April 15, 2014, 1:26 PM

W.W. Grainger kicks up performance of non-branded search ads

With new paid-search campaigns it ran in the fourth quarter of last year, the distributor of maintenance, repair and operations products increased by about tenfold conversion rates and click-through rates on ads not based on Grainger brand keywords, vice president of digital marketing Parvez Patel says.

Lead Photo

Parvez Partel

Marketing more than a million products through Internet search isn’t easy or cheap, but W.W. Grainger Inc. has found a way to make it a lot more effective without spending a lot more on ads.

Grainger, a distributor of maintenance, repair and operations products ranging from hammers to electric power generators, routinely introduces new items to its product lineup. To more effectively manage search ads for so many products, the company started working last fall with new tools in the Google AdWords programs: Dynamic Search Ads and Remarketing Lists for Search Ads.

Dynamic Search Ads are designed to automatically generate search ads based on web content on Grainger.com related to content buyers were searching for on Google.com, says Parvez Patel, Grainger’s vice president of digital marketing and merchandising.

As Grainger customers search on Google for, say, water pumps or outdoor lighting systems, the Dynamic Search Ads program will serve up ads with a headline based on their search terms and linked to the most relevant landing page on Grainger.com. Under the Dynamic Search Ad, or DSA program, Google regularly crawls Grainger.com to get the most relevant and up-to-date content to reflect in search ads, Patel says.

Under the Remarketing Lists for Search Ads, or RSLA program, Grainger shows ads on Google to shoppers who had previously made a purchase on Grainger.com. As these shoppers search for items on Google, the RLSA program will show search ads for relevant content on Grainger.com.

“With over a million products offered, DSA + RLSA capabilities enable us to expand our keyword coverage, making it easier for customers to find the right products," Patel says.

Patel says he was surprised at the early effectiveness of the two new search marketing tools. Compared with other paid search ads that include Grainger’s brand names in keywords, both the DSA and RSLA ads have produced conversion rates and click-through rates as much as 10 times higher, he says. In some cases, he notes, conversion rates went from about 2% to 20%.

Although the increases in those rates have leveled off somewhat since the fourth quarter, they’re still running much higher than other non-brand search ads, Patel says. Grainger’s in-house digital marketing team manages the DSA and RSLA programs with search ad bid management technology from Efficient Frontier, a unit of Adobe Systems Inc.

To further explore how it may benefit from the DSA and RSLA programs, Patel says, Grainger plans to look into how it can use the programs along with Google’s Product Listing Ads, which let advertisers run image-heavy product ads that appear prominently in the center of Google search pages.

Grainger, which says the “vast majority” of its sales are to businesses, is No. 15 in the Internet Retailer 2013 Top 500 Guide and No. 92 in the 2014 Mobile 500.

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