Top Keyword Combos for PPC Retail Ads During Back to School [Data]

back-2-schoolThe back-to-school and back-to-college retail audience spent an estimated combined $72.5 billion in 2013 – this season is second only behind the holidays for highest spending.

The critical thing about the back-to-school shopping season is that it’s long – about three months! This is because school start dates vary across the country, from as early as the first week of August (Hawaii’s public schools) to mid-September (New York City public schools).

Shoppers time their back-to-school shopping to the school start date, with 73 percent of shoppers filling their carts three weeks to more than two months before school starts.

Does Advertiser Spend on Keywords Match Top Queries?

To get an indication of the search terms the back-to-school shopper is using, we can look at advertiser spending on keywords that are relevant to back-to-school. Our friends at AdGooroo aggregated this data from both Google AdWords and the Yahoo Bing Network. It shows ad spend and impressions served – giving you a peek into how the two match up:


To get some more excellent data points and research about the back-to-school shopping season, check out our deck of insights on SlideShare.

Bing Ads Gets Curious

Bing Ads wanted to get a closer look at what’s happening with search advertising in retail during the back-to-school time period.

What is being most heavily advertised – and what is being most heavily clicked on by potential shoppers? What are the keyword combinations that are working best for search ads at this time?

Let’s look at how word choice in retail PPC ads during the back-to-school season (July 15 to September 15) can impact your campaign success. (We’ve also looked at word choice for travel, education, and holiday retail.)

Key Takeaways

Three significant things knocked our dunce caps off right away:

  1. In a vertical as broad as retail, we’re bound to see some obvious favorites when it comes to ad copy. Word combinations getting the most clicks on both PC/tablet and mobile include “Official site” or “quality” in the title and some kind of promotion (“shipping”) or superlative (“best,” “new”) in the description.
  2. Offering discounts (“% off”) appears more effective on PC/tablet than mobile, suggesting that the ease of price comparison via desktop makes it easier to hunt for the offers.
  3. Keywords that hint at buyer options (“products,” “top,” “selection”) are strong pulls for both device categories. Searches may start with broad terms, and narrow once the user finds the site offering the variety they’re interested in.

Breaking Down the Study

The Bing Ads researchers looked at 39,000 search ads between July 15 and September 15, 2013, in the retail vertical. These ads generated more than 113 million impressions.

Heatmap: Ad Performance on PC/Tablet


Heatmap: Ad Performance on Mobile


Top Combinations for Mobile and PC/Tablet


Other Advertiser Insights

  • It might be time to go back to school, but it’s also time for organized sports to kick off. “Sports” was a top keyword on both PC/tablet and mobile in either the ad title or description.
  • “Official site” performs better on PC/tablet than it does on mobile, where users are given fewer ad options and are more likely to click on the top choice regardless of whether it’s “official.”

School Us

When do you begin your back-to-school retail PPC campaigns? What are the trends you’re seeing with your own products and services during this season? We’d love to hear from you!

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