Specialty Retail brands have kept up in the competitive search environment with varied degrees of success. Department stores and online retailers continue to showcase the strongest performances against unbranded terms, with JCPenney and Nordstrom remaining leaders; however, both have lost organic and paid visibility year-over-year. In contrast, Amazon has retained 20% paid visibility while increasing organic visibility on unbranded terms from 40% to more than 50%.

Especially in trend-driven categories, brands must refresh keyword campaigns frequently in order to remain competitive in paid search. H&M exhibits some of the strongest organic and paid visibility on unbranded apparel terms in Gartner L2’s Digital IQ Index: Specialty Retail. The fast fashion retailer stays ahead of trends with a nimble paid search strategy: 81% of H&M’s top paid keywords were new in June 2018, compared to June 2017.

Refresh rate

The brand continued to bid on popular terms like “peplum tops” and “harem pants,” while adding new terms like “tunic tops” and “maternity maxi dress.” H&M also prioritized brand-modified bids, increasing the share of top paid keywords with a brand modifier from 15% to 20%. New terms included “h&m near me” and “h&m maternity.”

Urban Outfitters and Charlotte Russe followed suit, both boasting paid search keyword list refresh rates higher than 70%. Specifically, Urban Outfitters pushed the August 2017 streetwear collaboration with Champion and tapped into trends with newly added terms: “70s clothing,” “long summer dresses,” and “tube tops.”  Following their example, retailers must identify and balance core brand terms with shifting search behavior if they want to stay competitive.

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