Target.com and OfficeDepot.com generate clicks after bidding on Staples-branded back-to-school paid search terms.

Target.com and OfficeDepot.com both bid on Staples-specific brand terms for back-to-school paid searches, according to search marketing analytics firm Adthena Ltd.

Adthena analyzed paid back-to-school shopping searches for 432 merchants and more than 1,660 unique ads Aug. 2-19, 2018.

Adthena found that Target.com and OfficeDepot.com tried to get shoppers to click on their ads when shoppers searched for “Staples back to school sale.” In fact, OfficeDepot.com claimed the No. 1 spot for the “Staples back to school sale” search term 40% of the time between Aug. 2-17.

Similarly, Target.com also wanted a piece of the Staples searches. It generated 40% of the “Staples back to school sale” clicks on Aug. 11, which was the highest click-share it generated during this two-week period.

Overall, however, Staples maintained the No. 1 position most of time during the two-week period and generated 50-95% of the clicks per search, followed by OfficeDepot.com and then Target.com.

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Despite Adthena’s results, Office Depot says it doesn’t bid on any competitor-branded keywords in paid search. “Office Depot does not directly bid on or target competitors terms within the search landscape and platforms,” says an Office Depot spokesman. “Our approach to search is focused on key categories, products and our own branded terms.”

Office Depot bids on the Staples-branded folder product keywords, which throughout Google’s broad matching algorithm gets paired with other keywords it is bidding on, the spokesman says. Because Office Depot is bidding on “back to school” and “staples,” Google will trigger an Office Depot ad when a shopper is searching for these terms together. “But we are not bidding on Staples as a company,” he says.

A spokesperson for Adthena says that this happens frequently for advertisers, that the brand appears on terms it may not be even aware of or intentionally bidding on.

“It could be a result of broad match and possibly could have been contained by dropping out of the auction by adding certain terms as negatives,” the spokesperson says. “However, in a vast auction this can be challenging for a search manager to operationalize at scale.”

It appears that Office Depot also appear on paid search ads for the “Walmart back to school sale” paid search term Aug. 8-17, generating 3-15% of the clicks during this time period, according to Adthena.

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It’s common practice for retailers to bid on their competitors’ brand terms. Retailers should analyze if their search terms are being “attacked” from competitors, says Ashley Fletcher, vice president of marketing at Adthena.

“They need to pay close attention to how their competitors are acting, as Office Depot and others are finding significant success on their terms, and perhaps need to rethink their approach to competitive intelligence to help protect their market share, especially in the key back-to-school season,” Fletcher says.

Marketing firm Rakuten Marketing finds that overall, retailers advertising using display ads for back-to school are having a lucrative season, based on its client data of back-to-school retailers that ran display ad campaigns.

For the back-to-school season, Rakuten Marketing finds desktop sales have increased 39%, smartphone sales 31% and tablet sales increased 6% for those clients that used back-to-school display ads. 

Walmart Inc. is No. 3 in the Internet Retailer 2018 Top 500, Staples Inc. is No. 5, Office Depot Inc. is No. 14, and Target Corp. is No. 17.

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