Originally posted on ClickZ.
Aww, back-to-school already? Yes, it’s that time of year again when retailers’ minds turn to reaching parents and students of all ages purchasing supplies, clothing, and electronics. According to the National Retail Federation, combined K-12 and college spending will reach over $68 billion this year, serving as the second biggest consumer spending event for retailers behind the winter holidays.
The flexibility and real-time nature of paid search and PPC campaigns make them ideal tactics for the back-to-school marketing mix. In recent surveys, more people say they will shop online and will comparison-shop online than last year. With this audience more available online, it will be critical to be visible and offer unique messaging to entice shoppers.
Now is the time to review your current program to determine how back-to-school themes can be incorporated into your account. Major themes include keywords related to textbooks, school gear, supplies, dorms, apparel, software, games, laptops, mobile devices, tablets and more. If your products fall into these categories or subcategories, it’s a good idea to reach out to the back-to-school crowd and capture this seasonal traffic.
You will be working on a short and accelerated timeline, so once your new keywords are implemented, quickly expand high performing keywords and employ negatives real-time as they become available from query reports.
Whether you are starting from scratch or revisiting the creative from last year, you can attract more clicks by incorporating the appropriate keywords.
- Include enticing offers in your ads that focus on discounts and deals for shoppers by using phrasing like “coupon,” “% off,” and “sale” in the ad copy and title.
- Incorporate “student” and “school” in the ad copy.
- Highlight your relevance to shoppers by incorporating “back”, “school,” and “student,” to your ad copy.
- If you are utilizing SiteLinks in Adwords, don’t forget to edit your SiteLinks to include back- to-school language and promotions.
Paid Program Expansions
Including back-to-school seasonal tactics will not only expand the potential of your current account, it is also a great way to test new approaches for winter holiday season.
- Remarketing/retargeting: Although it’s too late to set up a new retargeting campaign, the current audience can still be leveraged with back-to-school specific messaging, offers, and cross-sells, as appropriate. Prepare ahead next year by tagging appropriate content early to later target with back-to-school messaging.
- Google Display Network: Leveraging the Google display network is an option to get more exposure to the back-to-school audience. This may be a good time to test category targeting. According to Google, the following categories and subcategories, in order of frequency, were the most commonly searched themes for back-to-school queries:
- Society: Education, legal, social science
- Entertainment: Music and movies
- Shopping: Apparel, mass merchants, and department Stores, Flowers Gifts and greetings
- Local: Regional content, jobs
- Facebook ads: If you’re doing Facebook PPC, this is the perfect time to try targeting a student audience. Students can be targeted by their education status if they are in high school or college, and you can also specify a college name. This audience can also be reached by interest or category such as “Precise Interests” from users profiles like “student council” or “Broad Categories” like “consumer electronics” or “gaming”. Mix and match depending on the products you offer.
- Mobile and tablet only campaigns: In comparison to previous years, students are more connected than ever. According to Google internal data, last year there was a lift of 500 percent in mobile searches for retail and consumer electronics categories over the summer months. This provides a unique opportunity to capture searchers attention on platform not totally saturated with ads. Remember that searches are more general on mobile and tablets than searches conducted through a desktop with a full keyboard. You will need to segment out mobile and tablets in your campaign settings.
Back-to-school seasonality seems to pass in a flash. Search traffic begins in early July, peaks in mid August, and falls off at the end of September. Early planning is recommended, but more essential is understanding the shoppers you are trying to reach, where they purchase, and how to stand out from the crowd this back-to-school season.
Retargeted advertising is not new, but kicking off a program now for this online holiday shopping season can help to boost sales. Retargeting reaches people who have visited your site by serving an ad to them post-visit on other content sites across the web. Advertisers do this by putting a small piece of code on their site which sets a “cookie” in the user’s browser. As the user surfs the web and visits other sites that serve retargeted advertising, those sites will check for the cookie and use it to determine which ads to display.
This tactic is usually very effective because the user is receiving multiple marketing touches and keeps your brand top of mind. They also tend to be more qualified because they have already expressed interest in your products by having previously visited your website.
Ready for some killer tips?
1- Abandoned shopping cart: One approach ecommerce retailers can use this holiday season is the “abandoned shopping cart” tactic. This is accomplished by putting the retargeting cookie code on the shopping cart pages only. Anyone who has seen the cart pages, must have added an item to the cart at some point, right? As they surf the web, you can serve them with an ad that acts a gentle reminder to revisit your store. You don’t want to acknowledge you know they left the shopping cart, because, well, that’s just creepy.
You can, however, reinforce your current special offers like “free shipping” or promote your holiday gift products in hopes they will return to complete the purchase.
2- Loyalty: Another popular approach is the “loyalty” tactic. This reaches customers who have completed a transaction on your site (code added to the confirmation page code). You can use this to cross-sell or up-sell to recent buyers. None of the data collected is personally identifiable, so you’ll need to understand your customer behavior and their repeat purchase patterns to design the most effective “loyalty” campaign.
3- Reach: Each network serves ads on different networks, so you can market on multiple networks to reach your prospects wherever they are. Fetchback, serves display ads only across their partner ad network. Google and Yahoo also have retargeting programs. Google’s program targets prospects on the Google content network, while Yahoo’s targets on Yahoo properties. By combining the display retargeting network with Google retargeting and Yahoo’s retargeting product, you will have have a great deal of saturation and reach!
These three tips are a strong complement to your current PPC search engine text ads and provide a power-packed holiday strategy you can start today.
Yahoo Retargeting (display banners)
Google Remarketing (text + display banners)
Fetchback Retargeting (display banners)
Below is the transcript and slides from my presentation at SMX East. The other panelists were Daina Middleton, CEO, Performics and Hamid Saify, Search Marketing Director, Deutsch LA. Their presentations dug deeper into the topic as well as shared some great case studies further illustrating how search can be integrated into the marketing mix.
It’s Not Multichannel Marketing If You Don’t Include Search
Have you noticed search is often not integrated into marketing plans and sometimes completely overlooked? We are missing opportunities that can be leveraged from search.
I outlined 5 best practices to integrating search into the marketing mix.
And 4 killer tactics you can take back to work and implement right away.
Many of the examples are for retail business, but these best practices and tactics can be used for services or B to B as well.
Best Practice #1: Goals
Search should be included in the overall strategic goals at the highest levels of the marketing plan.
Search can actually help to define the overall marketing initiatives because its one of the few channels that can reach people at all stages of the buying funnel.
While search strategy supports the overall marketing plan, you may also need unique channel level goals, for example, capturing email signups for a brand plan.
Best Practice #2: Listen
Listen to what people want- this is what they search for- apply this to overall marketing plan and other media initiatives.
The keywords they use to describe your product and the sites they visit on content will help you to build a stronger profile of your audience.
Say you sell an eco-friendly product. Do people search for “Eco” or “green”? Knowing this will help to better target your marketing.
You can find this data by:
- Use query and placement reports to see what people are actually searching for to reach your site.
- Use impressions and search traffic tools to gauge query volume.
- Assisted keyword and assisted impression reports show keywords that contributed to a conversion, but were not directly responsible for the sale.
Best Practice #3: Creative
Creative should be consistent across channels, but it should also be appropriate for individual channel and the buying funnel stage.
Review your creative for consistency:
- Should use same messaging
- Reflect the current promotion
I searched for old navy, the ad copy is exactly the same for every single keyword search!
Their ad promotes the $7 flat rate shipping, even though they’re having a huge 40% off end of the season sale and a seasonal promo.
Best Practice #4: Budget
Once you incorporate search in the top levels of the marketing plan, you need to allocate an appropriate budget. Obviously you want to get as much traffic as you can, but sometimes budgets are not large enough to support this. You’ll need to focus on the most profitable traffic available.
To ensure proper budget allocation:
- Capture most profitable traffic
- Plan for seasonality- there may be more traffic during certain months
- Don’t allocate the same budget for every month
- Capitalize on trends in current events
- After a testing period, reallocate between media according to results
Best Practice #5: Engagement
See search as part of the user engagement with brand. The Old Spice Man is a popular campaign, so people may go to the web and search for it. I searched for “old spice man”. The ad agency and the PPC agency must have collaborated because I am served an ad that recognizes I was searching for their ad campaign and offers to show me a video. When I click through, I get what I was expecting– a few videos to watch from the ad campaign. What a great example of integrating search with TV!
1- Retargeting reaches people who have visited your site or somehow previously interacted with your brand, so the user is presented your ad on other sites across the web.
If you can layer your traditional display retargting network and Google retargeting AND Yahoo’s retargeting product, will have have a great deal of saturation and reach!
2- Besides driving fans or followers through “like” buttons on sites, blogs, and emails, you can also drive fans through PPC. Since search has different targeting you can reach a new group of “fans” who may not see your Facebook page.
In the content network, you can target other social networks to reach people who use social media and fit your target audience.
Be sure to include a CTA- how can you incent them to fan you from PPC? Ask for a “like” or a follow. You may want to give them a reason to “like” you. For example, Kohls default Facebook page is about their charity work. This is a great example.
3- Promotions and offers should mirror your other media. Try doing an escalating escalating discount. Use the buying funnel to target messaging that sweetens the deal- larger discount either at the beginning to get them in, or to urge them to convert when they are the closest they can be to purchase. Test approaches by searcher intent.
4- Ad scheduling can be a great tool to integrate search with TV. According to Nielsen Q1 data, 58% of people use the internet and watch TV simultaneously
Many of them are searching. You can schedule ads to run during your own TV spots, or during programs with key content. For example Lowe’s to run ads during a home improvement show
And I would really like to see the Container Store advertise during the “Hoarders” program!
Conclusion: final thought
Search can be integrated into any campaign!
It takes planning and creativity.
The MIMA Summit 2010 was a great success with intensive workshops on Monday 9-27 and breakout sessions the next day. Here is more info and the presentation from the workshop I led on PPC optimization. Check it!
Improve your paid search programs performance to increase the bottom-line!
Pay-per-click (PPC) has become integral to a successful online marketing strategy, but you can’t “set it and forget it.” Lisa will share tips to optimize paid search ads on Google, Facebook, and Bing/Yahoo, and show you how to take advantage of the options to maximize your campaign’s impact.
What Does It Mean?
- Taking it to the next level with these optimizations
- Manage PPC daily
- Small optimizations can make a big difference- test!
- Experiment with new features
- Analyze results across systems (PPC, analytics, sales data) and take action
The words “Back to school” for me used to conjure up images of pencil cases and new school clothes. Now it makes me think of Google and keyword searches. The Google Retail Advertising Blog recently posted that “back to school” searches are up 15% over last year. GO economy!
Its time to start planning your PPC strategies for the back to school crowd. Their searches are expected to peak in August- September.
Let’s say you sell luggage. How can you leverage this school season? You may want to try Google’s Wonder Wheel to help explore your product topics. It shows the original query in the center connected to a bunch of related queries.
It looks like there are a few good ones there that can be expanded on by clicking: back to school messenger bags, back to school pack.
This tool can help you discover keyword concepts/themes, but you’ll need to dive into the keyword tools to generate the specific keyword list.
As a Google advertiser, your ads are being placed on Google’s search results pages AND their search partners.
These search partners include:
* Netscape Netcenter
* AT&T Worldnet
Until recently, no data on the performance of these ad placements was offered was Google. But last October Google released a feature in Adwords offering more transparency into the results advertisers see from paid search served through Google search partners. Now, Google shows one set of statistics for Google and another set aggregating search partner performance. Yay? How do the results for these stack up?
After accumulating a good amount of data, I found some interesting results.
- In campaigns with more generic themed keywords (related to the product) I found Google’s clicks around 80% of the clicks. This seemed consistent, even when geo-targeted, which surprised me. I would have expected the search partners percentage to be much lower when geo-targeted. For the 20% of search partners clicks sending traffic to the site, the CPC was 40% higher. Again, this was consistent even with geo-targeted campaigns.
- For individual product campaigns, the specific product keywords typically will have much lower search volume. In this case, I found different results. Google had 60% of the clicks leaving the search partners with 40% of the clicks driving traffic. The CPC was very similar between the two.
In the first example of the more generic themed words, the search partner campaigns are less effective. However in the second example, we can see in terms of both clicks and CPC, Google and the search partners are on a more equal playing field.
Within your own data, also consider the conversion rates. Unfortunately I can’t include this…
Knowing the basic behavior of how these placements can perform for you can be critical in optimizing your campaigns. Feel free to share your findings!
I recently wrote a post about the great Google content network and the new super campaigns available for advertisers in Adwords. The new features, flexibility, and transparency are expected to make the content network much more efficient for advertisers.
Unfortunately, today I captured a screen shot of Google double serving image ads on the content network. Double serving is “Displaying more than one ad for the same company or person at a time”. Google has a policy against double serving Adwords ads.
How does this happen? I am told it can occur because of contextual targeting and site-targeting in one account. I’m surprised Google’s technology isn’t smart enough to recognize this and prevent it.
But on the other hand, if you wanted to do this yourself, it would be pretty simple to get double exposure? You would just have to set-up two different campaigns. One that is site-targeted, and one with keywords using the new placement feature to target the same sites. Right?
Well, enjoy the technical error folks.