Jingle all the way…to the bank!

By Jennifer Escotto, Account Strategist, Client Solutions

In the midst of the holiday season, search engine marketing (SEM) helps to capitalize on the surge of online traffic during the crucial six to eight week lucrative selling period. Retailers are turning to SEM to increase online visibility and help drive sales in a cost effective manner. Because of its precision targeting and ability for quick updates to ads, SEM can adapt to reflect changing promotions in real time. Planning and adapting your holiday SEM campaign is critical to having effective online advertising throughout year end.

During the year we worked on a well known online men’s clothing retailer and picked up a few tricks/best practices. We were able to increase revenue 30% and grow return on ad spend 21% YOY. Although some tips may be simple or basic they have been successful in driving results for our client. Perhaps some tricks can translate into valuable solutions for your campaigns;

Use sitelinks to reach your audience as well as hidden areas of the site
Our client’s main target audience is male, however we also wanted to acknowledge the female merchandise and clientele so we suggested testing a link for “women’s clothing.” As we know, women love to shop for anything or anyone. As luck would have it the link has had the most conversions & the client is now considering investing more in female marketing for the 2011 fiscal year.

Another sitelink test was a little known sales page that came to us by way of an email blast from the client. Rather than build an entire campaign dedicated to the sales tab, we decided to add the link to every ad. It was also a way to integrate the clients email communications with SEM so that customers saw the same message in both channels. The link resonated well with our users and has led to the 2nd highest sitelink conversion. After all, who doesn’t love a bargain?

Test different ad types, generic vs. promotional copy
Our client has two to three promotional changes per week; this was a great opportunity to test numerous ad content and formats.

  • Generic ads beat out mild offers (i.e. 10% off or overly specific offers); unless the promotion is stellar, keep your evergreen ads on as well.
  • Customers LOVE free shipping, something about not having to pay for the delivery service really speaks to shoppers. (On a personal note, I once received a package opened & wet because it was left at the back door, with no note implying so, for several days during a rainy week. Fortunately the retailer wrapped everything in plastic and I did not pay for shipping so I was moderately appeased).
  • Experiment with the placement of the offer. We found that including the percentage off in the header performed better than including the savings in the body of the ad. However, if you used a promotional code in the ad the CTR was significantly lower. I guess consumers did not appreciate the extra work of copying & pasting, the savings must be effortless.
Holiday SEM gets more complicated and competitive each year, but if we execute the core fundamental practices and lay down a strong foundation, holiday shopping for consumers and profits for retailers should be a click away!


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