June 16, 2011, 3:35 PM

IRCE 2011 Report: A retailer’s size poses no restrictions for search marketing

Smaller retailers can manage paid search in-house by testing and adjusting keywords.

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Smaller retailers can work as effective search marketers by attending to details and monitoring results daily, and do so in-house, two retailers said this week at the Internet Retailer Conference & Exhibition 2011 in a session titled “David vs. Goliath in the search marketing arena.”

To Jake Sharpless, marketing specialist at custom online jeweler Gemvara.com, the real paid search marketing experts are homegrown. “We believe in staying home and handling paid search in-house,” said Sharpless, who handles those duties at Gemvara. The retailer uses long-tail search phrases because they perform better for the niche merchant. For example, he described using “tails within tails” such as “Necklaces,” “the Ruby Necklaces” and so on as the tail gets more specific. “By using longer-tail terms you’re going to match better with customers and pay less for the terms.”

Gemvara  continually works to optimize, or refine, keywords, and uses such tactics as singular and plural forms of search terms, along with common misspellings. Sharpless urged attendees to constantly review query logs to make sure retailers are blocking non-relevant keywords.

Sharpless also promotes using broad keyword match instead of exact matches as e-retailers build keyword management skills, but only to a point. “Broad match is very important, especially for young companies, but don’t rely too much on broad match or you will fail,” he says. “Exact match gives you most control.”

In an example of broad match that can backfire and disappoint shoppers, Sharpless cited results of a Google search with the term “Fire Opal Wedding Rings.” The search turned up Gemvara and a brand-name online jeweler. The click-through yielded no such rings on the big retailer’s site, but produced a page of rings matching that description on Gemvara.com.

At WrestlingGear.com, Jeff Pape, the retailer’s president, handles search marketing; he said he mixes exact and broad match search tactics. Smaller retailers should test and adjust terms continually, he advised. “Be fearless,” he said.

Using different combinations of keywords can pay off, starting with one basic term and adding words. The key, whether spending read about national search spending on exact match or phrase match or some combination, is to monitor and adjust daily or even hourly, Pape said. “Be fast. If you learn something here at IRCE implement it fast and see how it works,” he said. “It’s not uncommon for me to tweak something while sitting in a session.”


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