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12 Ways to Enhance Your 2013 Holiday Paid Search Program

In years past, RKG has published some great holiday blog posts to help retailers prepare for the season. This holiday season, however, will present some unique new opportunities for retailers through new products and upgrades to existing systems. In addition to standard holiday checks and projects, retailers should take advantage of these new enhancements to put their best foot forward for holiday 2013.

1) Leverage Mobile Modifiers & Preferred Mobile Ad Copy

Smartphone traffic has increased significantly over the past year, with Q3 mobile click share up almost 100% YOY. As smartphone click volume continues to grow, it has become essential to include mobile in your holiday plans. Enhanced campaigns give retailers new levers to help them support their mobile initiatives to fit their business model and goals with relative ease. In addition to mobile bid modifiers, enhanced campaigns gives you the ability to set preferred mobile ad copy and sitelinks. This can be used to really cater ad copy to your target audience and drive shoppers in-store this holiday.

2) Use Offline Spillover & Cross-Device Tracking Insights to Help Set Mobile Bid Modifiers

In addition to direct response, RKG has focused this year on the traffic and value that smartphones are driving in-stores. Mobile can often play an important role in the purchase funnel, and it is essential that retailers begin to assess the value of mobile in a way that takes more into consideration than just online conversions. Google recently announced a new feature that provides visibility into Cross-Device Tracking, and our preliminary analysis confirms Google’s approximation of a 7% lift in conversions for retailers. This can be useful as retailers set their budgets and strategy, not only for mobile, but their entire PPC program this holiday.

3) Incorporate Store Proximity in Your Geo-Targeting Strategy

Retailers can take their targeting a step further with geo-targeting and/or proximity bidding. Geo-targeting gives retailers the opportunity to target areas at the country, state, city, zip code, or DMA radius level, while proximity bidding links advertisers’ AdWords and Google+ Local accounts to allow for bid modifier adjustments based on a set radius around their store locations. These advanced targeting settings are made easy with enhanced campaign modifiers and could prove advantageous this holiday season if retailers want to drive traffic in-stores (especially after the shipping cutoff date to receive online orders before Christmas) or target geographic areas with higher conversion rates.

4) Create Enhanced Sitelinks for all Google Campaigns

Enhanced Sitelinks provide retailers with increased control by adding line 1 and line 2 ad text that follows the link text. The link text is the clickable part of the sitelink that has it’s own destination URL and the additional line 1 and 2 offer text space for more details. While sitelinks only appear for the top positions, they offer retailers the opportunity to differentiate their ads and take up a lot of real estate. This is particularly important for holiday as these additional lines can be used for seasonal call-outs and/or category promos.

5) Optimize PLAs and Utilize Merchant Promotions to Differentiate your Products

In Q3 RKG saw Google PLA spend increase over 76% YOY while driving almost 35% of all non-brand clicks. Retailers should make sure that their PLA campaigns are included in pre-holiday account audits to ensure the appropriate auto-targets are active, negatives are in place, and budgets are big enough. Also new this holiday season are Merchant Promotions, which will allow advertisers to differentiate their products from competitors with special offers.

6) Set Up Remarketing Lists for Search Ads (RLSAs) to Help Close Sales

Remarketing Lists for Search Ads give advertisers the ability to pair audiences with particular keyword sets to achieve a number of different goals. For example, pairing keywords for a product category that your brand isn’t well known for with an audience that captures people who have purchased from you previously may help to educate your loyal customers that you do carry that product category. Advertisers may also be able to bid on broader keywords for select audiences than they could profitably bid on when targeting all of Google. For example, if your site only sells running shoes, you may consider bidding on general terms like ‘shoes’ for searchers who have been to your site recently. There are many ways to use different audiences to help you achieve your PPC goals. Get creative and don’t be afraid to think outside of the box!

7) Incorporate Micro-conversions into your Bidding Strategy

Furthermore, when retailers plan their strategy and look at how they value PPC, it is important to consider the value of micro-conversions, or ways that a user can interact with your brand that have the potential for sales down the road. Actions such as catalog requests, store locator searches, and e-mail sign-ups all have value and therefore should be incorporated into your bidding strategy. Micro-conversions can help you more accurately value your paid search program this coming holiday.

8) Take Advantage of Google UI Reports and Tools Don’t forget about the new tools/reports that Google provides. Most notable for this holiday season are Google’s Top Movers Report and the Paid and Organic Report. The Top Movers report helps identify changes in cost and clicks at the campaign and ad group level. This will be especially helpful while you are making holiday bid and budget changes. The Paid and Organic Report can help retailers identify keyword holes and opportunities for paid search. Retailers need to make sure they take advantage of these tools which could help them gain an advantage during holiday 2013.

9) Don’t Forget About Bing

While this blog post focuses primarily on Google products, optimizing Bing remains key to success this holiday season. Traffic for Bing/Yahoo was up 42% year over year for Q3, so don’t skip the little things and make sure your Bing program is included in your account audit. If you are already in Bing’s new Product Ads Beta, make sure to continue to optimize for the holidays. The beta is currently closed,  but be prepared to jump on it as soon as it opens up again. Though the volume for Product Ads is small in comparison to Google PLAs, we are already seeing several accounts generate close to 10% of their non-brand traffic from Product Ads; this is going to be an important space for retailers moving forward.

10) Review Historical Performance and Apply to Bidding Strategy

Looking at last year’s performance sets a baseline for historically top performing categories and keywords, as well as helps to inform your overall holiday bidding strategy as trends that exist outside of the holiday season begin to shift. One consideration in reviewing last year’s data is that of device level data. Prior to enhanced campaigns, many advertisers were forced to break out mobile targeted campaigns in order to accurately bid this traffic. To look at this data under the lens of the current enhanced campaign landscape, advertisers should aggregate tablet and desktop data and then use smartphone data to influence mobile modifier calculations.

11) Take into Consideration Seasonal Insights

Kearby Chen recently wrote a blog post outlining some important characteristics to take into account this holiday season, including that this up-coming holiday season is a week shorter than in 2012. You’ll need to take this into consideration when reviewing historical performance and also when planning budget allocations. Second, retailers are continuing to move up the holiday season by launching promotions pre-Thanksgiving. As Google has repeatedly called out, sales are up for grabs and purchase decisions will often be driven by promotions. Third, as Rachel Schnorr called out last year: “don’t short change December.” RKG continues to see some top sales days fall in December as seen below: Finally, Christmas falls on a Wednesday this year, which will potentially drive last minute shoppers into stores over the weekend (instead of opting for overnight shipping).

12) Apply Insider Account Knowledge

Retailers need to leverage their account knowledge and apply it to their holiday strategy, including incorporating key promotional days into bidding strategy, accounting for inventory and fulfillment constraints, and understanding what key success metrics are. If business goals or strategies have changed over the last year, holiday strategy should likewise be adjusted to fit the current model. For example, if last year you were shooting for as many new customers as possible, but this year your focus is on top line sales, you may need to bid differently to reach your new targets.


Overall, holiday 2013 presents some unique new opportunities to advertisers. It’s never too soon to start preparing and I hope this blog post gave you some insights on how best to approach and enhance your holiday paid search performance this year. Please feel free to comment and share any additional holiday tips.

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