September 1, 2010, 2:35 PM

Victoria’s Secret takes top slot in paid search rankings for apparel

Ann Taylor Stores ranked second in the Search Marketing Guide.

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Victoria’s Secret held the top position in the paid search rankings among Apparel merchants in Internet Retailer’s new 2011 Search Marketing Guide,  garnering 154 total points. Ann Taylor Stores Corp. came in second with 143 points, with Jos. A. Bank Clothiers Inc. (100), L.L. Bean Inc. (99) and Redcats USA (64) rounding out the top five.

Victoria’s Secret topped the list by taking the top position among other Apparel retailers for the keywords Sleepwear and Swimwear and holding the third position for Underwear, which contributed to the retailer’s cumulative point total. Those keywords were among 16 in the Apparel category that were tested on Google’s search engine over nine weeks from late 2009 to early 2010. To determine the rankings, Internet Retailer assigned points for the top five paid results in each of 20 merchandising categories.

When those terms were searched again this week by Internet Retailer, Victoria’s Secret appeared within the top five positions for both terms.

Victoria’s Secret, No. 18 in the Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide,  also was tested for the term Swimwear today by NetElixir Inc. and its average from different regions across the U.S. placed it between second and third position in Google search, says Udayan Bose, founder and CEO of NetElixir, a pay-per-click search marketing firm. The practice of consistently bidding for the top positions in Google search is being embraced by a number of larger retailers, he says. “We see more big retailers doing this because they are able to clearly establish what keywords will get people ‘in the door’ and what keywords have a long tail,” Bose says.

For example, some larger retailers develop what Bose called an inverted keyword funnel where the broadest terms, such as Swimwear, appear at the top. “The next level down is slightly more specific, probably using the brand name ahead of swimwear. Then at the bottom are the terms with really long tails, such as ‘brand swimwear costing between $100 and $150.’”

Victoria’s Secret did not respond to a request for comment on its paid keyword strategy.

Ann Taylor Stores, No. 122 in the Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide,   held the second position for the keywords Women’s Dresses and third for Petite Sizes and Skirts in the Search Marketing Guide . Yesterday, Internet Retailer found Ann Taylor held the second position for the keywords Petite Sizes and Skirts and third for Women’s Dresses.

As long as apparel merchants and others base their paid search strategy on mathematical models that determine keyword performance, they can justify the investment in bidding on broad keyword terms, Bose says. “The risk comes in if a retailer moves from mathematics-based bidding to vanity bidding, saying ‘I have to be number one.’ Then they will end up with less productive results.”

As consumers’ web search behavior becomes more sophisticated, apparel retailers will need to continually refine their keyword spending, Bose says. “As behavior evolves, those broad keywords may drop in relevance as people use more specific keywords. Then it becomes imperative to continually review how much you are spending.”



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