Being agile is one of the most important qualities for a PPC marketer to have.
Clients change their minds, Google changes the rules or the features or the reporting, technology changes how people interact with your business, or trends change your performance. So if you’re going to be successful at PPC management, you have to learn how to optimize for changes quickly. There are many changes you might not see coming or have much time to prepare for, but seasonal trends in the paid search industry, particularly YOUR industry, are cyclical. Predictable. It literally pays to be prepared if you are running Google or Microsoft ad campaigns, so optimizing for seasonality is a must.
You don’t want to have no idea how to deal with a major decrease or increase in volume (the two types of seasonal trends), so we’re going to discuss five things you can do to adjust. We won’t say it’s easy, per se, but we do know from personal experience that it’s possible if you take certain actions!
Before you can prepare for a seasonal dip/influx, though, you have to be able to recognize and anticipate seasonality.
Not all industries experience obvious seasonal changes. Health insurance companies and retailers are probably most impacted by seasonality (during open enrollment and holidays). If you sell any kind of consumer product or service, holidays are definitely a factor, which makes sense. But if you sell a service, like medical – if you are a dentist in Florida, for example – you might not be able to identify when you’re experiencing seasonality. And even if you think you know when your seasonality occurs, we’re a firm believer in always letting the data drive the decision making; don’t assume. Look at the data.
View your past performance data (in Google Ads and Google Analytics). Analyze year-over-year or month-over-month comparison reports, and look at impression fluctuations, auction insights, etc. Pinpoint what months have the highest conversion rate. Spot how pageviews of important pages have changed. Look closely at organic traffic. Find slumps or influxes and see if there are any common denominators, even if they may look slightly different. In order to know what to do, you have to know what you’re dealing with.
When you’ve identified a seasonal trend in your accounts, here are the five steps you should take first:
1: Plan ahead
As we’re writing this article, it’s October, and many stores already have their Christmas items up, which means they had to order them in advance because they are anticipating/preparing for demand. You should be doing this, too. It’s often too late to adjust for seasonality when the season begins. Think a season ahead; attract attention to your business offerings before the need is there, to create demand and give your customers a chance to convert. (If you only start running ads for Halloween costumes three days before Halloween, you’re probably not going to get optimal results because most people have a Halloween costume already, for example.)
Do competitor research – what are other people in your industry doing, and when? What kind of ads are they running, how are they changing their ad copy, what do their landing pages look like? It’s crucial in PPC, even outside of the seasonality conversation, to always stay on top of your competitors. But if your competitors are lowering their prices or really changing anything during a certain season, you should consider why they are doing that, and perhaps follow suit. You don’t necessarily need to copy them; what they’re doing is the minimum benchmark of what you should be doing, though.
Also, review and expand your keyword lists. Especially if it is going to be a slow/low volume season, you may be missing out on ranking for critical seasonal keywords if you don’t look at the Keyword Planner, your search term report, or Google Trends.
2: Segment properly
If you’re entering into a season where there will be more volume than you have dollars to spend, segmentation is going to make the difference between surviving and thriving. Segment by device, by match type, by location (if applicable), by audience list. Allocate your money evenly across the board and you will 100% forefeit revenue; allocate more money to your highest performing sources/campaigns, and you will get a much higher ROI. You cannot possibly capture all of the traffic. But this is fine, as long as you capture the right traffic at the right time. Segmenting helps you decide your priorities.
If you’re entering into a low season, segmenting is going to make the difference between surviving and dying. You’re dealing with less money coming in, so you need to decrease budget somewhere, and you can’t see where that is if you don’t segment.
3: Check your site speed & overall performance
We’ve talked about the importance of site speed in a previous blog post. Half of all website visits are abandoned if the page takes longer than 3 seconds to load. If you are entering a season where more people are going to be visiting your site, you need to make sure the higher volume of traffic isn’t slowing everything down. The goal is to capitalize on more traffic, not hinder it! Optimize your images, enable a caching plugin, and contact your host to make sure your website is loading quickly.
This is PPC 101, but take a look at the rest of your website, too, and ensure that all of your landing pages are optimized, that everything is mobile-responsive, that you’re not missing any seasonal design opportunities. If it’s a high season, your website needs to be clean, attractive, functional, and ready to impress new visitors.
4: Use other sources of traffic
We’d make a passionate argument that PPC is your best, most successful bet, but we’ve never encouraged our customers to put all of their eggs in one basket. During a seasonal slump, it’s necessary to rely on something besides just paid search to help make up for the drop in performance.
Lean heavily on social media. You’d be surprised at how Facebook Ads can supplement your PPC efforts, especially for events or popular products. Run ads on the display network and on the shopping network. Because the search demand is low, you have to create demand in other places. Get creative; consider running non-traditional methods, as well, just make sure you can track whatever you’re doing accurately. If not, it’s probably not worth doing.
5: Control your bids & your budget
Google is an auction system, right? So the amount you need to pay to rank for keywords changes based on the amount of searches, the market performance, and your competitors’ bids.
We already covered how preparation is key; your strategy for making these bidding/budget changes should be prepared, at least generally, beforehand, and sometimes more specifically (if you’re running a Target CPA strategy, for example, you need to have that honed in before the season begins because it’s about a two week learning period, and initially your CPL will rise before it stabilizes).
In seasons when there are more searches and more conversions, the competition, and price, increases. Be prepared to up your bids and budget significantly to control a higher portion of the market share. You don’t want your campaigns to be limited by budget. If you they are, you’re going to miss out on potential revenue because you won’t get as much exposure and you won’t connect with as many potential customers.
If it’s a low season, you’ll need to run a lean operation until it ends – you want to have solid control of your bids, only allocating budget to the highest performing keywords, pausing others as needed. You don’t want Google to spend more money than you have coming in, so monitor your budget and bid adjustments carefully.
How do you typically prepare for seasonality? Which of these tips did you find most useful, and is there one you’ve heard that we left out? Let us know in the comments! Empirical360 actually owns a wedding business, so we know all about the frustrations of seasonality and PPC. But we’ve managed over $15,000,000 in ad spend, so we know what we’re doing and how to handle changes. If you need to prepare for a seasonal shift, or if you want to work with us to grow your business, contact our expert team!
Shea Antonucci - Author
Director of Content Marketing
Shea is an expert content writer and is a classic literary nerd! She loves writing highly engaging content and has a knack for making it convert!