Think Cross-Channel For Your Holiday Paid Search Campaign

You’ve got your holiday SEM strategy all laid out, but are you thinking cross-channel? Columnist Kohki Yamaguchi provides a guide for taking that next step.



Most paid search teams have probably completed their initial holiday planning and preparation by now. This may include creating a seasonal budgeting schedule and performance forecast, testing seasonal ad copies and landing pages, and adding or un-pausing seasonal keyword combinations.

However, once all the tactical essentials are in place, consider taking the next step and start thinking cross-channel: cross-media and cross-organization. Thinking outside the scope of search engine marketing (SEM) can allow you to recognize emerging opportunities faster, improve your forecast, give an extra boost to your performance, and make your holiday ride smoother.

Why Think Cross-Channel?

Due to its being located further along in the customer journey than most other marketing channels, paid search is subject to influence from a myriad of factors that impact customer interest. This including merchandising (pricing, promotions, placement), activity in other marketing channels, and more.

It turns out that all of these factors become increasingly volatile as the holiday season approaches, causing unexpected twists and turns in performance.

The job of the SEM manager is to take that fluctuating consumer interest and capture as much of it as possible as efficiently as possible. It’s far from an easy task, and it cannot be done without great planning and great communication.

Below are some of the steps you can take to prepare for the ride ahead.

Gaining Cross-Channel Campaign Visibility

  1. Obtain The Promotional Plan for the holiday season from the merchandising team. Note which products, brands, and product categories will be discounted on which day.
  2. Check Shipping-Related Offers, such as free or discounted shipping periods, guaranteed delivery windows, etc.
  3. Browse Through Digital Flyers that are being planned or already distributed. Note which products or product categories are being presented front and center.
  4. Obtain Means To Track Inventory on key products as close to real time as possible.
  5. Obtain Creative Content & Flighting Schedules From Other Marketing Channels. Check whether any specific offers, products, or categories are placed within the content. Note when the content is scheduled to be pushed out (email, social, print) or what duration the ads will run (display, social, TV).
  6. Set Up Remarketing Lists for visitors that come in via promotional ads and links.

Applying Cross-Channel Knowledge

After you finish collecting this information, what do you do next? You can map the promoted products to sets of keywords and ad groups, and label them using AdWords or an SEM management tool to prepare for agile reporting and bid adjustment. Below are a few example applications.

  1. Set up reports on key products or product categories to track its trending. If you see impression volume or conversion rate start to trend upwards, you will know that an external factor may be at play, and you can boost bids and/or increase budget allocation to take advantage of the increased interest.
  2. Draw up a tentative bid adjustment plan based on forecasted RPC (revenue per click) for discounted products. Keep in mind that discounts reduce average order value, so make sure to forecast for revenue instead of conversions.
  3. Boost bids to increase exposure on tail terms that had historically gotten low volume, if they are closely related to products on the promotion list.
  4. Add promotional messages to your shopping campaign ads (formerly product listing ads) for discounted products. To avoid delays due to editorial review, using merchant promotions may be preferable.
  5. React rapidly to inventory changes, and pause keywords and/or update stock levels on shopping campaigns on the fly.
  6. Adjust budget and bidding schedules according to ongoing shipping promotions. Add promotional messages to your shopping campaigns on relevant products by updating delivery attributes of your product feed.
  7. Remarket against already promoted audiences and remind them of offers closer to the delivery date.

Establishing A Common Mapping

Keywords and ad units in SEM oftentimes do not map exactly to business-level categories (the notable exception being product ads). A large majority of traffic in paid search is driven not by product-specific queries, but more general category- or topic-level queries.

However, key factors that affect SEM performance such as pricing or promotion are specified at the product level. This means that in order to link the external drivers of performance and SEM execution, you need to understand how a promotion on a specific product affects performance for the set of keywords that convert on the product. This mapping can be done if your conversion tracking collects product-level information.

Though this will require some initial setup, gaining cross-channel visibility will allow you to make better sense of fluctuations in your SEM performance. This enables you to identify of the key drivers of performance change, and act quickly on opportunities.



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