Wait, what? It’s barely past October. We’re still working through our Halloween candy stash, you might be thinking. It’s still pushing 70 degrees on the East Coast on many days.
This may all be true. Yet, that hasn’t stopped brick-and-mortar retailers from already decking out their stores with Christmas trees and stocking their shelves with red and green holiday paraphernalia.
Uh huh. That’s right. The holiday season is upon us. And there’s nowhere to hide.
The average consumer might be getting that descended upon feeling right about now. That’s because for us marketers, these are the most important weeks in the calendar. And, it’s not our fault…
Collectively, American consumers spend an unholy sum of money this time of year on gifts for loved ones and “I deserve this” presents for themselves. Vacations and cool travel experiences, expensive dinners out with the family, new cars, new big screen TVs… heck, throw in that super modern, mostly automated, you barely have to carry the load of laundry downstairs washer/dryer combo.
As a country, the US spends trillions of dollars every year between the start of November and December 31. That’s trillions, with a “t.” It’s big business, with a capital “B.”
A solid online advertising plan is a must if you hope to tap into all of that consumer holiday spending. If you’re a small or moderate-size retail business, however, you might feel a little intimidated or even drowned out by all the noise that traditionally comes from the heavy hitters – your Amazons, Walmarts, Best Buys, Macy’s’ and the like.
But there’s no need to get discouraged. With the internet being the great equalizer, the right paid search strategy can yield huge returns and pay off big.
“What might that right strategy be?”, you might ask. To find out, we sat down with our Digital Advertising Team. The following insights from Beacon’s paid search experts are some of the most essential parts of a winning holiday season advertising strategy.
Insight 1: Be prepared to spend more when the holiday season rolls around
Like that old adage goes: “You have to spend money to make money.” That couldn’t be more true when the trees start shedding their leaf coats and the shopping season approaches.
In the paid search world, this is the time of year when ad spends get an extra boost. There are two related reasons for this.
One, it’s the start of a feeding frenzy, and everyone is getting in on the action. That increase in competition means that you’ve got to allocate more funds just to attain the same results from earlier in the year. And, if you hope to beat out your top competitors, you’ll probably need to beat their spend budget. Everybody is spending more, and you’ve got to keep up.
Secondly, that increase in competition also drives up the cost of the keywords you’re bidding on. Depending on how many competitors are bidding on it, a term that cost you $1 yesterday can quickly double, or even triple, tomorrow.
“For many advertisers, holiday sales and Q4 earnings make up a significant amount of their annual revenue,” says Jordan Burleson, Chief Strategist for Digital Marketing at Beacon. “Online search traffic will spike in the months of November and December. And therefore, your average cost-per-click will increase 20% to 50%, resulting in less traffic for the same cost.”
Don’t be shocked or upset when this happens. In fact, building this expected increase into your allocated advertising budget in advance can help you stay both sane and competitive.
Speaking of planning…
Insight 2: Have your advertising plan ready well before Black Friday rolls around
A lot of transactions happen on Black Friday and Cyber Monday. But, there’s a healthy number of people who prefer to get their shopping done early. In fact, as many as 39% of all holiday purchases take place before the Thanksgiving holiday. That means, you’ve got to be ready to roll with your paid ads… like, now.
On the other hand, you also don’t want to blow through your budget too early and miss a rush on your products or services later in the season. Are there mid-December sales that you’re planning to run? After Christmas promotions? New Year’s specials?
You may want to reserve some of your budget to target potential customers for those sales events. To maximize these opportunities, it’s also important to be intimately familiar with your business and industry seasonal cycle.
Having a good plan based on known customer trends is key to holiday season success.
Insight 3: Make use of negative terms
Ok, so far, we have “spend more money” and “make a plan.” Good advice, but not the type to satisfy the cost-conscious crowd, right?
Well, don’t worry, we haven’t forgotten about you. After all, successful businesses know how to spend wisely.
One way to optimize your ad dollars is by ensuring that they’re not spent on bad or non-strategic keywords. Savvy PPC marketers create a black list of negative keywords which prevents automated platforms from displaying your ads for searches that include those terms.
“Negative keywords are essential for any good PPC campaign,” says Olivia Earley, one of Beacon’s Paid Search Specialists. “Acting as a barrier for unwanted search terms, negative keywords protect your account from unwanted key phrases, saving you money while increasing conversions and click-through rates.”
Insight 4: Use all available space on the playing field
An online ad is pretty simple, right? It appears at the top of a search engine results page (SERP) and displays a short description of a product, event, sale or promotion.
Well, as with everything related to the digital world, paid ads have continually evolved to deliver more nuanced, targeted and specific information. On top of the space for the typical advertising copy, online ads now feature ad extensions. Extensions are extra opportunities to deliver specific types of content.
“Paid ads have expanded to feature a lot more useful information for potential customers,” reports Beacon paid search analyst Zach Wellman. “Ad extensions allow you to deliver actionable content that empowers consumers to more easily reach the content they intend to find.”
Extensions can be links to specific pages on your website (sitelinks), a phone number that can be automatically dialed from your mobile device, your average product/seller rating, the physical address of your store, even pictures of your products.
In fact, image-based product listing ads (or, shopping ads) are the newest paid search fad. In a product listing ad, the main feature of the ad are photos of your products rather than marketing copy.
Extensions and product listing ads also have the advantage of occupying more space in SERPs than the typical online ad. And, the more space you take up, the less you leave for your competitors.
Which brings us to our last point…
If you hope to beat your digital competitors, there are two things you absolutely have to do: 1) know how they’re selling, and 2) sell where they’re selling.
That means that you should keep an eye on the ads that your top competitors run. Tracking your competitors’ ads gives you a good idea of what keywords they’re targeting. It also allows you to match or improve upon the offers your potential customers see and increases your odds of earning their clicks.
Another thing you should do is bid on your competitors’ branded keywords (their names).
“Bidding on competitors is essential to making sure you are staying relevant to your potential leads,” says PPC specialist Sammy Kleege. “Not only do they get a comparison in products, you get to stay on top of what your competitors are doing that you may not be.”
Advertising in your competitor’s wheelhouse may seem like an aggressive tactic. And, in some ways it is. But, it’s also how savvy marketers get a leg up. Besides, if your competitors are worthy opponents, they’re probably doing the same to you.
Beacon Knows PPC
Want a more sophisticated approach to your paid search efforts? Beacon is here to help. Give us a call, we’re eager to talk to you about your business.