Santa Says: Some Sage Holiday Advice

Well, it's getting to be that time of year again--the time when well-adjusted, relatively normal human beings (and I use the word "normal" very cautiously) find themselves willing to go to the mat over a parking spot at the local mall. There's no denying it. The joys of the holiday season are practically upon us. In fact, I think I hear the faint murmur of sleigh bells off in the distance. But for Internet retailers, this season starts a bit earlier, with a lot longer prep time required than for Aunt Mildred's lead-bottom fruit cake.

What can you do to prepare for the coming holiday season? Santa has a few paid search advertising suggestions that could put a twinkle in the eye and a little extra jingle in the ol'pocket.

Santa says, "spend wisely." Budgeting smart is always important; however, holiday season budgeting requires some fine tuning. Though you may be tempted to shift the majority of your pay-per-click advertising budget to your core holiday/in-season products, you would be wise to save some budget to stay in the auctions for your other inventory as well. It is also important not to focus solely on keywords that generate immediate sales. Instead, you need to plan and account for latent purchase and consumer research behavior that takes place before the holiday season.



According to JupiterResearch (in a study from February, 2005), 26% of online holiday shoppers said that they began to think about their holiday purchases in October or earlier. Clearly, consumers want to reach a comfort level with a particular site and/or product before they execute a transaction. As such, prior non-purchase interaction with a Web site is a crucial step in motivating customers to include that site in their purchase consideration set.

Remember: Shoppers start shopping much earlier than you think.

Santa says, "test now and reap later." You can't improve what you don't measure, so you need to test, measure, learn from the data, and then adjust elements in your campaign accordingly, over and over again, to yield the best results. This is particularly important for the holiday season. However, the one difference for holiday testing is TIME. The time to start testing your ad copy creative and landing pages is NOW, so you can implement your findings from the testing BEFORE your peak sales season begins. Trust me, you don't want to be testing then, as it could negatively affect sales in a big way. Here's a little hint--if your ad copy doesn't work a few months before the peak season, guess what? It probably won't work well during your peak season either.

Remember: Test, learn, implement NOW.

Santa Says, "Keep your Elves organized and informed." Why are search marketers always the last ones to find out that a product is out of stock, discontinued, or on back order? This trend never ceases to amaze me; you might as well just burn the money instead. But all this can be avoided with solid organization and communication. First, have a well-coordinated inventory management system in place; and second, keep your search engine marketers informed of your inventory at all times, so you're not bidding on keywords on out-of-stock inventory.

Remember: Get organized and share the data.

Bottom Line: Search marketers need to act now to be prepared for the season. Listen to Santa, he knows best. Follow his advice, and just maybe you'll be jingling all the way home.

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