For most ecommerce vendors, search marketing is an important channel to maximize sales volumes during the holidays. In 2013, Internet Retailer documented 10.3% growth in US online sales volumes over the prior year, and this year’s gains are predicted to be just as strong. As a Shopify Partner, what can you do to help Shopify stores prepare and execute PPC strategies for the holidays?
There are roughly one million posts about creating and preparing campaigns for the season, so we are going to attempt to cut through the clutter. If you are new to paid search but facing the holiday rush, HubSpot has a great post to get you started, and if you are a PPC expert, you’ll want to check out the cutting edge changes to Google Adwords for the 2014 holiday season.
While there is clearly a LOT to learn on the subject of PPC optimization for the holiday as freelancers, consultants, and agencies, in this post we are going to focus on core concepts that will prepare us to help any of our Shopify clients.
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Getting Your Clients Into the Holiday Spirit
First, you’ll need to understand the two holiday ecommerce store marketing personalities.
1) The Scrooge
The Scrooge ecommerce marketer has become more prevalent in recent years, and it is no surprise. The driving force of this attitude stems from average Cost Per Click (CPC) prices having risen as much as 26% from 2012 to Q1 2014 in some verticals. What’s worse, in Q4, we see CPC micro-inflation as so many retailers compete to get their offers in front of holiday shoppers. The Scrooge marketer does not want to enter the Holiday CPC battle, and believes s/he will only see razor-thin profits from increased holiday marketing.
The best way to show Ebenezer Scrooge a happy holiday is to have three ghosts visit him, but if you can’t conjure any apparitions, then here is the second best strategy. With this personality, you need to quickly scope the client’s maximum budget for the season and put a plan in place to maximize returns against this budget. This plan will require that you actually trim down the keyword counts, organize them into more tightly themed adgroups and bid on them aggressively. The first step is to look at their PPC campaign history for top converting terms and compare that to the client’s list of top selling products.
Armed with this information, you will want to create one or more new campaigns, peeling out the top performers and placing them in adgroups limited to 1-10 keywords paired with highly relevant ad copy.
This new campaign comprised of the top converting KWs and top selling products should have the majority of that daily budget. It should have slightly wider day parting (holiday shoppers are erratic) than the rest of the year, unless you have previous years' time-of-day conversion data to compare. Lastly, this refined campaign should have bid prices set aggressively to achieve position 1.5-2.8. The combination of focus on the top performing content and the extreme conversion rates of the holiday season should provide excellent ROI even with aggressive bidding! With any luck you can work within budget limitations and deliver outstanding results that will turn this Scrooge into a Tiny Tim next holiday season.
2) The Tiny Tim
The Tiny Tim ecommerce marketer is everyone’s favorite client. They are optimistic about holiday sales and ready to be more aggressive with their marketing efforts (within reason). To help these clients get the most out of the season, you will need a weekly schedule that maps specific holiday milestones in detail. Make sure that you have Google Analytics set up with ecommerce goal tracking and / or pass the sale value into your Adwords conversion tracking.
Each week, as you review your goals and budget, assess the ROI for the proceeding week. In many cases, the biggest issue smaller retailers have is not being aggressive enough with their budget during the holidays. Present the weekly ROI and push the client to spend more to maximize returns as your analysis dictates. Focus on the best practices (covered below) and make sure that budgets are being allocated to the best performing content, even if it means breaking content into new campaigns just for the holiday season!
No Gifts 'til Christmas Morning! The Importance of Deadlines
Just like waiting until Christmas morning, creating and adhering to deadlines is one of the keys to writing strong holiday ad copy and delivering outstanding holiday ROI. Everyone searching gift giving terms ("gifts for runners") product category terms ("running tights"), and product names ("Nike epic luxe tights") is a prospective customer (for your running supply store) with a very short funnel. In fact, it pays to throw out the normal consumer buying funnel of research, consideration, price compare, purchase – think about a different funnel or timeline for the holidays. If you consider everyone a high potential near-term buyer, then you can think of your customers by the timeline of early-bird shoppers, Black Friday/Cyber Monday deal hunters, and procrastinators.
To get the most out of your holiday efforts, write ad copy for each period with a promotion specifically targeting those shoppers with a hard end date. Deadlines for 2014 might be Nov 1st -23rd for early birds, Nov. 28th-Dec. 2nd for your big sale buyers, and Dec. 3rd to 15th for your procrastinators.
For each group, include ads that will appeal to them. For the early birds, acknowledge their preparedness with savings that last only until the 23rd. Use language like, “Beat the Black Friday rush and save xx%.” For your core shoppers during Black Friday & Cyber Monday, you need to be price competitive and state this in your ads by including actual prices (make sure you price-check your competitors), or making grand statements like, “Our best deals of the year.” For the procrastinators, the savings do not need to be as major but shipping deals should be highlighted. Wording like, “Free express shipping” or “Free 2-day shipping” are far more compelling than just free shipping during this period.
The Biggest Gift Under the Tree (Sitelinks)
Many of us remember running down those stairs on Christmas morning and quickly surveying the present landscape. Were there any that were abnormally large or oddly shaped? Could that giant present be for me?
Over the course of 2013 and 2014, Google has been strongly promoting the use of sitelinks to their major advertisers. Sitelinks are deeper links to specific product pages in your site that may hold interest for the user. Below, you see the search query for Nike running gifts and the ad shows additional gifts that may help guide the user.
The most interesting thing is that ads with sitelinks have been shown to outperform ads without them, even if the other ads have other ad extensions. This has quickly proved that it was not the extension itself but the size of the overall ad unit that has the greatest impact on click-through rates. Sitelink ads are only shown in the top 2-3 ad placements, so you need to be bidding aggressively to repeat their benefits. The best part is that if you want to use other extensions like location or call extensions, they can be used with sitelink extensions for maximum impact.
The Most Important Thing This Holiday Season is Small Enough to Fit in Your Stocking! (Mobile)
They say good things come in small packages. In 2014, this may or may not be true for you as an ecommerce marketer. In March of this year, Google’s Matt Cutts predicted that mobile search would overtake desktop search for the first time in late 2014. While Nielsen ratings and Google numbers have not yet been released to validate this, it is believed to have happened in October of this year. Are you ready to sell via mobile this holiday season?
There are many responsive design templates on Shopify that will enable stores to render on any screen size, but not all templates or custom designs will do so flawlessly.
The first thing you need to do is work with your client to determine two things:
- Do I feel that my store looks presentable and navigable on all devices?
- Are my products something that will sell on mobile devices?
If the answer is no to either or both of those questions, then you need a mobile strategy that embraces those facts. You can change your mobile bids modifiers at the campaign level, and should do so to keep spend focused on better performing device types (desktop and tablet).
If the answer is yes, or even maybe, I would plan to run some amount of mobile traffic during the holiday period. The industry is going through a major device type shift. Only five years ago, the thought of selling high-ticket items on the small screen was unthinkable, but in 2014 this is becoming commonplace. Hopefully you have some search marketing history to refer to as a benchmark. You can view your conversions by device in the settings of any of your campaigns.
In the above example, the mobile cost per conversion is about 10% higher than on desktop and tablet. Additionally, the ad position is higher on average at 1.3. In this example, I would change my mobile bid modifier by -10% to bring the CPAs in line while hopefully still keeping acceptable ad position.
If you do not have by device conversion history, start monitoring it weekly as the holidays unfold, making adjustments based on your data. Remember that when adjusting mobile bids there are typically only four ads shown and a high CTR preference is for the top two ads. Adjust as needed, but try to stay in position four or higher to continue receiving mobile traffic.
With small devices making up a potential 50% of the search share, it is imperative that we have a plan for these stocking-sized searches.
There is no time to waste! Most of us are already juggling too many balls during the holiday season, but search marketing is too important to let drop. If you need to get your PPC campaigns running right in a hurry, you can get a full 50+ point analysis of your campaigns at PPCPath.com for free. This software will review all the campaigns in your account and help you identify and execute the most meaningful improvements to your campaigns within minutes.
The holiday season is already upon us. If you understand your client’s needs and personality, and can make meaningful improvements during the most important time of the year, you may just help to deliver a Christmas miracle!
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