Back To School 2017 in Paid Search Advertising

On the cusp of September, AdGooroo has examined Back To School paid search advertising over the last month, analyzing U.S. Google desktop text ad and product listing ad clicks on 278 non-branded Back To School-related keywords from July 29 through August 27.

Text Ads

For traditional text ads, online apparel & shoes retailer Zappos led all advertisers in clicks, generating an 8.3% share of total text ad clicks on the Back To School keywords over the 30-day period. Staples (7% click share), JCPenney (6.2%), (5.9%), a B2B retailer targeting school supplies to schools and teachers, and Walmart (4%), rounded out the top five. In total, we found 25 text ad advertisers with a click share above 1%, as depicted in the above chart, across a range of industries, including:

Apparel & Shoes

Joining Zappos were six other apparel & shoes-focused retailers, including Lands’ End (3.2%), Burlington Coat Factory (3.1%), Gap (1.9%), Old Navy (1.7%), Nike (1.5%) and L.L. Bean (1.4%), as well as school uniform seller (1.6%).

Mass Retail

In addition to JCPenney and Walmart, there were four other mass retailers among the top advertisers: Amazon (2.6% click share), Target (1.6%), Kohl’s (1.3%) and Zulily (1.2%).

Text Books

There were four companies focused on text book sales or rental among the top advertisers on the keyword group, including (2.6% click share), (2.1%), (1.8%) and (1.6%)

Consumer Electronics

Microsoft and Dell generated a 2% and 1.7% click share, respectively, promoting their laptop models.

Product Listing Ads

Walmart led in product listing ad clicks, generating an 8.6% click share on the Back To School keyword group from July 29 through August 27, followed by close rival Amazon (6%), specialty retailer (5.1%), apparel retailer Justice (5.1%) and Dell (4%) in the top five. In total, there were 15 advertisers with a product listing ad click share above 1% on the Back To School keyword group, as depicted in the chart above. In addition to Walmart, Amazon and Dell, Barnes & Noble (3.5% click share), JCPenney (2.6%), L.L. Bean (2.2%) and Target (2.1%) appeared among the top advertisers on the keyword group for both text ads and product listing ads. Despite having quite different business models, e-commerce platform (3.9% click share), backpack seller (3.3%), handmade retail marketplace Etsy (3.2%), deal site GroupOn (3.1%) and wholesale bulk retailer (2.8%) all showed product listing ads for school supply kits among other items. Best Buy gained a 2.5% click share on the keyword group, focusing on laptops.


The 278 non-branded Back To School keywords AdGooroo analyzed in this study include terms such as ‘back to school’, ‘school uniforms’, ‘school backpacks’, ‘text books’, ‘school supplies’ and ‘best laptops for college’, which we can confidently attribute to Back To School advertising activity. However, these keywords represent only part of total paid search advertising spend on Back To School, since there are a multitude of more general terms that consumers search during the Back To School season such as ‘backpacks’, ‘laptop’, ‘blue jeans’, ‘bed sheets’ and so on, which could apply to either Back To School needs or general, non-seasonal shopping needs. The inclusion of additional terms such as these would alter the figures and potentially the findings of this study.

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