a tracking code for Touch of Class is CAGC0501. CAG=Google Adword, C=Category Campaign, 05=fifth category on our site which is Bed&Bath;, 01=second subcategory under Bed&Bath; which is Comforters.
  • Populate the keyword phrases for the AdGroup. For guidance, Bell recommends using keyword search term reports that show the search phrases customers enter on the retail site. Bell also pulls additional keyword phrases from product titles and paragraphs of copy on TouchOfClass.com. Two-, three-, and four-word phrases are more targeted than single words and will cost less and convert better, Bell adds.

“I challenge myself each morning on how I am going to ‘move the needle’ for improving sales and profits in our paid search campaign,” Bell says. “I focus on this because of the importance paid search is to the health of our company.”

Touch of Class is No. 324 in the Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide.

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