'Tis the season for columnists to begin reminding everyone that the holidays are around the corner, and the time to prepare is now. While I certainly can't call "First!," I'm fairly certain I'm first among Search Insiders. So, readers, take heed!
1. Automate. If you're still toggling between search engine UIs and Excel, you're wasting time and money. When your competitors unleash their holiday budgets and lift their bid caps, you'll have as good a chance of staying on the first page of the search engines as Eliot Spitzer does on the first page of the newspapers (oh, wait). Consolidate and centralize your efforts through an SEM technology platform and start spending less time managing campaigns and more time profiting from them.
2. Stay alert. Your website is always changing and sometimes it's unclear who holds the keys. While many enterprises go into code freeze during the Q4 time period, search marketers must stay vigilant to ensure that every single landing page URL is functional. The last thing you want is to capture a qualified click from a bottom-funnel keyword and not be able to convert the sale. That'd be like winning all the chocolate gelt in your family dreidel game, only to have it melt in the car on the way home.
3. Get social. Search marketers rejoice! Everything you've come to know and love about managing search campaigns is now available through Facebook. Precise audience segmentation. Mass creative customization. Real-time bidding. And continuous optimization. Sure, Facebook Marketplace Ads may not perform as well as search ads from a direct ROI standpoint, but they're a great way to keep the funnel full of interested customers who will be more likely to search for and buy your products. Search and social are like my unborn twins (seen here jostling for position in the womb). They may look the same and they're definitely related, but they're bound to behave much differently.
4. Get real(time). Your salespeople don't keep selling your product when it's not available -- so why should your search campaigns? With inventory and pricing constantly changing, it's critical that your SEM campaigns reflect your most updated catalog. Leverage technology to sync your search ads, keywords, and bids with inventory fluctuation in real-time.
5. Get local. These days, people are increasingly expecting a local search experience.Give the people what they want! If you're a retailer with brick and mortar locations, make sure each one has a local listing.If you're a pure-play dot-com, create geo-targeted campaigns with customized messaging. Then watch your QualityScore shoot up faster than Lindsay Lohan and get you higher (sweet, two drug references!) on the search results page.
6. Think universal. Are you still managing search in a silo? OK, maybe that can be forgiven. But are you still tracking search in a silo? For shame! Track, measure, and analyze all your digital marketing advertising in a holistic manner to better understand the interplay between channels and determine where your next dollar is best spent. The only things that should be tracked in silos are chickens and eggs -- and not necessarily in that order.
Get off last click. Optimizing search campaigns based on 100% credit to the last click before conversion is like a grocery store owner giving the bagger a raise each time a
customer leaves the store happy. Sure, the last touch makes a difference, but it's the whole sequence of events that makes an impact. Before making any sweeping optimizations, be sure to adjust
the level of credit to each keyword in the search funnel (and every other online touch-point, for that matter) based on your specific goals and metrics.
8. Deal with it. If the Groupon phenomenon has taught us nothing else, it's that people love getting deals. If you want to be competitive this holiday season, you'll need to pull out all the stops. You can be sure your competitors will be. If you're not in a position to discount or provide some sort of bundle, just be ready to highlight the unique value your product provides on the search results page so you don't get automatically dismissed on price alone. And, remember, free shipping goes a long way.
9. Stand out. Deals aren't the only way to get noticed in the holiday crowd. Come up with an Easter egg (wrong holiday but right analogy) to delight your customers.Take another page from Groupon here and its wickedly clever unsubscribe experience.Give your customers a reason to tell their friends about you. Even a small personal touch -- think handwritten thank-you card -- will do.
10. Get Googley at SIS. Book your trip today for the biannual Search Insider Summit in Park City. I'll be there pimping my new book, "Everything I Know About Marketing I Learned from Google." It makes a great holiday gift for your favorite marketer!