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Q4 Search Engine Marketing: The Highs, The Lows & Giving Back
The most wonderful time of the year is upon us, the fourth quarter. For search engine marketers focused on retail this is their time to shine, but for others (like travel), Q4 is the low season. Whether Q4 is a good time for you to do some SEM house cleaning, or to fire it up on all cylinders, make sure this time is used wisely.
If Q4 is the high season for you, hopefully most of the work is already done! Search engine marketers spend a lot of high season time focusing on increasing bids as sales increase. Be proactive and examine last year’s report data to anticipate when bid levels will rise, and in cases where it makes sense, proactively increase bids to get a jump on increasing sales and gain share.
Undertake strategic ad testing. While you don’t want to risk running a poor performing ad in high season, there are strategic opportunities to run short tests (after all you’re getting lots of data right now) to boost ad performance. Try ads featuring last minute messages, especially if the business has a compelling offer. Often, changing up ads can help differentiate during a time when customers are doing tons of searches and seeing the same ads time and time again.
Coordinate efforts across the organization. Double check that the IT team is prepared to handle all the site traffic from increased search engine marketing, and monitor the risks of new site releases or builds. Check in with your database marketing team for a rundown on the mailing schedule and make sure search engine marketing is ready to support potentially more searches on those days, or searches for email specific promotions.
For summer seasonal industries like travel, or pool supplies, Q4 is the low season, where generally there’s a lot less aggressive marketing taking place. Many marketers make the mistake of just closing up their search engine marketing shop, but there are still plenty of sales to be had, so keep things running.
Q4 is a great time to undertake more in-depth analysis of high season reporting data. SEM accounts can get a good scrubbing by cleaning out non-performing keywords, adding negative keywords and expanded match keywords from the query reports. There may not have been time to pore over all that data during high season, but now is a great time.
To mitigate risk, low season is also a great time to reorganize account structures, like AdGroups or Campaigns that the search engine marketing account has outgrown. A year ago it may have seemed like a good idea to put all the brands of pool chlorine in one AdGroup, but now it really seems like they each need their own Adgroup, with a more targeted ad. Low season is a great time to make these changes, as there is less risk of any loss of sales or traffic during the transition. Break up big Adgroups or overly large Campaigns.
Low season is a great time to plan for next year. Step back and look at bigger picture trends. How are brand searches changing year over year? Has the average CPC risen or fallen? What are the sales trends by month and year over year? Q4 is a great time to really dig in and understand the business. Understanding these trends will help to formulate anticipated growth for next year and clarify the key drivers of the business.
Volunteer search engine marketing expertise
This time of year lots of folks take stock of all the things for which they are thankful, and often decide that they’d like to give something back to those not as fortunate. One of the most valuable assets you can share is your search engine marketing expertise. Plenty of fantastic non-profit organizations apply and receive Google Grants, but have little or no staff to actually set up the account and start spending the grant money. For these organizations, the intricacies of Google’s policies and the AdWords interface are totally overwhelming, while for you, this process is a walk in park.
Google is generous with giving out grants, but they don’t provide much help on the account management or training side. I’ve volunteered with several non-profits to set up their Google AdWords accounts, give them an orientation on the reporting and analytics, and introduce them to tools like the AdWords Editor and the Google Keyword Tool. You don’t have to babysit their search engine marketing forever (unless you want to), but you can help them get started with a few hours of your time.
If you’re already involved with an organization you like, apply for a Google Grant and help spread the word about their services, solicit donations or volunteers. If you are looking to work with an organization, email non-profits in your area that seem interesting to you and would be a good fit for grant accounts, or see if they already have one but are having trouble managing it.
I guarantee you will find sharing your expertise with those who need the help incredibly rewarding.
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