We know what you're thinking. The holidays are around the corner and there's no time to spruce up those paid search campaigns. Think again. This year holiday shoppers will rely on the Web more than previous years to research the products they plan to purchase online and in stores. Nearly two thirds of consumers will look for online consumer ratings and reviews before they buy, according to Shop.org.
Similar to last minute shoppers, marketers who have left the task of optimizing holiday paid search campaigns to the last minute still have time, according to experts.
Properly measuring paid search campaigns means making sure to take "early researchers" into account. Marin Software CEO Christopher Lien suggests setting tracking cookies to 30 days or longer to capture delayed conversions. "You may also need to make some investments in keywords in November that don't quite meet conversion expectations, but don't lower your bids on them just yet, because a few weeks later, visitors from those terms may return and purchase," he says.
Adjust keyword mixes to take advantage of holiday themed gift terms, not just general keywords people search with during the year, Lien says.
"Don't forget to promote gift cards in your search campaigns," he adds. Some 69% of shoppers plan to purchase gift cards this year, Lien says, citing Google research.
Asadart Specialty Shops COO Brad Butler will spend about $1 million this year on PPC campaigns, and plans to make every penny back on the investment. The majority goes toward Google AdWords. He suggests making sure keywords and ad copy are tightly integrated and relevant to each other. Doing so raises the quality score for that ad group. While this means you'll have more ad groups with fewer keywords per ad group, it will lower overall costs.
"Use negative keywords to reduce the likelihood your ads are being shown for searches that aren't relevant for whatever it is you're selling," Butler says. And if you are bidding on the Google Content Network, "you may want to consider eliminating Web sites you know aren't relevant, such as [those with ]age demographics that don't match with your site."
David Szetela, Clix Marketing CEO, says search volume and conversion rates rise sharply within the first two weeks of December and drop off just as sharply right before Dec. 25. Even if you're using an automated ID management package or Google AdWords Conversion Optimizer, watch closely and adjust bid prices as frequently as daily.
In an annual Nielsen Co. holiday retail survey conducted in early November, consumers revealed online spending budgets would decline by 10 points this year, with 63% of survey respondents revealing they would do some holiday shopping online. So, it's more important than ever to develop spot-on PPC campaigns.
Although many consumers don't feel they save money by making purchases online, they do view the Internet as a place to find deals. When asked how they use the Internet before going shopping in physical stores, 55% of respondents said they use the Internet to compare prices across retailers and 49% answered that they use the Web to learn about sales and promotions available in physical stores, said Ken Cassar, vice president, industry insights at The Nielsen Co.
Since your marketing campaign drives search traffic to physical stores, make sure to sync the search message with other holiday promotions, such as in-store promotions, direct mail, print ads and television spots. Mark Simon, vice president of industry relations at Didit, reminds you that the competition is watching you advertising moves and will try to poach the search traffic your holiday messages drive. He suggests staying on the defensive.
This is the time of year consumers develop stronger relationships with brands. And while search marketers should always focus on being more efficient by finding the long-tail keywords, times of day, geographies, and demographics that drive the highest return on investment, don't ignore the fact market share and scale take more of an investment and often come at the cost of ROI, Simon says.
Finally, make sure you have enough merchandise on hand to support the PPC campaigns, especially if those ads translate into conversions. "If you run out of stock for products advertised online, you will have some angry customers to deal with," says Emmanuel Begouen director of managed Services at Acquisio, who suggests stopping the ads when you out of inventory.