June 14, 2011, 7:05 PM

IRCE 2011 Report: Talbot’s uses paid search to help refashion its image

The apparel retailer explains how it finds its best keywords.

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The Talbot’s Inc. is working to expand Talbot’s brand appeal to younger consumers and considers its e-retail site, Talbots.com, as consumers’ window into the brand, said Katherine Goodman, Talbot’s vice president of e-commerce, during a presentation at the Internet Retailer Conference & Exhibition 2011 today. The e-retailer is strategically selecting terms to use in its paid search campaigns that will help it establish that it sells products that appeal to those shoppers.

“We have a more modern look to our clothing, and we’re trying to get that brand message to a potential customer that would never think of our brand as one for 35 or 40 year olds. That’s where non-branded terms become hugely valuable to us,” Goodman said.

For example, Talbot’s will buy non-branded, fashion-specific terms like “high-waisted black skirts,” so that Talbots.com will rank high in search results for the phrase. Goodman says consumers in the target market would not likely think of Talbot’s when searching for this type of item because it is outside of its traditional product line, so ranking highly for such a search helps introduce Talbot’s to new consumers.

The site also uses paid search to show more product categories. A search for “Talbots” will return a paid search ad that includes direct links to subcategories like new arrivals, shoes, suits and separates, and also looks, which shows Talbot’s latest fashion ensembles and can help new shoppers put together outfits.

Goodman says she takes two approaches to selecting keywords. First, she thinks like a marketer and selects all brand terms. “You can’t ignore your brand terms. If you are not covering them, someone else will and your ROI is the risk of ignoring them,” she says.

Then she puts herself in the mindset of a consumer and picks terms based on how shoppers would search, which generates non-brand terms such as “women’s suits” and additional terms that might reveal different brand interpretations. For example, consumers may spell Talbot’s with or without an apostrophe or spell it Talberts. Another consumer might call handbags pocketbooks, so Talbots.com makes sure to buy terms with both.

She also looks to Talbots.com to further round out her keywords, adding keywords based on categories, subcategories and products.

Also during the session, Courtney Wegner, director of client services for iProspect, a search marketing firm, said e-retailers can easily create keyword combinations that don’t cost a lot but can deliver solid ROI by adding promotional, market-specific or location-specific terms to existing keyword phrases, or by bidding on misspellings—for example, by adding “free shipping,” “petite” or “plus size” to a keyword phrase.“If you are only bidding on brand terms spelling correctly, you competitor could be bidding on your misspellings and taking traffic,” she said.

E-retailers can also use free Google tools like Google AdWords Keyword Tools and Google Insights to get a better understanding of the keywords that appear on competitors’ site and use that information to refine their keyword phrases. It may seem unsavory to some, but it’s a common practice, Wegner says. Goodman agrees. “There’s a lot of competition for wallet share, but it is what it is,” she said. 

Talbot’s is No. 112 in Internet Retailer’s Top 500 Guide.

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