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10 Tips for Maximizing Your (Non-Q4) Peak Paid Search Season

RKG has published several blog posts over the past few years with great paid search tips for a successful Q4 holiday season. However, the reality for many retailers is that Q4 may not be most crucial time of year to drive sales volume. Depending on your industry and product mix, there may be one or several specific categories on your site that operate very seasonally. The following ten tips can help you maximize your (Non-Q4) Peak Season.

1. Promote Your Top Product Categories Through Sitelinks

Many shoppers will only type in a general brand keyword when in fact they are shopping for a particular subset of products on your site. By providing sitelinks to particular high-value peak categories, the shopper can be taken directly to the page that they are interested in, resulting in fewer clicks needed to get to relevant products. This can lead to a better user experience, and higher conversion rate.

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2. Don’t Be Afraid to Name Drop

Consider the weight that your brand name carries in your peak season product category. It is likely that many users who are searching without a particular store in mind may have heard of your brand before.

Calling out your brand in the headline can differentiate your ad from the competition as well as attract shoppers who are familiar with your brand. Integrating the trademark symbol in your ad copy can act as assurance that your page is official.  Both of these changes can help your ad stand out on the page and maximize click through rate.

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3. Determine How Responsive to Be Throughout the Season

One important thing to realize prior to a peak season is possible increased length of time between a paid search click and an order. This can be especially true for peak seasons where AOV is generally higher due to higher price points for the specific seasonal category.

Compare the click-to-order lag curves between your peak season and the rest of the year.  Be careful to not unnecessarily restrict traffic at the beginning of the season that is likely to convert later on based on these past patterns.

4. Consider a More Aggressive Mobile Strategy

Think about your audience, who they are, and how they shop. RKG aggregates from Q1 tell us that about 1/3 of all cross-device conversions originate from mobile devices. Mobile paid search advertising can indeed be a valuable discovery mechanism for users who convert later on a different device or visit a physical store location.

Through Google’s Estimated Cross-Device Conversions tool, advertisers can get better insight into additional orders that were driven by mobile clicks. Google is currently working on developing tools that could help track device to in-store conversions and provide retailers with more information, and early beta tests have supported the positive impact of paid search on offline orders. In the meantime, consider a more aggressive strategy on mobile to maximize sales throughout your entire business.

5. Target More Specific Audiences on the GDN

If your peak season relates to one or several product categories, category-specific display remarketing on the Google Display Network can instantly create a stronger association between user intent and your site.

Building out specific remarketing audiences well in advance of your peak season can help to segment out shoppers who are searching for your popular product category and have been to those pages on your site. By segmenting these users, not only can you retarget them on the GDN, but you can also use that audience group in RLSAs in order to adjust your bids specifically for that subset of users.

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Consider launching visual creatives targeted directly to the category of users that you want to reach, utilizing the category page as the landing page. This strategy removes effort on the part of the user at both the initial click decision stage as well as effort to navigate through the site to find what they are looking for, making it easier for shoppers to convert.

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6. Pay Extra Attention to Dynamic Search Ads

If you are running DSAs, expect to get a lot more traffic volume in your peak season due to changes in consumer trends, terminology, and new products on the site. Check keyword traffic in the Google Adwords interface periodically throughout the season to identify opportunities to build out keywords for popular searches. You can see this by selecting your DSA campaign, clicking on the keywords tab, and clicking under search terms on the details button drop down menu.

If you are not running DSAs, consider launching in advance of your peak season in order to extend your coverage beyond your account and maximize the number of auctions for which you are eligible. Even if your keyword set is robust, it is worth extending keyword coverage as there will likely be searches that you may have not been able to anticipate.

7. Get Insight On Competitors, But Be Yourself

Check out the Google Auction Insights report in Adwords. You can select specific top keywords or campaigns from last year, and identify changes in the competitive landscape that may be affecting key metrics. However, always plan to do what is best for your account, and avoid the pitfall of bidding to position for several reasons. Your competition’s bidding strategy could vary significantly from yours, most notably in how inefficient they are willing to be.

There also may be other strategic differences between you and the competition. They may differ in the types of keywords that they want to buy, whether they are focused on profit or on attracting new customers, or whether there is a certain particular subcategory that they want to promote heavily. Stay aware, but keep on being you.

8. When It Comes to Ad Copy, Play It Safe

During a peak season, it is not uncommon to have specific promotions on your top categories that rotate frequently. Although it is tempting to always want to pause your default ad copy, it is RKG best practice to keep at least one form of default ad copy constantly running as you shift promotions.

In a peak season, a few hours without ad copy running even on one keyword could mean a significant volume of sales lost. Even if you load paused copy in advance, there may still be a delay in approval for new ad copy that could cause your ads not to serve.

One exception is if you have a long running promotion, with all ads approved, and promotions that will not be shifting until far into the future. If this is the case, make sure to activate your default copy far enough in advance of a switch to be approved, so that there is coverage already in place before the promotions change as a back-up.

9. Stay Consistent With Your Brand Messaging

Consider the intersection of paid search with other marketing channels such as organic ads, email, in-store, and social media. Understand who your users are, what they are searching for, and the message that your brand wants to create. This can include promoting your key segment with consistent messaging across channels, so that you are creating a strong association with that product group and your brand and establishing an identity for that category in the consumer’s mind.

10. Consider Purchasing Patterns and Complementary Products to Maximize Sales Volume

Looking at the previous year’s performance data can be very valuable in identifying buying trends throughout the peak season. In order to get an accurate picture of when traffic is most valuable, be sure to tie any sales back to the click events that drove those orders.

For example, let’s say that last year’s data showed that the value per click for prom dress-related terms rose significantly towards the end of prom season. We can capitalize on this trend by increasing bids on this category around the same time frame this year. Understanding user behavior can give key insight into bidding strategy and provide smaller but more valuable wins that your competitors may overlook.

  • Stacee Wylie
    Stacee Wylie is a Paid Search Analyst at RKG.
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