John Maher: Hi, I’m John Maher, and this is Digital Marketing Madness. This podcast is brought to you by McDougall Interactive. We’re a digital marketing agency in Massachusetts.
Today my guest is Bob Rustici, director of paid search, and we’re doing part three of our series on PPC bidding strategies entitled, “Managing PPC Ads for Seasonal Bidding.” Welcome, Bob.
Bob Rustici: Hi, John. How are you doing?
Why Seasonal Bidding for PPC?
John: Good. Bob, why would I need to know about seasonal bidding for PPC?
Bob: It’s very often, a lot of businesses have some sort of seasonality to them, and they have highs and lows in different cycles.
John: Right. You might have…it might be a hot dog shack, or something like that, that’s right on the beach, and it gets lots of traffic in the summer, but in the winter it dries up, that kind of thing. That’s a really obvious one, but it’s surprising the number of companies that have cycles throughout the year, on and off.
Bob: Even B‑to‑B customers will find this sometimes. There’s cycles when their budgetary things kind of kick in, and then they’ll say, “OK, yeah, in February, for some reason, we get more bids, more requests,” and stuff like that.
John: Sometimes when a company’s budget opens up at the beginning of the year, they do more buying, and things like that, at that point, and then at the end of the year, they’re not really — they’re waiting until the next budget comes out. Maybe they’ve used up all of their budget in that area, so they don’t do a lot of spending at the end of the year. That can create these seasonal things.
Bob: The very obvious one is if you’re an online retailer, and you sell consumer products, Christmas is going to be your season when things go hot. That doesn’t mean the rest of the year dies down, it’s just you see peaks and valleys.
What you really want to think about, in seasonal bidding, the first question you should always ask yourself is, “When do we sell a lot, and when do people shop us a lot?” They may not always be the same, because they may be doing a little bit of pre‑shopping beforehand.
Then when they actually buy, that’s the other time when you want to sort of consider that, because there’s different aspects in there. You want to think about that a little bit. A lot of businesses, you can find out if you…
They may say, “I don’t know, I guess I do have somewhat of a seasonality.” You can sort of ask some of the basic questions of, “What are search terms that define your business,” and go into search trends, Google Trends, and Google Insights, and actually see when the search term volume kicks up and down for different terms.
John: That’s a tool where you put in your keyword that people might be searching for ‑‑ your product, or your service ‑‑ and then Google will show you a little graph of how much people search for that throughout the year.
You might see that kind of rise up in the summertime, and go down in the winter, or vice versa. Maybe, like you said, you see it, lots of traffic in November, December for the holidays, and then it kind of dies off, but then maybe it comes back again in early summer, or something like that. You can see those search trends that way.
Bob: What’s important, and I like to do that, and show our clients that, because sometimes you get a little enlightened, too, and it goes on. You realize people are actually searching a couple of months prior, or whatever.
I’ll give another example, too, of where your business activity may be much later in the year. We have a wedding caterer, and right after Christmas time, right around New Year’s, a lot of engagements are sprung. The first thing people do is they start shopping for wedding caterers. They don’t want a caterer at that point in time, because I think it may be six months, two years later, or something like that.
John: Right, but they’re doing that initial shopping.
Bob: Initial shopping. You also have to kind of consider there’s a seasonality to what they’re searching for when they’re shopping.
The Buying Cycle
John: It’s all part of that buying cycle, too. If you’re not there when they’re doing that first initial search, that initial research that they’re doing, then when they come back later to perhaps actually sign up, or make an appointment, or buy, or whatever, then maybe you’re not on the list. You weren’t there at that odd time when they were doing that initial research.
Bob: You don’t want to make the mistake of saying, “Well, we get most of our business in the summertime, so that’s where I’m going to put most of my budget in the summer.” You really want to make sure you’re budget’s there for when people are doing that initial search for you.
John: Doing the search. A tool like Google Trends, or Insights, is helpful.
Bob: It is very helpful for that. You actually do want to spend a lot of time to figure out where that seasonality is.
John: Like you said, there’s a difference between when people are searching, and when people are buying. You need to be there for both of those.
Bob: For both of them. Especially, sometimes when they’re doing that initial one, you can have a lot more benefits to be on the top. You also want to think about a call to action that makes sense at that time, too. They may be way too early for a request.
John: Like a, “Sign up now,” kind of request.
Bob: They’re not ready to talk to a salesperson, because they just got engaged. They’re just really trying to figure out pricing, and sort of get a feeling if you’re even the right fit.
Best Practices and Strategies for Seasonal Bidding
John: Maybe they’d be willing to download an e‑book, or something more research oriented like that. What are some of the best practices, or strategies, for bidding in this area, seasonality?
Bob: The most important thing is organizing your campaigns, and ads groups, that reflect what time of the season that you’re really going after. If it’s wedding caterers, you want to make sure you put that in a separate ad group.
That way you know, “OK, I got to boost that up.” It’s really easy to increase the budget, and oversee that. The more you can group in a sort of logical sense of, “These are the terms that really do well at this season,” that’s the time you want to do that. Then you also want to be sure you have your ad groups in there.
Then you can set up automatic rules, too, where you can say, “I do know I want to be in position one, or two, or three, or something of that nature, when these are my top performing terms, for that time of year,” and you just easily push those up. Not everybody has a lot of unlimited budgets. You may want to think, “When are the other times of the year I can start pushing that back down, and get into maybe more position three, or four, or five.”
John: You’re saving money when the search is not as much there, so that you can spend a little bit more on the times when more people are searching. What else?
High Cost-Per-Click Scenarios
Bob: You really need to go after some — very often there’s a lot of what I call, “high‑CPC scenarios,” where the cost of clicks are just going up and up.
John: CPC being cost per click.
Bob: Yeah, right. Again, a lot of people now are getting smart about their PPC management. They’re figuring out how to do it a little bit better. Those scenarios, I’m seeing them more and more, where the costs are just sort of driving up.
You really want to kind of get a little bit smart about identifying top performing terms, or ad groups, that every year seem to perform really well in January, or every year perform well, and bid higher on those, and go after them.
John: Really pay attention to the individual keywords, and their performance throughout the seasons, so that you know when those keywords are hot.
Bob: Then, if you’ve got a really tight budget, you want to think of your budget as it spans across the year. You can say, “If I’ve got some terms I know always perform consistently well, I’ll leave those on all during the year, but then I’ll just turn off everything else, and I’ll just kind of tamp it down, not really bid too much.”
That’s one way to manage your budget, so that you sort of say, “I’m going to shift a little more resources towards the times that matter, and reduce down times that don’t matter.” Identifying those top brands are really going to be important to you, top terms.
PPC Bidding – Pros and Cons to Seasonal Bidding
John: What are some of the pros and cons to considering seasonal bidding? It sounds like a great idea. Are there some places, or times, when that doesn’t really work?
Bob: The odd one is, it takes time to figure out when your seasons are, because you may have to wait a little while. Even though you can use the Insight tools to get some predictive feel of where things are going to go, knowing and identifying those terms may take you time. You may have to wait a year or two before you really hone this in.
John: You’re talking about gathering your own data from your pay per click account. In order to do that, you have to be running the paid ads on a variety of different keywords, and trying them out, and seeing what works.
You have to do that over the course of maybe a year, like you said, so that then you can start to make some determinations about, “Oh, well, I see in the summertime these keywords really worked well for me, and then in the wintertime, these other keywords worked well for me.”
You start to piece together some of that data. Until you have the data, there’s not a whole lot you can do. You can gather some from Google, make some guesses based on Google Insights, and that sort of thing, Google Trends, but nothing takes the place of some real, actual data from your own account.
Bob: Hitting the pavement, and really seeing how it works. That’s a little bit of a problem sometimes, because some people — we often like to see instant results. You may not have to get — you’re just going to have to wait and see how that goes.
John: What else?
Bob: One of the things is you can get a little bit too restrictive. If you get too fixated on, “This is the only season I can focus on, and then I’m just going to forget about the rest,” what you can end up doing is being really restrictive.
That’s one of the cons, is don’t get too fixated on that. An example is, let’s say you sell patio furniture. The south is going to have a different time of when they’re going to be interested in patio furniture than the northeast.
You may feel like, “I only sell patio furniture in the summer, so thus I’m going to cut it down.” That’s not necessarily serving your southern customers. You may need to get out of the box, and think, “Maybe I should set up a separate campaign for them.”
John: Now you need to combine your seasonality with your geo‑targeting, as well. Maybe in the south you’re running your ads more in the spring, and the fall, and then you’re running it in the northeast, like you said, more in the summer. You have to consider the geographical aspect of it, as well. What about any pros — you kind of went over it a little bit.
Bob: The best pro, more than anything, is that this is going to eventually be part of your “secret sauce” for your own business. Budgets are going to always be tight. You’re going to have to try to figure out how to really spend the best buck you can ever get out of that. Having that knowledge, and keeping an eye on that, is the one thing that’s going to keep you separated from your competition.
John: Great advice, Bob. Thanks again for speaking with me today.
Bob: Yeah, it’s great.
John: For more information about digital marketing, visit mcdougallinteractive.com, and subscribe to this podcast on iTunes. Thanks for listening, I’m John Maher, and see you next time on Digital Marketing Madness.
Read or listen to the other parts in this series on PPC Bidding Strategies: