It’s almost October and you know what that means. No, I’m not talking about figuring out how to end things with your summer fling or how to make your Justin Bieber Halloween costume less creepy, I’m talking about how to get your online marketing adequately prepared for the upcoming holiday season! If you think that September is too early to be gearing up for that all important fourth quarter, then you’re doing your competition a huge favor. Luckily, Q4 isn’t something to fear; it’s something to get excited about. Even if you aren’t a retailer, Q4 can mean the beginning of a new fiscal year, the return from a long vacation or the preparation period for the beginning of the 2012 calendar year for your potential clients.
Below, I’ve laid out five PPC management tips for Q4 that can be applied very easily for advertisers of all stripes, from eCommerce stores looking to have a big Christmas season to B2B service providers looking to keep a leg up on competing firms:
1. Get a preview of what to expect using Google Insights: Google Insights for Search is a tool that advertisers can use to see historic trends for some of their top keywords over time.
In order to get an idea of what you can expect out of your potential audience, try entering in a few of your high volume terms into Google Insights. Make sure that you set your parameters correctly. For most of my clients, I like to view data from the United States only and I prefer to use a date range of January 2009 through January 2011. This will show you the most recent two holiday seasons and how they compare to other months. If you notice a big or even moderate increase in searches around Q4–as is shown in the graph above–you may want to consider raising your budget accordingly. You also may wish consider the addition of new channels of advertising, even if you plan only a limited engagement for the holidays.
Bonus Tips: If you’re expecting more traffic, you may be interested in trying the following:
- Seasonal ads can often provide a boost. Try a holiday message in your AdWords ads.
- Not sure if you’re ready to up your bids? Ask Wpromote about Google AdWords Campaign Experiments which allow you to bid in two places at once and review the results!
- Consider adding “Black Friday,” “Cyber Monday” and other sale keywords to the account.
2. Mobile advertising is becoming too big to ignore: Every year we hear the same thing: “This is the year of mobile!” Well, I hate to beat a dead horse, but this year really looks like the year. With the release of the iPhone 5 coming in October and Android phones selling like web-enabled hotcakes with 4GB cameras, shopping, price comparing and researching with mobile phones is becoming more and more common.
Is mobile advertising for you? The answer is yes, although the level of your investment may vary based on your goals, expectations and available resources. That said, almost every advertiser in the world should at least be advertising on their own brand in the mobile space. This is an incredibly necessary evil. Because there is so much less space on a mobile phone than on your laptop, failing to bid on your brand can mean that your competitors can keep you completely off of the above-the-fold view on a search for your own name!
Do a search on your web-enabled phone now for your brand name and see what comes up. If your business isn’t the first listing, then you should consider moving into the mobile space right away. Of course, there is much more opportunity beyond bidding on your brand name, but this is the easiest thing to fix.
Bonus Tips: If you have further interest in mobile advertising in Q4, I would encourage you to take the following steps:
- Read up on mobile advertising best practices.
- Find out how your site looks using Mobilizer, a free downloadable application.
- Look into making a mobile friendly version of your site. Google has a free tool built just for this.
- Advertise first on your best–highest ROI–keywords before committing dollars to broader terms.
3. Stay top of mind using Remarketing (a.k.a. Retargeting): By now, it’s likely that you’ve heard of retargeting as a method for advertising. Google has branded this feature as “remarketing” in AdWords and has made this powerful channel available to everyone. As a result, I’ll refer to it as remarketing here.
For those of you who are not familiar, remarketing allows advertisers to place a pixel on the users that have been to their site so that they can be grouped for display advertising later. Remarketing helps answer some very difficult questions that advertisers are smart to ask:
Q: I’d love to show up on gigantic websites but isn’t it too expensive?
A: By advertising only to the users that have been to your site, remarketing allows advertisers to show up on some of the Internet’s most legitimate properties while keeping the audience–and costs–limited.
Q: Where is the best place that I could put a display ad?
A: The answer isn’t about where, it’s about who. If you know that someone was interested enough in your services to go to your site and your site converts at less than 100%, then those users are lowest hanging fruit for your display efforts.
Q: But what if those people already made a purchase? I don’t want to bother my current customers.
A: AdWords allows you to exclude users that have already converted on your site from seeing your ads.
Q: I’ve heard about retargeting and don’t they charge you for impressions?
A: Not Google! Remarketing through AdWords allows you to pay per click just like in search. That means that you never shell out any money unless someone actually clicks on your ad.
Remarketing has proven to be the most effective means of direct marketing in the display network. Although reach is limited, conversion rates are higher and cost per acquisition (CPA) is lower with remarketing than other display options. Furthermore, remarketing is being continually innovated; you can now serve ads to customers based on the page of the site they went to or even the product that was viewed. Even for B2B companies, it’s important to test out remarketing while it’s still a young market. At best, it can become a significant revenue stream; at worst, it’s an easy way to keep your business top of mind for your customers. Bonus Tips: If you are already engaging remarketing, now is the time to consider the following:
- Add image ads if you are currently only running text ads.
- Consider refreshing the ads or adding new ones to compete against the existing ones.
- Look into making more granular ads for different pages on your site.
- Keep an eye on the view-through conversions and think about what the value might be compared to a click-through conversion for your business.
4. Consider an engagement with Facebook Ads: Facebook is a juggernaut. In 2010, Facebook became the most popular site on the Internet in terms of time spent on site. In 2011, Facebook has continued to widen the gap. Facebook’s dominance isn’t in question by most advertisers, though; the biggest unknown is whether or not Facebook can prove to be a viable medium for direct marketers.
- It’s incredibly important to keep ad creative fresh.
- Advertisers concerned with ROI should stick to the cost per click (CPC) model rather than the cost per thousand impressions (CPM) model.
- Although it can be easy to drive traffic from Facebook, driving conversions is much more difficult.
That said, Q4 may be the exact right time to try your hand at advertising on Facebook. Because of the unprecedented demographic information, Facebook makes targeting and segmenting unbelievably easy. Let’s say you are a retailer and the hottest item this Christmas is a new video game called Widgetworld. If the game is aimed at young adults, an advertiser can quickly create four campaigns aimed at male young adults, female young adults, the fathers of that audience and the mothers of that audience. Using age, gender, interest and other categorized information, an advertiser can tailor ads and bid levels to each group autonomously.
Some advertisers may be aware of this but still wary of Facebook as a medium. After all, people go there to hang out, not make purchases. If that’s what’s keeping you from advertising, think about my recommendations for mobile: start small. Start by advertising only to the exact audience that interests you and bid with the CPC model. If you know that 20-25 year old women who like cheese and are located in Alabama are your target audience, you can start with them! That way, you’ll know exactly the type of people to whom your ads will show and you hedge your potential losses by only paying for traffic. If this goes well, consider expansion and deeper granularity within that group.
Bonus Tips: When running a Facebook campaign, here are a couple of things that we’ve found useful:
- If your target demographic is broad, have a minimum of four campaigns: 1) older males, 2) younger males, 3) older women, 4) younger women. This provides a good base for further segmentation in the future.
- If your target demographic is narrow, target them with one campaign. Then, add a second campaign targeting a broader audience at a lower bid level. This allows you to put a premium on the highest value potential customers while still exposing your ad to a larger community.
- Start with a minimum of six ads per campaign. There are three components to a Facebook ad: 1) headline, 2) description, 3) image. See the image below for reference. Come up with two of each component and mix-and-match the elements to come up with six unique ads. This will help you identify not only which ad works but which elements of which ads work.
5. Don’t forget about Microsoft adCenter: If you’re not advertising in Microsoft adCenter–the platform that serves ads on Bing, Yahoo and partner sites–you should be, especially in Q4. A mistake that many advertisers make is to take their budget of X for AdWords and move a portion of it to adCenter. This is a mistake. Never rob Peter to pay Paul, as they say. If you checked in Google Insights and found that you should expect even a modest surge in traffic over the next three months, I would implore you to add on to your budget of X for AdWords with a budget of Y for adCenter. Your adCenter budget should be between 25%-50% of your budget for AdWords. If you are strapped for resources, use a similar strategy with moving into mobile: advertise first on your best–highest ROI–keywords before committing dollars to broader terms.
Even though the volume in adCenter is somewhat dwarfed by the volume that can be found in AdWords, adCenter accounts can often achieve a higher ROI than their AdWords counterparts. Lower competition, different serving policies and similar user behavior on Bing and Yahoo can lead to lower click costs, higher conversion rates and more consistent performance.
For those of you who are already advertising in adCenter, just make sure to give it the same care and attention that you’ll be giving your Google AdWords account this holiday season. Aside from the AdWords Search Network, I would list adCenter as the single most important channel for your online advertising efforts in Q4.
Bonus Tips: For the most part, all tips that apply to AdWords also apply to adCenter:
- Start your adCenter campaigns on Yahoo and Bing only. The search partners can be more difficult for getting conversions at a reasonable CPA.
- Revenue tracking is available but not obvious in adCenter and can be difficult to get set up. Ask Wpromote about setting up your revenue tracking if that is applicable to your situation.
- Negative keywords in adCenter don’t work exactly as they do in AdWords. Ask Wpromote about what these differences are and how they can affect your marketing efforts.
The holiday season has become a three to four month marathon for advertisers but it’s no more trouble than any other season. The keys to making Q4 your best quarter and this year’s Q4 one to celebrate are vigilance, analysis and the confidence to test new things. Whether those new things are higher bids or different ads or taking a shot at a large scale mobile advertising effort, it’s important not to be caught flat-footed. For all the time that you spend standing still, your competitors may be pushing forward.
Just remember, not all new initiatives will succeed, especially not right away. Thomas Edison once said, “Restlessness is discontent and discontent is the first necessity of progress. Show me a thoroughly satisfied man and I will show you a failure.” Don’t let a dead guy talk to you like that! Keep on trying new things!