4 Common Mistakes in Retail Paid Search Management

Building and maintaining effective Retail Paid Search Campaigns is not easy. It isn’t always intuitive either, particularly when navigating a large, dynamic product catalog and an active promotional calendar. When taking over a new account, we often observe that well intentioned marketers have made understandable mistakes in campaign structuring and maintenance due to time constraints, or because an established structure met performance goals and they didn’t realize opportunity for improvement. Here are some common issues we see with Paid Search campaigns when auditing new accounts:

Paid Search Mistake #1: Not Enough Attention to Match Types

Often times we’ll see match type for a given keyword applied without detailed attention to its impact on keywords in other ad groups. A broad match term with a high bid trumps ad serving and quality score from other variations that are actually more specific to the search. For example, a broad match on “kids’ shoes” could trump and pull impressions from a more specific brand ad group for Nike Boys’ Shoes. While these are not the same, the closer variation term of “Nike kids shoes” is missing. Google matches to a broader term instead of something more specific within the Nike Boys Shoes ad group.

Keeping on top of search term reports helps address this issue right away; make note of which search terms are being delivered to which ad groups, keeping an eye out for those keywords that may be poaching from a more appropriate keyword/ad group combination due to sub-optimal use of match types.

Paid Search Mistake #2: Theme and Purpose of Ad Groups Not Well Defined

An ad group is an opportunity to deliver a compelling message to a distinct audience, aiming to fulfill a specific purpose with respect to your marketing goals. A successful ad group entails knowing what you want to accomplish, establishing KPIs to evaluate performance against your goal, defining the audience you want to reach with your ad copy, and finding the right set of keywords to correspond with your ad copy and resonate with your audience.

Unfortunately, we often see a lack of clear vision. Keywords won’t adequately reflect ad copy, or the segment of the retailer’s product catalog that is addressed by the ad group. In many cases, Enhanced Campaign bid modifiers aren’t leveraged to the full extent in order to capture an appropriate audience. We’ll notice, for example, that an ad group targeting office supply products does not have modifiers in place to prioritize business hours above nights and weekends.

Establishing a clear goal is often overlooked as well. If an ad group is seeking maximum exposure and brand reach with broad ad copy and general keywords, the bid strategy should be tailored toward maximum impressions, with a lesser emphasis on return or profitability. If an ad group’s focus is direct response and new customer acquisition, high-impact, specific keywords should be associated, and success should be determined by a return metric; RLSA should be leveraged to prevent clicks from shoppers who have already converted. If customer retention is the focus of an ad group, ad copy should be tailored to potential repeat buyers, while a bid modifier prioritizes cookied shoppers who have already converted.

Paid Search Mistake #3: The “Everything That Works” Group

At first glance, it seems like a viable strategy: combine all high performing products and/or keywords into one group and bid aggressively. While this tactic may give simple, obvious visibility into the contribution of your high-return campaign elements, it is not optimal for overall performance.

The problem with this approach is that it does not allow keywords to correspond logically with the ad groups of which they are part. As such, you cannot craft your keyword list around the language and intent of your ad copy. Similarly, you can’t intelligently apply a set of audience targeting measures – bid modifiers and RLSA – as keywords do not fit a uniform intent or correspond with a distinct audience.

The same applies to in Google Shopping management. Simply combining all products that show solid return into one ad group disrupts top-down, semantic structuring of Google Shopping Campaigns. Keep your high-performing products grouped in a logical place within your campaign hierarchy, bid aggressively, and trust that they will collectively contribute to overall return.

We recommend that you be deliberate in your breakout of keywords and products to appropriate ad groups, and bidding actively in accordance with performance.

Paid Search Mistake #4: A Lack of Perspective on Google Shopping vs. Text Ads

Google Shopping is effectively non-brand SEM. For the majority of CommerceHub clients, Google Shopping drives 99% of impressions on non-brand-related searches (see below). As such, Google Shopping should not be held to the same ROI standard as a trademark focused SEM campaign. Rather, it should be viewed as an opportunity to grow overall revenue beyond brand-focused SEM.


Shortcuts are tempting, especially with large catalogs, and as Paid Search management grows more complex. However, to set yourself up for lasting success in Retail Paid Search, give careful consideration to the purpose and placement of each ad group and keyword. Think of your strategy holistically, and how each element of your paid search campaign will help you get there. For help from the paid search experts, get in touch today.