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December 2, 2010

PPC for the Holidays: What You Should Know

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With the holiday season well upon us and 2011 right around the corner, I thought I’d sit down with Javier Ruesga, SEM analyst and paid search pro here at Bruce Clay, Inc. to talk about some tips for holiday PPC campaigns and other ideas for year-round ad success.

Jessica: What are some tips for planning PPC campaigns for the holidays?

Javier: The only one that stands out is to activate campaigns/ad groups that contain your holiday keywords. These are seasonal keywords that are focused on the closest holiday to mirror searcher behavior and capture additional market share.

It’s a good practice to have a holiday campaign established, with AdGroups focused on each holiday, for example, Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, Kwanzaa, Hanukkah, Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, etc. Typically these should be activated six weeks in advance to allow for the complete sales cycle.

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Is there anything people can do today to improve their PPC campaign for this holiday season?

Better late than never. Actually, prepping for this should start months in advance; using historical performance (if available) will help identify highest profitable areas and also provides ample time to asses the competition. The keywords lists, campaigns, budget and bids should be prepped ideally at the two-month prior mark.

As the campaign progresses, continue to manage the live campaign. Then there’s the post-event sales, which helps capture additional market share (after x-mas sales, after New Year’s sales, etc.).

Does the holiday season affect how you adjust your delivery settings to accommodate?

This is very critical for retail industry. The holiday season is the biggest revenue-generating period for the year. Therefore, retail businesses must allocate sufficient budgets in order to be able to move their inventory (budget level adjustments).

Preparing their holiday campaigns with anticipation will help capture additional market share. Especially if they are offering extended hours during the holidays for phone orders (day parting settings) or special offers, delivery or discounts (ad copy adjustments).

What about outside of the holiday season — what are some of the factors that need to be taken into account when deciding what hours of the day to run PPC ads year-round?

Businesses need to understand their audience in order to implement some of the strategies behind the ad serving. Hourly conversion rates can fluctuate during the course of the day, depending on each industry and when visitors are most likely to convert.

Analytics can shed insight as to when goal completions occur by the hour of the day. (In the Google Analytics account, select Traffic Sources > AdWords > Day Parts.) If most of the conversions happen during normal business hours, run your campaigns accordingly.

Day-parting tactics can be implemented to mirror consumer behavior. (In the Google account, select Campaign > Settings Tab > Advance Settings > expand Schedule Option and implement Ad Scheduling.) This is also an option if you are limited in your daily budget, and would like to drive business on specific times of the day and maximize your opportunity in capturing additional market share.

On the other hand, if the business’ call-to-action is tied to a call center/phone order environment – let’s hypothetically say it’s an automotive parts business where the bulk of the business may be driven by the early part of the day and is geared toward a very niche and geotargeted area – perhaps they benefit from having their ads served at an accelerated pace. Day parting (to control the ad serving times) can also be used in this scenario.

Something else to consider on very specific verticals or niche markets is mobile phone usage. Is there is a high volume of mobile users that engage in click-to-call?

Determine the peak volume hours and implement the campaign settings accordingly. I typically recommend having a separate search, display and mobile campaign in order to get a better assessment of performance and refine the strategies and tactics for the campaign.

What should we look out for in 2011?

Yikes, let me look into my crystal ball. For PPC, I’ll resort to the Boy Scout motto: Be prepared. Set goals, research, test and get creative in order to stand out from the competition. Sometimes being different is not so bad.

As for all aspects of Internet marketing in general, given the state of the economy, one needs to take the approach of “inspect what you expect.” There are a lot of businesses that are cutting back on their advertising budgets altogether; others are scaling back and reinvesting their budgets where they’ll receive the better return (online marketing).

Does this present an opportunity for businesses that are willing to risk more of their marketing budget where competitors are dropping off? Add to that the ever-changing climate of Internet marketing within Google service deliverables, Bing/Yahoo! expanding their reach and fighting for market share, and Facebook/social networks capturing more of the eyeballs and building user/brand loyalties.

In this day and age, businesses must continuously adjust, diversify and cast a broader net to have a presence in all possible online mediums. These provide quantifiable results and performance measurements as to where they’re garnering better results. It doesn’t have an end, and businesses must manage this ever-changing process. An outside agency/party can help achieve with the minutia that will help a business reach their goal, especially in these difficult and challenging times.

The bottom line: there’s risk involved in all marketing ventures, minimize the risk by reaching the most eyeballs in order to achieve your goals.

About the Interviewee

Javier Ruesga joined Bruce Clay, Inc. in 2010, bringing with him years of experience in search marketing for companies like Yahoo! and others, where he served in multiple roles in leadership, sales, paid search, SEO and more. You can learn more about Javier at LinkedIn.

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