June 8, 2010, 4:45 PM

Think small

Starting out in paid search? Start small and stay relevant, workshop attendees learn.

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Managing search programs that cover thousands of keywords is nothing new for many retailers. But retailers just starting paid search campaigns should “start small,” said Andrew Wheeler, a Chicago-based managing director at search marketing firm iProspect. He spoke during an Internet Retailer Conference & Exhibition workshop session targeting retailers just starting out in paid search advertising entitled “The Science of Keyword Management.”

Retailers new to paid search should begin their paid search campaigns with a few keywords they know are relevant to their business, he said, so they can start building a high Google quality score, which is how Google measures the relevance of an ad to a search query.

Wheeler said the next step is to scale up a paid search program by slowly introducing additional keywords, testing to find out which ones get a response and determine how many are needed in the program to produce the desired results.

Retailers should do their research to establish what keywords are the most relevant to their business, as well as incorporate common misspellings and variations of those keywords, he added.  But the search engine will do some of the work there, depending on the type of keyword match selected by the retailer.

On Google, for instance, an exact query would match a search for the query “Adidas modulate sneaker” only with listings containing that exact phrase, he said. But the same sneaker ad also could be served up under a search for “orange sneaker” if the retailer paying for the ad chose the broader phrase query match, while the most expansive match choice, broad match, would serve the sneaker listing for an even wider range of sneaker-related search queries.

Wheeler cautioned that while broad match drives the most traffic, retailers must monitor it closely to ensure it does not drive too much unqualified traffic.

In other advice for retailers just starting out in paid search, he said the use of negative keywords; that is, specifying to the search engine not to serve an ad when a search otherwise relevant to a product contains a specific keyword, could save costs.

“Use negative keywords,” he said, “to make sure broad match does not drive unqualified traffic.”

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