Apparel and Paid Search – Q1 2015

For the first quarter of 2015, AdGooroo examined Paid Search advertising activity on the Top 1000 Apparel Keywords based on U.S. Google AdWords spend.

In total advertisers spent $183 million sponsoring these keywords from January through March this year with more than 50% ($92 million) devoted to Desktop Text Ads, 33% ($61 million) to Desktop Product Listing Ads, 10% to Mobile Product Listing Ads ($19 million) and 6% to Mobile Text Ads ($11 million). Note: The results in this report are limited to activity on the 1,000 apparel keywords discussed above; advertisers cited in this report may be sponsoring additional keywords that, if measured, would alter the report’s figures.


The Top 20 collectively spent $46 million on the keyword group in Q1—accounting for 25% of total spend by all advertisers—with nearly equal amounts devoted to Desktop Text Ads ($21 million or 45%) and PLAs ($19 million or 41%), respectively. Looking at Mobile Search, the Top 20 collectively spent $5 million or 10% on PLAs, which is the same percentage spent on Mobile PLAs by all advertisers sponsoring the keywords. However, the Top 20 spent only $384,000 or less than 1% on Mobile Text Ads.

Skewing the above results somewhat, some advertisers in the Top 20 spent little to nothing on either PLAs or Text Ads. For instance, Amazon is well-known not to sponsor PLAs in the U.S. and spent nothing on the format for either Desktop or Mobile. Similarly, spent just $4,000 on Desktop PLAs and nothing on Mobile PLAs. On the opposite end,, owned by Chinese retail behemoth Alibaba Group, spent nearly $1.9 million on Desktop PLAs and $982,000 on Mobile PLAs (more than any other advertiser) but largely shunned Text Ads.

PLAs Outperform Text Ads, At A Similar Cost
In terms of performance and efficiency, Product Listing Ads are the clear winner over Text Ads for the Apparel cateogory. The Top 20 advertisers averaged a 3.03% clickthrough rate (CTR) for Desktop Text Ads at an average cost per click of $1.41, while gaining a 5.70% CTR for Desktop Product Listing Ads at close to the same average CPC–$1.45, or just a 3% difference. In previous research, AdGooroo has found PLAs have both a significantly higher CTR and CPC than Text Ads. For instance, in Q2 2014 the Top 20 overall spenders in Paid Search (across all categories) paid a 52% higher CPC for PLAs than they did for Text Ads on the same keyword group.

Macy’s Leads All In Spend
Macy’s led all competitors in Paid Search in Q1 2015, with nearly $6.4 million spent on Text Ads and Product Listing Ads for the Top 1000 Apparel keywords across both Desktop and Mobile—$2.4 million more than its next closest competitor, Nordstrom ($4 million). Zappos ($3.4 million), JCPenney ($3.3 million) and bridal gown seller JJ’s House ($3.1 million) round out the top five positions.

While the majority of the Top 20 are household name brands, there are a handful of brands in the ranking that are lesser-known in the U.S.—but perhaps not for long—including international retailers, and the aforementioned

Looking at category leadership in a different way, Zappos and parent company site Amazon led the Apparel Category in share of voice by Paid Search Desktop impressions on the Top 1000 Apparel keywords in Q1 2015, followed by Macy’s, JCPenney and Zulily. In Q2 2014, we also found Zappos had the highest impression share among Apparel paid search advertisers.

However, Victoria’s Secret and Zulily led the category in clicks, with Macy’s again holding the third spot, followed by Amazon and Zappos.

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