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Get Ready for the Holidays – the Effect of Seasonality on Paid Search

Published: November 7, 2012

Author: Eric Smith

As we move into the holiday season, it’s important to address and prepare for developments that change the way we run our campaigns.
The exact nature of what will change during the holiday season is highly vertical and client-specific, but changes in user behavior, competitor aggression, and client goals should all be expected.
1.       Plan for large seasonal changes in impression volume – and conversion volume! – for core keywords.
For almost all non-seasonal products, impressions spike during the holidays. But even for products more in demand in other times of the year, the holidays represent opportunity.
In the following example, we have a retail product with interest peaks in spring and summer months.  Impression volume suffers from October to February, but I happen to know that there is a large local peak in conversion rate during November and December. It’s important to be nimble with bidding to take advantage of these trends, and resist comparing the success of holiday campaigns with total sales volume during peak season.
umbrellas impression volume
2.        Capture season-specific keywords and serve appropriate ad copy.
In the next example, we have a season-specific term with consistent massive impression spikes in November and December. While the query is extremely generic, a large set of users input this with intent to buy, so it’s especially important to serve ads here aggressively for retailers with large product inventories.
holiday shopping impressions
Many advertisers will already be capturing things like this through broader match types, but it’s important to have distinct bids set (since volume is so high) and to serve tailored ads (in this case, Target’s ad text is more compelling than Best Buy’s):
SERP christmas shopping
3.        Direct Users to Appropriate Landing Pages.
I think that Target, in the previous example, is doing it right when it comes to ad copy. However, it’s also important to be mindful of what landing pages are being used. I frequently see that users clicking on seasonal gift pages are being dropped at internal product search results pages, which is sub-optimal.  A better solution would be to drop users on a holiday-themed page referencing top deals or hot products.
4.       Align Messaging and Invest in Retargeting.
As users are much more likely to browse pages and comparison shop, retargeting becomes more important to the conversion funnel. In general, there is more opportunity to re-engage users through retargeting ads (compared to steady state), especially if these ads have consistent messaging with your landing pages and advertisements in other media channels.
5.        Try PLAs for Clients with Tangible Products.
Since much of the holiday hype is based around comparison shopping, PLAs are likely to perform well, especially if you have competitors beat on price. Pretty easy to see which ad you’d click here:
Nikon PLAs
6.       Review Historical Data.
If data from previous years is available, take some time to go through it and analyze performance. What worked, and what didn’t? Why? What could be improved upon?
7.       Don’t Forget the Fundamentals.
While it is important to develop a holiday strategy to take the dynamic elements of seasonality into account, it’s still absolutely necessary to stay strong with regards to the basics of running successful campaigns. Performance-based bidding, relevant ads and landing pages, and a logical approach to account structure are still the keys to meeting and exceeding account goals.
Any other tips to pass along? Leave a comment!

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