The Bridal Category and Paid Search

From Gregg Hamilton, SVP of Research & Analytics and Business Development at AdGooroo.

As the traditional beginning of wedding season, June is an apt time to examine Paid Search and the wedding industry. And with an average budget of $27,000 per wedding, according to a 2011 survey by The Knot, and over 2 million weddings per year in the US, the bridal category is a half billion dollar industry domestically.


Per The Knot’s study, December is the most popular month to get engaged. So it’s no surprise that the peak planning month appears to be January, as revealed in Figure 1 below, which shows spikes in clickthroughs to Bridal advertisers’ sites in each of the past four Januaries (albeit very slight in 2010).

Bridal Blog Clicks 50
Figure 1. Clicks Per Month on Bridal PPC Ads, U.S. AdWords. Source: AdGooroo

PPC Spend

The chart also shows a significant jump in Bridal clicks/paid search spend in August 2011, suggesting that the wedding industry only recently awakened to the opportunity offered by the paid search medium. In fact, total PPC spend in the Bridal category jumped from $13.3 million in 2010 to $19 million in 2011, growing steadily to $22 million in 2012. Although PPC spend is down 21% in the first five months of 2013 compared to the same period in 2012, the decrease probably results from a shift in clicks and advertising spend from PPC text ads to Product Listing Ads (PLAs) on Google results pages.

The Most Searched Wedding Terms

The search for an engagement ring is usually the tipping point event which commits a couple to marriage and launches the wedding planning and a host of corollary searches and browsing events, including wedding rings. In fact, 29.2% of all wedding-related paid search ads on U.S. AdWords in 2012 were triggered by searches for an engagement or wedding ring.

Not surprisingly, the next most commonly searched topic was “wedding dress/gown”, with 26.8% of all Bridal ads on U.S. AdWords in 2012 displayed in response to such a search. Dress/gown variations included ‘short’, ‘informal’, ‘beach’, ‘2nd wedding’, ‘vintage’, ‘maternity’ and ‘plus size’. A topic we call “Wedding plan/planners” was the next most prevalent trigger of paid search ads (10.4% of impressions), followed by “Bridesmaids/Flower Girls”, which provoked 5% of ads in the category. The full list of (18) topics that triggered paid search ads is shown in the table below.

Bridal Blog Terms Chart 50
Figure 2. Leading Wedding Topics, U.S. AdWords, 2012, Based on Ad Impressions. Source:AdGooroo
Designers/Brands ranked 9th on the topical list, led by David’s Bridal, Vera Wang, Jovani and Alfred Angelo, as well as Bari Jay, Martha Stewart, Mary’s Bridal and Mori Lee. These ads had the highest clickthrough rate by far—19% vs. an overall average of 3.6%—suggesting high consumer interest in finding the perfect dress from a desired/trusted brand. However, the highest CPC’s were attached to ads for wedding photography/videography. At an average of $2.05, photo/video CPCs were more than three times the overall average CPC of $0.67, followed by Invites/Thank You’s at $1.39 average CPC, suggesting that suppliers of these wedding accoutrements enjoy higher than average conversion rates and margins (and thus can afford to spend more per site visitor).

Other Highlights from the Most Searched Terms

  • The “Shoes” topic probably understates the actual interest, since “wedding shoe” is not as widely used a term as “wedding band” or “wedding dress”.
  • Similarly, the “Honeymoon” topic likely also understates consumer interest because couples simply search for a travel destination without necessarily specifying that it’s for their honeymoon. Still, among honeymoon destinations, the beach was the most-searched generic location, while the most searched and advertised specific location was that old standby, Las Vegas, far ahead of Hawaii and Disney.
  • The term that attracted the greatest number of different advertisers (376) was “bridal stores”, followed by “bridal shops”.
  • The term “bridesmaid dresses” yielded ads by 197 different advertisers, while the term “bachelorette” was only sponsored by only four (!) advertisers.
  • In a reflection of changing tastes (literally), the term “wedding cake” was joined by “cupcake/cupcake stand” as one of the top terms sponsored by Bridal suppliers. Perhaps some brides may be tired of the huge wedding cake ritual or may simply desire an extra treat displayed in a grand fashion.

Top Bridal Advertisers in Paid Search

As indicated above, while not specifically belonging to the bridal industry, the top paid search advertisers in the category are Jewelry retailers. Jewelers aside, however, the Top 50 traditional bridal advertisers based on PPC impressions (see Figure 3 below) reveals the wide variety of companies catering to this niche category, including purveyors of gowns, invitations, party favors and lifestyle content. While the very top advertisers in the category remained virtually unchanged from 2011 to 2012, there was some significant movement within the lower rankings.

  • David’s Bridal retained the top position, with wedding favor retailer remaining in the second position.
  • There were only three new Top 10 entrants in 2012, including Simply Bridal, Misses Dressy and Bridesire, which was entirely new to the Top 50 list.
  • Perhaps most significantly, 36% of advertisers within 2012’s Top 50 ranked below that territory in 2011, evidence of high volatility among the sellers in the category.

Bridal Blog Top Advertisers 2012
Figure 3. Top Bridal Advertisers, U.S. AdWords, 2012, Based on Ad Impressions. Source:AdGooroo

Interestingly, the Top 50’s share of AdWords impressions in the category rose from 78.9% in 2011 to 84.5% in 2012, suggesting that larger brands were squeezing smaller advertisers out of the paid search medium. Those slipping out of the Top 50 in 2012 included both national brands (The Wedding Channel, Wedding, Gracious Bridal) and local boutiques (Village Bridal, Bridal Boutique Lewisville).