It is often easy to get “lost in the moment” when buying PPC advertising. There is so much opportunity right in front of you – either by increasing bids, optimizing ad text, adding new keywords, or tweaking landing pages – that future planning never seems to be justified.

In fact, however, there are tremendous advantages in SEM to considering seasonality at least 8-10 weeks in advance of a known seasonal boost. And, since Valentine’s Day is right around the corner, let’s use this holiday as an example of seasonal planning.

Valentine’s Day will provide a volume bump for anyone marketing flowers, chocolate, and jewelry. It’s also great for dating sites and weight loss (we marketers love to play on human emotion, and negative emotions are just as powerful as the positive ones).

So, like Christmas, you can probably assume that shopping for Valentine’s Day begins about 3-4 weeks prior to the actual holiday (and in fact, recent studies have suggested that the peak period for Internet shopping is actually closer to a holiday than the peak period for in-store or mail order businesses. This may suggest that many consumers rely on the Internet when they feel it is too late or too time consuming to use other sources). It would be logical, then, to develop your keyword lists and ad text about 5-6 weeks in advance and launch holiday-specific campaigns about 4 weeks prior to the holiday, right?

Well, actually, no. Let’s start with Yahoo Search Marketing (YSM). YSM’s editorial system is famous for arbitrarily rejecting keywords, regardless of their relevance. Moreover, even though about 80% of keywords are now approved on YSM in about a day, the remaining 20% – which can often include high value keywords – sometimes take days or even weeks to make it through the approval process.

You need to give yourself at least two weeks to either resubmit rejected keywords or wait for pending keywords to go live. The good news with YSM is that once you are live, you can simply pause your keywords and wait until the right moment to launch them.

Google, on the other hand, is much more liberal with its keyword approval process, and it is likely that your keywords will show up within minutes of submission. The problem here is that Google has a ‘seasoning’ period for all new keywords. During this time – usually about two weeks – Google does not serve your keywords to their entire network. In other words, sites like Ask and AOL are not included in the distribution.

Additionally, Google rewards keywords with “keyword history” by enabling them to show up higher in the results with lower CPCs. During the first two weeks for a new keyword, you can expect to have a pretty miserable ranking simply because your keyword history has not been established.

The best solution for Google, then, is to submit your keywords at least two weeks in advance of the beginning of a holiday season. By the time the actual season begins, you will have established keyword history (at least, to a degree) and you will have full distribution on the entire Google syndication network.

Simply adding 2-3 extra weeks in to your schedule to allow for the idiosyncrasies of the search engines can be the difference between a successful and dreadful holiday season.

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David Rodnitzky
David Rodnitzky is founder and CEO of 3Q Digital (formerly PPC Associates), a position he has held since the Company's inception in 2008. Prior to 3Q Digital, he held senior marketing roles at several Internet companies, including Rentals.com (2000-2001), FindLaw (2001-2004), Adteractive (2004-2006), and Mercantila (2007-2008). David currently serves on advisory boards for several companies, including Marin Software, MediaBoost, Mediacause, and a stealth travel start-up. David is a regular speaker at major digital marketing conferences and has contributed to numerous influential publications, including Venture Capital Journal, CNN Radio, Newsweek, Advertising Age, and NPR's Marketplace. David has a B.A. with honors from the University of Chicago and a J.D. with honors from the University of Iowa. In his spare time, David enjoys salmon fishing, hiking, spending time with his family, and watching the Iowa Hawkeyes, not necessarily in that order.