May 23, 2011, 2:34 PM

For Drs. Foster and Smith, automation brings bigger gains from paid search

The pet supplies retailer uses Marin Software to automate keyword bidding.

Thad Rueter

Senior Editor

Lead Photo

Automating its paid search marketing campaigns has helped online pet supplies retailer Drs. Foster & Smith boost its conversion rate and decrease its cost per conversion since September 2009.

That when the retailer, No. 115 in the Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide, began using technology from Marin Software to automate much of its paid search marketing efforts. The retailer hoped to save time and increase its return on investment  from paid search, says Matt Stelter, the retailer’s assistant manager of Internet marketing.

One of the main ways that Drs. Foster and Smith can automate its paid search is to create within the Marin system a digital folder that covers specific keyword phrases that the retailer uses to advertise its products on search engines. The retailer sets rules for how much the Marin system should bid on those keywords, and also tells the system the desired margins for campaigns.

“You hand over the keys, and tell the system what you hope to achieve,” Stelter says. “Marin will look at the keyword, its click-through and conversion rates, and then will make a decision about how to bid on the keyword.” Stelter adds that he can always monitor the progress of the keyword bidding via the Marin system.

The results have been promising, he says. The retailer says its conversion rate has increased 35% and its cost per conversion has decreased 8%. The click-through-rate has increased 8%. The gains have come from a combination of the retailer’s staff spending less time managing the paid search campaigns and the cost savings from automated keyword bidding.

Some of the time savings, for instance, comes from Stelter having to do less manual work with spreadsheets. The retailer generally fashions a paid search campaign first for Google, and then tweaks it for Bing. Previously, transferring a campaign from one search engine to another required him to add coding to the ad headlines in the Excel files that contained the search data. Now, the Marin technology handles much of that work. Such efficiencies leave Stelter with more time to fashion new paid search campaigns instead of updating current ones, he says.

Gordon Magee, director, Internet, for Drs. Foster and Smith, will speak at the Internet Retailer Conference & Exhibition 2011 in a session entitled "How keeping a pulse on social marketing creates better retailers."

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