Search Engines Find Traffic for Shoe Retailer

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Keyword buys continue to work for small retailers, if Philadelphia footwear retailer Sherman Brothers is any indication.


The company claims monthly traffic of 17,000 visitors since it began search engine marketing in October. That figure is up 79 percent from the 9,500 that hit the site at www.shermanbrothers.com for hard-to-find shoe sizes.


For those nine months, Sherman claims that gross sales from the site rose 210 percent, attributable to the use of search marketing. The three-store retailer's site sells brands like Alden, Allen Edmonds, Cole Haan, Ecco, Johnston & Murphy and Birkenstocks.


Keyword buys that are working for Sherman include "Cole Haan," for which it pulls up as the second sponsored link on top of the Google results listings. It holds the same ranking on Google when "Ecco" is typed in, and it is the only sponsored link for "Santoni."


On MSN, Sherman ranks No. 2 with "Johnston & Murphy shoes" and "Alden shoes" and No. 8 with "formal dress shoes." It ranks No. 2 on LookSmart when "Cole Haan shoes" is searched.


But while traffic and sales have grown during the campaign, the cost of marketing has risen 35 percent.


Sherman's online revenue increased by spending more media dollars and bidding for better positions on Google and Overture, said Michael Stalbaum, CEO of Unreal Marketing Solutions, Narbeth, PA.


"We also noticed that the overall cost of marketing increased at the same time," Stalbaum said. "Although Google and Overture both drove the increase in revenue, the increase in cost of marketing was driven primarily by Google AdWords."


He would not disclose the increased costs. But there was no avoiding them. Sherman clearly was more interested in appearing on Google AdWords than anywhere else. As the agency, Unreal had little option but to raise the overall spending cap for Google AdWords.


Google's system is simple. The more the ad appears at a higher ranking as a sponsored link, the more it costs. Experience has shown that higher and more frequent listings generate more clicks and sales for the advertiser.


Sherman had another issue. Changes in the Overture page structure forced a change in the bidding posture to ensure that Sherman appeared at the top of the page.


"The top two sponsored links now appear on the top of the page while the previous position we bid on now appears at the bottom of the page," Stalbaum said. "On Overture we began bidding for second position to ensure that we appeared at the top of the search results page."


Sherman paid $1.21 on average for the keywords. "Santoni," for example, costs 5 cents a click, "Allen Edmonds" 47 cents, "Ecco" 83 cents and "Cole Haan" $1.30.


The search campaign works in tandem with Unreal's XML feed and pay-per-placement program to ensure that Sherman does not have to battle for a better position on the search engines.


Such paid placement and continual replacement of underperforming keywords helps Sherman maintain a proper return on investment and cost of marketing while generating revenue.


"Site change recommendations have been made and are being implemented gradually," Stalbaum said. "Back-end recommendations made by Unreal Marketing will be incorporated in a completely new site that will be created in the coming months."


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