Sunday, November 23, 2008

4 SEM Tips to Help eCommerce Sites Boost ROI This Holiday Season

With the holiday season here once again a lot of you eCommerce companies are probably trying to figure out the most effective way to spend your marketing dollars. Well for those of you that are using paid search in your online marketing mix, rest assured you are in the right place. According to the 2008 Google Holiday Shopping Intentions Study, search will play a key role in helping consumers do research and make purchases this holiday season. The study stated that consumers started doing research way before Halloween and plan to do the majority of their shopping in early - mid December. If you are a eCommerce company who uses paid search to drive traffic to your site, then you are in the right place to engage consumers throughout the whole buying process. To help you succeed this holiday season I have put together a few tips that will help you maximize your search marketing campaigns, and hopefully increase your ROI. These tips will help you spend your budget effectively, research trends in search volume, write compelling ads, and close the deal with engaging landing pages.

Google Insights can help maximize your budget

Google has a cool tool called Google Insights for Search that allows you to compare search volume over a specific time period. This can be a useful way to figure out the optimal time to increase your spend on a specific keyword or ad group. If you sell computers you can look at the search volume for the keyword "computers" over various time periods to compare trends in search volume.

In the above example you can see that for the past 2 years there have been a major spike in search volume on Black Friday, and the day after Christmas. With that knowledge you can make sure that you have a high position & strong ads running on those days.

You can also make good use of your budget with dayparting and geo targeting. If you find that you get higher conversions midweek during the day then you might want to consider running hotter during those times and pulling back during times where you have lower conversions.

Group keywords according to the consumer's intent
When you group your keywords according to the consumer's intent you will be able to write ads that are aligned with that the consumer is looking for. If a consumer is searching on a research related term like "best computer gifts", you want to make sure your ad copy encourages them to click through to gather more information. Likewise if a user is searching on a purchase related term like "computer deals online", you want to make sure that your ad copy has a strong call to action that urges them to make a purchase.

Write compelling ads that offer value and savings

Just because consumers are cutting back doesn't mean that they are not buying. They are looking for the best possible deal. According to Google's holiday study 86% of the respondents said that they are more likely to take an offer if there was some sort of price discount or sale. Free shipping came in second with 75%. So consider testing as that offer price discounts, sales, free upgrades, or free shipping. Also a search on Google for your top performing keywords to see what type of ads your competitors are running. If you see that a majority of your competitors are running discount or percentage based ads you may want to try a different approach like No money down, or Interest free financing so that you stand out in the sea of online sales. Finally if you are running a sale on the last day run ads like "Final Day to Save" or "Last Day Act Now" to create a sense of urgency. We just recently ran a 48 hour sale for a client, and on the last day we saw a higher CTR on our urgent messaging. This also lead to higher conversion rates.

Close the deal with engaging landing pages

You did all that hard work to get the user to click your ad, you can't let them down by sending them all to the same product page with a million different offers. When it comes to paid search on size does not fit all. You need to take the time to create a specific landing page for each of your holiday ad groups that is relevant to the offer. The landing pages should be simple with not too many choices. If you leave it up to the consumer to figure out what to do you will fail. If your ad is offering 45% off & free shipping the landing page should reelect that. For your ad groups that are geared around product research consider a gift guide landing page. Finally spend time variations to see what converts best. Im a big fan of A/B testing. Test different call to actions, headlines, or imagery. When you find out what works best document it so that you can use for campaigns.