Search Marketing 101: Manage Seasonal Fluctuations Like a Pro

Search Marketing 101: Manage Seasonal Fluctuations Like a Pro

For most brands, business volume tends to fluctuate seasonally. And this fluctuation can be more pronounced for some brands. Clothing retailers may experience demand spikes during the back-to-school season and the holidays. Jewelry retailers often experience increased sales around holidays, including Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day. These fluctuations create challenges as well as unique opportunities.

Below I’ve captured some insights to help you plan for and maximize your paid search campaigns to capture seasonal business opportunities.

Use Historical Data to Identify Seasonal Trends

Brands that focus on services like landscaping, winter sports equipment, or accounting, are typically clear on how seasonality impacts demand. But for other companies, it’s not always apparent. Regardless, it’s a good idea to check your analytics and historical sales data from past years to uncover trends for specific weeks and months of the year when sales are unusually high or low. You can use that info to be proactive with your paid search optimization, so you can ensure you don’t miss out on key opportunities.

Make a Plan to Capitalize on Seasonal Upswings

Knowing when return on investment will be at its greatest gives you an opportunity to grow sales. Early planning is key, especially if you are dealing with budget limitations. Prior planning also gives you time to create impactful new campaigns and ads that fit the season ahead of time.

To start, you need a clear strategy that focuses on capturing consumer interest throughout each stage of the customer decision journey. Make sure you have content available on your website to capture interest and educate the consumer for each stage of the journey. Throughout the initiation, research, and comparison phases, consumers are likely to be conducting category searches as well as tangential searches. On the other hand, during the comparison and transaction phases, they are likely doing brand searches. Having relevant ads and content in place will improve your success rate.

From a campaign perspective, make sure that you are using long-tail keywords and directing consumers to relevant content. Here are a few more tips to help you optimize your campaigns:

  • Bid more aggressively to improve ad rank
  • Increase campaign budgets to allow for more reach and clicks
  • Refresh and update ad copy to stay relevant and stand out
  • Run and advertise discounts or sales

Make a Plan to Combat Seasonal Downturns

Capitalizing while return is high is the easier part of the plan. The real struggle arrives when you’re trying to make ends meet during the down season. Again, knowing when that downturn will start is crucial. Anticipating drops can help you make optimizations to your paid search account before you begin to lose money.

For most seasonal businesses, advertising during the down season can feel like a waste, but that doesn’t have to be the case. Positive ROI is still achievable using these tips:

  • Narrow keyword targeting
  • Lower bids for lower converting keywords
  • Reduce overall ad spend
  • Focus on campaigns with the highest conversion rate
  • Change the messaging in your ads
  • Adjust geo-targeting to spend in better-performing areas

It’s also a good idea to consider your landing pages — change the content and look of the pages to fit the season.

Take Advantage of Search Network Features

Search networks like Bing Ads have a variety of features that are ideal for businesses with seasonal shifts. Here are a few features that you can take advantage of:

  • Automated budget rules: Set up rules for campaigns to raise and lower budgets as demand and search volume change.
  • Automated bid rules: Set up rules to increase bids as click-through rates and average position change.
  • Ad schedule: Change ad schedules to match changing store hours or to help grow reach during busy periods.
  • Bid modifiers: Adjust device, location, and schedule modifiers to fit the shift in conversion rates.
  • Ad extensions: Update all ad extensions to fit the messaging and goals for new seasons.

By planning ahead and using available search network tools, seasonal businesses can increase revenue during the busy times as well as keep paid search profitable during the slower months. For even more insights, take some time to review The growth marketer’s guide to search.

Search Marketing 101: Target the Right Audience for Your Online Ads

Search Marketing 101: Target the Right Audience for Your Online Ads

Would you try to sell boys’ baseball shoes to a woman with no kids or women’s shorts to a retired fellow? Probably not. But if you’re not careful about audience targeting, you could be doing just that.

With unlimited ad budget comes the freedom to broaden targeting. Since you probably have strict budget limitations, it is important that you focus your advertising efforts on your key audience. Here are some tips to help you narrow the target audience of your campaigns for maximum impact.

1. Start with Your Audience Persona

Great audience targeting starts with rich audience personas. This semi-fictional representation of your ideal customer lays the foundation for how brands develop, sell, and market products and services. Personas are foundational to ensuring a successful paid search campaign and providing your audience with personalized, relevant experiences.

The key elements of an audience persona include behavior, demographic, and context. Analyzing past behavior across websites and search can help you assess consumer interests and how likely they are to make a purchase. Knowing the age, gender, and locale of your audience helps narrow your targeting further. Finally, knowing the context of where, when, and how consumers are searching can help you find your audience. Search networks enable you to target by all three factors.

2. Align Keywords to the Customer Decision Journey (CDJ)

Your next job is to understand the importance that each stage of the CDJ is to your target customers and how they are searching. By doing this, you can select the right long-tail keywords.

Paid search marketing is driven by keyword targeting. You select keywords you think will align well with your target customers’ searches. The keywords you select should be as specific as possible. This means using long-tail keywords (keywords containing two or more words) and specific match types. Long-tail keywords helps narrow targeting and reduce the risk of clicks from unqualified users.

For example, consumers who are comparing boys’ baseball shoes may be using keywords such as “reviews of boys Adidas cleats” while consumers who are ready to purchase may be using keywords like “coupon boys Adidas baseball cleats” or “deals for boys Adidas baseball cleats.” Using these long-tail keywords will increase the impact of your ads.

3. Apply Location Targeting

By targeting specific locations, your ads are more relevant to the consumers who will see them. Additionally, narrowed targeting greatly reduces competition for ad ranking and the cost of that ad rank. You have several options for targeting your ads in the campaign settings.

Location targeting is set up at the campaign level. There are targeting strategies to choose from depending on your business and goals. Options may include targeting by zip code or city or by a specific radius around your business address. You can even exclude certain locations.

Incremental bid adjustments allow you to take location targeting a step further by increasing or decreasing your max bids based on where the searcher is located in relation to your address. For example, you may want to increase bids when potential customers are within a one-mile radius of your storefront. These people are likely worth more on average to your business, which means paying more for top ranking is worth the investment. Alternatively, you may want to adjust bids based on location performance.

4. Take Advantage of Additional Targeting Tactics

Take advantage of location extensions and other tactics for engaging your target audience. Use device targeting to connect with consumers based on how they are searching (PC, phone, or tablet). Got a big promotion coming up? Use day and time targeting to serve up ads at just the right moment. Looking to woo users back to your website? Try remarketing.

Don’t forget about extensions. Use location extensions to ensure consumers find your store and not your competitor’s. This is especially important for mobile searchers who are ready to buy. You can also use call extensions to make it easy for consumers to click-and-call your location. Take advantage of flyer extensions to make your coupons easily accessible.

Once you have your persona set up, there are plenty of ways to maximize your budget and impact of your search campaign through targeting. To learn more, review the Bing Ads ebook, The Growth Marketer’s Guide to Search.

Search Marketing 101: How to Track and Measure Your PPC ROI

Search Marketing 101: How to Track and Measure Your PPC ROI

Measuring your success and return on investment (ROI) should be a key part of your search marketing strategy. Measurement helps you to understand if you are meeting your goals, forms a benchmark for future budgeting and justifies your marketing spend. Furthermore, effective measurement helps you to optimize the elements of your campaigns on the fly.

Use these insights and tips for tracking and optimizing your search marketing investments.

From Impressions to Conversions: A Primer

Before diving in, it’s worth taking the time to review the various opportunities for tracking search marketing success. Paid search networks offer plentiful opportunities to measure the success of your campaigns. The most basic measurements include:

  • Impressions: The number of times your ad appears during a campaign.
  • Click-throughs: The number of times your ad is clicked on.
  • Click-through-rate (CTR): The number of click-throughs divided by the number of impressions.
  • Cost-per-click (CPC): The cost of each ad click-through.

These metrics are great at giving you a partial picture of success. But for a more comprehensive view, you also need to understand how to track conversions.

Conversion tracking helps you measure campaign ROI by counting the type and number of specified activities consumers complete on your website. How conversion rates are defined can vary between campaigns.

For example, for an online retailer with the goal of increasing sales, their conversion rate may simply be the number of clicks that led to a sale. For a B2B that is trying to generate leads, the conversion rate may be the number of people who downloaded a white paper or subscribed to a newsletter.

In general, tracking the following metrics can help you assess conversion rates:

  • Destination URL: The number of visits to a specific web page.
  • Events: The completion of a specified action such as subscribing to a blog.
  • Duration: The amount of time user spends engaging on a web page.
  • Pages viewed per visit: The number of web pages a consumer visits.

It’s important to note that once you have an idea of how you want to track conversions, you will need to use your search network tools to define and track those conversions.

Dealing with a Longer Conversion Cycle

One of the strengths of paid search is the ability to connect a click to a sale, and for e-commerce businesses selling products to consumers, tracking is often one-to-one. However, for B2B businesses, the conversion cycle can be much longer. The path a customer takes from initial research, to comparison shopping, to becoming a lead, and ultimately, to converting can be a long one.

Dealing with a longer conversion cycle can still be done. Target customers with appropriate messaging based on their current stage in the cycle. Understand that an early-stage click that doesn’t result in a lead may still have value. Setting expectations and having a long-term strategy can help you overcome this hurdle.

One-to-one conversion tracking is difficult for B2Bs when customers are interacting with your business through many channels and on different devices. To deal with this challenge, make sure that you have systems in place through your customer relationship management (CRM) system and call-tracking software to help tie everything together and give you the clearest view of how paid search is performing. When you know which campaigns are doing best (or worst), you can optimize and invest accordingly.

Determining Your Key Performance Indicators 

To track success, you must set relevant key performance indicators (KPIs) as part of your campaign planning process. KPIs align to your specific business goals and will help you select the right ways to measure success and to quickly see what’s working and what’s not in your campaigns.

For example, if your goal is to build your customer base, your KPIs may define the percentage of new customers and conversion rates. If you want to increase call volume, you can set KPIs that measure increases in the number of calls and call conversions.

Dealing with Attribution

Even with advanced analytics and lead tracking in place, many businesses deal with the challenge of attributing everything correctly. An attribution model is a way to give credit for leads to different touchpoints in the conversion path. Choosing the right one for your business is important.

The most common attribution model is last click, but that doesn’t make it the best for your business. The last click model assigns credit to whichever channel drove the user to convert (for instance, if a customer clicks an ad and then converts on the site). But what if a user clicks an ad, leaves the site, and comes back a week later via an organic search?

Put a model in place to help you determine what channels are driving your leads. For B2B businesses with long sales cycles, multi-touch models like time decay make the most sense because they account for many interactions with different channels over time.

Strategies for Targeting the Entire Conversion Funnel

Paid search can play a role throughout the conversion cycle. It’s easy to focus efforts on the bottom of the funnel because that’s where most sales and leads come from. Such ads are valuable, but you can attract so many more potential customers by also targeting people in higher stages of the funnel. This is especially important for B2B businesses.

Target customers at each stage of the conversion funnel with different types of ads.

  • High: Customers high in the funnel are far from converting. They are often unfamiliar with your brand and what you offer. To target these customers, use non-branded search and display.
  • Mid: Customers in the middle of the funnel are aware of your brand but are still researching all the options. These customers may respond best to more specific non-branded search keywords and some branded search.
  • Low: Customers low in the funnel are interested in your brand and are ready to convert. Target them with remarketing and branded search.

To learn more about building your KPIs, measuring ROI, and more, download The growth marketer’s guide to search.

Search Marketing 101: 4 Questions to Answer for a Successful Digital Marketing Campaign

Search Marketing 101: 4 Questions to Answer for a Successful Digital Marketing Campaign

Search marketing pays off in multiple ways, from boosting sales and market share to enhancing the impact of your other marketing investments. Which is why setting aside ample budget to achieve your goals is critical to your success. Establishing your budget is dependent upon many factors, such as your vertical, keyword competition, the time of year and overall goals. It’s also dependent upon your other marketing investments and where search marketing fits into the mix.

So where do you start? Here are four questions to ask yourself when setting your budget.

1. What is your marketing goal?

Always start with your business goal in mind. Are you launching a new product or trying to boost sales of an existing product? Are you trying to build brand awareness? Whatever the goal, make sure you have a crystal-clear idea of what you’re trying to accomplish, since everything you do needs to propel this goal forward.

For example, if you’re trying to drive traffic to your website, you’ll need to know how many clicks you’re getting each month and how many more you’ll need to meet your goal. In this case, you can reverse-engineer a starting budget. Simply multiply the desired monthly clicks by the cost per click (CPC) to determine your monthly budget. For instance, if you want 1,000 clicks per month and the CPC is $1.50, then your monthly budget is $1,500.

On the other hand, if you have a monthly sales target but you don’t know how many clicks you need, you’ll need to base your budget on estimates for average cost per sale and conversion rates. Be as flexible as you can. If your campaigns are returning at a highly profitable rate, increasing budget will quickly result in greater return.

2. How does paid search fit into your overall marketing strategy?

Paid search is an important part of the modern marketing mix. But what percentage of your overall marketing budget should you devote to it? The best starting point is to understand the marketing attribution — which marketing channels are driving results.

Attribution is not always a straightforward process, as oftentimes multiple marketing channels play a role in closing a sale. In a study with Pepperjam, Bing Ads served as the first touchpoint. In 28% of the sales, Bing closed the sale. But in 22% of the sales, the closer was an affiliate channel and 17% of the time the sale was closed through organic search. While 72% of the time other channels closed the sale, search still played a role as the introducer.

It’s also important to note that the role of paid search also enhances the effectiveness of other channels by bridging gaps in the customer decision journey. For example, Marin Software found that customers who clicked both search and social ads were not only more likely to buy, they were more likely to spend more. Likewise, this Big Game study found that search volume spikes for up to 72 hours from when a TV commercial is aired.

3. What are your constraints?

Budget restriction is the number-one obstacle for small businesses trying to market themselves online. Pay-per-click (PPC) is a way to “buy visits,” and when done properly, it can be cost effective. Since advertisers only pay when users click on your ads, paid search ad setup is free.

That said, advertisers still need to set aside budget for ad spend. Understanding what the average cost-per-click (CPC) is for a given vertical helps you define a monthly ad budget. Step one when beginning a new PPC campaign is understand what budgetary constraints your business has for the channel. Try using this keyword planner to get a better understanding of what your CPC will be. Then identify the number of website visits you hope to get through PPC. This simple formula will help you set a monthly budget: (estimated CPC) x (website sessions) = Cost.

4. What is the time of year?

Take time to review the history of ad performance and previous budgets to get a better idea of how much you should allocate. This is especially important if you’re advertising during a peak retail season, such as the holidays, when you’ll be competing more heavily with other brands.

While there’s no magic formula for building your budget, asking these questions can get you off to a good start. For more information, be sure to check out the full ebook, The growth marketer’s guide to search.

Search Marketing 101: Plan a Winning Strategy

Search Marketing 101: Plan a Winning Strategy

Is your paid search strategy all about click-through rates? If so, you could be missing the boat.

While your search campaign also depends upon your goals, business model, and budget, understanding the customer decision journey (CDJ) will help you maximize the impact of your campaign. Meeting your customers’ needs during each of the five CDJ phases — initiation, research, comparison, transaction, and experience — can help you ensure a more successful campaign.

Below are some tips to help you plan and structure your campaign.

Understand the Customer Decision Journey

All customers go through the five stages of the CDJ, although these stages can vary in length and level of importance, based on factors such as product cost, purchase frequency, complexity and shopper demographic. For example, a consumer will typically spend less time researching a clock radio than they will a dishwasher.

What this means is that you need to ensure you have the right information readily available for the consumer at their time of need. Shoppers in the research phase will want buying guides and recommendations whereas shoppers in the comparison phase will be looking at reviews and ratings and cross-product comparisons. Shoppers in the transaction phase will be scouting promotions or purchase locations. Ensuring your customers find the information they need at the time they need it will help you optimize the success of your campaign.

Snap to Your Business Goals

Your campaign must directly support your business goals, whether you want to increase brand awareness, boost product sales or expand your customer base.

Building brand awareness is key to growing your business. In a recent study, researchers from Bing found that 72% of brand ad clicks were preceded by a non-brand or conquest term in the user’s search journey. Which means that if brand awareness is your goal, you’ll want to ensure you are bidding on non-brand, brand and competitor’s keywords.

On the other hand, if you’re looking for new customers, you’ll be interested to know that 49% of consumers find products they want using a search engine vs heading straight over to a brand website or store location. Understanding your target audience and how they are searching can help drive additional customers to your brand.

Consider Your Budget

Budget limitations also play a role in planning a campaign. For small businesses with strict budgets, your best bet is to identify and focus on your most successful products or services for maximum impact. Your campaign structure should reflect this.

For example, if you have a clothing boutique, you may already be aware that dresses and sweaters have the largest margins and are therefore the priority. You’ll want to build campaigns for those products and keywords first. Only widen your campaign to a larger catalog of products once you reach a point of diminishing return for your best-performing products. This will yield better sales than spreading your budget too thin by targeting everything you sell.

Structure Your Campaign

How you structure your campaign depends upon your budget and goals as well as your business type. Local businesses, such as accounting firms, may need to organize by geography. Ecommerce businesses may need to organize by product type and B2B businesses may need to organize by type of user.

One tactic for structuring your campaign is to look to your website’s navigation. A well-planned website typically arranges available products in a way that creates a simple and logical user experience. The same organization technique applies when building pay-per-click (PPC) campaigns.

Going back to the online clothing boutique, using one large campaign for all products would be the least effective structure. A better structure would be one campaign focusing on one type of product — dresses, jeans, skirts, or sweaters.

The right campaign structure will make it easy for you to optimize how your ads run based on searches for specific products or services and align ad copy and landing pages with keywords. The more you break campaigns out by theme, the better you can target and optimize.

Outline Campaigns and Ad Groups 

Before jumping into your account to build a new campaign, take time to create an outline. This simple step will save you time later and will keep the structure clean.

Using a logical naming convention for campaigns will help you keep track of what’s in each campaign. Don’t name your campaigns Campaign 1, Campaign 2 and so on. Use a short but descriptive name for each one. If you can’t keep it short, that’s a good indication the campaign is too general.

While planning your campaign doesn’t have to be rocket science, it does require thoughtful preparation based on insights and research. For more information on building out your search strategy, take time to view the free Bing Ads ebook, The growth marketer’s guide to search.

This is the second installment of this series, to view the first click here